A treat with a heavy dose of trick
Posted on 10/21/2011 (1107 days ago, 167 of 661 reviews)
7/10 Appearance | 8/10 Aroma | 7/10 Mouthfeel | 8/10 Flavor
For the most part, beer styles are pretty straight forward. Each style has its core traits and accepted variations. Good beers strongly represent those traits. Bad beers don't. But then there are styles like the spice/herb/vegetable beer. It's a no-holds-barred free for all of wild interpretation. As long as there is a spiced, herb or vegetable note somewhere in the beer, it counts. Most breweries tend to stick to established safe zones, so it's easy to forget that an oddball can still be a good example. Leave it to Flying Dog to test my stylistic comprehension. Today I try their Imperial Pumpkin Ale: The Fear.
In the glass, The Fear takes on a deep brown coloration. Definitely take the time to hold this one up to a light source because you will be treated to a striking shade of red. It's not quite a mahogany, more like a rich rose. For anyone who has had their share of pumpkin ales, you're already scratching your head in confusion. It's definitely atypical, but perfectly acceptable. The aroma is quite thick and oozes with warming spices. Mmmmm, there's the pumpkin ale I know and love. But in this delightful variation, wrap all those spices up in the roasted shell of a brown ale. Very interesting.
That first sip was pretty dramatic. Almost immediately, the hops and spices go to battle inside your mouth. The Fear has a moderately aggressive hop profile that tries its best to intermingle with the nutmeg and cinnamon notes. While they are equally matched from an intensity perspective, the flavors don't mix well and fight tooth and nail for dominance. The hops eventually win as the beer warms, transforming it into more of a bitter brown ale. The pumpkin and spicy flavorings can't compete with the base ale and end up exiting the flavor train half way through. The mouthfeel can be a bit chalky due to the roasted malt and coffee-like undertones. I found the finish to be gritty and bitter, which is to be expected from an aggressive brown ale.
Overall, The Fear is a very interesting interpretation of the pumpkin ale style. Flying Dog is well known for their aggressive variations and The Fear is no exception. This is a pumpkin ale for fans of bigger and darker brews. Novices should probably stay away from this one and stick to the easy drinking golden varieties. But for those of you seeking a seasonal brew adventure, look no further than The Fear. It's a treat with a heavy dose of trick.