Beer Review 0504: Uinta Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2012)

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I’ve saved a bottle that I hope turns out to be a special beer for Halloween. Barrel-aged pumpkin beers are kind of a rare thing — Salt Lake City’s Uinta Brewing Company makes one — and this particular bottle has been stashed in my basement since Halloween 2012.

The Uinta Brewing Company has been brewing since late 1993. Named after an east-west mountain range in Utah, the brewery operates in a 100% wind-powered facility, becoming the first Utah company to achieve this environmentally friendly goal. As of this writing, their beers are distributed in 25 states, and even some foreign countries.

Uinta split their beers into three different lines — a Classic Line, an Organic Line, and a Crooked Line, which is reserved for higher gravity beers. Today’s beer is from the Crooked Line; Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin is a beer brewed with fresh pumpkin and “fall spices” that has been aged in oak barrels for six months. The beer is limited edition, with only 850 cases produced. Utah artist Trent Call was commissioned to provide the label artwork.

The beer comes in a nice corked & caged bottle, and registers an appropriate 10.31% ABV (alcohol by volume), and 39 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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Pouring stirred up an average size, off-white head that was creamy and liked hanging out atop the beer. Color of the brew was a reddish-amber, and although it was clear in body and had no particles or sediment, it was still opaque, even when held to light. Lacing was excellent, especially for such a high alcohol beer — there was wispy foam stuck to the glass throughout sipping.

On the nose, obviously the “fall spices” used to brew this beer have long since faded given its 13 month storage in my basement. There’s mostly caramel malt with a gentle layer of biscuit malt underneath. The alcohol hasn’t completely disappeared, but this is not a boozy beer by any means — there’s also oak, woodsy barrel scents, along with some vanilla. I detected a small amount of pumpkin and cinnamon left, and the cinnamon became especially prominent as the drink approached room temperature.

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Sipping, and my suspicions were confirmed — this is much more like an Old Ale than a Pumpkin Ale with a year of downtime. Big caramel washes over the tongue, along with a ton of cinnamon and faded nutmeg. Notes of brown and burnt sugar join the caramel to make it even more powerful; this brew is sweet but not cloying, and you do get some bitter relief on the finish. The only trace of pumpkin hits in the middle and it’s moreso in texture, but a brief pumpkin pie (with graham cracker crust) transitions into the finish, which is softly bitter thanks to the oak aging — the wood hits, sharp at first, then softens with a gentle vanilla wash. The alcohol will creep up on you; after about eight ounces, I could feel the warmth in my body. Oak Jacked is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.

The takeaway here, with one year of sleepytime, is that this beer tastes very much like Founders Curmudgeon Old Ale (my rating: 96 points). Considering how you feel about pumpkin beers and barrel-aged beers, that could either be a good or bad thing. Personally, I really enjoyed this beer, and I found it a nice change of pace to a typical pumpkin brew. That said, I’d really love to try it fresh and see how the pumpkin contributes to the mix. I don’t think you can go wrong here unless you just don’t care for beer that has been aged in a barrel.

Happy Halloween!

Uinta Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2012), 94 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 750 ml corked & caged bottle. (I got this on deep discount because I waited long after Halloween to buy it!)

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