I’m a man. Not much of a man, but a man.
As a man, I am expected to be able to do 5 things in life. 1) Have the ability to chew and digest bark from a redwood tree. 2) Have the ability to throw a cinder block the full length of a football field. 3) Have the ability to hunt wild boar by moonlight with nothing but a shoelace. 4) Have the ability to pilot a rocket ship/submarine hybrid blindfolded. 5) Have the ability to drink any, and every, beer put out in front of me without hesitation. I can happily say that I can currently do one of those things extremely well.
Beer comes in many different flavors, colors and variations. They are brewed in warehouses, basements, restaurants and mall kiosk kits. Many are fantastic, some are mediocre, and a few are the equivalent to decomposed elf urine. However, amidst the sea of mediocrity, one company continues to make a fantastic product consistently across the board. That company is DuClaw Brewing Co.
I love seasonal brews, and DuClaw is no slouch in that department. As a faithful Beer & Pig reader, you know that during the sweltering summer, I had the pleasure of tasting and reviewing one of their summer offerings, Funk. Just last month, I sat alone in my basement, completely devoid of any clothing and polished off a case of their early autumn 31. Right on the heels of that gem comes one of DuClaw’s most anticipated releases of the calendar year, the release of Retribution and all of its coinciding flavor iterations.
The “OG” Retribution is damn tasty on its own. An imperial stout aged in God damned oak barrels for 6 incredible months! What’s not to love? But I would be remiss if I didn’t admit to you all that my wife has caught me in full-blown coitus with bottles of their Cocoa Vanilla Retribution on more than one occasion. Don’t judge me. It’s the thing that dreams are made of. After all, Pastry Dan knows what I’m talkin’ about! So, imagine my fervor when I was able to get my hands on a bottle of one their more rare offerings, the “white whale” of the Retribution series, Pumpkin Retribution.
Much like the standard Retribution, the pumpkin pours dark. Very dark. As dark as a thousand midnights even. The carbonation is light and the head is minimal to non-existent. I took a deep sniff and was surprised when I got unexpected aromas of apple cider. I was so excited to take my first gulp that I nearly spilled the onyx elixir all over myself.
HOLY CHRIST! This brew is no joke and rightfully so. After napping in barrels for 6 months and garnering an 11.5% ABV, the bourbon flavors hit the pallet hard and fast. I was literally knocked back in my seat. For a second, I could have sworn that I was sipping on a spirit rather than a beer. The “woody/oak-esque” flavors that usually manifest as undertones in other “bourbon barrel aged” offerings are extremely pronounced here. I was trapped in a cornucopia of emotion. Overcome with both intrigue and intimidation. I pushed on without hesitation because, as you now know, I’m a man.
A few more sips and my belly had grown warm. Sweat began to form on my brow and I couldn’t help but let out a bellowing “WOO” with every quaff. Maybe it was the alcohol, but all I could think about was how if I was caught in an avalanche in the Himalayas, I hope those rescue St. Bernards have Pumpkin Retribution in their adorable barrel collars because I would most certainly thaw and pelvic thrust my way right out of the snow and into the world of livin’!
As I got to the bottom of my glass, and the beer lost its chill, it seemed to mellow out a tad. A burnt chocolate and roasted coffee flavor began to make its presence known. This was a pleasant change to the intense boozy piquancy that I had grown accustomed to during my session. It was like my mouth was aboard the Hershey Chocolate ride…but the knock-off version at Hershey’s estranged grandfather’s house that is living a life consumed by alcohol. Fun for the whole family, and by family I mean me.
Unfortunately, there was one glowing issue that I was having with this particular beer. I didn’t taste as much pumpkin as I would have hoped for, barely any to be honest. The bourbon flavor literally dominated any chance my taste buds might have had at seeking out that familiar autumn zest. I may have caught a small hint in the lingering aftertaste, but it might have been my mind playing tricks on me since I was so desperately seeking out the pumpkin. I will say that I know the classic spices are in there somewhere because there is definitely more of a bite on the back end than in the standard Retribution.
This beer is really tough for me to rate because it is indeed a special treat, but just not my “cup o’ tea” in the world of beers. While I do enjoy bourbon barrel aged brews, this one just came off a bit too dominating for me. Now, some of you out there might be looking for just that, and if so I encourage you to definitely pick up the Pumpkin Retribution if you can find it. For me, personally, it probably would benefit from hibernating in my dark beer closet for a bit. In fact, I’m planning on grabbing a few more bottles to stash away and crack open next Thanksgiving. It will be interesting to revisit this review when the time comes to see the evolution in its flavor profile.
I give Pumpkin Retribution by DuClaw Brewing Co. 3 B&P Camo Products out of 5.