10/12/18: Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery's Paranormal Imperial Pumpkin Ale

2:01 PM

In late September of last year, my brother gave me an early birthday present. It was a beer in a box. Well, okay, a bottle of beer in a box. But, the box wasn't a shoebox or a typical gift box; no, this box was designed to be an extra level of packaging by the brewery responsible for the beer it contained.



It was curious. The box led me to believe that the beer encased was something special, something more than your typical imperial pumpkin ale. So, I decided to put the box and the beer away for a year. Today, I'm breaking into it. Let's find out if Flying Monkeys Paranormal Imperial Pumpkin Ale deserves the extra oomph added by that box.

Flying Monkeys is a Canadian brewery operating in Barrie, Ontario. Once, it was known as the Robert Simpson Brewing Company but it donned the Flying Monkeys moniker in 2008. Its founder is Peter Chiodo, who learned the art of homebrewing as a kid in his grandfather's basement. The brewery is focused on crafting the beers they want, heedless to what the greater industry is doing. Be sure to hit up its official Our Story page for the whole story.

Paranormal (official page here) is, as stated in its full name, an imperial pumpkin ale. This sizeable 10% ABV ale is brewed with pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and brown sugar. These give it notes of pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust, delivered through a rich mouthfeel. The box suggests aging it for two years and, wouldn't you know, an inspection of my bottle shows that it was bottled on September 21st, 2016. Let's see how the aging fared.

The ale's nose is identical to a pumpkin pie. I know, I know. A ton of pumpkin beers tout the whole "pumpkin pie in a glass/bottle/can" schtick but, as far as the bouquet is concerned, Flying Monkeys is the only one to really nail that. I can't believe it--I have a strong urge (which I'm boldly resisting) to dollop some whipped cream into the bottle. Purrl managed six whiffs when I offered her Paranormal. She's not as infatuated with the aroma as I am, it seems.


My bottle's a hell of a gusher. There's been some slight foam rising to the top since I opened it, but my first swig brought a rush of the stuff. After waiting a moment, the second one was more productive. The ale's flavor is disjointed from its bouquet--it's incredibly earthy, but there's an odd hint of sweetness here that's not unlike what you'd find in a bourbon barrel-aged stout. I get some of the cinnamon and brown sugar before the gourdiness of the pumpkin kicks in. This is the strongest flavor present and returns in the finish after a brief burst of spiciness. There's booziness to be found, too, but nowhere near as much as I'd expect.

"Rich" is a good descriptor of Paranormal's mouthfeel. It's hearty but neither velvety nor creamy. It's like an ale but more so, if that makes sense. Like, there's a hefty amount of carbonation, but, instead of making the beer fizzy, it adds to the overall impact.

I don't think I've ever talked about HallOUween, Athens'/Ohio University's enormous Halloween weekend block party, here. It was a staggering thing to see: the vast majority of OU's student body converges upon uptown Athens, costumed and (largely) drunk. My freshman year's block party threw me for a loop, mostly because I had no idea what to expect.

My friends and I all had disparate costumes and we soon lost half of our party. Well, we probably wouldn't've but I had a singular objective on my mind: to get to the Union (a local bar/concert venue) to get to the album release for Spooktober, a local lo-fi punk act.

The show was a blur. Literally everyone was dressed up for the holiday and the floor was packed. The band consisted of two dudes and a drum machine. They killed. After the show, I bought their CD, Puketober, on my way out to find my missing friends. The album, in full, has since had a dedicated spot on my Halloweentime playlist. Hell, I'm listening to it right now, as I'm set up on my porch with bottle of my Paranormal open on my table.

I've had a few Flying Monkeys beers before and haven't quite found their killer app. Now, I can say that I have. Paranormal Imperial Pumpkin Ale is far from normal, but that's just fine. It's disjointed elements come together to make something special. If you run out and buy a bottle today for immediate consumption, I can't speak to it's quality. But, if you buy a bottle today and age it for two year, I expect you'll be as happy as I am. Paranormal is getting a 9.5/10 from me. I definitely deserves its special, boxy packaging. 

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