10/8/18: Saugatuck Brewing Company's 2018 Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Chai

4:30 PM

I've been waiting for this one. I picked up six bottles of this badboy at its release on August 25th. While I technically was in Michigan to celebrate my brother's birthday, it was a happy accident that my dad agreed to lug us to Saugatuck so I could nab some of this stuff.


What's it been doing since late August? Aging in my garage. I haven't touched any of the six bottles I grabbed (it was $5 a bottle, by the way. And, since I live in Ohio, I won't be getting any of the sweet Michigan deposit back on them) because I knew I wanted to save my first impression of Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Chai (henceforth, BBAIPC) for this post. Let's dive in.

It's been a bit since I had the pleasure of writing about Saugatuck Brewing Company, so I hope you'll indulge me as I wax poetic about the place for a minute. SBC opened in 2005 on a 3.5 barrel system. Shortly after, they realized they needed to increase their supply so they upgraded to a bigger space and a 10 barrel brewing system in 2008 (they still use their old system as the backbone of their Brew On Premise program, which lets amature brewers craft their own fine ales--a service my uncle's been using since well before I appreciated my first craft beer). Five years later, the brewery expanded again, this time to a 45 barrel system. They can also ferment up to 960 barrels worth of beer at a time and age beer in over 400 wooden barrels. If you need a more thorough explanation of this, hit up SBC's About page.

All of this information leads us to this: BBAIPC. According to the brewery's official page on the stuff, this 9.5% ABV ale spent 8 months of its life aging in bourbon barrels, where it picked up bourbon aromas and flavors. All this bourbon goodness is balanced out by a chai tea fore and a pumpkin finish.

At first whiff, I get a smack of butter and cinnamon sugar from my bottle. I found this incredibly intriguing. After thinking for a moment, I realized that that's the combination of the bourbon barrel-aging and the pumpkin spice. There's a hint of boozy warmth beneath the core nose, but you really need to look to find it. It's a heady aroma that almost makes me wish I'd waited for a cooler day to enjoy my first bottle. Almost, but not quite because I couldn't wait any longer. For her part, Purrl gave it eight whiffs. In my experience, that means she thinks it's a pretty good beer.


My initial swig brings heavy bourbon sweetness and warmth. My second presents the promised chai on the fore, with the mild banana taste I always find in the best chai teas, and, believe it or not, pumpkin in the finish. The pumpkin's not over-the-top, and showcases the earthy flavor of the gourd. Before going in for my third swig, there's a warmth from the bourbon creeping up my throat. I'm floored by how we'll SBC's been able to make everything in this beer work!

BBAIPC's mouthfeel is not unlike that of a cream ale. There's a velvetines to it helps accentuate the grandness of its bouquet and taste.

What I'm about to prattle on about is 100% from the ale's nose. My great grandma made the best damn monkey bread in the world. What's monkeybread? Well, it's essentially little balls of dough covered with caramelized cinnamon and brown sugar. See this link--it's pretty close to what Grandma used to make. Also, that link states that monkey bread is a dessert, but (in my family, at least) everyone knows it's a breakfast.

I have fond childhood memories of eating monkey bread at my great grandma's. And more fond memories (from child and adulthood) of eating it at home. It's one of my great grandma's meals that my dad appropriated and made his own. I've always loved waking up and smelling monkey bread baking in the oven (it's something that's only topped by waking up and smelling turkey baking). The warm, buttery cinnamon and brown sugar aromas wafting through the house--yep, I was all about BBAIPC from the moment I opened it up and was hit by its nose.

Saugatuck Brewing Company is one of those places that never disappoints--every offering I've had from the joint has been stellar. To the surprise of no one, Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Chai is another knock-out. It's getting a 10/10 from me, and it's a beer that makes me wish I could give a higher score. Last I saw, SBC was posting that they had some left and that it was available throughout their distro range (granted, this was nearly a month ago). You need to find a bottle of this stuff.

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