10/19/19: Southern Tier Brewing Company's Warlock Imperial Stout

11:11 AM

Casual observation has shown that Southern Tier, who has graced the blog before, is mostly known for their Halloweeny brews. Of the two they make one, Pumpking (and its variants [coffee and rum barrel-aged]) appears to get the majority of the press. The other one is spoken about in hushed tones and is far less lauded than its royal sibling.

Given that, I think it's only fair that we discuss this seemingly less-loved brew first--I've always rooted for underdogs. So, here we have today's beer: Southern Tier's Warlock.

Now regularly distributing to more than thirty states, Southern Tier has eclipsed its humble beginnings. Skip Yahn and Phineas DeMink opened the brewery in the woods of  Lakewood, NY with second-hand equipment in 2002. Once in operation, they distributed to a few local retailers. Now, they're big enough to have a "yeast wing" as part of their brewing facility. That facility, by the way, is larger than 52,000 square feet. Needless to say, the brewery's doing pretty well. Hit up their "Our Story" page if you want their full history.

Warlock (whose official page on Southern Tier's website can be found by following that link) is imperial stout brewed with pumpkin (Pumpking is the same, only an ale). This 8.6% ABV offering has pumpkin pie aromatics, roasted malt flavor, and moderate carbonation.

The stout's nose is giving me pumpkin pie, sure, along with the spiciness that comes with it (clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc). But, there's a crucial, enormous component the official Warlock write-up fails to mentions: chocolate. This is, pretty damn obviously, a stout. So, of course there'll be a chocolate roasted malt quality in the nose (this is mentioned previously as part of the flavor, although chocolate, specifically, isn't anywhere to be found). When combined with the pumpkin and the spice, the roasted malt chocolateness adds a buttery quality to the stout's bouquet, which isn't necessarily my thing (here, in other pumpkin beers I've loved the butteriness), but it isn't bad. Purrl seems to be in agreement with me today: My Halloweeny cat, keeping warm under a quilt, gave my proffered bottle a total of five whiffs.

The flavor here is something else. There's a biteyness that I'll address a little more in the next bit, but it's so intrinsically tied to what's going on here that I can't avoid mentioning it while discussing how the stout tastes. Warlock doesn't taste like pumpkin: there's toffee here, caramel, and a tad bit of chocolate (not as much as I would've expected based upon the aroma), but no pumpkin. Those pumpkin pie spices mentioned above, however, crop up on the fore of each swig (hitting with that bite) as extra sharp, by they quickly give way to the flavors I just mentioned. There's a tiny bit of booziness here just before a creamy, clean finish, but not as much as I would've thought there'd be given the stout's imperial status and ABV.

Okay, so mouthfeel. Time to talk about that bite. Warlock's supposed to have a mild carbonation. I guess this is the case, if you can call a good creaminess "mild." And, you know, the stout finishes with a good creaminess. But, man, it has a sharp vampire bite on the fore. This plays well into the flash of pumpkin spiciness that serves as a prelude to each swig. It's odd how Southern Tier managed to give each swig just a single, pointed bite before dissolving into that mellow creaminess.

Honesty time: Three nights ago I was pretty damn removed from the Halloween mood. The days around here have regularly been dawning in the 30° range. Michelle and I have had no less than three fires in our fireplace. I recently picked up an evergreen-scented candle that we've been burning. Needless to say, my mind's skipped ahead to a more jolly season. I'll admit that I willingly did this to myself.

However, the other night Michelle recommended we watch a horror movie. Regular readers might note that Michelle famously hates horror flicks. So, I was surprised by her suggestion but immediately took her up on her offer. The movie we watched was Hell House LLC on Amazon. It's a found footage mockumentary that, for the first two-thirds, is very good (the final third is a cluster but, since this isn't a film blog, I'll leave it be at that). By the time the credits rolled, it was only eleven o'clock but the deed was done. I'd slipped back into Halloween times. And Warlock is only cementing me there.

Why does Pumpking get all the love? Sure it's good (how good? We'll take a look at it next October), but Warlock is just as good, if not better. Southern Tier's imperial pumpkin stout has only a passing pumpkin quality to be certain, but it's bold as a werewolf under a full moon. I'm giving the beer a 9.0/10. If you live in one of the thirty states where this is distributed and haven't yet tried it, I suggest you remedy that immediately. Man, I'd love to see a bourbon barrel-aged variant of this stuff.

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