During my trip to the Four Seasons Beer Store for the weekly beer run, I was accepting the fact that summer was over and that it was time to get into the darker brown ales before jumping into a full-blown Oktoberfest frenzy again. I wasn’t really ready for pumpkin ale and didn’t care to go Märzen style, but I was willing to try something new and in season.
There were a few O’Fest beers to be had along with the pumpkin ales, sure, but I preferred just a nice brown ale to drink, enjoy and take taste notes for the next Sweet Georgia Brown homebrew I planned to make in the future. Hmm. Ska Brewing has an ESB in cans just like their Modus Hoperandi. They’re starting to make a name for themselves. One other beer stood out as a possibility. It was Breckenridge Autumn Ale. Neatly tucked in with the government warning, the label on the side stated ALC 6.7% BY VOL. That pushed me to purchase the beer.
I remembered having Breckenridge beer in the past but not the names or the styles. I had to search my own damn website to find out that I’d reviewed their Summer Bright Ale and their Vanilla Porter. For whatever reason the name Breckenridge never stood out in my mind. I decided that I’d give this Autumn Ale a try, win or lose. I do this so that you don’t have to. Pfft!
I grabbed a sixer of Breck Autumn, bade “Namaste” to Barry behind the counter and paid the requisite fee of ten bucks plus tacks to Uncle Sam. But I couldn’t help thinking again about that ESB in cans. Maybe next week.
Time for some research. The label of the Old Autumn Ale stated “After Rakin’ in a nice scrolly text. Bavarian hops – Munich Malts – warms the soul – soothes the spirit. Wasn’t that a bit too much for early autumn? (Rhet…) The 6.7% may attest to that.
Checking out the Breckenridge website I discovered the beer was brewed in the style of an old ale. When I chose to buy the beer for this review, I was merely looking for a decent brown ale typical for this time of year. The 6.7% gave me good reason to buy this Breck beer based on those two facts alone. When I discovered that this was an old ale styled beer, everything clicked in place. Old ales are usually had during the cold dead of winter, but typically, their abvs are upwards of 8%. With this one being at just under 7, it made sense to drink it in autumn rather than wait for the warmth and be disappointed.
Saturday was a 6-hour day of overtime at work prepping for the busy season ahead. 6 hours of preventive maintenance, jockeying a boom-lift around a spiral conveyor. Finally at 4 p.m., dusty, dirty and sore, I wended my way home through the vacant construction zones on I-80 and into a hot shower. Some of a hot delivered pizza found its way into my gut and I was well on my way to washing down the whole shebang with some Autumn Ale.
The beer poured up an almost chocolatey brown with a nice thick tan-colored head of about an inch and a half. The liquid was very dark, almost like a stout. Holding the glass up to the light revealed a deep magenta within and millions of micro-bubbles in slow motion ascent. The aroma was slight but had wisps of sweet dark fruitiness.
The first sip had a nice, mild malty flavor, slightly sweet with a medium body. When the tongue finally gets fired up, or when the beer gets a little warmer, the true flavors will hopefully come through. But what I had next to me in a glass was not a stout or porter to be sure.
As the sips went on and my palate woke up, more of the flavors began showing themselves. There was a sweetness to this beer but it was quite subtle, among the rest of the subtleties that started coming forward. Dark fruits such as plum and cherry, maybe pomegranate were imagined to be part of this beer taste.
A very slight smokiness was sniffed each time I stuck my nose in the glass, but it disappeared at the beginning of the sip. Each sip went sweet, then dark and malty with hardly a pinch at the swallow. There was a very slight warming in the stomach halfway through the first glass, giving credence to the style and the name.
This beer reminded me of the taste of two others: Old Stock Ale from North Coast and Dragon’s Milk from New Holland. The only difference is that this Autumn Ale wasn’t in my face as the other two were. Take either one of those and dial it down about 40 – 50% and you would have this Autumn Ale beer.
This is, as advertised, a cold seasonal beer, typically imbibed next to a fire during the frigid months of winter. However, since this Breckenridge beer weighs in at 6.7%, autumn is the season to start drinking it before the snow and the stouts and porters and Christmas ales hit one in the chops with all of their ‘warming’ characteristics.
Rather than slowly transitioning from the light, sweet summer slammers we’ve all gotten used to, into something a little brown and with body, I unknowingly jumped ahead a bit with this old ale style Breck brew and I don’t regret it one bit.
I most certainly am not disappointed with the taste of this beer. Slightly sweet with a good malty backbone, this beer is good to be had right now, even before the leaves jettison from their host trees. You don’t need no steenking fireplace to drink this beer next to. Get the patio firepit going and curl up with a warm body and a few of these old ales. You’ll be warmed from within and without.
Taste: A > A sweet, malty taste that will prepare you for the coming months.
Smoothness: A- > I swear I tasted silk in one of those sips.
Drinkability: B+ > A little bit more than what you wanted and that’s what you wanted all along.
Bang for the buck: B+ > More taste for the same 10 bucks.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Whow! Dark! Holy cow! Like mud. (sniff) Smells coffe-ish. (sip) Real coffee. Bitter and dry. (sip) No fruits, like old coffee. No sugar, no cream. (Would M’Lady care for some green tea beer?)
A good ol’ boy visits Brekenridge Brewery
Breckenridge’s John Jordan explains how they brew.
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