Barrel Aged Xibalba (Wicked Weed Brewing Company)

[Note: I’m really behind on these blog posts… Like I haven’t posted since September or something like that. I’m sorry. I’m not dead. I’m just off re-examining life and doing life stuff. This review should have come out around Halloween. I apologize for the out of place imagery and out of season style.]

Style: Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale with Cacao Nibs, Chilies, Spices

9.5% ABV

Bottled On: August 30, 2016

From: Asheville, NC

Brewery’s Note: “We meant to create something civilized. Honestly, we did. Under midnight skies, we imbued him with the velvety darkness of the cacao, the smoldering fire of chilies, the power of pumpkin, and the nuance of spices. However, our combination created an other-worldly beast, one whose intensity we could only hope to contain. We fearfully crammed him into our bourbon oak chambers. We heard him scream throughout the nights, and lay awake in terror as the barrels creaked. One moonlit night, our worst fears were realized, Xibalba burst forth, his power and strength surging beyond imagination. We fled in horror as he ransacked the temple, the subtle sent of bourbon add spiced laying a civilized backdrop to the utter carnage.”

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The beer pours a murky, mud-red/black with a small, insubstantial scrim-ring of tiny, khaki bubbles. In the light, you could call it maroon or mahogany. When agitated the beer forms a lovely, tight, soda-pop head of bubbles, but this swiftly fizzles and fades. The body is opaque, but little wisps of light come through, suggesting a very hazy beer. Its viscosity seems oddly thin and agile when you swirl the glass, like whiskey on the rocks after a good hour and a half of slow sipping. It’s not the most beautiful of beers, though it does carry some charms. There is some elegance and stateliness to the beer, but its seeming thinness is at odds with what I expected. On the nose, the beer smells deeply of cacao nibs baked in a brown bread. There’s a light, nougaty sweetness, hints of peanut and cashew, and even a slight spicy turn that seems to mingle the chilies with the boozy bourbon. There is a caramel and toffee lingering on the edges, and as the beer warms it becomes sticky sweet, like a Milkyway spiced with faint chilies and booze. On the tongue, the beer tastes candy and chocolate sweet with a soft tampering close of boozey heat, spicy heat, and just the lightest trace of bitterness somewhere between oak tannin and bitter nut-skin. Flavors are slight Milkyway with generic nuts, brown bread with slight graham cracker nuance, caramel malts, and a finish of muddled spices mixing chili, bourbon, and pumpkin pie that close into a building bitterness of soft oak tannin and spice bitters. The more I drink, the bitterness builds and becomes a little more harmful to the sip, but the sweetness and candied complexity of front end are rather nice. This does not taste as I would think or hope it to, though.  A pumpkin ale drinker may be a little upset. In the mouth, the beer feels watery and thin, with a mildly medium body and a slick, thin, watery mouthfeel and little to no carb. When the beer leaves, the mouth is left a little sharp and slightly sheened with spit, yet dry and bitter-spice burned. Overall, I’m underwhelmed with this one. Between the weak watery body and the building spice bitterness, along with the lack of ‘traditional pumpkin flavors’ leaves this beer in a weird zone. It has some nice parts as far as beer goes, but its parts do not mesh, and the beer is left muddled and harsh on the tongue. Wicked Weed has a tremendous portfolio of beers, but this one is a rare miss for them in my book.

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