Heavy Seas Yule Tide 2013

Imperial red ale brewed with ginger and aged in Jamaican rum barrels. 9% ABV

Heavy Seas Yule Tide

From the Uncharted Waters series of wood aged beers, Clipper City Brewing Co., Baltimore, MD

Ahoy, me Hearties! Clipper City and their Heavy Seas label have found a use for those empty rum barrels we dropped at port. Arrr, they’ve entered uncharted waters, to age a special brew made with that virtuous root, ginger, in said barrels and see what the remains of that marauding island spirit impart to it. Hoist your tankard high and toast those worthy brewers, then!

Seems like all of the attention lately has been on bourbon barrel aged beers (in particular one with “bourbon” in the name of the beer – it’s been all over the beer groups on Facebook, goodness knows!). So it was with great interest that I spied this brew and its rum barrel aging. I certainly am a fan of a good rum, and rum factors into many of my preferred cocktails (Mojito, Mai Tai, Scorpion, Bahama Mama, Hurricane, Daiquiri,  and sundry other tiki drinks – the list seems almost endless). What might it do to an imperial red ale, then? I was intrigued and grabbed a bottle to find out.

Yule Tide presents a clear, auburn-amber body with a foamy light tan head starting out over a finger’s width tall, then fading to a thin, tight-knit cap.

Aromas are reminiscent of blondies, with brown sugar and buttery caramel, and then distinct aged rum notes.

The beer is fairly full on the palate, with a fine carbonation bead lightening the almost thick body. It’s rich and smooth and a bit creamy in texture.

The flavor profile starts out malty and rounded with a toasty note, followed by a hint of spices and brief ginger note, then baked raisins. There’s a delayed bitterness that balances but never gains significant traction beyond that. Mellow toasted malt segues into a distinctly rummy turn, which becomes warming and boozy with an aged Jamaican rum character. It finishes with a late hint of ginger accompanied by a little heat and bite. Overall it’s a complex brew with continually evolving flavors; the ginger is pretty subtle, with the rum barrel aging providing a significant flavor contribution. The follow-on pour to empty the 22 ounce bomber produces a sustained, thick and dense head that leaves behind nice foamy rings as I slowly sip and savor this big boy.

You will definitely get unmistakable Jamaican rum character with this beer. The Heavy Seas website states the beer was aged 6 weeks.  I think I might prefer 4 weeks on the wood, but I’m aware that some folks like a heavier wood contribution to the flavor of a barrel-aged beer, so let your preferences be your guide. I still found it to be enjoyable, interesting, and worth the price of admission. The label encourages further aging to explore changes in the beer’s profile over time. I’d be very interested to see what it’s like in a year, say. (I may have to run out and get another bottle to find out!)

Rating     Appearance: 4.5/5     Aroma: 8/10     Palate: 4/5     Flavor: 7.5/10     Overall: 16/20

Yule Tide beauty shot


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