Sunday, 30 October 2016

Big Rig Brewing Tales from the Patch

Big Rig Brewing gets one million points for embracing weird tastes. For just one recent example, despite having no additional flavouring falling outside the Bavarian Purity Act other than mild and unassuming wheat malt, Release the Hounds Black IPA gave an undeniable impression of artificial grape for some reason. In my semi-objective "tell me what this tastes like" test, The Lady of Marmot's perpetually beer-deprived senses arrived at the same conclusion, no less. Fortunately, weird tastes rule my entire land (every day, just ask anyone) so Big Rig Brewing pretty much immediately earned my fandom.
I must begin by stating unequivocally that the Skittelbrau Homer sought has finally been realized - this is Candy Beer. Thankfully, the only evident note of fruit flavour is pumpkin (hooray for the chance to be pedantic about produce classifications) - Tales from the Patch is pure Kraft caramels and above-average-quality candy corn. These flavours are developed to such an extent that  despite being an oatmeal porter, Tales from the Patch's "beery" characteristics are barely perceptible.
Taking an opposite tack to the "general late autumn" stylings of Wild North Pumpkin Ale, Tales from the Patch goes all-in on Halloween, starting with the label art featuring an undead hand clutching a leering jack-o'-lantern. A jack-o'-lantern, it should be stressed, that not only glows in the dark but turns into a skull when it does. It's a little more "Halloween Limited Edition Gourmet-Style Caramel Cup! (The Four-Dollar Treat)" than the lovingly painted pumpkin zombie of Last Bite, but full credit is given for enthusiastic embracing of the gimmick here.
Another point of interest before the first can is even opened - Big Rig proudly announce the inclusion of milk sugar in the recipe, which admittedly made me a little leery. Sugared beers are not always in my sphere - Beau's went on kind of a demerara sugar kick lately that really failed to lock with me. Big Rig earns more Halloween points right from the outset, though.

Tales from the Patch leads off with a huge sweet nose, like a Tim Horton's drive-through window back before they were terrible crossed with a "Country Vanilla" scented candle. Vanilla dominates the scent, backed by cinnamon and perceptible sweetness. Tales is light-bodied for a porter, and unusually mild for an oatmeal beer. Dark leather in colour, it forms a huge cap of resilient imitation-vanilla (achieving a taste this close to imiation with the real thing is a twisted achivement in its own right) foam, sufficient to support two hair elastics with ease but not a dime.

On the first sip, Tales immediately brings to mind Kraft vanilla caramels and good-quality candy corn - something like Brach's, not the buck store crap. This is very far into the "dessert" class of pumpkin beers, even moreso than Stack's Last Bite. Vanilla caramel, cinnamon and sugary squash are the dominant flavours, and the expected aggressive characteristics of oatmeal porter are entirely secondary, even missing, in their presence. In some respects, this is more like a very unusual soda - excellent for what offers, but not especially beer-like. Tales also has the singular most uncanny resemblance to the actual flavour of pumpkin pie out of all the beers I've tried this season. It's more like a good-to-very-good grocery store pie than a Grandma's - the spices are potent but straightforward, and your stance on imitation-whip is likely to very much colour your opinion of this beer. The malty base, strong vanilla presence and presence of milk sugar give Tales from the Patch an uncannily creamy texture all the way through, including a lingering whipped-topping sensation right through the long-lived aftertaste. Mouth-coating and sweet, the final moments of Tales echo the initial aroma of cinnamon-tinged milk caramel.

I don't normally go in for milk stouts, and can go either way on vanilla in beer as a general concept, but as Halloween treats go, this just works. Will four cans hold me for the year on this flavour? absolutely. But I'm still looking forward to the two I have left, and that last one has a scoop of ice cream and a fun-coloured straw calling its name.

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