PUMPKIN ALE, with all its cozy Americana associations, just doesn’t seem suitable to the likes of Revolution Brewing. Bless them. Instead, as a fall seasonal to bridge the gap between Oktoberfest and Fistmas they offer Red Skull, an imperial red ale of 8.3% ABV. It’s brewed with whole-cone Cascade and enthusiastically dry-hopped with Citra in two late stages to deliver a vivacious and verdant bouquet. (This admittedly clashes somewhat with the desiccated skeleton fist on the logo, but that’s another matter.)
The beer pours a clear and moderately intense amber color with a thin smear of light tan head. Caramel and marshmallows are most pronounced on the nose with the dry-hopping and some refreshing wintergreen slotting in beneath. The flavor is similarly layered, leading with red roasted malt in the medium body, then citrus, grapefruit, mint, a faint bit of meaty smoke, and a slightly flattening mineral finish. Its carbonation is pinpoint prickly but doesn’t quite crest above the mouthfeel, which asserts its weight at the beginning and begins to taper late. Some bitterness lingers in the finish, though in keeping with Cascade’s balanced character it’s none too harsh.
Overall it’s clear that Red Skull is a robust beer, even without a particularly pronounced smack of alcohol or that hefty a body. Yet perhaps a little more of both wouldn’t have gone awry—rewarding for its fresh hop nuances, Red Skull’s other facets are just not as well-developed. In the hierarchy of seasonal imperial reds this is still a small notch better than Great Lakes’ Nosferatu. Neither, though, is in a class with Lagunitas’ Lucky 13. And for that we’ll have to wait till spring.
Served: On tap (Blues Bar, Mt. Prospect)