Reviewed: Crooked Hammock Brewery Jav-O-Lantern
Product description: Introducing the #DarkSideOfHammock, this hauntingly dark ale is as complex as it is delicious. Packed with real pumpkin that was smoked over cherry wood, this brew boasts a balance of smoke, spices, dark malts & dark roasted coffee beans.
Crooked Hammock Brewery – Crooked Hammock Jav-O-Lantern – 16 oz. can poured into specialty glassware – 7.4% abv.
Crooked Hammock is a new brewery for me coming out of Lewes, Delaware. I’m sampling this beer from a 6-week-old, 16oz can that boasts a beautiful, woodblock print style label design from Philly-based artist Paul Carpenter.
Into the glass, Jav-O-Lantern is near black with red cola highlights and similarly cola looking fizzy tan foam that dwindles down quickly. At the end of the can pour, silty looking sediment dumps in, but the turbidity isn’t detected since the beer is so dark.
The nose starts with volatiles of scented candle and crayon that dissipate quickly to reveal savory olive, prune, black peppercorn, and that familiar fall spice blend we’ve grown accustomed to with “pumpkin” beers (allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg). As it warms up, the aroma focuses more on the savory element with hints of soy, plum sauce, Beldi olive, and salty brine. I can’t detect much smoked pumpkin character or coffee over this savory oyster stout-like aroma.
Flavor-wise, savoriness continues to dominate with just touches of brown sugar and then a light dose of that allspice peppercorn and nutmeg blend. The mid-palate adds prominent acidity similar to an oyster stout or Irish dry stout, which may be coffee or roasted malt-derived. It is lightly bitter and never sweet with an ultra-light body for the style. Think Guinness. There’s a briny, savory quality to this beer that makes it extremely drinkable for the stout/porter type of dark ale. The coffee addition is well-integrated and not immediately apparent. Again, there’s hardly any smoked pumpkin flesh character. But like I mentioned in my DFH Punkin Ale review, real pumpkin is nearly impossible to detect simply because the ingredient itself is too nuanced, I believe. It’s no matter because what we have here is an incredibly drinkable fall spice porter that is just perfect all around. I should mention the 7.4% ABV goes unnoticed thanks to the acidity and powerful flavors.
Overall, this is a just a great beer that could honestly be rebranded into their year-round stout/porter. The fall spice character is so integrated that it’s not pigeonholed into the pumpkin ale category. The base could work well tweaked into an oyster stout or Irish dry stout on nitro. If continuing to be the fall seasonal beer, I think all the adjuncts could be dialed up much higher. The spices, smoked character, coffee, and pumpkin meat are sitting here at subtle levels that you may not pick up unless you read the can label. Regardless, I think anyone wanting to know what good stout/porter should taste like should seek this one out.