The Imperial label carries a bit cache. When I see an Imperial Stout or Imperial IPA on the shelves I know I'm in for a rough ride. Not rough in the sense that the beer is bad, just that it will be big, if not extreme. The nomenclature isn't something I'll bore you with, I'll just leave it at this: seeing the Imperial prefix on a label means the beer is usually double or triple the original. Double or triple what? Well, that's up to the brewer... That's the question I was asking myself when I saw this bottle of Breckenridge's Small Batch Imperial Porter. You don't see Imperial Porters often, and this was my first so I wasn't really sure what to expect. Breckenridge Porters are among my favorites so I figured it was worth the purchase price even if I really had no idea what exactly to expect.
Breckenridge's Christmas Ale has been one of my favorites for the past couple of years. There is plenty to love about this beer, the packaging has a great retro style, it smells and tastes like roasted nuts and caramel, and at 7.4% ABV it'll keep you warmer than most of the winter seasonals on the market. This beer pours a gorgeous rich copper color and develops a a head that is prone to lacing. Breckenridge's Christmas Ale has a mild aroma that is rather complex given it's subdued fragrance. You'll notice this beer smells a bit like a pack of roasted nuts, the kind with a thin layer of caramelized sugar on them. The flavor follows the aroma quite closely, but ends up being sweeter... which just seems fitting for a Christmas ale.
Breckenridge's Autumn Ale isn't a Märzen or and Altbier... it's not the kind of beer you'd expect by looking at the label. With pictures of leaves and earth tone hues you'd be forgiven for thinking this was an Oktoberfest style lager. Instead of bottling a hoppy or bitter Oktoberfest beer Breckenridge has brewed up the darkest fall seasonal I've seen yet. This beer can best be described as somewhere between a Märzen and a Stout. It's a bit odd, even more so because Breckenridge calls this an Old Ale. It's really all semantics, you can call your beer whatever you want so long as there is a passing semblance of logic to it. What's really more important is how your beer tastes, and in that regard Breckenridge has succeeded in making a good beer.
Breckenridge's Vanilla Porter was a big surprise to me when I had my first bottle last year. This beer has a generous amount of vanilla brewed in, and this is abundantly apparent upon taking your first sip. You'll notice right off the bat that this beer isn't (as) bitter, despite being a pitch black Porter. Rather, this beer is sweet like dark chocolate with a creamy vanilla element that makes everything go down really smoothly. You don't need a sweet tooth to enjoy this beer though. While you can pick up on hints of caramel, chocolate and bourbon - this beer is never overbearing. There are a lot of different sweet flavors in this beer and that's because it takes a lot of sweetness to make up for the bitterness that usually comes with being a Porter.
Breckridge's Avalanche Ale is a good beer, but it's boring... Unless this is the first Amber style beer you've ever had you'll know exactly what to expect when you take a drink. This beer is reddish-brown in color with a thin white head that hangs around until the glass is empty. The body is a little less red in color and a bit cloudier than I was expecting. None of this really all that important, if the beer looks awesome and tastes like crap then know one will care... The Avalanche Ale has a pretty pleasant flavor. It's pretty mild all around. Lightly hopped, generously malted, and just a little dry on the tongue. Just about what you'd expect from a proper Amber style beer. There's nothing wrong with that, or this beer... but that's all there is. The Avalanche Ale seems to just stop short of being exciting. If there were something a little more to this beer it'd stand out a bit more from the pack. As it stands now, the Avalanche is good but not great...
While some breweries have released raspberry, blueberry or peach wheat beers, Breckenridge went in a different direction and brewed their wheat with agave nectar. Agave, a plant that is best known for its use in Tequila, isn't a flavor that is as recognizable as raspberry, blueberry or peach. This is certainly a welcome change, rather than using the wheat beer base as just a delivery mechanism for your fruit flavor the Agave Wheat still tastes like a traditional wheat beer, it just happens to have a little more flavor to it thanks to the agave. I really only have one complaint with the Agave Wheat, and it's that this beer is still just a wheat beer. The taste and body are solid, there isn't anything wrong with this beer but there isn't anything spectacular about it either.