Babayaga | Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project

very good
192 Reviews
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Brewed by:
Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project
Massachusetts, United States

Style: Foreign / Export Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.00%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
Babayaga, our autumn seasonal beer, appears each year just as the winds begin to blow a little stronger and the nights bring Winter’s first frost. The beer is a 7% export-strength woodland stout. We found this beer in a cauldron in a tiny wooden cabin perched on chicken legs in the woods near the Volga River. The old lady inside, an ancient witch/wise-woman/baby-eater called Baba Yaga, let us try some. We liked it so much, she said we could brew it for all of you here back home, as long as we named it after her. And so we did! How could we not have: she’d have eaten us if we didn’t!

It took us a while to figure out the secrets to Baba Yaga’s recipe, but we think we’ve got it: We smoke some malt with rosemary, and we add a few other eerie embellishments that she’s making us keep hush-hush. We ferment with a mix of English and Belgian yeast strains. This beer should taste like Eastern European folklore, like woodland, streams, cold dark nights and woodsmoke. Enjoy it!

…And what’s over here? A poem about the eerie old woman and the beer she brought to us! Close your eyes, imagine yourself lost deep in the foggy thicket somewhere, and click the little linky below…

Added by m1ked on 11-10-2009

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 192 | Ratings: 454
Photo of johnnnniee
4.08/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled 11/2009 and somehow got lost until tonight. Pours a solid dark brown with faint garnet highlights when held to light and a fluffy tan meringue head that sticks lots of lace on the way down. Smells of roast and lots of caramel dark sugars and dark fruits. Spicy earthy aromas remind me of wood and ginger. The flavor is kind of a cross between a stout and a Belgian strong dark ale. The roasty caramel and chocolate flavors meet some spicy and earthy flavor reminiscent of some dark Belgians. Nice sugary fruity flavor. Medium body with a moderate level of carbonation and a sweet bubbly mouthfeel. This probably wasn't the best candidate for aging, but it worked just the same, its a very nice beer

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Photo of Gambrinus1184
4.25/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22-ounce bomber into a Barrington Brewery pint glass.

A: Black as night with root beer-rounded edges beneath a dense, creamy, two-finger head of light beige foam.

S: Lots of different roasted malt aromas ranging from the chocolaty to the herbal and more smokey scents. There's a bit of fruity and grassy hops thrown in the mix as well.

T: Seemingly light and brisk malts hit the palate first with the tart pull of rye and velvety smooth sweetness of oats. Bitter, charcoal and chocolate notes take hold, imparting some coffee-like, herbal hop bitterness before washing down with a spicy, smokey and slick hop resin.

M: Medium-full bodied stout overall, but one that initially drinks lighter than the ABV or malt bill would have you believe.

O: This was a very interesting and fulfilling stout from the gypsy brewers at Pretty Things. The 7% ABV and variety of malts kept this stout drinking sturdy and the traditional hop additions kept it distinctly American. However, the British and Belgian yeast strains really made for some interesting, fruity, tart and spicy flavors that might have gone unnoticed with a house yeast. I'd certainly grab it again.

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Photo of AgentMunky
3.71/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22 ounce bottle into a St. Bernardus goblet. Bottled October 2011.

A: Thick, creamy mocha-colored head. Darkest chestnut brown. Completely opaque.

S: Light and...lagery? A bit of bright fruit or Belgian yeast, with subtle milk chocolate undertones.

T: Hm. Not as good as I'd expected. It reminds me of a Scottish ale (or a less hopped Luckie Ales Export Stout). Light and fluffy, with a subtly-flavored maintaste that might be considered fleeting, but isn't quite. Raisins, apricot, and spices like nutmeg, fennel, or cinnamon that are a bit like a dubbel and sometimes trend savory. Interesting. Roasted malt adds a bit of smack, but is quite understated.

M: Smooth, mostly, with a slinky, unassuming body.

O: Points for flair, but even though it's fascinating, it always seems like it doesn't quite make it. So close to the mark, but it never quite finds its way there. Still worth trying and perhaps better fresh.

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Photo of ngeunit1
4.42/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a very dark black with just a touch of brown and a half finger of frothy chocolate colored head. The head fades down at a normal pace leaving behind some light lace.

S - Aroma is a mix of roasted dark chocolate malts with some smoke, coffee, and a bit of dark fruit sweetness.

T - Starts out with some roasted dark chocolate malts with a bit of vanilla and smoke. Through the middle, some stronger smoke comes through with some coffee and light dark fruit sweetness. The finish is a mix of roasted chocolate and coffee, smoke, and just a touch of dark fruit.

M - Medium-full bodied with moderate carbonation. Feels smooth with a dry and roasty finish.

D - Very drinkable. Really nice Stout. The balance is spot on here with a great mix of chocolate, coffee, and a touch of dark fruit sweetness.

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Photo of bluejacket74
4.17/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 ounce bottle, bottled October 2011. Served in a nonic pint glass, the beer pours dark brown/black with about an inch tan head. Head retention and lacing are both decent. The aroma is nice, it smells like chocolate, roasted malt, smoke, and some dark fruit and coffee. Taste is similar to the aroma, it tastes like chocolate, roasted malt, dark fruit, molasses, smoke, wood, and a bit of licorice. Nice mix between the sweet and bitter flavors. Mouthfeel/body is medium, it's creamy and very smooth with moderate carbonation. I like this brew, too bad I can't get it here in Ohio. I'll probably buy this again the next time I come across it. $7.99 a bomber.

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Photo of RblWthACoz
3.83/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Kind of surprised to see new stuff from Pretty Things all the way out on the west coast. A nice, pleasant, hearty and rustic stout. Mildly smoky and seems a touch of spicy on there as well. It's a good winter stout. Even though there are parts of it that stand out in their own ways, it strikes me as well balanced.

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4.2/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Black Raven pint glass. Pours a very dark brown, appearing black. Nice fine brown head with decent retention and good lacing. Mild aroma of toasted and dark malt with an interesting faint estery fruit component. Unusual flavor dominated by dark malt, but complex, earthy with unidentifiable fruit flavors. Finish is a touch sour, reminiscent of rye (which is listed as an ingredient) mixed with spicy toasted malt and coffee. Unusual combination of flavors, but this one works for me. Medium bodied with a touch of creaminess. These guys push the envelope but seem to pull it off. I would get this again if it was available in my state.

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Photo of Lordquackingstic
4.01/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottled October 2011

A: Pours onyx black with two and a half fingers of a woody brown head. Spectacular lacing.

S: Toasted malts, dark chocolate, weak coffee. A tad on the weak side.

T: Way more appealing than the nose. Nice and toasty malt flavor, a little bit of smokiness, little bit of dark chocolate. There's a flavor here I've never tasted before and I can't put my finger on what it reminds me of, but it's a very pleasant taste. Almost like a dry woodiness. Very nice.

M: Dry and full.

O: This was a very nice stout. I definitely get the "woodland" feel while drinking it. Wish Pretty Things made six packs, I'd buy this year round. Kudos to you Pretty Things!

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Photo of jbertsch
4.42/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pitch black with a modest yet sufficient head. Smells of charcoal, peat moss, and woodsy earth. As it warms and I swirl it in my glass, I notice notes of banana along side Belgian-like yeast. The taste is a nice change of pace for a stout as it's not just the usual chocolate and coffee notes. I get notes of smoky woods, a little licorice, slight fruit notes, and a little herbiness thats a nice surprise. Tihis all swims in a pool of roasty toasty notes. Mouthfeel is a little slick but still mainly creamy.

Overall I'm surprised more people don't love this stout. It's unique with great layers of flavor that range from woods, herbs, and fruit with an underlining roastiness that runs across everything.

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Photo of Murrhey
3.57/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Shared a bottle with Kojevergas.

A- Finger width mocha head. Quick evaporating retention.

S- Dark malts and subtle chocolate with definite smokiness.

T- Dark roasted malts, very toasty tastes.

M- Heavy bodied, medium carb.

O- Weird beer. Like it, don't love it.

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Photo of arizcards
3.83/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Picked up a bomber at Whole Foods in LaJolla in late February for $9.49. Bottled in October 2011.

Beer poured dark brown with a huge brown head upon the initial pour.

Nose has hints of molasses and smoke.

Taste initially was a hint of rye. Smoke, bittersweet chocolate, molasses, and maybe coriander.

Mouthfeel was light to medium bodied and not overly smooth.

Overall this is a good beer and there are some interesting tastes in this brew but it is lacking some things that would make it world class. Recommended to stout lovers to try.

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Photo of daledeee
3.73/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Never heard of this brewery so I thought I would try it. A nice 22 oz bottle with an interesting label.

Poured a very dark brown. Lots of head with lacing: a medium tan head.

Nose was great at first then subsided to hints of vanilla and roasted malt. I can also smell alcohol.

Taste is very earthy with almost a burnt taste. Loads of hops and roasted malt. It comes off as being a little on the chemical side. Not a bad beer though. Carbonation is adequate and this beer is drinkable.

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Photo of Gobzilla
3.53/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: poured a very dark brown in color with brown highlights and had a thin head which left almost no lacing sticking to the glass.

S: definitely had some roastiness from the chocolate malts I suppose with hints of coffee, a slight sign of booze and a variety of grains.

T: some sweetness from the malts with chocolate roastiness greeted my palate on the first sip with brown sugar notes, a hint of booze and grain accents.

M: the brew was light to medium in body with a moderate amount of carbonation which had a sweet, mild boozy, sligt roasty, and faint bitter finish.

O: gotta say it was just a decent stout and was probably at the bottom of my list from the beers tasted today from pretty things.

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Photo of GeezLynn
3.4/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

“Bottled Oct 2011”

A: Blacker than a midnight Trojan with a thick tan head.
S: Smell is sweet, a bit bready, some licorice…not all that roasted. Something else, rye?
T: Strange bitter tart combination to begin with. Notice some baker’s chocolate and coffee, along with burnt toast. Bitterness is overly aggressive. Finish is lengthy and biting.
M: Body is moderately thick but heavy carbonation gives it somewhat of an airy feel.

Enjoyed the previous Pretty Things beers I’ve tried, but this was a slight disappointment. Unique like the others, but was a bit harsh and not all that cohesive.

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Photo of kylehay2004
3.92/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: half finger head which disappears quickly, little lacing.

S:light roasted malt with a subtle vanilla, hops and smokey notes.

T: Burnt and bitter coffee mostly. Some roasted malt, with chocolate, vanilla and firey.

M: full bodied, very oily. Moderate to high carbonation.

Overall: Very interesting beer. The first sip is a little overwhleming but after a few sips this mellows out into a nice complex stout. Has some strong Rauchbier characteristics.

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Photo of nickfl
3.62/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Poured with a one finger head of light brown foam on top of an opaque, black body. The head settles rapidly and leaves almost no lace on the glass.

S - Rich, dark notes of chocolate, molasses, coriander, and a hint of smoky coffee.

T - Sweet, sugary malt up front with some brown sugar and caramel. A bit of bittersweet chocolate comes out in the middle with a lightly smoky note. Finishes as caramel, molasses, and light coffee flavors join the party with light grainy bitterness to balance the significant sweetness.

M - A thick, syrupy body, moderate carbonation, and a sweet finish.

D - The various components imply that this might be an over the top type of stout, but it is actually fairly drinkable and the more unusual flavoring aspects such as the smoke are well integrated. In fact, it almost goes too far into being a smooth, well balanced beer to the point that it comes across as kind of bland in the finish with an excessive level of sweetness that lingers on the palate and hurts the drinkability towards the end of the glass.

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Photo of Viciousknishs
4.25/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A- pours a dark black with a finger of medium tan head. Very good retention.

S- smells like no stout I've had before. Chocolate and soft roast malt flavor with a touch of spicy rye. Lots of Belgians dark fruit esters from the yeast and a touch of smoke. English yeast comes out as well.

T- soft semi-sweet chocolate and roast malt. Belgian yeast esters give off raisin and plum flavors. The English yeast dries it out and gives a great caramel like flavor at the finish with a touch smoke.

MF- smooth creamy mouthfeel with a medium body and soft carbonation.

D- 100% drinkability.

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Photo of litheum94
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle. Bottled October 2011.

Pours a charcoal black body, but does have some brown to it when held to the light. Big, brown head leaves a sticky foam as it settles.

Chocolate covered bananas, cold brewed coffee and charcoal, with some dark fruits.

Creamy chocolate, with some espresso bean bitterness. Chicory root, banana and plums. Soft smoke, with some minty freshness. Slightly dry on the finish, with some charcoal ash.

A pretty damn good stout. A little pricey, at least in my area, for a non BA stout, but this will not disappoint. Definitely worth a try.

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Photo of srandycarter
3.62/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Brown near black on pour. Not much head - ring mostly. Some spotty cling lace.

S - Burnt malt and tinge of soy sauce and coffee. Sweet malt tries to make an appearance.

T - Very dry. Overcooked coffee, soy sauce, toasted malt on low levels.

M - A little watery and would have preferred more sweet malt in the mix. Good carb and fair finish.

D - I like PT. This one is not my favorite, however.

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Photo of Sammy
3.88/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

bottle from bierkraft, bottled in October 2011. A very pleasant drinking smouth. Silky mouthfeel, not thick like an IS. Black with enormous retained white bubbly head. Mild roast and anise on the nose. Great stout, with a bit of smoky head in the finish. Great drinkability.

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Photo of aasher
4.03/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer just arrived in Indianapolis for the first time several weeks ago. The sticker over the cap states bottled in October of 2011.

This beer pours a smooth and medium bodied dark chocolate brown in color with a one finger creamy khaki head. It poured exceptionally smooth. The aromas are interesting. It's a little earthy. It has a certain sweet spice to it and smells like it may even use some oat. The flavors feature slight soft chocolate, some sweet spice, light earth, with a touch of toffee. Nice and mellow flavor. It drinks on the lighter end of medium bodied but it very smooth, increasing drinkability. Overall this is a nice stout. It had a certain earthiness to it that makes it a little different than most. It's an easy drinker and for $8.99, pretty cost effective.

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Photo of mactrail
3.65/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A black malty beer with a taste of the campfire.

A fairly strong taste of smoke and ashes. Dark roasted malt provides a little sweetness. Herbal flavors like sage. Bitterness pervades the stuff. Burnt raisin toast and dark caramel. Bitter chocolate cupcakes. Fairly thin body. Dark, dark brown in the chalice with pleasant foam and lacing. Flavors are clean and intense with an aftertaste of malty grains. Bitterness subsides into an artichoke taste, like Cynar.

22 oz bottle from Beer Revolution in Oakland. Quite sippable, but be prepared for a different kind of smoke.

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Photo of biegaman
4.3/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Named after the witch character in many a Slavic folklore, Babayaga looks haggish only in its lacing, which droops along the glass like a tattered old woolen rag. Otherwise it's quite sleek: its body is jet black, or perhaps the deepest of browns, but is completely opaque whatever the case. Its head looks as if it went through the toaster.

Babayaga has an aroma as distinctive as its name. There is a notable, overwhelming savoriness and plenty of dried herb character. Redwood and fir tips, spruce bark and rosemary are also quite pronounced - when they call it a "woodland" stout the "wood" part is apparently meant quite literally. It certainly earns a 5 out of 5 for uniqueness.

I think the flavor is accurately summed up in the brewery's write-up: "fire, treebark and smoke; yeast, grass, weeds, and water". Indeed, it is a most unusual taste, very 'outdoorsy' and 'shrub-like', replete with savory notes of rosemary, spruce and juniper, along with a base of bruised dark fruits and smoky roasted malts. To be simple about it: it's like drinking a tree that was macerated in gin and liquified over campfire.

Trying to box Babayaga into an existing defined style is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole - it just doesn't conform. It has the bruised dark fruit and yeast character of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale but also the savory herb and flower character of a Scottish Gruit, the smoke of a German Racuhbier, the lagered mouthfeel of a Baltic porter...

Sufficed to say, here’s a difficult ale to describe. Although the beer is deserving of poetry, allow me to make things easier on myself by just throwing out three words: conifers, campfires, and coffee. Somewhere within the overlapping circles of that Venn diagram falls Babayaga, accented of course with all the rosemary in the Mediterranean.

If you like riddles - or just the idea of drinking shrubs - then this is a beer for you because Babayaga is not only a fantastic autumn seasonal, but an especially peculiar and curious beer. It is, almost as literally as figuratively, a piece of abstract modernist art. Rosemary is obvious, and juniper and spruce are highly suspected, but the real mystery is not what ingredients were put in it, but rather what exactly makes it so damn drinkable!

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Photo of Kyrgyzbrewer
3.97/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- deep brown. It is about exactly what you would expect from a stout.

S- Rich bold notes.

T- This is a full bodied stout with a lot more hop notes than I would expect. There are notes of malt and an underlying tone of molasses to it it.

M- Light carbonation, which is about what you would expect for a stout.

O- Overall a good stout. Not my favorite, but I love stouts, so being my favorite is not easy. There are some interesting notes to it. I would certainly have it again.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.97/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle shared at a tasting at MrHirschybar's place.

Pours an opaque dark brown with a tan head that settles to a film on the top of the beer. Small dots of lace form on the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark malt, dark fruits, and some slight cocoa and coffee aromas. Taste is pretty much the same. There is a medium roasty bitterness on the palate after each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good roasty stout with some nice smells and flavors.

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Babayaga from Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project
3.92 out of 5 based on 454 ratings.
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