Unchained #16: Herkulean Woods
Summit Brewing Company

Unchained #16: Herkulean WoodsUnchained #16: Herkulean Woods
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California Common / Steam Beer
3.89 | pDev: 13.88%
Summit Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Very Good
Unchained #16: Herkulean WoodsUnchained #16: Herkulean Woods
Reviews: 24 | Ratings: 122 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
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Jason from Massachusetts

4.16/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

12oz brown bottle, sample from the brewery.

It has that lager feel to it a bit, clean but big like a bock. Addition of spruce bring another element to this already well hopped brew, the maple syrup drops more of a mineral and warming juiciness. Perhaps one of the best heads on a beer I have seen in while. Semi-sweet but balanced from the spruce and hops. Too drinkable for a big beer ... I'm not complaining at all though.

Jun 20, 2015
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Chaz from Minnesota

3.36/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Pours a brilliant, amber-copper in color topped with a pale tan head.

Nose is sweetish and spicy. Seems a bit tangy.

Taste follows the nose closely. Sweeter and lightly sharp/tangy, with quite a bit of alcohol warmth all around. Aromatics, the spruce tip has a character akin to strawberry and mint -- although I'm not sure that the latter isn't a hop character.

Likewise, the aromatic character of the spruce tips strikes me as being less expressive (or differently-expressive) than it has been in the beers from breweries who have used them in the past, and which I have tried.

The maple syrup is not so noticeable, but there's a 'caramel' like character here which may be in between the strawberry and other (high fermentation temperature?) character.

Solid bittersweet / bitter character, here, which balances the sweetness.

After a few months in the bottle this one really came into its own as a bigger and stranger steam beer. Not bad at all.

May 18, 2015
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feloniousmonk from Minnesota

3.89/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Summit Unchained #16: Herkulean Woods. Lager brewed with Maple Syrup and Spruce Tips. Proudly brewed in St. Paul, Minnesota. Christian Dixon, Brewer. 8.2% Alc./Vol. 77 IBU.

Clear and copper-colored, with slim, off-white head, leaving lace, looking nice.

Aroma: hops make a bright, bittersweet appearance, but are swiftly subsumed by the maple syrup and the caramel malt. Spruce tips are hinted at, just behind. A delightful blend in the nose.

Taste: In the mouth and on the tongue, it's a tempting treat that starts highly hoppy and find itself a mixed bag of malt and woodsy trimmings. Higher than normal alcohol content starts to make it's presence known, but is kept at bay by the delicious blend of malts and hops. I'm going to take a short break to read about the recipe…."Profile: Malty, caramel backbone with a pine, resin, and citrus hop flavor and aroma….malts: Harrington, Lacey, Caramel….hops: Herkules (hence the Herkulean, then woods for the maple syrup and spruce), Northern Brewer, Experimental 05256" Anything else? "Inspired by the natural beauty and ingredients of the upper Midwest" You don't say. Well, that's different. Don'tcha know.

This is a terrific brew for the kind of season we're stumbling into, and a great choice for those who are tired of pumpkin as the compulsory choice of fall flavors. Nice dessert beer, good for 'round the fire. It's also a great representative of what makes for a good entry in the Unchained Series and why this program continues to be successful. Keep making the offbeat beers, Summit, keep stretching and inventing, and you'll always a place in my beer-y heart.

Apr 21, 2015
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JackieTH from Minnesota

4.04/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Amber in color topped by a stiff foamy persistent cap. Looks good. Great lace. This smells like a rich lager beer. Grain, honey, biscuit, soft malt. The taste is intriguing. There's the hint of spruce right away. Then a berry-honey wash of sweetness. Now more biscuit and bread. A nice bitter hop here keeps it all clean and dry. Great flavor, nothing over the top. Smooth and well-crafted body. This is a tasty easy drinking beer.

Jan 21, 2015
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JamesMN from Minnesota

3.89/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Enjoy by 3/4/15.

Appearance: Really nice honey brown color with great clarity. Poured a fluffy two finger off-white head that has subsided leaving a lot of thick lacing.

Aroma: Grain, caramel, straw.

Taste: Lots of earthy/spicy hop flavor with a bitterness that really sneaks up on you. I have a feeling the spruce tips are getting confused with the hops on my palate because the hop character is very pine tree-esque. The base malt flavor is basically dark caramel but is quite overshadowed by the hops. There is an odd balance to it due to a sweet flavor riding high above the hops, perhaps the maple syrup addition. I'm shocked to see this is 8.2% ABV! I thought for sure it was in the 5-6 range considering I've rarely seen a Summit beer over 7% ABV. Either way, well hidden alcohol and a nice job by brewer Christian Dixon.

Mouthfeel: Medium in body if not a bit higher. Somewhat aggressive carbonation that in part tricked me into thinking this was a lighter beer. Good drinkability.

Final Thoughts: I had this fresh over a month ago and it was even tastier. Usually I wouldn't suggest springing for a sixer but with the high ABV and Summit's low prices (locally) it is a steal. Would I drink it again? Yes.

Dec 03, 2014
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zeff80 from Missouri

3.87/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

16oz can. Poured out a clear, amber color with golden highlights and a tan head of foam. It smelled of roasted malt, sweet toffee and piney notes. Sweet toffee and caramel with sharp, piney bitterness.

Nov 29, 2014
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Taybeh from Minnesota

3.7/5  rDev -4.9%

From a bottle into an imperial pint glass
A: Crystal clear amber, nice head that subsides into a tight 1/2 finger crown
S: Faint doughy sweetness, and a little something more also sweet...hard to put my finger on it.
T: Different in a fairly good way. Sweetness (caramel and maybe some faint maple syrup), then earthy dirty hops, lager yeast, and something with a different kind of bitterness (the advertised spruce, perhaps) at the end.
M: pretty thick for a lager; medium carbonation.

Overall: Can't say I'll put this ahead of many other possibilities...but it is interesting, and I'll give some credit for that.

Nov 17, 2014
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Mitchster from Michigan

4.25/5  rDev +9.3%

URG. I hit the review button above, and not the one below so now my review is missing. As I recall, I bought two bottles of this for $1.89 at Siciliano's.
Brewed with Harrington, Lacey, Caramel malts, Maple syrup and spruce tips. Hopped with Herkules, Northern Brewer, Exp. 05256 [Description form Yakima Valley Hops: Black currant, dark fruit, strong herbal notes, pine tree, mint, pungent, light grapefruit rind, “Simcoe-like,” “Summit-like,” citrus, tangerine.] Kettle additions:
OG: 18º Plato, IBU: 65, ABV: 8.2%

Pours out to a clear medium amber forming a tall creamy whipped yellow head with beautiful retention and lacing. Carbonation is mild to moderate, ~2.25 or so. The aroma is brisk with piney, resinous, grapefruity hops. The mouthfeel is smooth, with a medium dense body. The taste is a very well balanced concoction of chewy crystal and pale malts balanced with a large hop flavor and aroma. The maple and spruce tips are really non-existent, overshadowed by the hops. I've had fresh balsam beer and it's fantastic, and this doesn't compare. Bitterness is medium-firm. No perceptible off flavors or aromas.
L=4.0, A=4.25, T=4.25, MF=4.25, D=4.25

Nov 15, 2014
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brentk56 from North Carolina

3.79/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: A cascading bubble show produces a magnificent head that sits on top of the copper colored liquid; very impressive lacing and retention

Smell: It's a bit early but this smells like the Christmas tree that will be in our living room in 30 days

Taste: As much as I enjoy the smell, I can't say I love the taste; starts with caramel and maple flavors that build their sweetness until the spruce tips take over, in the mid-palate; the clash between the bitterness from the spruce and the sweetness continues through the finish; there is a lot of alcohol in this, too, and the aftertaste is reminiscent of Gin

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

Overall: A interesting experiment with the California Common style, but I find the beer quite unbalanced and difficult to enjoy

Thanks, DaftPatrick, for the opportunity

Nov 14, 2014
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ZAP from Minnesota

3.48/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

L-Burnt orange...light creamy head

S-Toasted malts, piney hop aroma....earthy feel to this..

T-Pine, unsweetened grapefruit hops lead the way...an earthy/toasted malt complements the hops. Overall this is a little above average but just doesn't impress me as I hoped it would. Just doesn't mesh well.

F-Finishes very dry...body is medium

O-Not one of my favorite unchained offerings. The writeup sounded great but nothing I would seek out again.

Nov 07, 2014
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enjambed from Minnesota

3.5/5  rDev -10%

Look: Dark amber, pretty much orange. Aggressive pour produces an overly large, off-white, head, that settles down to a decently sized cap.

Smell: Mostly hops with grapefruit, some pine. Caramel malts, some lager yeast, some earthiness/or earthy hops (is this the spruce?), and a little bit of sugar at the end from the maple syrup.

Taste: Very bitter, caramel malts take over as it warms. Did not detect any spruce or maple syrup like I did in the smell. The hops pretty much overwhelmed everything, which was a little disappointing given how much they tout the malts on the label. The 8.2% ABV is very well masked by all that's going on with the flavor.

Feel: Pretty thick for a lager. Lingering, dry finish.

Overall: Pretty good experimental beer. I expected more exciting flavors from the maple syrup and spruce, but didn't detect much of it in the taste. I've never had such a bitter, hoppy lager (is it an IPL, or an IPCC?) , and it was pretty good. It's already really good as it is, but like I said earlier, I feel that the hops overpowered the malt and the rest of the flavors a little too much. Some age to mellow out the hops might do well for it, and Summit itself even suggests aging.

Nov 03, 2014
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jera1350 from Minnesota

3.24/5  rDev -16.7%

The bitterness is just way too much in this for me. Harsh bitterness drowns out the maple and spruce, with just a bit of maltiness in the background.

Oct 31, 2014
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SurlyZach from Minnesota

5/5  rDev +28.5%

This is amazing stuff from Summit. I am sad to think that soon its not going to be available. I've been stockpiling (and subsequently drinking) six packs. It is big and bold and bitter. The taste is smooth yet bitter and piney. There is a faint trace of the maple syrup. This is a perfect beer from a cold MN fall night.

Oct 31, 2014
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Mdog from Minnesota

3.75/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: Clear amber, good head.

Smell: Piney, spruce I suppose, eh?

Taste: Starts bitter then mild maple sweetness. Transitions back to pine and a bitter finish.

Overall: I was expecting this to taste a little weirder than it did. It mostly tasted like a pretty standard pale ale to me. Worth a try.

Oct 12, 2014
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shadetree67 from Minnesota

4.02/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Reddish amber in color. Pour yielded nearly 2 fingers of head. Nice lacing and head retention. A great looking beer.

S: I definitely get the spruce tips on the nose. The maple syrup isn't obvious, but I do get hints of sweetness that may be from it.

T: I'm having a tough time figuring out the components of what I am tasting. I get the spruce tips though it is well integrated. I taste the malt and some sweetness which I'm guessing is the maple syrup. If I didn't know there was maple syrup in here I wouldn't have even thought about it

M: medium body and carbonation. This is probably where the maple syrup has the biggest impact. The mouthfeel is a bit syrupy but in a good way. Slight heat from the abv distracts some and made this a sipper for me.

O: I liked this more than I thought I would especially after giving it a chance to warm up.

Sep 29, 2014
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MattyG85 from Minnesota

4.29/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a tall Summit pint glass. Bottle says enjoy by 03/04/15.

Appearance: Pours a deep brownish amber with a lot of bubbles. Solid two fingers of off white head with decent retention. Leaves some good creamy lacing.

Smell: A toasty, earthy, and fairly syrupy malt forward aroma with hints of caramel, maple syrup, and spruce tips. Toasted barley malt with upfront hints of biscuit, caramel, toffee, grains, and lager yeast. The maple syrup and spruce tips come through with a sweet and piney scent. Earthy hints of grassy hops. Also a slight hint of smoke. A pretty good smell.

Taste: Toasty and syrupy like the smell indicates, although with a more pronounced piney bitterness. Upfront piney and earthy hops with the spruce tips coming through along with some grassy hops. Toasted malt with some good hints of biscuit, grains, caramel, toffee, and lager yeast. Sweet notes of maple syrup. Light taste of smoke. A pretty good bitter taste.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Creamy, oily, and fairly syrupy with a drying finish. Alcohol is hidden well.

Overall: A very good twist on a Cali Common style brew. Good bitter and piney taste of hops and spruce tips along with some good sweet malt notes.

Sep 27, 2014
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DaveAnderson from Minnesota

3.75/5  rDev -3.6%

I didn't think I was going to like this beer. I am generally not a fan of lagers, and the Summit Unchained series has been more miss than hit for me. But this one has been a pleasant surprise. I can't say I really notice the maple syrup or spruce tips, but if I were forced to drink lagers for the rest of my life, I would put it in my rotation. It's fairly balanced, with a clean, bitter finish, and a maltiness that lives up to its dark, well past amber, hue. Can I detect maple? No. Did I like it? Yeah.

Sep 26, 2014
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mnredsoxfan69 from Minnesota

4.05/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

This is the first of the Unchained series that I have tried.
12 oz. bottle poured into a weizen glass.

L: A beautiful coppery amber, clear as water, with a two finger, long lasting, foamy, off white head that eventually settles to a 1/8" cap. Long lasting lacing on the sides of my glass.

S: Very light fragrance of bread, maple and spruce. Could have used a little more piney hops after the boil to boost the aroma, but perhaps that would have overwhelmed the taste.

T: Resiny, yet sweet flavor, you can tell the maple syrup is there, but it's definitely in the background. The malts are near the forefront with a bready, lightly roasty flavor, and hops bringing up the rear. The hop bitterness is well represented, but the spruce tips are front and center with their own resinous, bitter flavor.

F: Creamy and a little tingly on the tongue, light to medium bodied, with the alcohol well hidden, giving it just a little warmth.

O: While the smell is lacking, the flavor and appearance are outstanding. This is a welcome addition to my fridge while it's available. I hope it becomes at least a seasonal, if not a regular in Summit's stable.

Sep 24, 2014
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BeerFMAndy from Wisconsin

4.09/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into an Imperial pint.
8.2% ABV, Enjoy by 03/04/15

A - Brilliant copper amber in color, this bright clear beer pours with tall off-white cap of foam that leaves globs of chunky lace clinging to the glass as it slowly lowers.

S - Rich toasted maltiness brings a doughy smell to the forefront while suggestions of smoky maple syrup and woodsy spruce tips poke through the earthy hopped finish.

T - Aggressive hop bitterness slaps the tongue with earthy flavor, quickly followed by spruce pine-yness. The aromatic suggestions of maple syrup come through in flavor, adding slight sweetness to the hefty malt base.

M - Big and bold, the body remains smooth with a sharp pine and bitter hop bite on the finish that wonderfully evens out the feel for a round lager.

O - Herkulean Woods, as the name suggests, is a big and bold earthy beer with deep malt and maple syrup complexity that underlines it's aggressive hop bite and sharp spruce addition!

Sep 21, 2014
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garymuchow from Minnesota

4.34/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

This is my first review back to the "attribute" format.
Nice bronze color. Big full off-white/tan head.
Nice aroma and complex too. Earthy hops with a noticeable graininess. Hops are also perfumey with doughy quality as well (I've noted it in some Schell's beers too).
Complexity reigns in the flavors too and fortunately they blend interestingly as well. Nothing dominates although the primary flavors seem to come and go and make each drink an adventure and a truly interesting drink overall. The spruce is probably hardest to pick up but the maple shows as does the Northern brewer hops. Hops continue with the earthy quality with some spiciness and pine. There is a grittiness to the malts that works well with the hops. Certainly a "woodsy" quality to this drink. The hops really lay on the tongue for a very long flavorful and slightly bitter finish.
Fullness in the mouthfeel and carbonated at a slightly lower rate, which is nice. Well hidden alcohol, leads to a nice drinking ale, although the fullness helps keep the pace slower. Drinks more like an ale than the advertised lager.
This is very nice, indeed.

Sep 21, 2014
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Ri0 from Wisconsin

3.95/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

poured 12oz bottle into snifter.

A - A gorgeous dark amber color with a 2 finger off white head. Leaves a ring and nice lacing on the glass. I am entranced by the color of this beer and find it beautiful.

S - Massive pine and spruce with some sweet caramel malt. If I pay attention I can find some of that maple goodness that was added to this beer. The hops are very forward and the pine is heavy. Some bitter grapefruit citrus.

T - Follows the nose with hops and pine sap right off the bat. Some bitter grapefruit and other citrus hops. Bitterness is is big and bold, but settles a bit in the middle to allow the caramel malts and hints of maple syrup in. Finish is piney and has a spruce/juniper (think gin) flavor with maple lingering.

M - Medium bodied, with very nice carbonation. Not too sticky, but your palate will be left with a bittering tingle.

O - Fascinating and tasty lager; I fully expected it to be much more malty with a subtle hop/pine presence. I was wrong. If you like a big hop and pine bitter beer, you should give this a try.

Sep 21, 2014
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MNAle from Minnesota

4.12/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark amber color, pleasant, if weak, aroma with pine (well, spruce, I guess) evident. This is a much more bitter beer than I usually like, but I like this one because of the mix of the maple syrup with the bitters of the hops/tips. This is especially evident in the finish… piney bitterness with a very nice sweetness. Very good, Summit. Kudos to brewer Christian Dixon. A high in bitterness beer I actually like!

Sep 20, 2014
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maximum12 from Minnesota

3.95/5  rDev +1.5%

Picked up a six pack of this because spruce tips & maple syrup, both of which I would eat daily given the chance. Plus, it sounds vaguely like something Short’s would brew, except there’s no prehistoric fungi found exclusively within 30 yards of Bellaire involved. 12 oz. stubby, after my own heart.

Pour is so amber I expect to find something prehistoric stuck in the stuff. Repeated swirling & twirling brings almost nothing to the nose. Faint yeastiness, sweetness, but nothing to put my finger on the play button.

Herkulean Woods is more like Frankenstein Woods. What is this monster? Why the big ABV from a Summit beer, of all people? And what is that I taste? Big piney hops burst through the line like Adrian Peterson uh, well, used to. Spruce tips hold hands with the hops & cannonball my taste buds, bringing an interesting twist to the beer’s bitterness. Residual sweetness that might be syrup, might be malts, but whatever syrup’s in here is the Invisible Man. Spicy hops take over the finish; this could try out as a rye IPA & get good marks. Nary a hint of the lagering, except that it’s going down like it’s running right out the bottom of my feet.

Nice job, Summit. A touch disappointed that the maple syrup was evidently spilled on the brewery floor – must have made quite the mess – but what’s left behind is a very good beer. Will have no trouble putting a couple of these down with my winning poker hands tomorrow night.

Sep 19, 2014
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bsp77 from Minnesota

4.07/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Serving glass: Poured from bottle into dimpled mug.

Appearance: Slightly reddish copper with decent off-white head.

Smell: Caramel and sweet dark fruits. Maybe a hint of maple syrup and pine.

Taste: Sweet upfront with lots of dark fruits, caramel and maple syrup. But this is quickly overtaken by a large dose of bitter, citrusy and spicy hops. There is also a strong pine flavor on the finish, or maybe I should say it is a spruce finish, as it is probably from the spruce tips but the hops could be contributing.

Feel: Moderate carbonation with a fairly full body for a lager. Fairly smooth overall but the dry finish is a little harsh.

Overall: This is a very good strong, sweet and bitter lager that fits in nicely with the Oktoberfests of the season.

Sep 13, 2014
Unchained #16: Herkulean Woods from Summit Brewing Company
Beer rating: 87 out of 100 with 122 ratings