Headless Heron | Central Waters Brewing Co.

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Headless HeronHeadless Heron
391 Ratings
Headless HeronHeadless Heron

Brewed by:
Central Waters Brewing Co.
Wisconsin, United States

Style: Pumpkin Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.50%

Availability: Fall

Notes / Commercial Description:
Generously spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves, this barrel-aged pumpkin spice ale overflows with dark fruit, dried fruit, and hints of bourbon. Perfect for settling in to watch a few leaves fall to the ground.

Added by BeerVikingSailor on 09-25-2014

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 391 |  Reviews: 75
Reviews by brydeen:
Photo of brydeen
3.75/5  rDev -9.4%

More User Reviews:
Photo of StonedTrippin
4.34/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

this beer is crazy good, i am surprised others havent rated it higher than this. its like our of the oven pumpkin bread, dark and loaded with molasses and the right blend of autumnal spices, pumpkin right from the can, moist and dense, rich and delicious. this beer moved me to the kitchen on thanksgiving, and thats always nice when a beer takes you somewhere. i just cant believe how decadent this is, lots of sweet pumpkin flavor, a good toasted and roasted malt profile that reserves some sweetness, and brown sugar and spice flavors lead by burnt cinnamon and cloves. sticky and fresh, perfect for the fall, the cinnamon is nice, gives it a little warmth with the whiskey barrel flavors, which all come on in the finish. this is one of the best pumpkin beers of the year, and one of my favorites of all time. not too often something of this quality comes around, layers and layers of grain and spice, sweet but not too sweet, and real full bodied. central waters is one of the best, and honestly most under appreciated breweries in the country. i love everything they do, and this is my favorite of their seasonal stuff i have had.

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Photo of don1481
4.42/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bomber poured into glass.

Appearance: Pours a very dark red with am orange tan head that leaves a little lacing on the side of the glass.

Smell: Just like a pumpkin pie. I'm not kidding. This literally smells like a pumpkin pie, with all the spice and sweet notes that come from a fresh baked pie.

Taste: like a pumpkin pie that's been soaked in bourbon. CW really does barrel aging to perfection.

Mouthfeel: fairly thick. Spice notes linger.

Overall: I am so happy i got two of these, especially given how rare they were in Milwaukee.

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Photo of DabblinWiscCraft
4.1/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Picked up a 22 oz bottle at the Trig's Cellar 70 in Minocqua. No bottled on date that I can see. Poured at cellar temperature into my nonic pint glass.

L: Pours a coffee brown--hazy golden brown at the edges where the light shines through--with about a half-inch of tan head that dissipates after a bit to a ring and leaves almost no lacing on the glass.

S: A bit of a root beer quality to the bouquet on this one, full of spice and more subtle sweetness. There's certainly pumpkin present, with a healthy presence of nutmeg and cinnamon. The bourbon quality to the nose lends it some of the aforementioned sweetness, with notes of caramel and vanilla. There's just a bit of bubblegum in the mix, as well.

T: Sweet start to this one, with notes of caramel, bourbon, vanilla, and pumpkin. There really isn't any roasted malt presence to speak of--this one tends more toward the caramel. The middle brings on flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon, anise, and more subtle black licorice. There's a bit of clear alcohol there, as well. The back end sees more in the way of caramel malt sweetness, as well as the vanilla and bourbon notes becoming more prominent. The lingering aftertaste is that of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and bourbon.

F: Medium-bodied and quite creamy. Very little in the way of a syrupy quality--thanks in part to a good level of carbonation--though there is a bit of stick. The touch of bitter at the back end is the only deviation from an otherwise quite sweet brew.

O: I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin ales, but I will say that this is one of the best that I've tried. The complexity of spices and bourbon notes makes for an enjoyable tasting experience, though I do feel this one is a shade too sweet overall. If you're a fan of this style, you won't be disappointed.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.25/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

BOTTLE: Courtesy of the generous Duff27 - thanks, man! 1 pint 6 fl oz. Brown glass. Branded pry-off blue crown cap. Generally appealing label art. 2014 vintage.

Served cold into an oversized snifter and allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Expectations are high given the brewery behind it - as well the use of bourbon barrel aging, which Central Waters excels at. Reviewed live as a barre aged pumpkin spice ae per the label.

No bubble show forms as it's poured.

HEAD: About 4cm wide. Khaki colour, with a brilliant shining complexion. Creamy, full, robust, and thick. Not fizzy, watery, or weak. Leaves a perfect coating of thick lacing on the sides of the glass as it recedes. Retention is stellar for the high ABV - easily 10 minutes or more.

BODY: Not the glowing auburn of most pumpkin (spice) ales, but rather an opaque dark colour closer to black, with enough translucence on the bottom of the glass to tell me that it isn't actually black. Like Guinness, this is like actually closer to a dark ruby. No yeast or sediment is visible within.

It's a nice looking brew with an impressive head, but it's much darker than most beers in the style - to its detriment. The auburn glow of a traditional pumpkin (spice) ale is indeed preferable.

AROMA: Vanilla-emphatic bourbon barrel notes mingle intermittently with pumpkiny cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and allspice notes, but they never feel seamlessly integrated, and I worry about the beer's cohesion. The pumpkin spices and bourbon don't clash, but they sit alongside one another uncomfortably, never blending to form a seeming whole. The bourbon barrel character, is - as is always the case with Central Waters - very interesting, bringing plenty of Kentucky bourbon-soaked wood, barrel sugars, and genuine (i.e. non-vanillin) vanilla, but unfortunately no refined toasty oak or coconut. Subsidiary notes of cream, brown sugar, and amber malts fill out the aromatics.

Notably absent is the presence of any actual pumpkin gourd; it seems this is pumpkin spice only.

Aromatic intensity is moderately high. I detect no yeast or off-notes. Some mild bourbon-y warmth is present, but I wouldn't refer to the aroma as boozy or hot.

TASTE: The bourbon undercurrent gives the beer a unifying warmth, with notes of pie crust and brown sugar giving this beer its backbone. The brown sugar feeds into the cinnamon spice nicely, emphasizing that pumpkin spice over the other less prominent notes of allspice, nutmeg, and clove. Ginger doesn't come through to my tastes. Some kind of amber or caraMunich malt sweetness fills out the body. Lesser notes of cream and dark fruit (figs?) are also present.

It's balanced, and has more cohesion than the aroma suggested, but still the fundamental problem first noticed in the aroma remains - the bourbon is not neatly integrated into the build, sitting evenly beside it but never seamlessly blending in. The result is a scattered build that doesn't taste like a gestalt whole, but I do like it, slightly messy though it may be.

The bourbon character is nice, but less expressive and deep than it is in Central Waters' other bourbon barrel brews. I dig the genuine vanilla at its heart, and the barrel sugars are nice, but more of a coconut-y and/or toasty oak presence would do wonders.

Vanilla usurps the focus in the third act and lingers on the finish into the aftertaste.

TEXTURE: Full-bodied, with sugary but not saccharine feel on the palate from the brown sugar flavour. Smooth and wet, yet too heavy and thick on the palate to be refreshing. Never sticky or syrupy, nor is it chewy. This is the right kind of texture for a bourbon barrel aged pumpkin (spice) ale, bringing enough heft and weight to support the bourbon, but it's not dialed in to the extent that it accentuates specific notes or elevates the brew as a whole.

Not oily, hot, boozy, gushed, rough, scratchy, harsh, or astringent.

Overall presence on the palate is nice.

OVERALL: A worthwhile brew with some interesting bourbon notes, but not a pumpkin ale - lacking any pumpkin gourd notes whatsoever. They could have been a biteen more transparent with their marketing, to be fair. I can't help but feel like it'd be a far better beer if they had used pumpkin, but this remains a sippable enjoyable brew that will satisfy the discerning drinker. Not Central Waters' strongest work, but I'm glad I got to try it and will enjoy finishing the bottle.

High C+ (3.25)

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Photo of andrenaline
4.45/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark cola colour with a finger of head, some retention and sporadic lacing. Nose is full of bourbon and pumpkin pie spice. So much bourbon flavour off the hop, but delicious pumpkin spices one through and linger on the finish. Booze is very well hidden, and goes down smooth. A surprisingly dark pumpkin beer that is nicely complemented by the bourbon. Probably one of my favourite pumpkin beers ever.

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Photo of mjpolzin
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%

2014 Pumpkin Beer Season will be remembered by me as the first time I delved into barrel aged pumpkin beers. With Central Waters being my favorite brewery, I was really excited that they were offering a beer in this category but I was bummed it took so long to hit Madison. I got a bottle late in the day on Halloween so maybe that is actually ideal!

This beer was really delicious but I will say right away that it wasn't the best barrel aged pumpkin beer I have had. That honor goes to Lakefront's barrel aged offering. The Central Water beer though had the distinctive barrel aged taste that CW is so good at. Add in a well integrated pumpkin pie spice taste and this beer was worth the wait!

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Photo of kkleu357
4.31/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

On tap at the brewery. Dark brown body. Next to the bourbon barrel stout it looks slightly more tan. Nice fall spice aroma. Sweet bourbon taste with a good cinnamon nutmeg spice bite. Really good beer.

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Photo of DanGeo
4.04/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Photo of Brent_B
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of SD-Alefan
4.1/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours dark brown with a tan head that quickly becomes a mere, wispy cover.
The aroma is cinnamon, cloves, cola, vanilla and roast notes.
The taste is toasty and spicy with vanilla and dark fruit and some boozy warmth.
It's medium and smooth.

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Photo of DaftPatrick
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%

Photo of jamato3000
3.75/5  rDev -9.4%

Photo of tvenne
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of AlarmClock314
3.89/5  rDev -6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of Hoppity1
4.14/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Photo of tigg924
3.9/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours opaque, dark brown with one inch head. Taste is big ginger powder and cinnamon to start with bourbon, oak, and a chalky milkiness towards the end. The bourbon is always there, but never overpowering. Interesting and different from other pumpkin beers that I have had. Worth trying. I think I will get this again.

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Photo of deebo
2.05/5  rDev -50.5%
look: 1.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.75 | feel: 1.75 | overall: 1.75

Bottle review. Poured into a pint glass with a thin finger of light beige head topping a murky brown, dark red beer with a lot of ugly looking sediment throughout. Aroma is roasted pumpkin, with lots of nutmeg, hints of cinnamon, and some booze. Reminds me of a sweet rum aroma. Taste is upfront sweet, that quickly turns into a boozy mess. All the flavors are there that are in the aroma but the booziness is overpowering. Moderate carbonation with a thinner body than expected that doesn't cover the alcohol well. Overall a pretty rotten mess of a pumpkin pie beer that was soaked in the booze barrel too long.

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Photo of Franziskaner
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black in color with very little light penetration. There's a fingernail of brown covering the majority of the top. The aroma is a blend of sweet bourbon, clove, ginger, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Upon tasting it I can detect ginger, clove, sweet bourbon, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. The feel is slightly warm from the bourbon but the alcohol is otherwise well hidden under the spices.

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Photo of pat61
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap at the Pig & fiddle, L: Bright dark brown, creamy light tan head, lacy. S: Pumpkin, brown sugar, bourbon, spice, vanilla, malt. T: The pumpkin is surprisingly mellow and well blended with the stout and bourbon. Achieves a balance between the brown sugar, pumpkin, spice, rich malts, chocolate, bourbon and vanilla. The traditional pumpkin spices are in the background for support. Some other fruit flavors are in the mix providing balance. Nothing is cloying or overstated. F: Very creamy. The texture suggests a nitro beer. The body is medium full and the carbonation is very fine and soft. There is a little oaky astringent dryness on the finish. O: An outstanding, easy to drink pumpkin beer with everything nicely in balance.

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Photo of MattyG85
4.52/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Appearance: Pours a dark blackish brown with a moderate amount of bubbles. About one finger of tan head that quickly fades away.

Smell: A spicy, earthy, and boozy aroma with hints of spices, bourbon, and pumpkin. Upfront scent of fall spices with hints of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger along with some earthy hints of pumpkin. Solid barrel presence with hints of bourbon, oak, vanilla, and wood. Roasted malt with hints of biscuit, toast, chocolate, yeast, and slight coffee. Dark fruit hints of raisin, cherry, and fig along with some apple. A very good complex aroma.

Taste: Like it smells, a spicy, earthy, roasty, and nicely boozy taste with good notes of spice, bourbon, and pumpkin. Good mix of fall spices with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. Big barrel presence with notes of bourbon whiskey, vanilla, oak, and wood. Roasted barley malt with notes of biscuit, chocolate, coffee, toast, and yeast. Dark fruit undertones with notes of cherry, raisin, and fig. Also some notes of apple and sweet molasses. A very good taste.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Creamy, chewy, and drying on the finish. Somewhat hot but not overly boozy.

Overall: A really great twist on a Pumpkin beer. The pumpkin spices, bourbon, and malt notes blend nicely and work great. Another knockout Barrel Aged brew from Central Waters.

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Photo of boogerisu
4.18/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of cmwilliq
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of sgttibbs
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%

Photo of tappangordo
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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Headless Heron from Central Waters Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 4.14 out of 5 with 391 ratings