Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Weyerbacher Brewing Co.
Easton, PA

Style: Spice/Herb/Vegetable
ABV: 8.0%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Pair With:
• Goulash
In honor of Yom Kippur, the highest of holidays in Judaism, Nigel fasted for 25 straight hours, hoping to atone for his sins. This of course did not include fasting from beer, so by this point I’m pretty loaded and am now cognizant of the fact that I’m not actually Jewish, making the lack of food over the past day completely unnecessary. At least I can take comfort in the fact that I can indulge in all the bacon that I want without needing the consent of my rabbi, who is going to be very disappointed when I inform him that he’s no longer needed.

I was lacking proper inspiration for a review when I noticed at the office meeting this morning that Senior Beer Correspondent Jill Jyllenhaal had written a nice article about pumpkin ales. In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Nigel isn’t a huge fan of pumpkin brews, but as I’ve stated on numerous occasions, I care not what the style is as long as it’s a quality product. Just because pumpkin ales may not be my first, second, third, or fifteenth choice doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a finely concocted example. In fact, Nigel likes to pick up a four-pack of Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale every autumn and has recently fallen in love with Southern Tier’s phenomenal Pumking Ale. Needless to say, a properly crafted pumpkin can impress even the most diehard of hopheads.

With all of that in mind, I thought it appropriate to give a pumpkin ale a try tonight in the form of Easton, PA-based Weyerbacher Brewing’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale. Weyerbacher is new to Nigel’s area, recently introducing about six brews, all of which appear to be quite powerful. Thus far I’ve sampled Weyerbacher’s Double Simcoe IPA and was mildly impressed, and I have Blithering Idiot, a barley wine, in storage. While East Coast brewers seem to be a dime a dozen, I’m always hopeful I’ll stumble across the latest and greatest in the world of beer, so I thought I should give Weyerbacher the proper review treatment.

In her article, Jill stated that she felt it important for a good pumpkin ale gives the drinker the feel of pumpkin pie in a glass. I agree to a point; true, spice is important as pumpkin doesn’t have much flavor to it, but on the other hand one must be very careful. It’s all too common for brewers to load up “specialty” brews like pumpkin ales with tons of spice and not pay enough attention to the overall brewing process, which is a huge detriment. After all, we’re brewing beer here, not baking deserts. The pumpkin ales I’ve truly enjoyed like Punkin Ale and Pumking, as well as Lakefront’s Pumpkin Lager to a lesser extent, have done a fabulous job of mixing the overall spiciness with a well crafted beer.

Add Imperial Pumpkin to that short but growing list of quality pumpkin brews. If you are in fact looking for the sensation of pumpkin pie in a glass, this is right up your alley. But, as a nice balance, if you also appreciate a finely crafted ale overall, it’s also impressive. It’s not going anywhere near Nigel’s Top 10, but is a worthy brew nonetheless.

Imperial Pumpkin pours a beautiful deep copper hue with a mild head of about half an inch or so that slowly dissipates, leaving a stubborn creamy lace throughout and some stickiness on the sides. Fairly translucent, Imperial Pumpkin has a good amount of carbonation and little sedimentation. As you would expect, the aroma is heavy on the spices, including cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and cardamom with a secondary aroma of sugary malt, mainly caramel and toffee. Clearly this is the aroma of pumpkin pie, which many of us unintentionally associate with pumpkin in general. (Have you ever smelled a pumpkin? Pretty blah …)

The taste is again heavy on the spice, but is saved from becoming overwhelming by a wonderful malt profile. The same spices present in the aroma bite the tongue throughout the drink, but every time you’re on the verge of growing tired of them, the sweet, sugary malt comes to the rescue. A nice, medium thickness malt is heavy on caramel, toffee, and molasses, giving you enough sweetness to curl the tongue and rot the teeth, but, more importantly, providing that perfect balance to the spice. Every time I hear “imperial” used in the title of a brew I expect some sort of hop profile, but the plethora of other spices in Imperial Pumpkin drown out whatever hop presence there may be. When you break it down into generalizations, this is a pretty basic brew (sugary malt with spice), but it leaves the impression of being quite complex. Medium bodied, the high amount of spice makes Imperial Pumpkin a bit rough on the palate, though it goes down relatively smooth if given the chance. With a high ABV (8 percent) and enough spices to make the Raj blush, Imperial Pumpkin is clearly a sippin’ beer not intended for a long drinking session. As you would expect, the aftertaste is strong and lingers, but if you like your pumpkin pie, that might be right up your alley.

Ultimately we have a pretty good example of pumpkin pie in a glass with Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale. It’s surely not for everyone, as the spices are plentiful and the beer as a whole is pretty heavy. But, if you’re in search of a one-time treat or something unique to drink on a chilly autumn evening, Imperial Pumpkin may be the perfect treat. Throw some whipped cream on top, pop up some Indian corn, and enjoy!


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on October 20, 2008.
Agree with this review?
Happy anniversary, Lakefront Brewery!

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