Early November is a weird time for beer, if you’re trying for something seasonally appropriate. It’s too early for the big, dark, boozy winter beers. But it’s already kinda too late for pumpkins and Oktoberfest (psych, it’s never too late for Oktoberfest). So, what is a seasonal beer enthusiast to drink?
Here’s one possible answer: Imperial Pumpkin.
I am generally a fan of Imperial anything. Stouts. IPAs. Pilsners. Lagers. White Ales. Whatever it is, you wanna make it big and boozy, I’m probably going to enjoy it. Pumpkins, I’m a bit picky about, so the Imperial has to at least start out life as a nice beer.
This month, I sampled Heavy Seas Great’ER Pumpkin. This one is not only an Imperial Pumpkin, but it’s aged in bourbon barrels. Not only do I love bourbon, but I’ve had generally good experiences with bourbon aged beers. The best example is Founder Kentucky Breakfast Stout, but that’s just a transcendent beer. A beer doesn’t have to be HALF that good to be worth drinking.
Great’ER Pumpkin is at LEAST half as good as the KBS.
Which is not to say that it’s perfect or great. It is, however, very, very good. It hits you with ginger and cinnamon in the aroma and on the foretaste. The bourbon really comes in on the back, where it adds a vanilla-like flavor that makes the whole thing kind of taste like a spicy version of pumpkin pie. The only really subtle flavor in this beer is the pumpkin. It finishes super-sweet, but that works reasonably well for this style.
It is very alcohol-forward. It will also get you nicely toasted, as it rings in at 10% and comes in a 22oz. bottle. So, there is good and bad all balanced in one very fine beer.
Their own marketing materials claim that this beer “Pairs well with crisp autumn weather, crunchy fallen leaves, and the knowledge that your kids will be asleep soon so you can raid their Halloween candy bags.” This is both poetic and pretty accurate. So, drink up and enjoy. But then go and get a Southern Tier Pumking for a really great big-beer pumpkin brew.
That said, I’m happy to live in a world where all the good, boozy pumpkins exist. Aren’t you?