Hello again, ladies and gentleman. Thanks for stopping by for night six of my 13 Beers of Halloween. Today also marks a week before Halloween, and the halfway point of the tastiest two weeks I’ve had in a while. But don’t worry, we still have plenty of beer coming up. Tonight will hopefully be another relaxed evening as we take a pit stop and enjoy Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin ale. I’ve never tried it, but I know people who swear by it, to the point of outright rejecting any other pumpkin beer out of hardcore gourdish pride. How will it fare against the other pumpkin beers we’ve sampled? Let’s find out!
The initial smell from the bottle is much like the taste of Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale. Big, spiced pumpkin patch pumpkins blooms out above a bed of sweet malts. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and a sizable helping of cloves add a festive spice profile, while the pumpkin stays fresh and earthy, refusing to go near the sweet and nutty pie variation. At the back of the aroma, fresh apple peels provide a sweet and slightly tangy finish, conjuring feelings of fall freshness.
The first taste from the bottle erupts with big malts, nestled within a cloud of spicy pumpkin. Cloves show up huge, pushing the festive holiday feeling to new heights. Any sweetness is majorly subdued, existing only as a subtle malty sweetness that you have to search for just to catch a glimpse, as well as a mild apple peel taste at the end of the flavors. There’s also a slight alcohol kick at the back-end, along with some cinnamon and nutmeg sprinkled atop the pumpkiny malts. To me, it’s a bit harsh for a pumpkin beer. All the tasty qualities are there, but they never seem to settle in and play nice with each other. And, that unmasked alcohol taste lessens the warmth and comfort that I look for in a pumpkin ale. Sure, it may keep you warm, but it doesn’t remind me of a crackling fire, or sweaters, or laughing at a friend when he falls into the apple bobbing tub. That’s just me, though. And, maybe all of these ingredients will find their place once it’s poured.
Emptying the bottle into a pint glass, the aroma is a bit more promising. Big notes of clove and floral pumpkin still dominate, but there’s also a slight hint of nutty sweetness that peers up through the spicy haze. It’s fleeting, but perhaps the warming mellowness I’ve been looking for is in there after all. In addition, the other spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice) are strongly enhanced from the bottle smell. Actually, it’s a bit too much, almost like a scented candle. After a few inhalations, the spices just grow stronger, clinging to the inside of the nose in a manner that’s not too pleasant. In fact, I can’t even smell the comforting pumpkin notes that I had just found moments earlier. These spices are like bullies, stealing lunch money from all the other ingredients, and then giving them beer wedgies. With that image in your minds, I’ll let you know that it does at least look very nice, pouring a coppery pumpkin hue underneath a thick, frothy, cream-colored head.
Alright, taking a drink from the pint glass as my last attempt to find the elusive happy flavors I’ve been searching for, I’m greeted with an even stronger bite of alcohol. That would be bad by itself, but then the beer tries to mask that alcohol by bombarding my tongue with a spice riot. The cloves are acting like the love child of Ivan Drago and Clubber Lang, dominating every inch of my tongue while taunting me and my family, and probably promoting communism. Each drink is like eating a mouthful of clove stems, while someone throws handfuls of cinnamon and nutmeg at your face. Toned down, it wouldn’t be a terrible flavor, and probably would be quite enjoyable. But the strength of the spices are so dominating, they don’t allow any breathing room for the other flavors. I can barely make out a fleeting pumpkin freshness at the very bottom of each taste, but it’s more like an essence of pumpkin – a ghost of something that was once tasty, but is now just a memory. The malts from earlier only show up in the aftertaste, which I’ll admit is the best part of this beer. It’s a collection of mildly spiced bread malts and apple sauce that lasts for a while. However, the total package falls well short of tasty, and knocks it’s taste-to-cost value well below anything I would recommend spending money on. As I said before, I know people who go crazy over this beer, and who know’s, maybe I had a bad batch. But it’s just not doing it for me.
Earning the less than enviable honor of “first bad beer of Halloween”, Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale fails to deliver the comfortable warmth that I love and expect from pumpkin beers. Not every one has to taste like bottled pie, and the spiced, fresh pumpkin variety can be wonderfully delicious. Just look at Dogfish Head. Tonight’s offering is definitely not wonderfully delicious, instead tasting more like a scented fall candle locked inside a spice cabinet. There are some moments early on where fresh pumpkin and bready malts try to break through, but they’re immediately smothered by an army of spices (led by General Clovious). Not to mention the alcoholic edge that pops up more often than I would like in a pumpkin beer. If there was any form of warmth or pumpkiny goodness, the alcohol interrupted it, like a mom walking in on you kissing your first date.
I don’t really have any suggestion for this beer. If you’re into super spiced beers, I guess drink it whenever and wherever makes you happy. My horror genre is Campy Horror. Not campy as in “Night of the Living Tents” or that one time a guy in Yogi Bear costume went on a rampage. Instead, any movie like Troll, Leprechaun, or anything riffed on by MST3K. Weyerbacker’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale earns a D, which also looks like a sad pumpkin face D:
Lasting Strength: 9/10
Overall: 6.4/10 D