Come fall, it seems like a lot of people start going on these anti-pumpkin beer rants. Yes, I understand it’s a way for some breweries to turn a quick profit on a seasonal trend, and yes pumpkin beers do tend to saturate the shelves which in turn, makes less room for more traditional styles like märzens.
I’m still going to stand up and say that I like pumpkin beers. A lot. Just as much as I like pumpkin-spiced coffees and buying cheap apple cider and pumpkin-scented Wal-Mart candles so I can feel like I’m turning my shitty apartment into a rustic autumnal homestead when instead probably making it smell like someone dumped a bunch of compost onto a Bath & Body Works factory fire. Pumpkin beers are a flavorful fall treat – the harbingers of my favorite season. So lay off me, pumpkin naysayers; they’ll be gone in a month anyways and you can start complaining about how your winter warmer has too much spice in it.
Dark brown sugar, black strap molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cloves and pumpkin puree, combined with a 10.5% ABV, make my first pumpkin beer of the year a big one. This is Harpoon’s newly released Imperial Pumpkin Stout.
It pours total blackness with a thin and bubbly mocha head that dissipates pretty quickly. Huge aroma while I’m pouring. The nose was so sweet that it made my teeth start to tingle, like I just bit down on some rock candy. There’s nothing overtly pumpkin about the aroma; just tons of dark fruits and heavy spice.
This is a bold and boozy beer with a very subtle pumpkin underneath all of the spice. A strong roast quality comes in and totally dominates the sweetness, but you’re still able to get some nice molasses/caramelized sugar flavor, giving it a gingerbread quality. It does mellow out a lot after warming some, and that brash booziness begins to slip away. Though there are some burnt coffee notes, plus an additional level of harsh bitterness that kind of throws me off.
The body is a bit reminiscent of an ale instead of a stout and I think it could have done better with a bit more creaminess. But it still has a good medium-full body and is a nice beer to sip on over the course of an evening.