Schlafly Imperial Pumpkin Ale joins us at 8.0% ABV.
I poured most of a 12 oz bottle into a stemless wine glass.
Appearance: A vigorous pour yields a light tan two-finger head that dissipates over the course of about 90 seconds. This left some thin lacing that coats the glass with a small tilt. The color is light amber, with an orange tint that, aside from some very fine and disparate cloudiness, is almost crystal clear . The pin-sized bubbles from carbonation are visible rising from the center of the glass and on the sides.
Smell: At first vegetal pumpkin, immediately followed by a heavy spice presence. The spicing was heavy on the nutmeg and cinnamon, and not offputting at all. Imagine the smell of cut up roasted pumpkin with lots of cinnamon and nutmeg and some amber ale in your hand. The smell is not really sweet like in some pumkin ales (i.e., Shouthern Tier’s “Pumking” and Williamsburg Alewerks’ Pumpkin Ale), and you don’t get any indication that this is 8%.
Taste: Up front you get the spices of cinnamon and nutmeg and the vegetable side of the pumpkin. There is also a bit of something grainy or wheat-like, which hits towards the middle and right before the relatively dry finish. The taste is balanced by a good malt presence, and some hops that pronounce themselves along with the grains and wheat for the finish. The aftertaste is malty-sweet with lots of spice and a bit of astringency. Still, it would be hard to tell from the taste that this beer is 8%.
Feel: The beer is medium bodied, leaving it smooth and even sort of creamy. The carbonation is there, but nothing that attracts much attention.
Drinkability: This is a very nice drinking beer. A lot of heavier pumpkin ales (i.e., Shipyard’s “Smashed Pumpkin” and Heavy Seas’ “The Great Pumpkin”) can be a bit difficult to drink a good bit of. This is in part because of the way the alcohol comes through, and in part because of the big flavors that are needed to balance things together. This beer, however, is a fine drinking beer. Very little, other than the 8% ABV, is keeping you from working on a six-pack. (After two or so, it may happen that the spice begins to add up and weigh one down.)
Overall: This beer is delicious, and well-balanced. It is a big beer, but can be enjoyed without one being smacked in the face with alcohol or some flavor characteristics that stick out too much. This is one of the best pumpkin beers I’ve had. I really enjoy the vegetal pumpkin, and the sweetness holds the beer together (rather than leading the way). I think this is up there with Southern Tier’s “Pumking”, however falling somewhat short. The spicing can feel a bit flat and monotonous, since it doesn’t quite give way to many other flavors (as happens with “Pumking”). (With the Schlafly, you otherwise just get some wheat and malt). The final astringency is also a small drawback that isn’t so pleasant. Still, this is a wonderful beer.