Schlafly Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2012)

Schlafly Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 8.0% ABV.

I poured all of a 12 oz bottle into a “craft beer” glass.

Appearance:  A relatively steady and robust-ending pour gave one finger of off-white head that lasted about two minutes before bubbling down to leave a 1/4 of an inch layer of bubbly foam. The color is a dark amber with a strong orange hue. Tiny bubbles rising from the bottom of the glass reveal moderate carbonation.

Smell: Immediately I get very strong vegetal pumpkin, and a nice spice mix. The spices are pumpkin pie spices, but they don’t smell like you uncapped that “pumpkin pie spice” many of us have seen at the store (or perhaps even used- I have). I smell strong nutmeg, as well as some cinnamon and clove that is less prominent. (I had to get out my spices and compare the beer to them to see how pumpkin pie spice and the others compared to the beer!) The nutmeg is nice and strong, and the vegetal pumpkin is quite inviting. It smells like it would have some sweetness, but would also have some body to back it up. It smells like a strong beer!

Taste: The first sip was overwhelmingly flavorful. The vegetal pumpkin is nice and strong, forming a backbone for the flavor profile. Alongside of this is some wheat-like malt, and the spices. The spices are warm and methodical. I get nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon. The pumpkin opens up to reveal the spices, which nicely glide across the palate. The spices also have a slight punchy dynamic to them, as though something like white pepper or ginger was thrown in, though I don’t taste ginger.These spices last throughout the taste, and linger just a bit on the finish which is a little punchy with those slight white-peppery elements. The spices also don’t sit on top of the beer, if you know what I mean. (That is, they are incorporated into the flavor of the beer, and don’t hit too early or hang on strong when the pumpkin flavor is gone.) The taste is powerful, balanced, and still a bit restrained.

Feel: This is medium-bodied, with a nice feel. It coats the mouth and is warm and slightly thick with some of the sugar, though isn’t syrupy. The carbonation is medium, and adds a nice touch to the finish of this beer. The feel starts out warm and smooth, and then adds a bit of carbonation and some of the more peppery elements of the spice profile. This cuts the smoothness a bit and invites one for another sip.

Drinkability: This is nice and drinkable. Sure it is an imperial. But it is smooth, and warm, and luscious. Since the feel and flavors are dynamic, it also provides an interesting drinking experience.

Overall: What a way to usher in the pumpkin beer season! This beer has plenty of strong pumpkin, and a very nice spice-profile. There is nothing wildly unique in the spicing, as some common spices seem to have been added. (There may be something else I’m unaware of, though. The spicing is so…warm!) Nothing super unique or novel really needs to be there, though, especially if the balance and amount is right. And here I say, it is right. This is a paradigm wonderful pumpkin (and fall) beer. It is certainly not fall weather by any stretch, but I love having this beer. My good friend Ryan gave me this six-pack for my birthday. What a great present! I’m gonna save a few for colder weather. I’m happy tonight.

Overall Rating: ****3/4


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