Heavy Seas “The Great Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2012)

Heavy Seas “The Great Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 8.0% ABV.

I poured some of this 22 oz bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: A steady and hearty-at-the-end pour gave about a finger of thin off-white head. This lasted about a minute to leave a small thin foam ring around the sides of the glass. The color of this is a bright and clear orange/light amber. This appears to have light to medium carbonation.

Smell: Up front I get strong roasty pumpkin, strong spices, and a bit of booziness. The strong spices seem to be cinnamon, maybe some nutmeg, and something punchy like ginger. There may be other spices too, but I’m not getting much else by way of distinct spices in the smell. This smells warm, strong and bold, and gives off a caramel-like sweetness.

Taste: I get sweet malt, roasty pumpkin, and punchy spices up front. This is very flavorful, and full of pumpkin. The roasty pumpkin and caramel/light brown sugar sweetness are stronger up front, and then give way to more of the earthy and slightly bitter spices. These spices are not too strong, and seem to consist in cinnamon, a little nutmeg, and some something slightly peppery. The malt in this is strong, and adds a nice body to the beer. There is some slight booziness that comes out more towards the end. This finish is also a bit more bitter with some slight peppery notes. This leaves an aftertaste of gentle bitterness and subdued malt.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with light carbonation. It is on the sweet side, but not syrupy. For its ABV, the feel is not too heavy. It is warm, has a nice spice character to it (without overloading the palate), and is decently smooth (especially for something this flavorful and heavy). The slight booziness is a bit of a detractor, but isn’t a major problem.

Drinkability: This does decently for drinkability. It is certainly not the most drinkable, but that is hard to do with something this bold and flavorful. Its flavor and warmth help the drinking, though the slight booziness does detract just a little bit.

Overall: I had this beer tonight with my good friend, Nick. It was a great experience, and I am definitely a fan of this beer. I like how strong and proud the pumpkin is, and how the spices kick in and add some complexity but don’t overwhelm. I also really enjoy the warmth in this. These are all great qualities for a really successful pumpkin beer, in my opinion. Tomorrow I will be trying the bourbon barrel-aged version of this, which I am particularly jazzed about. Anyway, for this one, the alcohol does poke through and detract a bit. It has warmth, strong pumpkin, pretty good spicing, but lacks the smoothness that would put it in the top tier of pumpkin ales for me. Even so, it is quite a good beer, and something I recommend trying. The flavors are good and forthright, even if they aren’t so novel. I really enjoyed doing a tour of Heavy Seas about a year ago, and always look forward to trying their pumpkin (and other) offerings each year. They talk about bold and intense flavors, and craft a nice narrative about how their hearts are in home brewing. I guess this forms a big part of the story there. This comes through in their beers, I think. With this particular pumpkin ale, you do get the strong and intense flavors. Check them out if you are in the Baltimore area.

Overall Rating: ***1/2


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