Fat Heads “Spooky Tooth” Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 9.0% ABV.
I was served a 12 oz goblet at the brewpub.
Appearance: This had a quarter inch of light tan head that I saw dissipate, like a cloud moving across the surface of the beer. The color is a cloudy dark burnt orange. It looks like it has mild carbonation.
Smell: I notice tame but nice spicing at the front: cinnamon, nutmeg, and (I think) ginger. This has some vegetal pumpkin notes, and a little tart to it. It has a nice base layer of smooth malt to the aroma. Overall, though, the aroma isn’t all that strong. I have to get pretty close and focus on it.
Taste: A burst of delicious juicy pumpkin, as well as warm and complex spicing jump out at the front of this. The pumpkin has some vegetal tones to it, and is pleasantly set against the coarse but not rough spicing of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. The spice flavors are deep, and sit well with the bold pumpkin. There is also a nice layer of brown sugar sweetness. This has bold flavors, and pretty good balance. This finishes with a lot of spice and sugar, fading into some more vegetal pumpkin for the aftertaste. The spices hang on some there as well.
Feel: This beer is medium bodied plus, with mild carbonation. It is a bit sticky, with the strong sugars in it. There is that nice warmth from the spices, which adds movement to the feel. But it is a bit too heavy with the sugar, I think. There is also a bit of noticeable alcohol at the end.
Drinkability: This is heavy with sugar and bold flavors. So it is not really an ideal drinkable beer. The alcohol doesn’t drag too much, and the sugar rounds out things some; yet this doesn’t make this an easy drinking beer. Of course, that is not much of a criticism.
Overall: This has good bold flavors, some decent pumpkin, and a lot of sugar. The spicing is nice, and adds some depth. I wish it weren’t so sweet, and that there was more of a pumpkin punch. Even so, this is a good beer. In some ways, surprisingly, this reminds me of Weyerbacher’s imperial pumpkin ale: an imperial pumpkin with bold rich spices, and a decent balance. Fat Heads is a lot sweeter, and has more bright pumpkin to it. But they are in the same camp of spice-forward imperial pumpkin ales. Fat Heads is a lot more in the pumpkin pie camp than Weyerbacher, which has that great cardamom in their woody spicing. And I think Fat Heads is less well-balanced. But in any case, it is still a good and solid beer qua imperial pumpkin pie ale. The brighter pumpkin is really nice.
Overall Rating: ***1/2
About Fatheads and “Spooky Tooth”: When I was in the Cleveland area, I thought I’d stop in at the Fatheads brewpub to review their “Spooky Tooth”, and to find a little about what FatHeads is all about. Fatheads began as Fatheads Saloon in 1992 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They were early in the game to offer a brewpub scene with craft beer to the area. Working on two decades later, Fatheads teamed up with Matt Cole, who became the head brewer for the second Fat Heads location in 2009: Fat Heads Brewery and Saloon in greater Cleveland, Ohio. In the first three years of business, Fatheads Cleveland produced over 5,000 barrels. Among Fat Heads’ most award winning beers is their “Head Hunter IPA”, which has been decorated at both the GABF and the World Beer Cup. Soon Fat Heads will open another brewpub in Portland, Oregon.
I talked with Matt Cole, head brewer, while I was at the brewpub. He showed me the brewhouse facility there, and talked a little about his pumpkin offering. He is involved with two other pumpkin beers, “Phantom”, a 5.8% pumpkin ale with pumpkin pie spicing that is released later in the season, and “Pumpkin Chucker”, a pumpkin stout brewed with French chocolate. Matt gave me a sample of “Pumpkin Chucker” out of the bright tanks, which will only be available at Elysians’s Great Pumpkin Festival in Seattle from October 4th-6th. It had nice flavor, but was still a bit young when I sampled it.
“Spooky Tooth”, which is brewed at their larger production brewery in Middleburgh Heights, is their imperial pumpkin ale. It is brewed with pumpkin in the boil and in the hopback. It is also spiced along the way, though no dry spicing is done. The spices consist of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger mostly. Matt said that he used to use real pumpkin back in the day, but now thinks that it is not worth the time. He currently uses Libbie’s canned pumpkin. There is a definite split in the pumpkin brewing community about whether to use fresh pumpkin. In any case, I wish I could be around to taste the finished “Pumpkin Chucker” at the Elysian festival. I’ll have to hear stories instead.