Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 10.5% ABV.
I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a stout glass.
Appearance: This got a fairly aggressive pour, making a finger or so of thin light brown head. The head was almost completely gone in just a minute or so, leaving no lacing and little trace. The color is very dark brown with a red hue visible towards the bottom tapered part of the glass. It looks like it is light on carbonation.
Smell: The aroma has a lot of spice to it to start. I get lots of nutmeg, and some cinnamon, ginger, and clove. There is a powerful malty sweetness as well, giving of some brown sugar, some molasses, and some toffee. There is good eearthy roast from the malt which balances well with the other aromas. I don’t get a whole lot of pumpkin in the aroma, though I do get some vegetal something-or-other. The aroma is just great , and seems to reveal that this beer hasn’t flirted too much with hops.
Taste: Wow. Strong flavor to this one. There is some dark and rich roast, along with a strong sweetness of toffee, molasses, and brown sugar. The spicing is more restrained than the aroma seems to indicate, and is more subdued than the roasty malt. The spicing has a bit of a ginger bite to it, and otherwise seems to have an earthy presence achieved by the standard pumpkin pie spicing. This has a little vegetal thing going on in the background, but doesn’t exert itself much into the main flavors, which are very ennjoyable. This finishes with the spicing grabbing my attention a little more, leaving some dark malty sweetness and earthy spice in the aftertaste. Really good flavors, not a whole lot of pumpkin.
Feel: Here we’ve got a medium to heavy bodied beer with a lot of sweetness. Yet it isn’t as thick or sticky as I was expecting. The roast and spice add a warmth and some character to an otherwise very malt forward sweet offering. It is much lighter in body than the color suggests, as it looked like a stout or porter but drinks more like an imperial dark ale. I wouldn’t know this is 10.5%. So good marks on not having a big alcohol bite. Otherwise alright feel.
Drinkability: This isn’t really a big contender for a drinkable pumpkin ale. It drinks quite well for something so bold and heavy-hitting. It has a lot of sweetness along with some roast and spice that would make this hard to drink without noticing it. So I’d say it is alright on this score.
Overall: I like how bold the flavors are in this one. I like the roast, the earth, and the spicing, as well as how they are balanced. The spice also doesn’t drag through and into the finish, which is great. I wish the pumpkin had more of a presence. And my tastes would want this a little less sweet. But I would definitely recommend this one to folks who like the darker fall beers, especially their imperial versions. The body being not too thick while also achieving some of the flavors and tones of a rich porter or stout is great. It does have great flavors, though nothing incredibly deep or complex. I wouldn’t highly recommend it to folks who want substantial pumpkin in their pumpkin beers. Nevertheless, it is certainly a worthwhile offering from Harpoon, and another good addition to the hard to master dark pumpkin ale category.
Overall Rating: ***1/2
About Harpoon and this offering: Harpoon formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1986. I reviewed Harpoon’s “UFO” pumpkin ale last night, where I wrote a little about Harpoon and what they are up to. Everyone I spoke with there was very informative and helpful, especially Liz Melby, their Communications Director.
Harpoon released this beer for the first time in July of 2013. As I turned to the back of this bottle, I find a story: “Last fall our brewers were improvising a new beer in our 10 barrel kettle; they threw in some fresh pumpkin puree, tossed in a bit of molasses, cinnamon, and nutmeg, a touch of ginger, a dash of cloves, and some dark toasty, roasty malts. It was excellent.” From what I’ve gleaned about this beer, the brewers had some pumpkin puree left over from brewing their UFO pumpkin, so they decided to make this. This is half imperial stout and half pumpkin ale. They spice it with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and clove. And for sweetness they use dark brown sugar and “blackstrap” molasses. This is definitely an inventive one, It has a lot of flavor and isn’t as thick as your 10+% imperial stouts would be. A good imperial offering from Harpoon.