Strangeways “Gourd of Thunder” Imperial Pumpkin Porter is 9.2% ABV.
I was served a 10 oz goblet with a golden rim at the brewery’s tap room.
Appearance: This was served with just an eight of an inch of thin light tan head. The beer has a dark murky brown color, with a little light coming through. It looks to have mild carbonation.
Smell: This has very clear vegetal pumpkin, and warm spicing of clove, cinnamon, and (I think) nutmeg. I get some dark roasty malt notes, some brown sugar, and some molasses. Overall the aroma isn’t very strong, and is mostly constituted by vegetal pumpkin with the dark malt and spicing.
Taste: Great vegetal and bright pumpkin in this, without a whole lot of sourness that often comes along. This has some sour tones, but is otherwise balanced well with the dark somewhat roasty malt and the earthy blend of spices. This has definite clove, and I think some cinnamon and nutmeg. There is also some vanilla to it, with flavors of strong brown sugar and some molasses. All of the flavors are good and work well together. They aren’t scattered like a lot of dark pumpkin ales can be. This woodsy pumpkin porter is spot on with the spices, and is a lot more subtle and complex than its name gives it credit for. The finish has some enjoyable warm spicing, and some of the darker sweetness. Some woody spice and dark malt are present in the aftertaste.
Feel: This is medium bodied, with low to moderate carbonation. It is lighter in body than I was expecting given the ABV, and given how strong the flavors are. It has a soft and smooth malty sweetness with the woody spicing and dark sugar adding some texture. Some slight sour tones from the vegetal pumpkin are also present. Nice feel.
Drinkability: For something this bold and high in ABV, this is pretty darn drinkable. There are some of the woody notes and dark spices hanging around in the aftertaste. A good thing is that they don’t drag, and come off as pleasant. So pretty decent marks here.
Overall: This is the best pumpkin porter I’ve had. I like it even more than Epic/DC Brau’s Imperial Pumpkin Porter, which I’ve looked forward to having every year. I love the woodsy spice flavor and the feel. The pumpkin is bright and not overcrowded. It also has good balance. It is lighter in body than I was expecting, or maybe than I’d ideally want in a bold porter. But it is very good. Virginia continues to offer good new and artfully crafted beer. If you are near enough to Richmond and haven’t been to Strangeways, do it. Their “Wallonian Dawn” honey saison and their “Woodbooger” Belgian-style brown ale are both good beers to drink.
Overall Rating: ***3/4
About Strangeways and their “Gourd of Thunder”: Strangeways Brewing opened in Richmond, Virginia in late May of 2013. I spoke with Cheyenne Burnham, operations and events coordinator, when I visited. She was helpful and told me a little about the brewery and their beer. Founder and entrepreneur, Neil Burton had been working on starting a brewery for a few years. He spent a good deal of time supporting and helping House Bill 359 to pass, which allows an alternating proprietorship for breweries, something Neil been barred from doing previously. Neil later met professional brewer, Mike Hiller, who is now the master brewer of Strangeways. If you visit Strangeways, you’ll find their particular aesthetic vibrant and unique, though I wouldn’t say strange. Strangeways beer is distributed by Brown and is available all over Richmond, Virginia on tap, and now in a few bottles. They say that they will work on distributing as far out as they can go. So I expect more by way of bottles to come.
“Gourd of Thunder” is made with fresh roasted locally bought pumpkins, and a spice bill of clove, ginger, cinnamon, and bourbon vanilla beans. It was released for the first time on October 17th, and has made a very positive impact in Richmond. Having only made 2o barrels of it, I imagine it won’t last long.