Howe Sound “Pumpkineater” Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 8.0% ABV.
I poured some of a 1 liter swing-top bottle into a Belgian ale glass.
Appearance: A steady and not too careful pour tossed up a little less than a finger of bubbly off-white foam. This was gone pretty quickly. The color of this is a beautiful bright reddish orange, with great clarity. This looks to have mild carbonation.
Smell: This has a strong aroma of roasted pumpkin, strong spicing, and a malty rum-like sweetness. The spices are certainly strong with this, approximating the sensation of smelling mild raw ginger. I get some cinnamon and nutmeg, maybe some clove and allspice too. This smells like it is barrel aged in some liquor, as it exudes some alcohol notes. Smells like a strong, bold, and rich beer.
Taste: To start I get enjoyable strong pumpkin that is on the roasty side, with some caramel and a notable layer of spice. The flavors up front hit the palate nicely. The spice then comes in stronger towards the end, and adds some texture. I get some cinnamon and nutmeg in this, as well as as something sort of herbal. This is a very malt-forward beer, with not much by way of hops. The sweetness gives off some slightly toasty malt, with some toffee. The sweetness is also nicely restrained in this one. A lot of the bigger pumpkin ales bring a ton of sweetness to stand up to the other flavors, but end up bringing in a bit too much. The sugar is pretty good with this. This does have some booziness to it, adding some warmth and definite alcohol at the end. The finish is fairly quick, and has some mild bitterness to it from the spicing. The spicing and booziness join some mild sugar in the aftertaste.
Feel: This ale is on the light end of the medium bodied beers, with a bit of acidity to it. And it is low carbonation. The spicing adds some warmth and some sharp notes. So does the booziness, which is bit more present than I’d want. It is lighter in body for something this strong, and on the dry side.
Drinkability: This has some good flavors to it. But it is a bold and strong beer with notable booziness and spicing sufficient to generate some sharp notes here and there. Not the most drinkable, but still round in parts.
Overall: This was an exciting beer to try, and came in a very nice one liter bottle with a swing top for after opening. This also marks the second Canadian beer of this season. I do like the roasty pumpkin and the spice to this. As noted, I also like that the sweetness is restrained and doesn’t result in a syrupy or sticky beer. So great marks there. For my tastes, I’d want the alcohol punch subdued a little more, and to have a bit more earthiness and roastiness from the pumpkin. As it stands the flavors are nice, especially up front, though they are not incredibly deep or complex. This would be especially good for those folks who like a strong beer and don’t mind a bit of the spirits on their palate.
Overall Rating: **3/4
About Howe Sound and their “Pumpkineater”: The Howe Sound Brewery began in 1996 on the Howe Sound in Squamish, British Columbia. They had the help of John Mitchell, who was their first brewmaster. Mitchell has been credited with starting the first modern craft brewery in North America in 1980. This was also located on the Howe Sound in British Columbia. Since their founding, Howe Sound Brewing still uses one hundred percent unfiltered barley in their mash. The brewery is located with their gorgeous inn that has 20 guestrooms. It would be perfect for grabbing a few of their unique 1 liter swing cap bottles of beer, and spending a leisurely weekend. My guess is that they do a lot of weddings, since the pictures are just awe-inspiringly beautiful.
“Pumpkineater” is part of Howe Sound’s “John Mitchell Series”. It is a strong ale made with pumpkin as well as spices of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and interestingly, star anise. They don’t say what they use for hops or barley, but do note that this is 19 IBU’s. “Pumpkineater” is brewed in very limited quantities, and is one of their most sought after seasonals. Like many of their beers, it comes in a nice 1 liter swing top bottle. Howe Sound explains that these bottles were popular in North America and Europe before the 1950’s. Their bottle can be sealed with typical metal crown caps or the swing-top attached. Importantly for Howe Sound, it can be used again and is part of their “green packing initiative”. What a great brewery with a lot of rich history and good concern for the environment. A big thanks to Leslie Fenn, owner, and John Anthony, controller, for their generous giving of time and help.