Shipyard Pugsley’s Signature Series “Smashed Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2013)

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Shipyard Pugsley’s Signature Series “Smashed Pumpkin” Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 9.0% ABV.

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

Appearance: A careful and hard at the end pour produced just a finger of thin bright off-white foam. This dissipated quickly, leaving no lacing. This beer has a bright light orange, with just great clarity. It looks to be moderately to heavily carbonated.

Smell: This has a cidery quality to it, with some noticeable and warm spicing. For spices, I’m getting some cinnamon and ginger. This has a kind of sharp smell, with a bit of alcohol to it. Not a whole lot by way of pumpkin here, though there is some vegetal squash to it. Doesn’t smell too complex.

Taste: I get some strong flavors up front. Some cidery notes, pumpkin, spicing, and a bit of alcohol to start. The flavors in this are stronger and bolder than the aroma led me to think. The pumpkin is strong and on the roasty side. The spicing is also on the strong side, and seems to have some cinnamon and ginger to it. The spicing adds some complexity and a little warmth. There is some pretty smooth and thin malt to this beer, while the pumpkin and the spices add some movement and complexity. There is not a lot of sweetness in this one, though some vanilla and mild caramel comes through. There is a bit of artificiality to the spices in this one, which makes it come off as sort of flat. This finishes dry with the spices coming in a little stronger, and with a noticeable alcohol bite. Some mild bitter spicing and alcohol hang out for the aftertaste.

Feel: The feel on this has some warmth from the spices, and some definite alcohol to it, which brings some sharpness. Good for a colder fall night, but not the smoothest offering.

Drinkability: This is a bold beer with spice and notable alcohol. It does have some smoothness from the sweetness. But overall, it’s not so great on this score.

Overall: This offering from Shipyard has good pumpkin flavor throughout. It also has some complexity: smooth malt, vanilla tones, and some pleasant spicing. What it doesn’t have is a ton of depth of flavor. The alcohol is also quite strong with this one, more than I remember from reviewing this last year. In any case, this would be a good one, were someone not too concerned about a strong alcohol bite. As it stands, though, I think there are a number of other smoother and more complex imperial pumpkin ales that I’d recommend. This is definitely a better offer than Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead, which I reviewed last year. And it is better than some of the not so powerfully flavored pumpkin-centric beers. The vanilla and roasty pumpkin are certainly not underdone!

Overall Rating: ***

image (1)About Shipyard and “Smashed Pumpkin”: Shipyard Brewing formally began in 1994 in Portland, Maine. But some seeds were planted earlier, when now-president Fred Forsley, and master brewer, Alan Pugsley founded Federal Jack’s brewpub in 1992. This is where Shipyard beers were first made. Since then Shipyard has grown dramatically. Shipyard is now the 15th largest craft brewery in the U.S., and the maker of 20 different craft beers. Among their most popular beers you can find their “Export Ale” American blonde, IPA, “Pumpkinhead” pumpkin ale, and this “Smashed Pumpkin” imperial pumpkin ale.

I corresponded some with Lindsey Murray, sales and marketing analyst at Shipyard. She was very eager to help, and also informative. Shipyard first made their “Smashed Pumpkin” in 2009, and has since been hitting more and more shelves with it. They use Pale Ale, Wheat, and Light Munich malts, as well as some Willamette and Hallertau hops. Some top-fermenting English yeast and an original gravity of 1.088 take this big beer to 9% ABV. Look out tomorrow for when I review their Bourbon Barrel Aged Smashed Pumpkin!

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