Strangeways “Gourd of Thunder” Imperial Pumpkin Porter is 9.2% ABV.
I poured some of a 32 oz growler into a wine glass.
Appearance: The pour was easy, and tossed up just a little bit of thin beige head, which lasted less than a minute. The color of this is a dark and murky brown, with some reddish hints to it. This fizzes such as to suggest light to moderate carbonation.
Smell: To start I get some vegetal pumpkin, which is quickly followed by a whole lot of earthy, dark, and woody spices. I get definite clove, as well as some candied ginger, nutmeg, and as some banana. This smells sweet with dark malt and molasses and burnt sugar, and has an intense aroma from the bold spices. Really enjoyable aroma.
Taste: This tastes a good bit like it smells. And it is rich. It has some mostly vegetal and somewhat caramel-like pumpkin, and a legion of spices following it up. I get woody and toasted spices of clove, allspice, ginger, and maybe some nutmeg too. The spices are bold and interesting. This is also on the sweet side, with burnt sugar, molasses, vanilla, and a kind of candied ginger sweetness. The more I sip it, the more the spices come through and sit with me. Not as much pumpkin after a few sips. This finishes with the strong dark sugar sweetness quickly fading into some woody clove-like bitterness, and a touch of vegetal pumpkin sourness. This dark woody spice sits on the palate in the aftertaste for quite a while. Good rich flavors, and interesting and enjoyable spices.
Feel: This is more medium bodied, thinner than I was expecting. It has moderate and just perfect carbonation. It is also a little on the sticky side, with some of its dark malt and heavy sugar. But the feel has some complexity because of all the bittering components from the spices. Not a whole lot of presence from the high alcohol, which is good. Pretty nice feel, save for the spices adding more bitterness than I’d ideally want.
Drinkability: For something surpassing 9 percent, this is pretty drinkable. The heavy sweetness helps hide the ABV, but does weigh me down a bit. Given how rich this is, and how bold the spices are, I couldn’t have a whole lot of this at one time. The strong bitterness from the spices hangs on my palate, and makes this a bit less drinkable. So, decent here.
Overall: I tried this beer last year, and remember really enjoying it. I also really enjoy it this year. I think the spices are bold and really interesting. This isn’t for the faint of Fall, or err, the faint of spice, or… something. This is spicy. I like the mostly vegetal pumpkin up front, but could go for a bit more vegetal pumpkin overall to balance out the heavy dark spices, which weigh me down after a bit of sipping on this. But I have to say I really like the dark sugar and molasses and the candied ginger. So I say this is a good imperial pumpkin porter. It isn’t my absolute favorite. For that, I’m currently stuck on Alaskan Pumpkin Porter. I also think this is overpriced. The 32 oz growler fill for this was 18 dollars. For that price, I could buy two 22’s of some other imperial pumpkin porters- Epic/DC Brau’s, for example. This beer has a more interesting spice profile than the Epic and D.C. Brau collaboration. Not 18 dollars worth, though. If you haven’t tried this, go for it on tap, get it as part of a flight, or ask for a small sample before you commit to an expensive growler. I don’t think they are bottling it this year.
Overall Rating: ***1/2
About Strangeways and their offering: Strangeways opened in Richmond, Virginia in may 2013. This is the second year they have made Gourd of Thunder, which is made with roasted local pumpkins, bourbon vanilla beans and spices of cinnamon, ginger, and clove. See my 2013 review of the Gourd of Thunder for more info about them and this brew.