Heavy Seas “Great’er Pumpkin” Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 10% ABV.
I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a Belgian ale glass.
Appearance: A mostly careful but slightly splashy pour produced a finger or so of frothy off-white head. This slowly reduced to a dollop still atop the beer, along with as a fairly thick ring along the sides of the glass. This also left the beginnings of some lacing. This has a beautiful rich orange color with reddish hues. It is mostly very clear, with a slight haze, and bubbles suggestive of moderate to heavy carbonation.
Smell: Bringing this to my nose gives me great aromas of roasty pumpkin, bourbon, strong round oak, some very mild sourness, subdued hops, and a complex and well-incorporated spicing. The spicing is hard to pin down, but I get something like nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. It has a nice rich malty sweetness with caramel and some brown sugar. I also get some good vanilla in this as well. Great complex, rich, and round aroma. Now I get to taste it.
Taste: The first sip is wonderful, strong, and stays with me for a while. It has great complexity in flavor from the somewhat roasty pumpkin and spices, which are set against a strong and sweet malt backbone and rounded out with bourbon and oak. This is a cold weather sipper for sure. The pumpkin is present, and strong. There is enough by way of hops to add some brightness here and there, and a little floral dimension. The bourbon and oak really add great roundness and warmth to this, and are well-balanced. The bourbon does have a bit of a bite to it. In any case, the sweet but not heavy malt, the brown sugar flavors, and the vanilla bring this all together like a piece of pumpkin pie with some finely aged bourbon, served neat. This finishes dryer than I was expecting, letting the round complex bourbon, vanilla, and oak linger in this fairly prolonged aftertaste. Really successful.
Feel: This is medium bodied plus, with moderate carbonation. It has a very rich and round feel to it. There is great complexity, but the edges of the barrel really come through with vanillin and some softening of the otherwise rich and strong flavors. There is a little alcohol bite, but nothing major. Really great feel.
Drinkability: Given the strength of flavors with this, and the bourbon barrel aging, its not something to chug. But its roundness and balance of sweetness does really help it to drink really well. I would guess something like 10%. Not incredibly drinkable here, but that’s not really to be expected. For all the flavor and complexity,I say this is still really successful here.
Overall: This is a must try. I’ve spoken about its complexity and roundness. There is great bourbon and oak, wonderful balance, and the sweet malt, brown sugar, and vanilla are all equally effective contributions to this rich and warm offering. There is also great pumpkin and well-done and importantly, not overdone spicing. Some might find this boozy, I would guess. I say, if you like bourbon barrel offerings, especially pumpkin ales done in bourbon, you need to try this. For the price, about 8 or 9 bucks, it is a steal.
Overall Rating: ****1/2
About Heavy Seas and their offering: Heavy Seas opened in 1994 (under the name, “Clipper City Brewing”), and is located in Baltimore, Maryland. I wrote about them last year in my 2013 review of “Great’er Pumpkin”.
Before this beer is aged in bourbon barrels, the brewers use pumpkin, brown sugar, and some spicing of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and clove to make this beer. More info can be found in last year’s review of this beer. This year is, I think, my favorite year having this beer.