10/16/19: Weyerbacher Brewing Company's Imperial Pumpkin Ale

5:41 PM

We're officially into my favorite time of the Halloween season: It's getting dark earlier and dawn's coming later; the cold's moved in (Michelle and I had a fire in our fireplace this morning and I'll be starting another one as soon as this post goes live); and, most importantly, the beers are getting bigger and bolder.


Case in point: Tonight's ale is the second 8% ABV beer I've had in two consecutive evenings. Weyerbacher's Imperial Pumpkin Ale should stave off the cold until I get the fire stoked up. But let's see how it fares as a Halloween brew.

Weyerbacher has a short and sweet history given on their About page (I can't tell you how much I value brevity on these kinds of pages). Founded in 1995, the Easton, PA brewery has spent the last two decades expanding: They now occupy a 30,000 square foot brewing facility. While big, strong beers have always been their bread and butter, they've recently found further success by dabbling in lower ABV brews.

As mentioned, Imperial Pumpkin Ale is not one of those lower ABV brews. At 8% ABV, it's one of those big, strong ales Weyerbacher has championed from the first. Brewed with pumpkin, nutmeg, clove, cardamom, and cinnamon, the ale is touted as being pumpkiny, spicy, and caramelly.

The nose here is alcohol, pumpkin, caramel, and nutmeg. They're all balanced so perfectly that it's almost difficult to say that the caramel sits atop the other notes. But, you know, it totally does take its place, front and center. While it was lurking deeper on my first waft, a second prevailed it as the star of the ale. It's an interesting take for a pumpkin beer--one I can't say I've rightly previously encountered--and I'm anxious to see how it plays off of the beer's flavor. While I like the ale, Purrl doesn't seem to feel similarly, refusing to give my can even a single whiff.


After taking my first swig, what I can say about the ale's flavor? It's big, certainly. That boozy warmth I expected is present. There's obvious spices, as well as pumpkin. The caramel that presided over the aroma has vanished, however. In its place are Belgian beer flavors: clove (which makes sense because the ale is plainly stated to include it) and banana, sure, but there're also dark fruits like fig and plum. Really, this is incredibly different from what I had anticipated. But, it's not a wholly unpleasant surprise. In fact, it's a nice diversion from a more standard imperial pumpkin brew.

The mouthfeel is perfect for an ale. When coupled with the flavor profile of Imperial Pumpkin, this is something of a shock--I was expecting a much smoother affair here, given what I've only just tasted. But, in exploring the flavors of the ale I forgot, for a moment, just what it was. This isn't some Belgian dubbel or tripel. This is an ale.

People always talk about Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and its illustrations (written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell), spewing some hyperbole about how the anthology was one of the scariest books from their childhood. Do you know what I say to that? People claiming such things led sheltered formative years.

Scary Stories isn't the scariest kids' book. It's not even the most frightening book by Alvin Schwartz. Both those honors go to In a Dark, Dark Room (illustrated by the horrifying Dirk Zimmer). The stories and pictures in that book gave me nightmares for weeks. I remember reading it with my mom one rainy afternoon. Sure, "The Green Ribbon" gets all the attention (not unwarrantedly, mind you), but the book is full of other horrible gems. "The Night It Rained" and "The Teeth," in particular, are standouts.

Looking back now, sure, these are introductory horror stories for introductory readers. But, man, that unexpected creep factor was strong. As is the unexpected Belgian quality from tonight's ale.

Overall, I have to say I'm impressed with Weyerbacher's Imperial Pumpkin Ale. It takes a standard Halloweeny style brew and works unanticipated magic upon it while retaining the boozy warmth I'd hoped it'd have. Whether you'll prefer this to a typical imperial pumpkin ale is all a matter of personal taste, but it's at least worth a shot. I'm giving my can a 8.5/10. I have a few more of them that I'll crack into sometime down the road, just to see how they age.

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