Monday, October 29, 2012

Elysian's The Great Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale

While most beer fans get excited for Fall to bring forth numerous seasonal Oktoberfest beers, I couldn't care less. Drinking light beer in large quantities is only fun if you enjoy using the bathroom every ten minutes. No, my friends, Autumn brings with it a significantly more exciting type of beer; pumpkin ales.

Pumpkin is finding its way into almost everything lately. And why not? It's a cheap, readily-available ingredient that grows on every continent but Antarctica. Toss in some cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or allspice and even the most boring of food or beverage item is instantly delicious.

I've found that this is largely the same with beer, although with one big caveat. Some pumpkin ales are pretty much a typical lager with nutmeg dumped in. That's not how I roll. Real pumpkin ale is brewing beer with intentionality, real pumpkin, and a spice profile appropriate for each unique brew.

The first pumpkin ale that really grabbed my attention years ago was Elysian Brewing Company's Night Owl Pumpkin Ale. Not a lot of brewers were brave enough to use pumpkin at the time, but Elysian accepted the challenge. Night Owl presented itself as a balanced, medium-bodied ale with just enough pumpkin and spice to remind you of everything you love about the Fall while still being as drinkable as most ales.

You can only imagine my excitement with Josh informed me that Elysian was releasing four pumpkin ales this year. The best part? He hooked me up with all four. Up first for review is The Great Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale. From Elysian:
Brewed at our original Capitol Hill location in Seattle. silver medalist at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival in the Fruit and Vegetable category, the world’s first Imperial pumpkin ale. Brewed with pale, Munich, Cara-Hell, Cara-Vienne, Cara-Munich and Crisp 45° L Crystal malts. Roasted pumpkin seeds in the mash, and extra pumpkin added in the mash, kettle and fermenter. Spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.
What I'm reading is there's a lot of pumpkin involved in this 8% ABV offering. Let's drink some!

Brewery: Elysian Brewing Company
Style: Pumpkin Ale Rating: 92 (average user score) Rating: 96 overall / 98 style
Serving: 22oz bottle

Appearance: Slightly orange with a similar appearance to many summer wheat ales. Only a very thin, white head pours and quickly dissipates. Not a whole lot of light gets through this one.

Smell: Lightly sweet with the typical nutmeg and allspice hues of a pumpkin ale. A little bit of pumpkin is on the nose as well with surprisingly little alcohol.

Taste: This is really delicious! Everything I mentioned loving about Night Owl comes through riding a much higher level of booziness. I'm pretty sure 8% is a lie, but I like it! The pumpkin and spice hues come through in just the prefect amounts to not overwhelm one's pallat. As it dissipates, you're left with some lingering allspice and enough alcohol warmth to remind you that this one can be dangerous. I highly recommend drinking this with a rich dessert (cheesecake perhaps?) or on its own.

In short, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. Elysian has proven that when it comes to pumpkin, nobody comes close to what they can do with it. And, yes, I'm looking at you, Dogfish Head.


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