Heavy Seas says:
“Our Great Pumpkin enhanced by aging in bourbon barrels. We add the pumpkin during the mash at precisely the right time to create just the perfect balance of malt, hops, pumpkin and spice.”
Heavy Seas The Greater Pumpkin
Pumpkin Ale, 10% ABV
Karl: Whoa. Just…whoa. Surprising, exciting, intense, and BOURBON all describe this new-to-me offering from Heavy Seas, who you’ll recall I was also pleasantly surprised by when we checked out the Letter of Marque Rye Porter. Heavy Seas The Greater Pumpkin has rocketed to the top 2 in my short list of “favorite pumpkin beers.” With a caveat. Which we’ll get to.
I could smell the bourbon coming off the Greater from all the way across the table, and the scent continues all the way through the brew. Pouring a nice autumn apple-y red with a slight brownish tinge, The Greater also has a finger-thick off-white head which dissipated rapidly. As I got my face right up into the glass, the bourbon is there, but even better, fruit and spices begin to come to the forefront. Believe it or not, this beer smells almost exactly like a well-made Old Fashioned cocktail. Whiskey, cherries, oranges, bitters. All good.
The flavor continues the party. The bourbon serves to complement the pumpkin flavor as opposed to completely dominating, and the pumpkin itself has a specific savory-ness to it, unlike other sweeter beers, and it’s a new, original flavor that complements the booze extremely well. Body wise, it’s thinner than say, Pumking, the only other example of an imperial pumpkin that we’ll get into this year.
My caveat is this: The Greater definitely benefits from the bourbon barrel aging. My question is this – would it be as good of a beer without it? Would the regular Great Pumpkin stand up as well? There’s no way of knowing for sure without a head-to-head (which, fingers crossed, will happen next year) but I daresay that minus the booze, this would still pale in comparison to the Pumking.
It’s got the balance and flavor of a great cocktail. It tastes like something that the Violet Hour could possibly come up with. If I had a real quibble with this beer, it would be a simple and minor request for a bit of graham cracker to really push it over the edge. Put a gun to my head, and I’ll take The Greater over Pumking. But take away the bourbon, and I believe I’d have to think about that one.
Ryan: Imperial. Pumpkin. Bourbon. Are there three more beautiful words in the English language? Probably, but this was pretty damn thrilling — with a mix of nervousness and childlike excitement too. Excited because of the possibilities this imperial pumpkin, bourbon concoction presented. And nervous because, much like Karl, my only experience with Heavy Seas was their rye porter. And while that was good it was a homebrewer’s recipe — not a Heavy Seas original.
Simply pouring this beer made any jitters I had vanish. The sweet scent of bourbon and pumpkin pie wrapped me in a blanket of, “everything’s going to be alright…and this is going to be awesome.”
The first thing you notice is the nose of this beer. It’s very sweet and warming with scents of graham cracker, pumpkin pie, brown sugar and bourbon. You’ll taste much of the same; a pleasant mix of brown sugar sweetness, pumpkin and bourbon – which makes for a nice warming sensation from the moment it touches your lips throughout the swallow.
I’m actually kind of surprised at how smooth and velvety this beer is and how well the flavors blend together. Not a one is dominant. Instead, you get a slice of pumpkin pie and a shot of bourbon.
This may actually topple Southern Tier’s Pumking as my favorite pumpkin beer. The bourbon compliments the pumpkin flavors very well and, in fact, it might even enhance them.