Sitting unassumingly on a shelf in the seasonal beer aisle at Total Wine, mixed in with the other pumpkin beers, was the glorious bottle pictured above – yet ANOTHER new pumpkin beer for the Phoenix region (or at least its wholesale liquor stores).
Howe Sound Imperial Pumpkineater is another first for me simply owing to its bottle – a full liter spring top. I’m a big fan of the label art and putting the word “imperial” in the name sets itself up with some lofty expectations. At 8% ABV it’s certainly not for the faint of heart (or weak of constitution), but still falls a bit below Southern Tier Warlock’s 8.6%. But that doesn’t matter much to me as I’m not an ABV snob. The beer’s taste is the deciding factor.
Poured into a goblet (as is my new practice with stronger beers), the scent is encouraging – noticeable pumpkin, nutmeg, and oddly, some oaky tannin notes that remind me of wine. With every sip as I let the nose breathe, I noticed that wine aroma, which is pretty unusual but I suppose logical given the alcohol content. Though Southern Tier’s superlative pumpkin beers mask it perfectly.
The taste is reminiscent of the legendary Dogfish Head Punkin – good company to be in – but a little more… syrupy? That sounds pejorative, but it’s not. It’s merely a distinction. The flavor completely lacks the vanilla and pie crust flavors found in Southern Tier’s offerings, and it bites more on the tip of your tongue. Again, this is not a criticism.
Going purely based on the quality of the drink itself, this would be yet another top-tier pumpkin beer (I may need to re-evaluate my rating scale this year). But I would be remiss not to consider the value equation. This beer is only found in 1 liter spring top bottles that cost a whopping $15. Crunching the numbers in comparison to Warlock and Pumking, you’re getting around 54% more beer to a bottle, at roughly the same ABV, and paying 66% more. And since this beer falls just a small notch short of those titans, those numbers don’t add up. BUT, this is one man’s opinion, and if something about Southern Tier’s pumpkin beers don’t suit your tastes, this one very well might.