by Hop Nation USA's Steve
If Ben Franklin lived in 2017, he'd say, "...in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes, and pumpkin spice in the fall." I've made my peace with the annual basic cold that spreads across America infecting cookies, cakes, cereal, coffee, and even tortilla chips. Even craft beer isn't immune. You just have to wait for it to run its course. But while you wait, why not learn to enjoy? I know I have. I actually look forward to some pumpkin beers, and even look forward to new ones. Like New Belgium's Atomic Pumpkin, The Epic Imperial Pumpkin Porter is new to me this year. I'm also big fan of Epic's other offerings like the Big Bad Baptista. So how does this stack up?
A lot people know about Southern Tier's Pumking and Warlock yearly entries into the pumpkin beer game. They're commonly used a measuring stick, especially in the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic. Personally, Warlock is probably my favorite pumpkin beer. So I can't help but put the Epic up against it, and unfortunately I think it falls short. But I only think it falls short, because it's competing in the wrong arena.
The Epic Imperial Pumpkin Porter is a good beer; make no mistake. It's smooth with an enjoyable flavor profile. It's not overly sweet like some "pumpkin" monstrosities can be. This is usually due to brewers just relying on sugars and spices, not the actual pumpkin. Epic uses actual pumpkins in the brew as well as spices and real vanilla bean. These all lend themselves to creating a flavor profile which is rich, but somewhat subdued. It drinks more conservative and classy than most pumpkin beers. It seems like it would pair better with squash soup or venison at a nice restaurant, instead of North Face jackets and not being able to because you, "can't even."
Sounds good, right? So where's the drawback? The drawback is it seems like it's trying to compete with ST's Warlock. Warlock is big and boozy at 10%. This Pumpkin Porter is only 6.5%. I know when I buy a bomber, I usually expect the beer to pushing the 8% end. That's a dog whistle of a small batch with a huge grain bill. Some people are bound to compare the two when shopping. They're both being sold in bombers and at similar price points. Both are of the dark stout/porter variety. Both carry "series tags." (Blackwater series for Warlock; Exponential for Imperial Pumpkin) The fact is though, they just don't compare.
Because of these similarities, I think a lot of people may wind up being disappointed by this purchase if they think they're getting the next Warlock. They're not. This beer is more subdued all around with flavor and booziness. This beer is more appropriate for people looking for a mild pumpkin flavor and a quiet night. This isn't the beer you take to a Halloween party to wild out with. You save this beer for the end of Thanksgiving dinner and have it with your pie.
1 Pumpkin Pie Slice without whipped cream out of pie