Let there be no doubt about it: The Summit Unchained Series is one of the most exciting things to happen on the local beer scene since Surly arrived and started busting open cans, kegs, and growlers of whoopass all over the greater metro area. Unchained has brought really well-brewed, thought-provoking, and generally novel tastes to the shelves one release after the next, and has probably done a fair bit to build up morale over at Summit HQ, with brewers no doubt salivating over their chance to put out the next installment of the series.
That’s context that is important to keep in mind, as this review comes down negatively on the fifth beer in the Unchained Series. Not negatively in terms of “the beer is bad,” just negatively in terms of “my own personal fairy princess expectations for what this beer would turn out to be were not satisfactorily met.”
Unchained beer #5 is called Imperial Pumpkin Porter: Porter Brewed with Pumpkin and Spices. All well and good, and seasonally appropriate. (If you want to see the heartwarming story behind the organic pumpkins that went into the beer, you can nip on over to Summit’s blog and give that a viewing, too.)
But so afraid of turning this release in one of those pumpkin and spice-heavy seasonal abominations that are — rightfully — hated by just about everyone in the craft beer world, Summit’s gone in the opposite direction, and hidden the pumpkin flavor under a bushel basket. This is a beer with pronounced coffee-like bite, a bit of astringency, and maybe a whiff of pumpkin hovering around somewhere in the nose of the beer, but the pumpkin flavor itself skulks in the shadows, afraid to show its glorious jack-o-lantern face. It’s possible 40 IBU is just too hoppy a playground for pumpkin and spice to really shine; and it’s also possible that people don’t really want the flavors of pumpkin and cinnamon and mace, they actually want dark chocolate and ginger.
This is a good, well-balanced beer. Were it called a Gingerbread Porter, it would be very pleasing. As it is, it makes this drinker crave pumpkin pie something fierce.