Lakefront Brewery Inc. was founded in December 1987 by brothers Russ and Jim Klisch in Milwaukee, Wis. Growing from a small home brewing experiment to a large brewery, Lakefront now produces more than 40,000 barrels of beer a year and distributes to 35 states as well as Canada, Japan and Korea. In addition, it was the first brewery in the country to brew a government-approved, gluten-free beer, New Grist (5.1 percent ABV).
The brewery has had a pumpkin beer for sometime, Pumpkin Lager1, a 5.8 percent ABV lager that is brewed with caramel and Munich malts, fresh pumpkin and a “proprietary blend of spices” supplied by Milwaukee-based Spice House. Last year, the brewery bottled Imperial Pumpkin Ale, an 9.5 percent ABV ale brewed with fresh pumpkin and the same spices from Pumpkin Lager, but also adds vanilla into the mix before it is aged in brandy barrels.
Like Pumpkin Lager, Imperial Pumpkin Ale2 is sold in both four- and six-packs of 12-ounce bottles, and is a seasonal release available from October through December.
The Imperial Pumpkin Ale pours a slightly opaque amber color, with a finger of off white head that sticks around for a few minutes before finally dissipating and leaving a respectable lacing. There seems to be plenty of carbonation in the glass, and aroma from the glass is a combination of strong pumpkin, cinnamon, caramel, sweet brandy, oak, vanilla and cherries.
From the first sip, the flavors pop on the palate: pumpkin seeds, creamy oak, vanilla, caramel, cloves and black pepper all fight for dominance, with the pumpkin spices just beating out the oak notes. The sweetness from the brandy barrels is present, especially on the finish, but it is a complementary note and never threatens to overwhelm the profile at any point. The overall carbonation is a bit low, but not annoyingly so, and the mouthfeel is creamy and thick on the palate. The alcohol is integrated well, almost unnoticeable underneath all of the spices and sweetness, which makes for an enjoyable flavor profile.