10/23/22: Southern Tier Brewing Company's Pumking Imperial Ale

4:38 PM

Southern Tier Brewing Company's no stranger around the blog (although my last post about one of their offerings was a little over two years ago). 

Southern Tier's Pumpking's no stranger to me. I've had it before. I've had a rum barrel variant of it. I've had a pre-aged variant (I can't find trace of this online, but it was just Pumking STBC held onto for something like three years before releasing it for purchase and consumption). It's a beer I know pretty well, and a beer that (anecdotally) many of my friends adore.

Today, I'm righting a small wrong. Today, I'm finally giving Pumking a full John Likes Beer treatment.

Southern Tier's been around since 2002 (although they boast a quality and renown that rival that of breweries that were founded much earlier). Back then, two decades ago, Skip Yahn and Phineas DeMink repurposed equipment from Old Saddleback Brewing Company to start a brewery of their own in the woods outside of Lakewood, NY. The last fifth of a century's treated the brewery well--they officially opened in '03, they've seen several sizeable expansions, and they've started distilling.

Pumking (official page here) is the Southern Tier beer that looms largest in my mind, as well as (again, anecdotally) in the minds of my beer-drinking friends. At 8.6% ABV, the imperial ale boasts notes of pumpkin, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice), vanilla, and pie crust. It's billed (according to its bottle's label) as "PUMPKIN PIE in a GLASS."

A waft from my bottle meets me with pumpkin, cinnamon, buttery pie crust, booze warmth, and, inexplicably, a definite bubblegum sweetness. There's brown ale malt (some brown sugar and some toffee) and a subtle hint of hops. It smells like an imperial pumpkin ale, not pumpkin pie. But, a solid imperial pumpkin ale. Purrl gave the beer seven whiffs.

The first flavors on my palate are the pumpkin pie spices; these are also the flavors that linger longest into the finish (along with a healthy bit of alcohol strength). Behind the spices (so, second on my palate) are the pumpkin, the hops, and some malt, all hitting at once. The bubblegum quality persists here, too. I think this is attributable to the exact spice blend used.

Pumking drinks like a brown ale. It's sharp and full. The mouthfeel belies the whole "Imperial" part of the ale.

My first year after leaving Athens, OH (fresh with a postgraduate degree), I decided to head back to the town for its annual Halloween party. I brought along a Cincinnati-made pumpkin ale, just to share with my friends who'd never tried the style.

That pumpkin ale I'd brought down with me, while now one of my favorites, wasn't a hit. I didn't even really care for it. My palate hadn't yet grown accustomed to spicy beers like that. It was too decadent for me. Kind of like how I view Pumking.

At last, we come to it. The reason why I haven't discussed Southern Tier's Pumking on the blog. The reason why I haven't officially visited any of its myriad of variants. I don't doubt that there're many people who adore this beer (anecdotally, I know some of them). But, it just isn't for me. It's too decadent. It's too bubblegummy. It's too not "PUMPKIN PIE in a GLASS." I'm giving my bottle a 7.0/10. If you like it more than that, keep on liking it that much. I think it's pretty meh

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