Beer Review 0232: Southern Tier Imperial Pumking
Welcome to my first pumpkin beer review of the season, and I think I have a good one in store.
Southern Tier have been brewing beer since 2002, when founders Phineas DeMink and Allen Yahn started the brewery with the goal of reviving small batch brewing. At first, this goal was a reality — using equipment gained from the purchase of Old Saddleback Brewing Company, various beers were distributed in and around the Lakewood, New York area. The distribution circle quickly expanded to New York City, and then to the entire New York State.
The rest, as they say, is history. Since 2009, the brewery has continually expanded, and the bottling line at Southern Tier can churn out 10,000 bottles per hour. The company’s brews are now distributed in about half of the United States and several foreign countries.
Imperial Pumking sees release each late August, and is widely regarded as one of the best pumpkin beers in the world. At 8.6% ABV (alcohol by volume), it’s certainly one of the more stronger pumpkin ales. “Bewitched and brewed with pagan spirit,” they say.
The pour doled out an average size, fizzy head that quickly diminished. Although the bottle said “deep copper color,” this beer is a couple of shades lighter than pumpkin orange all day. The body was exceptionally clear, free of any particles or sediment. As I sampled, no lacing was left behind.
The aromatics shape up like this, simply: this is like the graham cracker crust of a pie with a bit of pumpkin thrown in. And the spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and some sweet, bread-like malt. But the overwhelming scent here is the pie crust — seriously, you can almost smell the whipped cream that would go on top of a big piece of pumpkin pie. I also got a hint of banana, which I believe to be just the pumpkin mixing with the spices.
On the taste, there’s pumpkin and cinnamon up front, transitioning into a sweet and creamy pumpkin pie filling — pumpkin, nutmeg, and clove. The finish brings on the pie crust, some marshmallow, clove, and a gentle touch of bitterness. The mouthfeel was medium and creamy.
Folks, I might take some heat for this one…but I didn’t really enjoy this beer. I recognize the great craftsmanship here, and it is great — this literally does taste like pumpkin pie in a glass, and the high alcohol percentage is completely hidden. But although I liked my first few sips of Pumking, by half the glass, I was ready to put it down and go to something else. I couldn’t see finishing this bottle alone, and to me, this is so much like pumpkin pie and graham cracker pie crust that it becomes an artificial imitation that does not satisfy.
Honestly, Pumking just made me want a slice of the real deal, and not the beer.
Southern Tier Pumking, 81 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.