Southern Tier “Pumking” Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2011)

Southern Tier “Pumking” Imperial Pumpkin Ale joins us at 8.6% ABV.

I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: An easy pour with a bit of gusto at the end produced just 1 finger of frothy almost white head. This quickly dissolved away to what looked like a small dollop of foam, along with medium lacing. The color on this is a pretty clear bright orange/copper, with just a bit of haziness. This has what looks to be medium to heavy carbonation.

Smell: This smells wonderful. It smells sweet, with some very powerful buttery graham cracker. There is also lots of pumpkin, and some moderate spicing of nutmeg and allspice. This smells very much like pumpkin pie (in fact, even better). This smell is the most inviting of all the pumpkin ales I’ve smelled.

Taste: The pumpkin pie taste is powerful and wonderful, just as the nose suggests. I also get a good amount of vanilla, along with the sweet pumpkin pie flavor. The graham cracker and gingerbread crust is also prominent in the taste. This beer begins gingerbready-sweet, and finishes dryer with nutmeg and allspice. The aftertaste has a tinge of bitterness, which helps to balance out the sweetness and invite one towards another sip. This tastes more like pumpkin pie than I thought possible in a beer.

Feel: This is medium bodied, with a sugary sweetness that isn’t too heavy or syrupy. It feels quite silky (and even sort of buttery) on the palate. The tame dry finish also helps a lot with keeping this relatively light on the palate (in terms of feel). The carbonation is medium to high, but not distracting. While the powerful pumpkin pie flavors are working, the carbonation dances a bit on the tongue. (Did I just type that?)

Drinkability: This is quite drinkable, buttery, and (again) not draining on the palate.The only impediment to really working through it is the higher ABV, coming in at 8.6%. Last year, this beer was 9%. I’m not sure what changed. Regardless, you wouldn’t know about the high ABV of this beer from the experience of sipping it (to start with). I will have no problem finishing this 22 (other than missing it when it is gone).

Overall: I quite enjoy this beer. I looked forward to tasting it again this year, and bought it minutes after it was delivered at one of my local beer stores. It is one that I always recommend to folks that want an outrageoesuly flavorful pumpkin beer that is like pumpkin pie. It is smooth and buttery, unbelievably flavorful- the pumpkin doesn’t get hidden or lose its courage, and dynamic in terms of feel. It is certainly sweet, but I don’t think too sweet. The little bit of the spicy dry finish really restrains the sweetness. I don’t really know how to criticize this beer. Some don’t like it, which I think may mostly stem from whether they like the pumpkin pie style of pumpkin ale to begin with. I love enjoying this beer with people for their first time. What a pumpkin beer!

Overall Rating: ****3/4

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