Southern Tier “Pumking” Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 8.6% ABV.
I poured some of a 22 oz bottle into a Belgian ale glass.
Appearance: With a tilted glass and a gentle-at-first pour, the beer tossed up a few bubbles which turned into a more substantial head as the glass became more vertical. I got about 1-2 fingers of off-white head, which bubbled away in about 1-2 minutes, leaving no real trace. This has a mostly clear golden/light amber color, with a little bit of sediment floating in it. It looks to have mild to moderate carbonation. Now for the much anticipated smell.
Smell: The smell on this reminds me of previous years reviewing it. I get some graham cracker, some sweet whipped cream like aroma, and a nice spice blend that seems to have good nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. This beer also has a slight diacetyl tinge. Otherwise I get some roasty pumpkin, and some vanilla. Not a lot by way of hops in the aroma, save for a bit of pine towards the end. Good sweet smell. Great graham cracker.
Taste: This beer gives off more hops than the nose suggests. At the front I get some hoppy pumpkin (which is on the roasty side), as well as some more bitter spicing than the nose indicated. I get some nutmeg, allspice, definite punchy ginger, and (I think) cinnamon. There is also a nice vanilla presence among the flavors of this, as well as some somewhat artificial tasting graham cracker. The malt backbone is not as strong as I expected, and it seems to have some caramel dimensions. This beer is definitely on the sweet side, and adds a little light brown sugar into the mix of sweet flavorings. Towards the finish more of the piney hops and punchy spicing take hold, making way into an aftertaste of slight diacetyl and some somewhat restrained bitterness. I get a little bit of alcohol bite in the aftertaste.
Feel: I’d say this is medium bodied, with light to moderate carbonation. It has some texture with the hops and spicing breaking through the otherwise thinnish malty backbone. Alright feel.
Drinkability: This is alright here. It isn’t as round or as rich as I remember it in previous years. And the medicine-like diacetyl and slight alcohol in the aftertaste detract some. The sweetness helps this, of course. So I’d say this is decent here.
Overall: This has some interesting and good flavors, no doubt. It even has that interesting graham cracker flavor in it, and something vanilla-like that is reminiscent of whipped cream. Even so, the flavors don’t entirely come together with this for me. I bought this when it came to my area on July 17th, after being bottled on June 25th (at 1:56.51pm , according to the bottle). I immediately put it in my refrigerator, and left it there until I reviewed it today. So it has had some time since bottling, though at a fairly cold temp which tends to slow the “aging” process. I’m not a huge fan of this beer this year. There are so many other really great pumpkin beers out there that I can’t quite be a big champion of this beer. It was top of my list, when I reviewed it in 2011. My palette has no doubt changed, and I’ve also had the opportunity to taste a lot more pumpkin beers. But this beer has also changed.
Overall Rating: ***
About Southern Tier and their “Pumking”: Southern Tier is located in Lakewood, New York, and has been brewing good beer there since 2002. Last year’s review of the Pumking included a bit more about them, and some of their great beer. I quite enjoy a number of their other beers.