Thursday, August 6, 2009

Southern Tier Pumking (2009 original review)


4.6
   AROMA 9/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 19/20
Chad9976 (597) - Albany, USA - JAN 5, 2010
It’s very rare I encounter a beer so good it makes me want to sing its praises from the rooftops. Sure, I do drink some outstanding beers once in a while but every once in a great while a beer comes along that is such an outstanding performer in more ways than one.

Southern Tier Imperial Pumking definitely has one of the most accurate names of any beer I’ve ever drank. This is indeed the king of pumpkin beers as it has an absolutely delicious, complex palate that is surprisingly smooth and does not drink or feel nearly as strong as its label would indicate. This is a beer that can do it all and you don’t have to be a beer nerd to enjoy it.

APPEARANCE AND AROMA

For some reason I love orange beers. If you know me you know I love India Pale Ales which often tend to be orange in color as are pumpkin beers. Most of those beers are only slightly orange with brown or amber being the dominant hue, but Pumking is indeed orange proper.

The body is slightly cloudy but mostly clear. Upon the initial pour a mass of tiny bubbles rise to the top and generate a very thin layer of off-white, foamy head. If I had to criticize this beer for anything it would the fact the head is minimal and dissolves quickly.

The aroma is very inviting with a strong presence of pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon. There is a slight bready maltiness to the nose mixed with vanilla and oak as well. Alcohol is also noticeable but it’s buried underneath the aforementioned scents. Few beers are as tempting from their aroma as this one is.

TASTE

We all know taste is indisputable but I think some thing are universally regarded as delicious and pumpkin pie is probably one of them. Southern Tier Imperial Pumking is as close as any beer probably will get to liquid pumpkin pie, at least in terms of enjoyment. In fact, I’d say this beer is actually better than the pie since it’s so much more complex.

As the nose indicates, the palate here is quite complex. Upon first the first sip the taste of real pureed pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon make themselves known giving the beer a sweet, confectionary taste. On the finish there’s an even stronger flavor of oak and vanilla as if this were a cask-conditioned brew (to my knowledge it isn’t).

And not unlike a double bock, Pumking also has a bready maltiness from its use of two-row pale and caramel malts. Magnum and sterling hops balance everything out for a ever-so-slightly dry bitterness. This is a beer that doesn’t really taste like “beer” but it’s not so overly-flavored to point of becoming gimmicky thanks mostly to its smooth finish.

DRINKABILITY

I’ve never been a huge fan of “big beers” since drinking them requires quite a bit of effort on the drinker’s part. However, if I had drank Pumking blind I’d never know it has a potency of 9% ABV. How can a beer this smooth go down so easily? This is even more impressive considering how complex and rich the palate is since intensely-flavored beers tend to be for sipping only.

In fact, I might almost scold Southern Tier for making this beer too smooth since it’s the kind of beer you want to savor. How they were able to make a beer with so complex and potent and yet so smooth is a borderline miracle. I’d even go as far as to say this beer wouldn’t intimidate even the most casual, lightweight drinker since it’s so tasty and so smooth.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It’s beers like Imperial Pumking that make beer geeks like me go crazy for niche craft breweries like Southern Tier. At $9 per 22oz bottle (and its limited distribution) it would be an easy beer for the pedestrian beer drinker to pass up. However, a beer this good should never be passed up – especially considering how well it would pair with both a meal and dessert (or as a treat in and of itself). If ever there were a “must drink” beer, this is it!

Grade: 10/10