Oak aging is something you tend to associate with imperial stouts, but
Southern Tier has shown that can work well with other styles such as
barleywines, imperials IPAs, and pumpkin ales. Their famous "Pumking"
beer is one of the most highly acclaimed brews of the style, and they’ve
managed to offer a new version by oak aging it in 2011 for a tap-only
release. While it’s only slightly different than the original version,
it’s still a fantastic beer in its own right.
I got a 16oz growler fill of a 2011 keg from Westmere Beverage. I poured it into a tulip glass.
Appearance: Light orange/dark gold color. Mostly clear but with just a
bit of haze. Forms a small head with a vigorous pour, which mostly
evaporates but does leave some lacing on the glass.
Taste: Southern Tier Pumking has often been described as liquid pumpkin
pie and I’d agree with that for sure, although it’s a beer that seems to
focus more on the crust than the pie filling itself. Graham cracker
crust is the most familiar taste found in the palate here. It’s a
delicious combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and pureed pumpkin that
dominate and drive the palate. It’s lightly bitter up front with a quick
taste of cinnamon followed by pumpkin and a smooth sweetness of vanilla
from the oak not found in the traditional bottle and tap versions. It
finishes with the sweet and spicy mix of cinnamon and nutmeg and the
graham cracker flavor. Even the aftertaste is pleasant - not crisp and
clean, but not cloying or dry either. Not a trace of alcohol anywhere in
the palate. Amazing and delicious.
Drinkability: I’d give Southern Tier Oak Aged Pumking a high score due
to the palate alone, but it’s the smooth drinkability that clinches it
for me. The mouthfeel is perfect as it’s not overly effervescent, but
not thin and tepid either. There’s a slightly creamy texture despite the
lack of head (in this case probably due to the oak aging). It’s
actually not that big of a beer at 8.6% ABV, although it definitely has
the robustness of such . A perfect beer to pair with pumpkin pie or
enjoy as a dessert in a glass.