Southern Tier Pumking 8.6% ABV
With unbridled joy and several months of anticipation I lift my goblet full of Pumking to my nose and inhale deeply. It all comes rushing back to me, the memory of my first time with this beer; my first time with any pumpkin ale. The sweet smell of pumpkin pie, with a hint of vanilla, per chance its pumpkin pie ala mode I smell.
My joy and anticipation were tinged with worry as I brought the glass to my waiting lips. What if my palate had changed? What if the hundreds of beers I have tasted since I first had the pumking have raised my expectations so that this brew, a brew I have such wonderful memories of first tasting less than a year ago, could not compete with the high standards I now have?
Have you ever watched a cartoon you fondly remember from childhood, as an adult? Don’t. It will ruin a perfectly lovely bit of nostalgia and reminiscence. As an adult I realized what trifling drivel the cartoon was and also what an idiot I was as a child.
With all this in mind, my first taste is a gulp. I couldn’t help myself.
It is just as I remember. Oh sweet memory, untainted by the passage of time, it is a perfect reflection of my present joy of taste.
Around this same time last year, is when I was first introduced to the wonders that are the fall seasonal beers. An associated of mine, mentioned that he had a Pumking, his favorite pumpkin ale and one of his all time favorite beers. I, at the time, was mainly a bargain beer hunter, looking for the highest quantity at the lowest price. I had procured a 30 pack of Hamm’s for $13.99, just a week prior.
In my unrefined mind, the idea of a beer with pumpkin it in sounded literally “fruity” to me. Why would a true beer drinker want such an odd flavor added to their brew? But I was not about to turn down free beer. My associated poured two glasses, we clinked glasses, said “Cheers”, and I took my first sip.
Wow…wow, I would never be the same again, just as it says on the label “you will return forever changed.” This beer was light yet full of flavor, pumpkin flavor, accentuated by vanilla and other spices. This was an incredibly tasty beer. So far and above any Hamm, Bud Light or, my old beer of choice, Lone Star.
Each sip was a revelation to my taste buds. An awakening in my palate had started and to this day my appetite for new and exciting beers is yet to be sated. If anything the list of beers I yearn to taste again grows while my desire for novelty outpaces it.
After finishing our first glass each, he drained the rest of the bottle into our glasses and we continue our enjoyment. I started to feel a buzz and wondered how that was possible after just one glass. I then picked up the empty bottle in my hand and inspected it. The artwork alone was appealing, a crowned jack-o’-lantern being most prominent with a few bats flying across the top of the label. I then read the literature on the label. What a wonderfully crafted background story for this exceptionally well crafted brew.
“Pumking is an ode to Puca, the mythical Celtic horse beast said to entice careless travelers onto its back and take them on a terrifying night ride through the forest. It is a journey from which you will return forever changed. Pour pumking into a goblet and allow its spiced aroma and deep copper color to entrance you. Taste the beer and you are bewitched, powerless to resist the Pumking. This beer is brewed with a pagan spirit, but should be enjoyed responsibly.”
Then I realized why I was already feeling a buzz, the alcohol content on this beverage was a, at the time for me, shocking 8.6% ABV. How could such a delicious and light beer pack such a punch? How could this brew be so “high octane,” to steal my associates phrase, and taste so damn good?
That night I became enamored with Southern Tier, specifically their multiple series of bomber bottles. To this day I’ve reviewed more beers from Southern Tier than any other brewery. While I enjoy the Pumking immensely, their Warlock imperial pumpkin stout is one of my top 5 favorite beers of all time. If you come across either the Warlock or the Pumking do yourself a favor and buy at least two of each. I know they are a bit pricey, but trust me they are worth every penny. And you’ll want to buy them now, before they are all sold out. By buying two you can enjoy one now and then wait until Halloween or even Thanksgiving to enjoy the second.