I sat on the floor, contemplating punch lines and wisecracks about prematurity. Each one was more dastardly and shameful than the last. In reality, I was crippled by writers’ block. Think about it: to try to stay fresh and innovating writing beer reviews is, frankly, stupid. The torpid heat of the so-called dog days of summer was wearing upon me. The cheap paneling on the walls bled together in the humidity. I was becoming bitter, constipated, somewhere between a Danny Devito and a half-eaten chicken salad sandwich left out on the curb of a sidewalk in the sun. I so longed for the browning of the leaves, the crispness of the air. The company of overly-friendly hirsute men and women celebrating a banner year for the harvest, a bumper-crop of apples and disturbingly contorted gourds were all I craved. The beginning of an end, a cleansing decline, a trip into the pit of decrepitude, what you expect after a meal at Chipotle, a poop joke that goes over well; I received Autumn’s RSVP when I found Southern Tier Brewing’s Pumking in stock the other week.
I’m a sucker for things autumnal. Leaf peeping, apple-picking, potlucks, burying things while the dirt is cool enough, soon enough—where the cold of winter will soon obscure the earth and its takings— pumpkin pie, and of course, pumpkin beer. The monstrosity I had in my hands was no exception. Pumking is the New York brewery’s fall release—though it comes out quite early, which proves itself a bit of a tease. It’s an Imperial pumpkin ale by style, and Southern Tier (out of Lakewood, NY) has been brewing it now for seven years. It’s hard to argue whether this beer—this recipe—is hitting its stride now, or not. Year after year, it proves itself an outstanding beer, but not in the normal sense of “outstanding.” It’s a bizarre, bewitching brew. It’s arguably the pumpkin beer to be reckoned with—or at least, the loudest.
It was some gross satanic alchemy in a bottle. It poured out very orange. Like a light tungsten, beers do not get much more orange than this. I mean, It looked like orange soda. A half inch of a fizzy, white head came and went quickly. Even after some agitation, there produced little to no carbonation. It tended to resemble a more viscous off-colored cider —
…or orange soda.
That, however, is not the perverted part of this brew. No, it begins with the smell.
It smells like pumpkin pie, almost exactly. It has a buttery, otherwise diacetyl (ie. a chemical compound that arises during the fermentation process that gives an off-flavor akin to artificial butter flavoring for movie theater popcorn– they’re pretty much one in the same) nature to it that one would normally consider a sign of infection, but is spot on. You can smell a butter-saturated graham cracker crust, then nutmeg, allspice, and clove. It recalls the banishment to the kids table at Thanksgiving.
…But I’m 57 on the inside, mom.
…24 on the outside….
Mild caramel and toffee perked up, followed by faint toasted malt, and then a hint of earthy, herbal hops. It’s so faint, that I might actually have been imagining it.
it also kinda smelled like Vanilla Coke.
While it’s cold, you get more of the spice and the hops. The spices, again, were unmistakably clove, allspice and nutmeg. There was quite a bit of vanilla upfront, then the earthy hops shone through for a moment reminiscent of tarragon, thyme, and yarrow. Then suddenly, the taste in my mouth faded back into pumpkin spice. It proved itself quite an interesting transformation as it coasted down the alimentary canal.
The brew was strangely creamy. I’m not sure if it was the effect of the “natural flavors,” but if it was, they’re working. A boost of alcohol helped add a clean, dry finish. It’s very drinkable for a higher ABV beer.
As it warms to room temperature, the buttery notes come out. I noticed it became a little boozy—
as much as I became;
the 8.6% ABV seemed just a little bit more noticeable. There, me hearty,
and graham-crackery crusts that came forth,
like cream soda and a
off the plank,
waiting to meet his fate in Davy Jones’ locker.
Oh… speaking of soda, it kinda tasted
like Vanilla Coke.
I felt myself feeling very cartoonish, drinking this. I felt myself
So basically, through their devilish black magic, exchanging of souls, ritualistic sacrifices, and yada yada, Southern Tier reinvented a multi-cultural soft drink icon?
Quid pro quo,
Southern Tier’s Pumking is the pretty much Zooey Deschanel of beers.
It’s blasphemy bottled and conditioned.
It’s that episode of New Girl where they all play True American , and everyone is on chairs and shit.
Wait, where am I?
*9.2 out of 10*