Sunday, October 30, 2011

Southern Tier's Pumking

Halloween is tomorrow and therefore it's officially fall, even if the temperature here is still regularly in the 70s and 80s. Fall means pumpkin beer! Usually pumpkin beers are seasonal releases that hit the liquor stores in September and by the end of October many have sold out. This year I have a new favorite and it is Southern Tier Brewery's Imperial Pumking.

The 'imperial' on beer labels denotes that the beer is a stronger version of the style, usually with a higher percentage of alcohol. This beer is 8.6% alcohol by volume, which is definitely on the high side for a pumpkin ale.

Nerdy beer fact: the term 'imperial' came about because English brewers made stronger beers for Russia's imperial court. The original imperial was the imperial Russian stout brewed for Catherine the II of Russia in the 18th century.

Based on my rating scale, I have to give this beer a 5 because my husband and I sought more out after we drank the 1st one and then stockpiled about half a dozen more. It loses a few points because the head disappears almost immediately, leaving no lacing on the glass. Other than that it is sooooo good.

The beer smells like roasted buttery nuts and tastes like bready pumpkin. It's not overly sweet though and it has some background notes of vanilla and caramel.

The mouthfeel is medium, not very thin and not really thick and full either. The carbonation is pretty minimal and by the last few sips the beer is flat, which is not a bad thing, just different from most beers. Frankly the taste is so distinct that if the beer was highly carbonated I think it would just be overwhelming. Oh and the color! It's like clear pumpkin puree in a glass.

Southern Tier recommends you serve Pumking at 40 degrees in a goblet. I did like it better out of a snifter (top photo), but think that 40 degrees is too cold, you get the full pumpkiny flavor when it's a bit warmer. I would take it out of the fridge and let it sit for a few minutes before cracking it open.

As for flavor pairings, this beer tends toward the sweeter side so it makes a great dessert beer. I also think it would be good with baked goods, bread, cheese, custards (I'm thinking creme brulee here), fruit that's not too sweet, sweet potato, and sweeter squashes (pumpkin, acorn, etc.). We drank it the first time around with grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato jam, which was stellar.

After checking out the reviews on Beer Advocate, I will warn you people either love or hate this beer. Most people love it, but if you don't like beers that have flavors besides malts and hops, this is not the beer for you. The pumpkin definitely dominates this beer and frankly if you can't taste the pumpkin, what's the point of having it in there?!


  1. This looks kind of hardcore! I don't think I can find pumpkin beer here though. Despite the fact that I'm next to Belgium. It seems more a US thing. But it looks good even at 7 A.M. Hmm...

  2. @Sam. Sadness. The Belgians know how to make a good beer, but I think you find the largest variety in the US. Coffee stouts are another one that I haven't seen much outside the US (besides one from a Japanese brewery).

  3. I LOVE pumpkin beers and am always looking to taste new flavors. This one sounds delicious!

  4. I want to try this beer but I don't think they sell it in California. :(