When it comes to fall, I make no bones about it – I’m a huge fan of pumpkin pie, and most things that carry the pumpkin pie spice mix in their makeup. A lot of it can be hit or miss, especially when it comes to beer. Many of these just take whatever their standard ale is, toss some pie spice in, and call it a day. Then there are those that go above and beyond. One such of these has become an annual favorite of mine – the Southern Tier Pumking.
For the brands that don’t try very hard, their attempts at pumpkin beer tend to all be more or less the same, and start to fall flat. And, oddly, the spice mix can come across as either too sweet, or synthetic somehow. This is more definitely not the case with the Southern Tier Pumking. Sure, when you pour it into a glass, you get the dark amber coloration and a good hit of pumpkin pie spice in the nose. But wait, what do you detect? There’s something more there.
When you take that first sip, your tongue confirms what your nose picked up from the Southern Tier Pumking – there is a very bread-like dimension to this beer. That’s not to say that it’s thick – it’s actually quite a smooth drinking tipple. It’s just that, rather than associating this with pumpkin pie, to my mind I tie it more into pumpkin bread. That may not sound like a significant distinction, but it really is. When you’ve tried as many different pumpkin ales as I have, it’s refreshing how different the Southern Tier Pumking actually is.
And it’s that difference that makes the Southern Tier Pumking so good. I was also happy to see that they released it this year in standard 12 oz bottles (previously, you could only find it in larger 500ml bottles), which makes it much simpler to just have one for the evening. There are also some other varieties in the lineup for those who want to mix it up. There’s the Warlock (a stout that’s decent, but not as good as the ale), and three others that came in this year. There’s a Nitro version (creaminess, ahoy!), a cold press coffee version (a different sort of buzz), and then a rum barrel aged version. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to locate those latter three locally, so I’m not sure how they stand up (though the sound amazing).
In case it was not clear, I am a big fan of the Southern Tier Pumking. You may be tempted to dismiss pumpkin beers, but before you do, this is one you should try. I get it, many of the ones out there are very solidly “meh”. With the Southern Tier Pumking, you’ve got something very different here than you’ve likely had before. For me, it’s one of only two pumpkin beers I look forward to seeing return to the shelves each year. Sure, I may try one or two others (never know when a hidden gem will show up), but when it comes to an annual “must buy”, it’s a very small list that I’m quite pleased to be able to put the Southern Tier Pumking on. stbcbeer.com
- Bready taste
- Pumpkin spice nose
- More like pumpkin bread than pie
- Spice up front with a shift to bread at the end
- Dark amber orange in color
- Quite fizzy but not a ton of head
- Very smooth
- Slightly sweet but not overbearing
Details from Southern Tier
- ABV: 8.6%
- Availability: August – October
- Color: deep copper
- Fermentation: ale yeast, two varieties of hops, two varieties of malts, pumpkin and spices
- Aroma: pumpkin, pie spieces, buttery crust, vanilla, roasted pecans
- Flavor: malty sweetness, vanilla, clove, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, pie crust
- Bitterness: Moderate (30 IBU)
- Body: medium-light
- Serving temp: 42°F
- Cellaring: 35-40°F, ALWAYS DARK AND UPRIGHT