Southern Tier Pumking Imperial Ale

I usually avoid beers that appear to be trying too hard not to be beer, but it's Halloween, and nothing says All Hallows Eve like a pumpkin. And the king of the pumpkins? Must be the Pumking. Southern Tier has brought us a very good ale and an uninspired Xmas beer. Let's see if their autumnal beverage can reflect the goodness of the former while avoiding the excesses of the latter.

The head (what there is of it) flees the top of the beer like an ISIS fighter upon seeing a drone overhead. What is left is a wisp of bubbles that hang around trying to look inconspicuous, clinging to the walls and reaching out to the stranded island of friends floating in the middle. The color is cloudy and more brown than gold. The aroma is a bowl of spices and a slice of sweet pumpkin pie with a flaky crust of bready malt. It smells pretty good.

First sip is stronger than I expected. You can definitely taste the pumpkin and the spices, and they overwhelm the beer. The issue, I think, is that it tastes like they included the husk of the pumpkin in with the rest of it. There is definitely something a little off with a sip. I uncharacteristically try a second sip, and the second one seems more balanced. The pumpkin pie taste is back to normal - with a little tweak from the outside of possible hops that aren't fitting in quite right. There is a tart side to the sweet that I wouldn't expect from an actual pie, but it's not that bad in this beer.

A swig shows me a very weak tip-in with slight pumpkin spices and the slightest of carbonation burns. The meat of the beer loses the pumpkin altogether in favor of peppery spices and nutmeg. It really amps up the spices to a level that is almost painful, but it evens out quickly enough. The finish hits a spice peak and then smoothly exits with a buttery, flaky pie crust very nicely.

Bottom Line: A very nice, drinkable, and even festive beer with something a little different than the others on the market.



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