Hope you all had a great Halloween! Don’t forget to send in your pumpkin pics to greatpumpkinbeerreview@gmail.com for your shot at a free shirt!

Now then, many of you know November first as the beginning of the festival Dios de Los Muertos, but there is another tradition that is less familiar to those of us in the states. In the Gaelic tradition, this time signals a period where everything left in the fields after the harvest is “puka”, or fairy blasted, and thereby considered inedible. Not coincidentally, this is also the one time of year where the faery goblin spirit Pủca actually acts a civil beast, primarily because it comes in to finish off the what is left of the crops in tribute. This may sound vaguely familiar to what occurred on your door step last night…

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Name:  Pumking

Place of Origin / Brewer: New York, USA / Southern Tier

Beer style / ABV%:  Imperial Pumpkin Ale / 8.6%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Bewitched and brewed with pagan spirit, Pumking is brewed in tribute to Pủca, the benevolent Celtic goblin of fairy folk lore, who is both respected and feared, but notably a trickster of the highest degree. This beastly beer is brewed with 2-row pale malt, caramel malt, puréed pumpkin, and both magnum and sterling hops.

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Packaging:

I’ve always been a really big fan of the multiple textures in the design of Southern Tier’s labels and this one is no exception. Clean and gratifying, with a mischievous looking crowned Jack O’Lantern ( maybe in tribute to the one legendary rider of the Pủca, high King of Ireland Brian Boru?) and flitting bat motif. The addition of the story behind this beer is an exceptionally nice touch. – Mike

With it’s wicked crowned jack o lantern, Pumking heralds the season in true style, while the bottle delivers a plethora of information about the brew within.  Another solid bottle from the folks at Southern Tier. – Tim

A menacingly grinning jack o’ lantern greets you with bats gliding through the sky.  Along the side you are given a lesson in Celtic folklore readying you for this imperial ale “bewitched & brewed with pagan spirit”. – Brittney

The graphic is great on this one, truly standing up to it’s place as the king.  The brewing notes are a nice touch that I haven’t noticed on any other labels before.  – Rick

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Color:  7.5

Orange.  I could say ‘oh, it’s a brilliant golden straw appearance’ but my entire thought process is ‘that’s really orange, maybe pumpkin orange, or the orange in candy corn but it’s definitely orange.’  Also, it’s somewhat cloudy, with very minimal head and little to no lacing. – Brittney

Numismatists rejoice! This looks like an uncirculated wheat penny, slightly dulled copper from age, but still sparkling clear. Wait, what? – Mike

M- 8.5 / T- 7 / B- 8 / R- 6

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Aroma:  9

Now we’re talking.  It’s like buttery crumbly crust before the pie is added.  Super sweet brown sugar and nutmeg dominate the nose, and the caramel malts are a nice touch too.  Although, not the most pumpkiny, it’s one of the best smelling pumpkin beers, period. – Rick

In some pumpkin beer reviews you will get the occasional “It smells like pumpkin pie.”  Usually, that’s because of the spices and slight pumpkin aroma.  This one smells like pumpkin pie as well, but this time it’s because of the pumpkin and the crust.  A crust that is beautifully buttery and embraces baked pumpkin perfection with just a touch of whipped cream and caramel drizzle.  – Brittney

This sucker hops right out of the bottle with so much sweet pumpkin, you’d think you’d just been jammed inside one by your half wit husband Peter (anyone? Anyone?). Allspice and cinnamon also make their presence well known, with ginger and nutmeg simmering lightly on the back burner. – Mike

M- 10 / T- 7.5 / B- 9 / R- 9

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Mouth feel:  8

Smooth and creamy, medium-bodied but almost straddling the fence into heavy (but not chewy) territory–with a bouncy carbonation. – Tim

The first sip is like the one you keep trying to chase.  A melange of flavors bombard the tongue in a phosphoric dance that leaves your tongue tingling for more.  It feels watery but the bite from the 8.6% ABV reminds you that this is a serious brew. – Rick

M- 8.5 / T- 8 / B- 7.5 / R- 8

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Tasting notes:  9

If they ever fall on hard times (which I seriously doubt will ever happen), Southern Tier could make perfumes, or air fresheners, or kick ass when we get back around to smell-o-vision.  If you’ve ever had any of their other creations you know they pack a serious punch…to your nose… and then to your taste buds.  They have perfected making something full of unique flavor.  Pumking is no different.  Crammed with notes of pumpkin, caramel, malts, butter, cream, and more pumpkin. Never having to use the spice as a crutch to get their point across but using just enough to let you know they haven’t forgotten the recipe.  – Brittney

Sweet, creamy, and absolutely delicious, this is almost an alcoholic pumpkin pie ice cream, that maintains a gratify hop fueled  nutmeg spice snap on the back end, perfectly complimenting the milky pervasion throughout. It’s what I’d expect the perfect pumpkin pie liqueur to taste like, and it’s dangerously smooth. – Mike

Huge vanilla cookie notes–that are liable to send neophyte pumpkin beer drinkers running for cover–pop out ahead of pronounced cinnamon, sweet caramel malts and roast pumpkin flavors.  It’s toasty and liquory with a background of clove, nutmeg and allspice. Tremendously complex, Southern Tier recommends serving at 40-degrees but as it warms up it displays cognac-like elements that are really unique to this beer. – Tim

This seems like the most complex of pumpkin ales, yet simple at the same time.  The heavy handed nutmeg adds a nutty smoky sweetness, while not going overboard.  It’s very light and smooth for an imperial ale. – Rick

M- 10 / T- 7.5 / B- 8.5 / R- 9.5

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Finish:  8

Long and complex, you first get the sweet pumpkin burst, then a bit of the 8.6%, and finally it settles in to a pleasantly spiced bitterness that serves to reset the palate for the next round of sweetness. – Mike

There are so many flavors going on that the finish is almost a relief, but only in so much that the actual relief is that you haven’t actually finished.  The ‘finish’ is bitter, dry and spicy, the perfect counter to the sweet and creamy start. – Brittney

M- 8.5 / T- 6.5 / B- 8 / R- 9

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Flavor balance: 8

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

I have to applaud Southern Tier for putting the pumpkin up front here. It’s nuanced, and bold, and it shows that someone put a lot of effort into getting it right, rather than leaning on bitter hops and spice to jump the autumn beer train with pumpkin as an afterthought. That said, there’s definitely a solid chunk of spice here, that’s subtle only in it’s palatial choosing, and boisterous in presence. – Mike

It’s got a hold on the uniqueness of it’s spice profile.  While the spices stand out, there is still a tang from the pumpkin, which is more than a lot of pumpkin ales can say. – Rick

A positively unusual lean toward pumpkin here, it’s not balanced but bravo for not relying on spice flavor. – Brittney

Huge spice to pumpkin skew here will leave patrons of gourd friendly ales searching for more equilibrium than Pumking is serving. – Tim

M- 9 / T- 6 / B- 8.5 / R- 9.5

–         Sweet / Dry balance:

The hops are just noticeable under all the nutmeggy goodness and sweet caramel malts which lends to a great balance. – Rick

The caramel malts and bready vanilla cookie thrust move Pumking decidedly into the dessert category (I bet this would rock with some ice cream floating in it). Happily, the high alcohol content beats back an inherent nature in the ale that if not handled correctly could wind up as sickly sweet as a Lifetime movie. – Tim

At first it seems obvious that Pumking favors the sweet tooth, but that’s to shallow an evaluation. It’s really more of a pumpkin spice latte, with creamy elements, and that black coffee bitter on the end, and while it could have been easy to let sweet treats predominate, they’ve shown an exceptional sense of discrimination that keeps you coming back for more.

M- 8.5 / T- 6 / B- 8 / R- 8

–         Multiple Drinkability?

In the past I’ve personally killed a couple of pints of this but with food to break it up it was clearly more manageable.  For just a night of drinking, I fear Pumking would fill me up fast.  A treat to be sure, but like all those plastic pumpkin heads piled to the brim with candy confections, the key to surviving the season is moderation. – Tim

This pumpkin ale is like a breath of fresh air.  It seems to be evenly balanced in all the right places, while still presenting a great unique experience with each sip.  This is definitely the King of pumpkins. – Rick

M- 7 / T- 6.5 / B- 7.5 / R- 9

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Overall: 8.25

M- 8.92 / T- 7.08 / B- 8.17 / R- 8.42

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