Pumking

Southern Tier Brewing Company

Appearance

This pours a murky gold color and displays a significant and evenly distributed layer of sediment. It produces less than a finger of white head that reduces in size and simmers as a thin surface coat. There’s zero sign of lacing to come.

Aroma

The aroma is brilliant and sweet. It produces notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. It smells malty and much like the graham cracker pie smell many tend to enjoy. I smell pumpkin that seems to be manufactured by the combination of the base character, the spice bill and some mild, fresh pumpkin.

Taste

To my surprise, I’m not immediately overwhelmed by a sugary base. At its foundation, it seems significantly more balanced than some past batches. I’m greeted first by the spice bill that follows the nose. Cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla lead the way, with vanilla being quite strong. I also get some notes of clove on my palate. As I move to the back, the spices stay present but the malt and hops make-up tend strengthen. Unlike in the past, the hops have a firm hold on the foundation. The sugary, sweet aspect I’m used to is present but it’s rounded nicely. The finish is a bit bright and continues to provide a strong mix of foundation and spices. Its balance is solid and it’s a fairly complex experience. The pumpkin flavor is present the entire time but it seems to be almost completely manufactured by the spice blend. It might not be totally natural or organic tasting but it’s still very enjoyable.

Mouthfeel

This is a medium-bodied beer with moderate carbonation. The hops and spice bill together make for a sharper texture on the palate. It’s somewhat dry but the malty sweetness seems to smooth the texture out a bit. It’s an okay feel all around.

Overall

I feel Pumking made an effort to focus not solely on sugar and spice but on the fundamental elements that made it a good beer in the first place. This is a slight deviation from years past, and one that I applaud. It’s fairly complex, fairly balanced and is a great example of how a spice bill can work with the foundation to make for flavor. Worth mentioning is the presence of the alcohol. At 8.6%, the palate gets to enjoy a masked boost in booze that many will enjoy. The unfortunate part of it all is that there’s nothing distinctly deeming it better than other heavily spiced options. Had the pumpkin flavor been more natural tasting, this surely would have been one of the best so far. Nevertheless, gone are the days when the “king” was defined by an immense sweetness. Clearly they’re continuing to experiment. Like every year, this is one you should try if you have the chance.

3.5