Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Southern Tier Brewing Company Imperial Pumking

Every fall, the pumpkin ales emerge.  According to the Oxford Companion to Beer (at pages 680-681), which was edited by Brooklyn Brewing's Garrett Oliver, the pumpkin ale is "an American original" that English colonists invented in the 18th century.  The Oxford Companion to Beer also notes that "[t]he brewing methods for pumpkin ale are about as varied as the breweries that are making it."  I've learned this first hand after having recently tried and reviewed a couple of pumpkin beers, namely Uinta Brewing's Punk'n Ale and Elysian Brewing's Night Owl

Perhaps the "king" of the pumpkin beers would be an "imperial" pumpkin ale, such as Southern Tier's Pumking.  The brewer says that the beer is an "ode" to Púca (which is Irish for "goblin"), a feared creature of Celtic folklore.  According to legends in Ireland, Western Scotland and Wales, the púca could take the form of any animal, including a horse, mule, or even a rabbit.  The púca would entice travelers to get on its back.  This was a trick, for the púca would take the travelers off-course by giving them with rides that they would never forget.  The journey was said to change the lives of the hijacked travelers. 

Southern Tier's Pumking is perhaps the craft beer movement's version of a púca.  When reading the list of ingredients, one expects a typical pumpkin ale.  The beer is brewed with 2 row pale malt, caramel malt, and pureed pumpkin.   The brewer also uses magnum hops in the kettle and sterling hops for aroma.  All of these ingredients are fairly typical for a pumpkin ale. 

However, both the aromatic and taste elements of the beer take the drinker for an unexpected ride.  The beer pours a bright orange color, which is more vibrant than other pumpkin beers.  The vibrant color is complemented by the vivid aromas of this ale.  The principal elements are the range of pumpkin pie spices.  In fact, the beer smells like a piece of pumpkin pie, with allspice, cloves and cinnamon.  As for the taste of the beer, it actually tastes like pumpkin cheesecake up front, with some of the caramel and 2-row malts, along with the magnum and sterling hops becoming more apparent in the finish of the beer.

The Imperial Pumking has an ABV of 8.6%, which is not as high as imperial versions of other beers, such as an India pale ale or a stout.  This beer is available at beer stores with a wide selection of craft beers, like Gilly's in Rockville, MD.


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