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Southern Tier Pumking vs Pumking

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Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin, PUMPKIN! It seems like every year the flavors of fall begin their spicy, sticky and sweet barrage on our taste buds closer and closer to beach season. Some people have called this slide into lunacy “Seasonal Creep” but we prefer to tag it with a what we feel is a more apro poe, Seasonal Sleaze.

That is right, Seasonal Sleaze. Pumpkin this and pumpkin that “season” is like a reeeeaaaalllllyyyy drawn out Shark Week where people go around telling anybody within earshot how much they loooovvvveee pumpkin. “Oh have you had the new pumpkin spiced latte at Suck a Ducks?”, no we haven’t but are sure you will fill us in. “Did you try the spicy pumpkin crusty holes from Dumpy Donuts?”, nah kid we don’t eat those but it sure looks like you enjoy them. This onslaught of spiced and iced goods lasts quite a long time and while people do seem to enjoy these “treats” we’d say it has nothing to do with pumpkin at all. In reality what do they love? They love sugar and spice and whatever tastes nice. These people do not actually love pumpkin or the flavor of pumpkins (or sharks for that matter) they love sweet, sugary shit. When they order a pumpkin beer they make sure they get a full brown rim job every time loads with spices and sugar.

These tweaks to established recipes move product. In fact, several local brewers have told us how much of their yearly profit comes in via selling their pumpkin ale and the size of the figure is frightful. With such a chunk of change tied in to “pumpkin season” we can see why they kick things off early. To these brewers, who have so much of their business dependent on a seasonal product, slumming it for a few months and squeezing every last dollar out of the great orange gourd means bringing in profits which allow them to experiment with other fun and less widely drooled over ales and lagers. Sometimes the beast must be fed and it seems each year the beast wants a beer with cinnamon, cloves and depending on where you live, a sugar crusted rim earlier and earlier. So yes brewers, we understand. Sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do but that doesn’t mean we have to like it or at least not all of it.

Pumpkin ales certainly have their place in history (which we’ve discussed here). We have tried many of the different offerings put out by various brewpubs and breweries throughout the “season”. However, each year it seems brewers and consumers are taking this love affair with the hearty pumpkin (or pompion as it was once known) to insane heights. Gone are the days of wading through a sea of standard Fall specialtiy ales which may or may not have a courtesy can of pumpkin tossed into their recipe. No, these days you can find a cornucopia of brews crafted in a variety of styles (porter, Belgian brown, stout) made with a variety of ingredients (yams, molasses, maple syrup and of course fresh pumpkin). While the season may be sleazy your drinking options are varied, nuanaced and often delicious.

With the leaves changing and pumpkins being harvested in quantity, it’s that time of year when a pumpkin ale is appropriate. To celebrate (a bit) we here at Beer Loves Company decided to do something a little different. We took one of the (more) beloved sesaonal treats, Pumking by Southern Tier Brewing Company, and tasted it twice. What we mean to say is that we took a bottle last year and aged it in our secret cellars (behind 2 foot thick steel and all kindsa lasers) allowing it to sleep, like a little baby, until this fall. We then bought a fresh bottle this past August when the death grip of Seasonal Sleaze is really tight (and extra kung fu-y). Our plan? To drink these bottles side by side for a super scientific comparison. This was something we were looking forward to and turned out to be very enjoyable regardless of the crusty nature of Seasonal Sleaze. What follows are the findings of our ultra scientific experiment which took place on dark and stormy night (at a house built on an Indian burial ground) muuahahahahahaha HA! So reach for a bottle of something creepy or seasonal and enjoy.

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We started with the 2012 vintage bottle of Pumking. The pour was much clearer than we expected and it seemed that the yeast, spices or a combination of both had settled out of suspension. The majority of the beer we poured from this bottle was extremely clear, with the exception of the last glass which was packed with mystery goodness. This last pour saw the spice and/or combo yeast sediment come out to play and made for a bolder, more intense flavor experience.

The body of the 2012 was a rich orange with copper hints, topped off with a bone white, foamy head that left clumps of lacing. A mellow, spiced undertone carried through the sip, with the alcohol and bitterness amped up. A slight warming was felt throughout the tasting and there was haunting sweetness present as well. We found the 2012 bottle of Pumking to be a touch more subtle on the pumpkin spice while the boozy taste bold flavors were turned up a notch.

The bottle of 2013 Pumking was stored in the same fashion as our 2012 bottle (though obviously not for quite as long) making sure things were kept, you know, sciencey. Though these bottle brothers were kept in identical ways we noticed undeniable differences from the second the 2013 was poured.

2013 had much more carbonation visible in it’s body which was accented with sunset orange and was markedly more hazy than the 2012. The fluffy off white head formed by 2013 stuck around for longer than it’s older brother’s, but also eventually settled into a foam cap, leaving behind clumps of lacing. The 2013’s aroma was heavy on a vanilla and cream notes with spice and caramel serving as the backdrop. In the sip we found more flavor mingling taking place whereby each note played off of another. Spice, caramel, vanilla, slight touches of malt and alcohol are present in 2013 and are all blended together nicely to forming a bold, rich cohesive pumpkin beer.

Though pumpkin beers are not usually thought of when aging is discussed, Pumking has a high enough ABV that it did not totally fall apart with age. We have opened a couple other bottles of pumpkin brews from years past and they did not fare nearly as well as the 2012 bottle of Pumking nor did we expect them too. We would say if you like more of a boozy, warming beer with subtle spice go for an aged version of Pumking.  If what you want is a sleazy ale with the familiar pumpkin notes of August, er we mean Fall, done right grab a fresh bottle.

Since most of us don’t have time machines or bottles of year old pumpkin beer just hanging around if you’d like to give this experiment a shot grab a bottle and throw it in your basement/cellar/closet/dungeon for a time. Or just wait until Seasonal Sleaze rolls around, by the time Fall actually hits the beer you bought will already be around 3-4 months old anyway. Whatever you do make sue you enjoy it, all hail the Great Pumpkin.

Written by A+K

October 31st, 2013 at 4:05 am

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