When I saw this sitting on the shelf at Total Wine in mid-August, my jaw quite literally dropped. I had heard about Pumking more than a few times in my years as a pumpkin beer aficionado. It’s fairly legendary, and is mentioned often online whenever the subject comes up. It was never available (to my knowledge) in AZ before.
Expectations were high. I cracked open the bottle and before pouring into a goblet as recommended by the bottle literature, I took a whif per my tradition. Pumpkin spice right on the top – a good sign. I poured it into my goblet and noted the thin head which dissipated very quickly. Some beer snobs might take umbrage at that; I really don’t care much about too little head, and in fact prefer less carbonated beers.
The first sip brought me right into Halloween mode (I drank this first in August). All the familiar sensations came right back with the prominent pumpkin spice flavor. At 8.6% Pumking is no slouch and the complexity that such beers usually introduce flavor-wise is there, but doesn’t bully the pumpkin out of the mix. There is also, as noted on the bottle, a fair bit of vanilla on the nose as well as a hint of nutmeg. That combination recalls pumpkin pie, which is actually what pumpkin beers should taste like in my view.
For a moment I thought I detected the tiniest bit of that dastardly aspertame taste, but it might have been my imagination. It didn’t rear its head again. Instead, the fabulous pumpkin flavor lingered in the back of my throat long after the goblet was empty.
Because of that, this has to be a 5 Jack beer. Originally I was set on four and a half, only because it didn’t quite reach the heights of Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin, but that loooooooong pumpkin draw at the end is too good. We have a new champion on our hands.