The year was 2014 and I found myself in Syracuse visiting my sister-in-law who was living there for work at the time. We happened to go shopping for food for dinner, well my wife did at least, and I bolted for the beer aisle. After grabbing a bottle of Middle Ages X Double IPA, I was in the mood for some Southern Tier Brewing Pumking, so I nabbed a bottle of the 2014 vintage, along with a bottle of the 2014 Warlock Imperial Stout. And as I grabbed those bottles, as fate may have it, two bottles of 2013 Pumking just happened to be sitting on the shelf.
After also grabbing a Rumking, or Rum Barrel Aged Pumking, in 2014, I grabbed a bottle each of the next few years until 2017, when my five year vertical idea was complete. So, a few Buffalo Beer Leaguers got together to see how this annual favorite held up over the last half decade.
The 2013 Pumking featured incredibly mellow pumpkin flavors, strong notes of buttery graham crackers, pumpkin and spice on the nose. Some thought it was ‘too buttery’ and another BBLer said it was soft, adding ‘butter, beam me up.
The 2014 vintage had even more spice and pumpkin notes but was less buttery than the 2013. The 2014 Rumking had notes of nutmeg and cinnamon, with one taster noting that it was reminiscent of honey mustard pretzels pieces and another saying that it ‘tastes like pumpkin water.’ Finishing off 2014, the Warlock was silky smooth and creamy and the best of the bunch.
2015’s version of Pumking was the most defined and least muddled of the entire vertical. It was crisper and less overly sweet, and not as buttery, though some notes of buttered graham cracker came forward towards the end. There was more pumpkin and more warming booze. One taster noted that it was ‘starting to taste more and more like Pumking.’
And finally, the 2017 Pumking opened with an all graham cracker nose with more subtle booze notes. It was not buttery whatsoever.
The Pumking vintages that were aged longer than three years seemed to fall off for the most part and weren’t as good as the newer ver sions of the beer. This vertical was a fun experience, but if I were to plan another, I would probably do a vertical of the Warlock. Actually, now that I type that out and see the words sitting in front of my face, I think I’m going to do that. We’ll see you in another five years.
Brian Campbell is a co-founder/Brand Manager of the BNBA’s enthusiast arm, Buffalo Beer League, and writes the weekly Buffalo Beer Buzz column. If you have beer news that should be included in the Beer Buzz, Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter (@buffbeerleague), Instagram (@buffalobeerleague), Facebook (@thebuffalobeerleague) and www.buffalobeerleague.com.