How do you improve a beer that’s already delicious? Oak age that sucker for a year! Southern Tier’s Pumking is already much beloved by beer snobs, and rightfully so. It’s sweet, pumpkiny, bready and cinnamon and nutmegy. Basically, it’s liquid pumpkin bread that will also get you sloshed. It’s almost universally adored – that kegs of the stuff get killed within days of popping up in NYC bars is a testament to this fact – so attempts to change it seem ill-advised. However, I’m of the opinion that oak aging improves almost any beer, so I was super-psyched to discover the Whole Foods beer store on Bowery was doing growler fills of oak aged Pumking from 2011. And for $20 no less!
After high-tailing it downtown with m’lady to grab a fill, we trekked back home and immediately poured a couple glasses. To my delight, oak aged Pumking is even more delicious than it’s younger brother! Predictably, there’s a vanilla flavor from the oak aging process and I imagine it’s even more boozy, but it’s ABV wasn’t listed. It definitely tastes boozier though. There’s slightly more alcohol bite with this stuff, but I didn’t find it off-putting. Like normal Pumking, it smells of pumpkin bread and there’s still a strong cinnamon and nutmeg spiciness that’s apparent as soon as you take a sip. If you’re one of the people who think regular Pumking borders on too sweet, you may not like this. It was noticeably sweeter due to the vanilla taste and I can see that turning people off.
All in all, my girlfriend and I both loved this stuff. It tastes almost exactly the same as good ‘ol regular Pumking, but with some added alcohol heat and a touch of oaky vanilla. This stuff will definitely keep you warm on a cold winters night. I’m tempted to pick up a few bottles and let them age for a year to see how they turn out, but I know they’d just wind up falling ‘neath my bottle opener sooner rather than later. Pumking is out of season, but start pestering your local craft beer bar now and maybe they’ll snag a keg of the 2012 vintage next year. You won’t be disappointed.