Pumking Ale Brewed with Pumpkins

Review Date 9/22/2012  Last Updated 8/21/2023  By John Staradumsky


Well, isn't this embarrassing. Here I was all in a tizzy trying to find a bottle of Southern Tier Pumking, thinking I hadnít tried it before. Well, OK, I hadnít really looked too hard, either, having not been to the major Atlanta area beer stores since the usual release of Pumking.  But I did get excited when I saw a bottle at Uncle Jackís Spirits here in Canton, and promptly forked over my hard-earned $7.99 plus the tribute to Governor Deal.

Then a funny thing happened. I happened to be at Taco Mac watching the Patriots lose a squeaker to Arizona when I noticed a Southern Tier Pumking tap handle. I wondered why the beer was filtered out of my Brewniveristy template and didnít show as a beer I hadnít had yet at Taco Mac. Then I saw why: I had indeed had it on draft in October 2010. Must have been a good Pats game that day for me not to remember it.

The latter thought was only further reinforced when I popped open my bomber of Pumking. How could I not remember such a wonderful brew? It only took a sip to tell that this is absolutely one of my favorite pumpkin beers on the market, a bit on the lighter side in color but heftier in strength than most at 8.6% alcohol by volume. The lighter hue and spiciness reminded me a bit of Shipyardís Pumpkinhead Ale. The image of the mythological Puca adorns both of them as well.

From the label:

Pumking is an ode to Puca, a creature of Celtic folklore, who is both feared and respected by those who believe in it.

Puca is said to waylay travelers throughout the night by tossing them on its back and providing them the ride of their lives. It is a journey from which everyone returns forever changed!

Southern Tier Pumking pours to an appropriately Halloween-inspired orange color with a light fizzy head formation and a wonderfully aromatic butterscotch and cinnamon nose.  Taking a sip, one finds a beer moderate in body, indeed it belies the formidable alcohol content of the brew. As I roll around on my tongue the butterscotch buttons candy flavor hits my palate first, oh so buttery and combining with the malt to serve as the crust of this pie in a glass. Then I get some vegetal pumpkin, chewy caramel, toasted nuts, and spice: cinnamon and nutmeg to my taste, and maybe a hint of vanilla and clove, too.

This is an amazing beer; I think one of the best pumpkin beers I have ever tasted. I love the dynamic array of spiciness, and the huge buttery notes. The latter really sets it apart from others in the style. I have been known to complain about the price of Southern Tier beers, but this one is well worth the asking price. Itís a beer I will never forget. Well, not again, anyway.

Update July 17, 2014: It's Christmas in July and tonight I'm drinking a Pumking I saved from last year just for this event. As fate would have it, this bottle has a DOB (Date of Bottling) of July 17th, 2013-exactly one year ago. So how is the beer with a year of age? I think it might be even better than when it is fresh. Big buttery malty crust, vegetal pumpkin flavors, tons of spice. It's really amazing right now and I don't want the bottle to end.

Update 9/16/2018: Pumking has yet another new label, and different bottle sizes, too.  The latest is a 16.9 ounce bottle. Target had them at $7.59, too high for this size, but I picked up a few at Costco for a far more reasonable $4.99 a pop. Still the same pumpkin pie in a glass, delicious with pumpkin flavor and spice.

Update 9/13/2019: Back again! First off with an 11-ounce draft Pumking at Taco Mac for $6.50 (cheaper by 75 cents than the one I had the year before there, which was a 2017 keg aged a year and enjoyed in 2018). As usual, its pumpkin and spice and everything nice (with a buttery crust), a lovely beer indeed on tap. In the bottle, the beer is a little ridiculous at $15.99 a 4-pack of 12-ounce bottles. Hey Southern Tier, I really love Pumking, but this is way out of line. For $16 you can at least give me a six-pack (Dogfish Head Punkin Ale was right next to the Pumking, $2 less for 2 more bottles). I'm taking off a half star due to the high bottled price, though not a full star since draft is priced at what I find reasonable.

Update 8/21/2023: Pumpking is back again with yet another new label. It's the same wonderful brew, though, packed with pumpkin, spice, and a buttery crust that makes it truly shine as a slice of pumpkin pie in a glass. It's slightly less expensive at $14.99 a 4-pack this year, though for that price I would like two more bottles. From the label:

Long Live the King! Some think we harness magic to brew our powerful pumpkin ale. Not so, but it is with great respect to the magic of the trade that our brewers craft this fine beer. Savor the bewitching taste, share the magic, and declare your loyalty to the Pumking!


Glad I tried it?  T

Would I rebuy it??


*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.

(B)=Bottled, Canned