“Pumpkin beer” is one of the hardest styles to nail down. It covers a huge range from lightly spiced ales with a faint pumpkin backbone that wouldn’t be out of place as a session beer for a long hayride to massive, full-bodied monsters that taste not too far removed from a blended pumpkin pie suitable only for desert. And then you can find everything in between and beyond. Some pumpkin beers still manage to be super hop forward (Sixpoint’s Autumnation comes to mind). Some actually have strong notes of raw pumpkin flesh (a Uinta Punk’n I had last weekend falls into that department).
In the end, it boils down to two things: what you like and what you’re in the mood for. Certainly, I’m not always in the mood for a 9% ABV behemoth like Pumking from New York’s Southern Tier Brewing, but it’s always something I like. And heading into the weekend, I don’t see any reason to hold back on the alcohol right now.
The truth is, when I think pumpkin beers and Halloween and Thanksgiving and, sh*t, even cold weather, I think Pumking. Within the range of pumpkin beers, it ranks right up there with some of the biggest, sweetest, pumpkin pie-tasting brews on the market. Thus its 9% ABV: it needs something to balance out all those flavors of graham cracker crust, vanilla and spice. And yet, it never gets overwhelming or outstays its welcome. It’s big, but it’s balanced with subtle essences notes peeking through the additional ABV — the kind of drink that holds up perfectly in cold weather.
And like I said, if you don’t want want a huge beer, don’t even crack this 22 oz. bottle. There’s a reason it’s served up in this size: it’s meant for sharing not for a single-person’s consumption. Though I’m not sure if I’m going to share this one with any of my coworkers. It’s too damn good.