Friday, October 21, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXX)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the spirited crew at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you find your favorite treats when it comes to wine, whiskey, and beer.

Before we get to this week’s selection, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that beers from Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery are featured this month at Glen Lake Wine and Spirits. All six-packs of Deschutes are available for a mere $6.99 which is a heck of a bargain. I believe that Glen Lake currently carries four varieties of Deschutes, including the recently released Jubelale Winter Ale. Get thee some.

Doing a weekly beer review might seem like a pretty good gig. I get to sample a wide variety of beers and offer up my half-arsed opinions on them. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not always as enjoyable as it might sound. For there are times when I must sacrifice my personal preferences for the greater good of the mission. Times when I feel an obligation for example to drink a pumpkin ale.

I’ve got nothing against pumpkins per se mind you. They have an integral role to play in fall festivities, especially on Halloween. But while I understand the pleasures of displaying a pumpkin or two around the house or carving one up to create a jack-o-lantern, I fail to grasp the appeal of pumpkins in either food or beverage form. I suppose pumpkin seeds are somewhat palatable, but pumpkin pie? Never have I harbored the slightest craving for that so called “dessert.”

So I’ve always approached the idea of “pumpkin ales” or any other sort of pumpkin tainted beer with a jaundiced eye. And with few exceptions, Summit’s Unchained Imperial Pumpkin Porter for example, my skepticism about the wisdom of using pumpkins to make beer has been confirmed by the pumpkin products that I’ve tried. Strong flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon, and spice are not what I want in a beer and that’s what most pumpkin beers offer. Either that or they’ve been bland and tasteless. So when I see pumpkin beers show up on store shelves in the fall, I have little difficulty passing them by.

But Halloween is nearly upon us. And with the proliferation of parties celebrating it, there’s always a wish to find beers that fit the occasion. So I’ll bravely go where I frankly have no desire to and give another pumpkin beer a shot. This week’s beer comes from the Southern Tier Brewing company in Lakewood, New York. It’s their Pumking Ale:

Pumking is an ode to Púca, a creature of Celtic folklore, who is both feared and respected by those who believe in it. Púca is said to waylay travelers throughout the night, tossing them on its back, and providing them the ride of their lives, from which they return forever changed! Brewed in the spirit of All Hallows Eve, a time of year when spirits can make contact with the physical world and when magic is most potent. Pour Pumking into a goblet and allow it’s alluring spirit to overflow. As spicy aromas present themselves, let its deep copper color entrance you as your journey into this mystical brew has just begun. As the first drops touch your tongue a magical spell will bewitch your taste buds making it difficult to escape. This beer is brewed with pagan spirit yet should be enjoyed responsibly.

That description definitely makes it an appropriate choice for Halloween. The question is whether the taste is equally enticing.

22oz brown bomber bottle that goes for $7.99. Black and orange label shows a villainous looking pumpkin with bats circling the sky overhead.

STYLE: Pumpkin Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 8.6%

COLOR (0-2): Copperish-orange and mostly clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Pumpkin and nutmeg. 1

HEAD (0-2): Little volume, tan color, and almost no lacing. 1

TASTE (0-5): Not nearly as pumpkiny as the smell. Starts with sweet malt accompanied by nutmeg, cinnamon, and all-spice. Finishes bitter. Medium-bodied with a watery mouthfeel. There’s not that much heat and it’s actually fairly drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Surprisingly pleasant. 2

OVERALL (0-6): The lack of head and strong pumpkin smell was not a promising beginning, but Pumking turned out to be a better beer than I expected. I’m still not sold on pumpkin flavors in beer, but they’re mostly muted here. The more of it I drank, the more I enjoyed it. If you’re actually a fan of pumpkin beers (freak), you’re probably going to enjoy Pumking. For me, being able to polish off all 22oz was as close to an endorsement of this style as I’m likely to get. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 12