There had been some bad experiences - and zero good ones - most notably the Black & Blue by Dogfish Head tasting of rancid blueberries and raspberries. Ugh.
I was not going to bother with ales brewed with pumpkin, figuring it was just another shtick I would end up regretting spending my money on. But then friends started going on and on about how good their pumpkin brews were, and it eventually broke down my defenses. Everyone else was enjoying them and I wanted in.
So I started with Stingy Jack, a pumpkin brew from the local Laurelwood Brewery. I could smell the pumpkin a little bit when I popped the cap off the bottle, but I only barely tasted it. The flavors were very well balanced though, with not too much pumpkin pie spices or hops. I enjoyed it, so I decided I was willing to try more.
Next came Punkin Ale from Dogfish Head.
As I mentioned above, I'd had a bad experience with Dogfish, even though many craft brew fans love them. Another one of theirs I tried, the Festina Peche (peach flavored), was just odd and I wouldn't recommend it. But still, Punkin was one of the top-rated pumpkin brews nationally and also one of the more inexpensive bottles, so I said what the heck.
And I liked this one too. It had slightly more spice than the Stingy Jack, but was still well balanced. I'm not a big hops fan, something Dogfish Head is known for, but this brew shows a lot of restraint in that regard.
At this point I deemed myself a pumpkin ale convert.
Friends on the east coast sang the praises of Southern Tier's Pumking all this time, so I had to have it. The problem was Southern Tier hadn't sent any to Portland yet. Most of the local places I pick up beer - Whole Foods or New Seasons, or specialty shops like Belmont Station and John's Marketplace - all carry Southern Tier and I swore I had seen it in previous years, but the middle of October came and still no one had any in stock.
I had just about resigned myself to not getting any Pumking, when Belmont Station - about 18 miles away from me across Portland - posted this:
Here it is. After literally hundreds of phone calls over the last few weeks, the Southern Tier Pumking is finally here. Despite us receiving 40 cases it's sure to go quick, so don't delay if you're hoping to stock up.Belmont Station is a great place for craft brew aficionados and they maintain their website very well with twice-weekly updates of bottles they get. Needless to say, I was there when they opened the next day. (I have no idea how far 40 cases - 480 bottles - goes, and since they had hundreds of calls I didn't want to miss out.
I bought two bottles and opened up one that night with dinner. Just opening this bottle is tasty, because it smells exactly like pumpkin pie. Exactly. You don't get the alcohol in the nose at all. It pours a nice orange-amber with little head.
And it tastes as good as it smells. Maybe better. I would recommend this to the entire world if I could, since I stocked up with a couple more bottles the next day.
I'm saving these a little bit...it'll be nice to crack one open in March or April, to get a little bit of a fall flashback.
Then, after all of that pining and looking, I stopped at New Seasons to get some milk on the way home from work the other day and what do I see? Cases of Pumking. So buy them now, while you can, because they sure won't last long.
Well, that, and it's one of the best beers I've ever had. Believe the hype and bow down before the Pumking.