Welcome to what might be the most sought-after pumpkin beer in the nation, Southern Tier's gigantic Pumking, a big ass imperial pumpkin beer. (Note, this review is of the 2011 batch.)
So, the thing about most pumpkin beers is that they don't as much taste like pumpkin as they do pumpkin pie. Which is fine. Think about it. Pumpkin on its own just tastes like mushy vegetable. Pumpkin pie tastes awesome thanks to all those fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, clove, and others.
That's what most pumpkin beers are. Spices. They are spiced like pumpkin pie -- and may not even have any real pumpkin! It's true. You don't need the pumpkin in the beer to make it taste like a great pumpkin beer, just the spices.
Anyway, Southern Tier's sought after imperial version of the style? Well, it smell likes nuts and butter and peanut butter. So how about the taste?
Nutty! That's right, nutty. It tastes like liquid peanut butter with some spices. VERY sweet. Almost sickeningly so. To drink a whole bottle of this on your own? Ugh. No thanks. I can't imagine doing it.
Word of mouth suggests this 2011 batch was off from previous years, a significant downgrade from what was made before. Having never had Pumking prior to this batch, I can't comment on that. I will say that if batches can vary that much from year to year, the otherwise exceptional Southern Tier has some quality control issues to worry about.
FULL DISCLOSURE: This tasting is based on the 2011 batch, consumed and written in late February of 2012, and only posted now.