Four of us gathered to sample a flight of three different Southern Tier Beers: Pumking, Warlock, and Rum Barrel Aged Pumking. Several of us had been collecting these for years, as we have found Pumking to age quite well. However, the question always came up "what is the idea amount of time to age a 'King'?"
The list of beers:
2014 Pumking (2 bottles)
2014 Rum Barrel Aged Pumking
In order to maintain objectivity, we had the bottles placed into brown paper bags and numbered 1-8. We had another person pour the beers and log which bottle was in which bag to ensure no cheating. Cups were also labeled 1-8, and denoted with a post it note to let us know whose glass was whose. Below are pictures of the process, as well as the final bottles.
My notes from the tasting:
GLASS ONE: Mellow and not too carbonated. More focus on the malt than hops. Slightly watery tasting and not as much pumpkin flavor then expected. The nose has a slight amount of pumping but is more subtle.
GLASS TWO: Much more carbonated than the first glass. Brown sugar, tons of pumpkin, though not much on the nose.
GLASS THREE: Given the dark color this is obviously one of the two Warlocks, but which year? Chocolatey, malty, lightly carbonated, not too much pumpkin (especially when compared to GLASS EIGHT)
GLASS FOUR: Lightly carbonated but tons of pumpkin. Surprisingly not much on this nose as well. Initial guess is slightly older, but this may be edited.
GLASS FIVE: Pumpkin on nose, brown sugar, cinnamon. Carbonation is more than some
GLASS SIX: Well this one at least is obvious. Tons of rum on the nose and in the taste. A little bit of brown sugar and lots of booze. Aftertaste is pure alcohol
GLASS SEVEN: Pumpkin flavor, brown sugar, good carbonation
GLASS EIGHT: We have reached Warlock number 2. But again, which year? More pumpkin on the nose than GLASS THREE, with a higher carbonation. Some chocolate, lots of brown sugar and pumpkin in the taste.
After sampling all of these beers, and analyzing smell and color, it came time to make our guesses. Here were my guesses:
1. 2011 Pumking
2. 2015 Pumking
3. 2013 Warlock
4. 2012 Pumking
5. 2014 Pumking (we threw a curveball and put 2 bottles of the 2014)
6. 2014 Rum Barrel Aged (this was too obvious)
7. 2014 Pumking
8. 2015 Warlock
After giving our lists to another for grading here were the results:
Mike P. 6/8
Grant F. 6/8
Mike D. 6/8
Scott H. 8/8
Happy to brag that I was able to identify all 8 beers! But it all comes back to my initial question. Which was the best?
Personally, I thought the 2012 Pumking was the best of the bunch. Three years, in my opinion, was the ideal time to drink Pumking. The Warlock from 2013 was my favorite of the two of those. I would be very curious to see how a 3 year old Warlock would hold up. Over time, these beers become slightly less carbonated and lose some of the hoppy flavors. Instead, they turn into more of a pumpkin liqueur than serves as a nice cordial. As for the Rum Barrel Aged, I wasn't thrilled at first, but as the beer warmed it became a much more enjoyable brew.
We are planning to continue this tradition, and I will keep buying several bottles of both Pumking and Warlock each year. Though most of these are no longer available this year, be sure to stock up next year and for years to come. Next up on the vertical agenda will be a Goose Island Bourbon County tasting, hopefully before the New Year.