Every year around this time I start to get a craving. The weather starts to turn colder. The leaves, if you live in a place with seasons and trees, start to change color. School is back in session. The sun seems to be perpetually behind some clouds. It’s a wonderful time of year. With the change in seasons comes a change in drinking habits as well. Gone are the Goses, the Hefes, the Pilsners; in their place are Porters, Stouts, Barleywines, and Old Ales. And of course, Pumpkin beers. The seasonal creep of pumpkin beers notwithstanding (seriously, pumpkin beers on the shelves in August is fucking absurd) I do find myself craving them during October and November. Now, most pumpkin beers are relatively similar in profile. A base ale that has pumpkin pie spice added to varying degrees is what you will find in most bottles and most are pretty good. But, there is one that hits a particular spot that no other pumpkin beer I have tried can hit. And when I find myself craving one, nothing else will do. I am talking of course about Southern Tier’s Pumking.
Released for the first time in 2007, and for the first time in four packs this year!, Pumking is pumpkin pie in a bottle. It is sweet and creamy, with hints of vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, flaky crust, clove, and nutmeg. It has such an incredibly distinct taste among pumpkin beers. There really is nothing quite like it. It is an extremely pretty beer. It pours a burnt honey amber color with a bubbly white head. It gives off the most pleasant aroma. I love it dearly when it’s what I want. When I’m not in the mood for it though… it’s just too much. Pumking is a divisive beer. Lots of people love this beer to the point where it is the only beer they drink. I have seen people come in to my local bottle shop and head out with this by the case. I have also seen people get really upset after taking a sip of this beer. I have read posts on message boards about how much people hate this beer. I have read posts singing its praises. It truly is love it or hate it. And a few times a year, I love it. Desperately. If you’ve never had a bottle go ahead and give it a shot. It may be just the thing you needed.
Punch-Out!! is without question a classic. The NES port of two arcade titles is one of the most loved games of the retro era. And with good reason. It is a particularly singular experience. Billed as a sports game, Punch-Out!! plays more like a puzzle game. Each boxer has particular patterns and tells to their punches. Learn the patterns, figure out the puzzle, and beat the game. (Which is far easier said than done) It has an incredibly iconic roster of characters, jingoistic though they may be, and some of the most identifiable music of any era. It’s sequels are much loved as well but for my money, the original is the best.
Punch-Out!! is a game I return to often. It has tremendous replayability and hits a very particular spot in my retro gaming heart. When it’s what I want to play, nothing even comes close. I have never found a game outside of this series that so perfectly matches the puzzle depth and boxing quirk found here. When it’s not what I want though it can be maddening. I can make it through most boxers just fine taking my Little Mac from zero to champ in a matter of minutes. Around the second Piston Honda fight the game takes a turn and becomes a much more focused experience. And if that’s not what you want, it is game over. Punch-Out!! is so precise that it requires total focus. Be a tad bit off and you will hit the mat faster than an actual Tyson fight. On you’re game though, it’s sublime.
Now why these two together? Simply put it is the scratching of a particular, singular itch. Both Pumking and Punch-Out!! are their own thing. And in completely saturated markets like craft beer and video games, that fact is increasingly rare. For me in particular, these two things bring immense joy when it’s the right time. They make happy in ways that few things can. I often like to enjoy them together for maximum itch scratching. And you should too, when the mood strikes. What are your thoughts though? Follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @geekadedan, and let me know what you think.