Make a toast to fall with these delicious spiced pumpkin beers! Did your favorite make the list?
Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere, and Many A Drop to Drink
Every year, more and more breweries are jumping on the pumpkin train. Ales, porters, stouts, and IPAs, there’s a pumpkin beer for every taste and style. With an eye to how the market has expanded over the last couple years, my team and I decided to dive in and do some research. What beers taste like pumpkin or do they just taste like spices? What limited edition brews should you seek out, and which ones should you avoid? And of course, which ones just taste fantastic all around?
Read on to find out my favorite pumpkin beers this fall, and head out to your local bottle shop for a selection of brews to enjoy over Halloween and Thanksgiving this year.
Special Note: Due to quantity, distribution, and (to be honest) budget, I certainly couldn’t try every pumpkin beer out there in time for this post. Feel free to comment below with your favorite regional or local craft brew!
My Favorite Pumpkin Beers
When ranking these beers, I focused on specific things: actual pumpkin flavor, the combination of spices, and overall drinkability. These are the beers I’d recommend to friends and family alike:
Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ales: Big surprise, this spirits-lover has a weakness for barrel aged beers. Each of the following three brews were full of deep flavor and subtle sweetness, amplified by the type of liquor barrel it was aged in. These are not gimmicky beers – they are genuinely tasty (high ABV) brews I’ll look forward to in years to come:
- Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Aged (Lexington Brewing): A very tasty, straightforward ale. Tastes of roasted pumpkin with only a touch of booziness from the bourbon.
- Brandy Barrel Aged Spiced Imperial (Lakefront Brewery): This spiced imperial ale is fabulous. It has strong flavors of vanilla and molasses along with the subtle brandy and pumpkin flavors.
- Rum Barrel Aged Belgium-Style Farmhouse (Hardywood): One of our absolute favorites from the tasting was Hardywood’s Farmhouse Pumpkin Ale aged in rum barrels. The original ale is good on its own, and this version is even better. While mellow and sweet, it comes in at 12.3% ABV. The large bottle is perfect for sharing. In contrast, I think their standard Farmhouse Pumpkin Ale is perfect for someone that isn’t sure about pumpkin beers – its tart but not bitter, with a little taste of wheat.
Pumpkin Ale (Schlafly St. Louis Brewery): This cinnamon-forward pumpkin ale is perfect for fall, and would make a lovely addition to your Thanksgiving table this year. With a strong taste of pumpkin squash along with the spice, its a delicious and well-balanced beer in a class of its own.
Punkless Dunkel Pumpkin Wheat Ale (Neshaminy Creek): For those unfamiliar, “Dunkel” is a style of dark German beer known for its smooth, malty flavor. Punkless Dunkel is a beautifully done wheat ale with the roasty sweetness of good squash. This is a great choice for drinkers that like medium bodied or amber ales.
Pumking Nitro Imperial Pumpkin Ale (Southern Tier): Southern Tier is well known for its fantastic family of Pumking beers, and this Nitro Imperial Ale is one of the newer additions. The creamy, smooth qualities found in on-tap nitro beers is preserved perfectly in the can, and the pumpkin flavors are lightly sweet and spiced for a very refreshing brew.
Trick or Treat Chocolate Pumpkin Porter (Evil Genius): Decadently rich and silky smooth, this chocolate really comes through in this full-bodied dark ale. Save this one for a late-night meal on a cold night.
Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale (Cigar City Brewing): This one gets a few bonus points for such a ‘punny’ name. While a little perfumey upfront, the pumpkin flavor takes over for a smooth brew.
Spooky Tooth Imperial Pumpkin Ale (Fat Head’s Brewery): This was the first beer we tried in our tasting, and therefore ended up being a bar we judged everything else against. Spooky Tooth is a mild mix of light pumpkin and hops with a clean finish. It’s very refreshing, and is another one I’d offer to any pumpkin-haters in your crew.
There really is a pumpkin beer for everyone, and while the above suit my taste preferences best, there were quite a few more that I’d recommend. Anything by Southern Tier is a good choice, and Shipyard makes reliably tasty pumpkin beers every year. A few others that didn’t quite make the list are Nitro Pumpkin Spice Latte (Breckenridge Brewery), Master of Pumpkins (Tröegs Independent Brewing), Pumpkin Ale (Second Sin Brewing), and Jacques Au Lantern (Evolution Craft Brewing). As for ones to avoid, Harpoon’s UFO Pumpkin and Spellbound Brewing’s Pumpkin Ale were both far too bitter for my taste.
More Tasty Pumpkin Potables
Not a beer drinker? There are still plenty boozy pumpkin spice options for you on the shelves:
- REBEL Pumpkin Spice Hard Latte (Twelve5 Beverage Company): I was not prepared for how good this stuff is. It has all the smooth creaminess of a good canned latte, a blend of pumpkin spice, and a kick of alcohol. Perfect for camping and midday sipping.
- The Gourd Tree (Josephsbrau Brewing Co.): Exclusive to Trader Joe’s, this is a very nice, clove-forward apple and pumpkin cider. It’s surprisingly tasty and worth a try.
- Pumpkin Patch (Swilled Dog Hard Cider): Chai spices and fresh pumpkin are mixed with sweet and tart apples for this semi-sweet cider. Despite its very mead-like qualities, it manages to be sweet without being cloying. Nutmeg really shines in this recipe.
- Pumking Whiskey (Southern Tier Distilling): And of course, straight liquor is always an option, and I have some serious thoughts on this sweetly spiced flavored whiskey in a post from earlier this fall.
Host Your Own Beer Tasting
Stuck at home this fall? Why not host a small pumpkin beer tasting with your housemates or a socially distant virtual event with friends and family?
In person tastings are easy – just split your favorite cans or bottles into individual tasting cups and serve one at a time. Online, make a list of three to five brews for the guests to pick up in advance of the event, and enjoy together as you share your thoughts over video chat. Even if everyone can’t find the same things, you’ll still have a fun conversation.
Cheers to the invasion of pumpkin!
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