The desire for autumn beers can be an abrupt one, sometimes onsetting before the maple leaves begin changing to yellow, but those cooler end-of-summer days can still be perfect for brown ales, Oktoberfest beers, and of course, Pumpkin beers. Then again, if the retailers had it their way, we’d be trying to stomach that hearty pumpkin pie-like ale during the blistering summer heat when they hit store shelves during the far-too-early first week of July. (That’s a diatribe for another day.)
While pumpkin beers are certainly not for everyone, long have they been a favorite style of mine. It’s possible I love pumpkin beers because of my love for Thanksgiving and the rich, delicious food that goes with it, but it’s more likely due to the fact that fall is by far and away my favorite season. Whatever the reason, I’ve been on the hunt for that next pumpkin beer ever since I can remember and it’s lead me to create a list of the best I’ve encountered (and reviewed on BeerFM), but by no means is it exhaustive.
So, from one pumpkin beer lover to another, enjoy, and if you have access to a pumpkin beer you think should be featured on this list, I would love to trade for it!
#13: Long Trail Imperial Pumpkin
Score: 82 / 100
Long Trail’s Imperial Pumpkin is a big little beer. 8% alcohol is light and warming, caressed by roasted pumpkin and delicate spice with malt complexity at it’s core as it’s a simple and tame imperial pumpkin.
#12: Milwaukee Brewing Co. Sasquash
Score: 85 / 100
By the end of the fall season the obligatory rich pumpkin pie spiciness, though I love it, becomes over-used. Sasquash skips over the stereotypical pumpkin flavors and mashes it with sweet potatoes for a meal-like addition to a hearty, delicately roasted porter. This blend is a welcome departure from the usual, exploring new and exciting territory.
#11: Tyranena Painted Ladies
Score: 86 / 100
Tyranena has crafted a wonderful pumpkin ale that fits the fall bill almost perfectly, replicating a creamy pumpkin pie without overdoing the spice or pumpkin characteristics. Smooth and drinkable, this is a terrific fall treat.
#10: New Belgium Pumpkick
Score: 88 / 100
The presence of the pumpkin and spice is top-notch in Pumpkick, really landing in a flavorful-yet-drinkable zone that’s perfect for it’s late summer release – not too heavy or sweet but just right. Without a doubt, one of my go-to fall beers this year.
#9: Ithaca Country Pumpkin
Score: 89 / 100
One of the better, more balanced pumpkin beers out there this season, Ithaca’s Country Pumpkin is a refreshing, drinkable pumpkin beer that offers a hefty dose of pumpkin and spice but keeps it real with plenty of malt flavor balanced by subdued hops. A wonderful fall treat!
#8: Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin
Score: 89 / 100
Damn if this beer isn’t a perfect companion for a cool fall day. The upfront spice and pumpkin in the aroma is perfectly reserved in flavor which makes it quite sessionable. It’s one of the only beers of the style I could have multiple pints of without growing tired out quickly. Smooth and crisp, Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale is one of the quintessential fall seasonal beers!
#7: Southern Tier Pumking
Score: 90 / 100
“Bewitched and brewed with pagan spirit”, Pumking could be the quint-essential fall beer. Warm and soothing with alcohol, it’ll make you feel good on a cold day and really adds to the best season in the universe. Not overly spicy, more pumpkin does the work in developing that sought-after pie-like flavor. Nicely balanced, this pumpkin beer, while strong and assertive, still carries beer characteristics with it.
#6: Lakefront 25th Anniversary Imperial Pumpkin
Score: 91 / 100
Bottled the day of this review, a confession that the brandy is a little heavy is in order, though, that’s relative considering some barrel aged beers don’t get this smooth with out a minimum of two years of age on them. This imperial pumpkin sets the bars for pumpkin beers up a notch with it’s wonderful lagering, interweaving the sweet malty base together with the pumpkin and spice beautifully. The addition of vanilla and ingeniously choosing brandy barrels for aging this imperial pumpkin puts the finishing touches on a beer that will not only fly off the shelves but reward those who are patient enough to wait for the coldest days of fall to indulge.
#5: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
Score: 92 / 100
Completely cohesive from start to finish, Dogfish Head Punkin Ale manages, almost effortlessly, to take a nice and malty brown ale with gentle hoppy earth tones. A perfect beer for the season, they integrate real pumpkin and spice all while maintaining the bottom line; it’s still a beer. I personally prefer my pumpkin ales a little more pumpkin-rich, but this beer is absolutely outstanding and warrants a try from anyone who’s not yet enjoyed it.
#4: Stevens Point Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale
Score: 93 / 100
Perfect for the cooler fall days, Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale is pumpkin pie in a glass; as it warms up, so too do you with it’s inciting aroma, delectable flavor, luscious mouthfeel and complex, warming finish. If it’s a rich pumpkin ale you crave, this one is not to miss and make sure you keep some on hand for Thanksgiving, as it almost certainly requests a pairing with the classic turkey dinner.
#3: Lakefront Pumpkin Lager
Score: 95 / 100
Lakefront Pumpkin Lager is a exceptionally crafted pumpkin beer that takes the richness of pumpkin ale and drops it back a few notches, creating a great start-of-fall beverage that’s still drinkable and refreshing in warm weather but, with the pumpkin and spice, remains great when it cools down. Also a good “beginner” pumpkin beer for those who want to get their feet wet, and one of my personal favorites of the season!
#2: Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
Score: 95 / 100
If it’s a liquid dessert you’re looking for, look no further than Schlafly Pumpkin Ale; it might as well be liquefied pumpkin pie. Heavier than the normal pumpkin beer, it’s got an understated kick with a finish that pulls you right back in. This is one fall treat that is not to be missed!
#1: Cigar City Good Gourd
Score: 98 / 100
In a sea of pumpkin beers released all too early, Good Gourd stands head and shoulders above the crowd. Good Gourd has a wonderful familiarity like that pie mom always makes at Thanksgiving, but this time it’s tweaked, Cigar City’s use of intercontinental spice give Good Gourd a truly one-of-a-kind aroma and flavor. If you can get it, make this the one must-try pumpkin beer of the season.
P.S., yes, those were 311 references you read.