Fall-themed food and drink options are already back on store shelves. Fall spices — like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg — are returning to cocktails and pumpkin is back in your lattes, air fresheners, yogurt, deodorant, and…Triscuits? Which means that it’s also time for pumpkin beer.
Like many of the other pumpkin-spiced products in your face as the weather turns, plenty of pumpkin-based beers are downright unpalatable. Cloyingly sweet and overly pungent — like novelty sodas. But there are a few well-balanced, subtle pumpkin-based beers on the market perfect for early fall.
Check out some of our favorites below.
Southern Tier Pumking
One of the best things about this 8.6 percent imperial ale is that it’s widely available. You shouldn’t have to do much searching or begging and borrowing to get your hands on a bottle. While we don’t normally like heavily spiced pumpkin beers, Pumking manages to offer both a nice burst of autumn vibes and an easy to drink, well-balanced ale.
Tasting Notes: This beer has been described as pumpkin pie in a bottle. It’s rich, with hints of allspice, vanilla, and cinnamon. It’s the kind of beer you’ll want to enjoy after a hearty fall dinner. Maybe even save a bottle to sip on after you finish dessert on Thanksgiving.
Upslope Pumpkin Ale
Upslope doesn’t need to razzle dazzle of fancy artsy cans to sell its beers. Every can of beer made by the brewery has the same, simple design with a color that coincides with the liquid inside. In this case, the can is orange, is adorned with the words “Limited Release” and the iconic Upslope logo. While the can is bland, the beer inside is anything but.
Tasting Notes: This 7.7 percent brown ale should be on your short list of fall beers to buy. Unlike some of the other pumpkin-based beers on this list, Upslope’s version doesn’t rely heavily on fall spices. It has all the usual suspects, but they’re more muted than in other pumpkin ales. Instead, you’re met with a heavy malt backbone with subtle sweetness with hints of vanilla cream soda and cinnamon, with just the right kick of bitterness at the end.
Cigar City Good Gourd
At this point, it seems like Tampa’s Cigar City can do no wrong. It’s Jai Lai is one of the best IPAs ever made and Good Gourd is one of the most highly anticipated beers each and every fall. If you only try one pumpkin beer this year, make it this 8.8 percent ABV imperial ale.
Tasting Notes: This beer takes fall spices to a new level with the likes of allspice, Zanzibar cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. It was created to taste like a slice of pumpkin pie and we can guarantee that they achieved their goal. It’s so rich and decadent you might just skip dessert altogether.
Seattle’s Elysian Brewing makes a handful pumpkin-based beers, but its best is the seasonal release called Punkuccino. This 6 percent ABV coffee pumpkin ale is well-balanced with pumpkin spices up front and a jolt of coffee at the back end. It’s the best way to get buzzed while you get buzzed this fall.
Tasting Notes: Instead of the usual pumpkin spices we’re used to, this beer packs a wallop of caffeine thanks to locally sourced Stumptown coffee. Hints of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg make way for subtly bitter coffee flavors along with rich chocolate and sweet vanilla.
New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin
New Belgium has churned out multiple versions of its Voodoo Ranger IPA (We love the Juicy Haze), so it was no surprise when it released a pumpkin-flavored version last fall. But, it was a little surprising that on top of the normal fall spices, the beer also contained habaneros. That’s right, a pumpkin beer with a kick of hot peppers.
Tasting Notes: First things first, we love this beer. It’s just not for everyone. If you don’t like a bit of heat in your fall beer, this isn’t for you. If you enjoy a subtle warming heat then hop onboard the Voodoo train. On top of habanero peppers, this beer is also spiced with Saigon cinnamon. The result is a warming fall beer with subtle pumpkin flavor and hints of ginger and vanilla, with a peppery finish.