Pumpkin beer might be the most divisive beer style of all time. When real, fresh pumpkins are used in the brewing process, it’s typically solid. When the earthy flavors of the harvested pumpkins are complemented by seasonal spices it’s often great. When it’s a fizzy, overly sweet, cloying, pumpkin spice-flavored carbonated drink that tastes more like air freshener than beer, it’s really really bad.
Like I said, divisive. Luckily, for every one of the orange-hued pumpkin spice duds on the market, there are a handful of highly-rated, well-rounded seasonal sippers.
Below, you’ll find eight of our favorite pumpkin beers that aren’t overly spiced, aggressively sweet, or otherwise unpalatable. In fact, they’re the exact opposite. These are some of the best examples of the style with the pumpkin taking center stage and the other flavors merely adding to the overall experience. Check these beers out below and enjoy your pumpkin-filled autumn.
8) New Holland Ichabod
Average Price: $10.99 for a six-pack
Named as a reference to “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” — pretty much the greatest Halloween story of all time — New Holland Ichabod is made with a base of real pumpkins, malted barley, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The result is a surprisingly sessionable, malt, sweet, slightly spicy fall beer.
The nose is a symphony of fall spices with cinnamon and cloves starting everything off. This is followed by sweet malts and ripe pumpkin. But… not much else. The palate is more caramel malts, freshly baked bread, vegetable pumpkin, cinnamon sugar, and just a hint of floral hops at the finish.
This isn’t a bad pumpkin ale. It’s just that it’s touted to be brewed with a malty backbone, but it’s dominated by seasonal spices and pumpkin. We could do with more malt to balance everything.
7) Elysian The Great Pumpkin
Average Price: $9.99 for a 22-ounce bottle
Many breweries only release one (if any) pumpkin ale. Seattle’s Elysian has been known to drop a handful depending on the year. One of its most popular is The Great Pumpkin. This imperial pumpkin ale is brewed with Cara-Hell, Pale, Munich, Cara-Vienne, Cara-Munich, and C-45 malts, as well as roasted pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.
It’s a rich, dark, malty seasonal sipper.
This beer’s nose is pumpkin beer through and through. Right away, there’s a hit of ripe pumpkin, nutmeg, and spicy cinnamon. There’s also a bit of dark chocolate and caramel corn. The palate is filled with more roasted pumpkin flavor, ginger, cinnamon, caramel malts, and a nice dry, slightly bitter finish.
This is a bold, slightly bitter, pumpkin-fueled stout. While pumpkin takes top billing, there are enough other flavors to marry everything together.
6) Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
Average Price: $13.99 for a six-pack
When drinkers think of St. Louis, a much larger brewery usually comes to mind. But just because the “King of Beers” is located there, beer fans shouldn’t discount much smaller Schlafly. Its Pumpkin Ale is brewed with real pumpkin along with nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove. It was brewed to taste like a piece of pumpkin pie, and it definitely hits its mark.
Complex aromas of caramel malts, butterscotch, cinnamon sugar, ginger, and roasted pumpkin are prevalent. Taking a sip reveals hints of bready malts, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, and cloves. The finish is warming and a nice mix of spice and sweetness.
This bold 8% ABV pumpkin ale is warming, spicy, and filled with sweet pumpkin flavor. It’s a great beer for a cool fall evening.
5) Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
Average Price: $10.99 for a four-pack
Brewed since 1995, this seasonal sipper isn’t your average pumpkin ale. It starts with a bold, robust brown ale that’s made with ripe pumpkin, brown sugar, and various seasonal spices. It’s warming, slightly spicy, and completely unforgettable.
This beer is all spice upfront. There’s a good deal of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and various other spices that pair perfectly with fresh pumpkin. The palate swirls with caramel candy, cinnamon sugar, more pumpkin, and a nice, warming, rich finish.
Dogfish Head fans eagerly await this fall seasonal beer every year. It’s warming, subtly spicy, and malty. A great beer to sip after a heavy fall meal.
4) Southern Tier Pumking
Average Price: $15 for a four-pack
This 8.6% imperial pumpkin ale is only available from August until October. It’s brewed with real pumpkin, various spices, two kinds of malts, two types of hops, and ale yeast. The result is a nutty, sweet, malty beer that tastes like fall in a pint glass.
The first aroma is that of crisp pie crust. This is followed by toasted vanilla beans, ripe pumpkin, and fall spices. Sipping it brings forth notes of vanilla, caramel candy, cinnamon sugar, sweet malts, and more pumpkin. The last sip is a nice mix of sweet pumpkin and autumnal spices.
This beer is so rich, sweet, and indulgent it could easily be a dessert beer. Pair it with actual pumpkin pie and see if the whole planet spins off of its axis.
3) Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Average Price: $12.99 for a four-pack
This award-winning imperial pumpkin ale sits at a stout 8% ABV. It’s brewed with a ton of malts, pumpkin, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves. The result is a rich, sweet, caramel, and pumpkin-spiced beer you won’t soon forget.
On the nose, you’ll find scents of cinnamon sugar, fresh pumpkins, nutmeg, cloves, and other autumnal spices. The palate is filled with pumpkin at the forefront as well as cinnamon, and caramel. A nice malty backbone pulls everything together.
There’s a reason this beer has won numerous awards. It’s a great balance of malts, pumpkin, and spices that you’ll look forward to every year.
2) Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale
Average Price: $12 for a six-pack
Many pumpkin ales are darker beers, think stouts and porters. This popular seasonal brew is a wheat ale base with pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and various other spices. This beer is so popular the Portland, Maine-based brewery didn’t even wait until the fall to release it this year. They dropped it in early August.
Before you first sip, breathe in the aromas of caramel candy, fresh pumpkin, cinnamon, and various other spices. The flavor is heavy on pumpkin. This is followed by caramel, nutmeg, cloves, and more spices. The finish is warming, sweet, and slightly spicy.
This is a beer for fans of pumpkin. It’s also a great beer for drinkers who plan to have more than one. Especially at a highly sessionable 4.5% ABV.
1) Cigar City Good Gourd
Average Price: $12 for a four-pack
This 8.8% imperial pumpkin ale is one of the most popular pumpkin ales for good reason. It’s brewed with pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and even vanilla. Like many brewers of the style, the folks at Tampa’s Cigar City set out to create a beer that tastes like a slice of pumpkin pie in beer form and the result is this rich, sweet beer.
The nose is loaded with scents of fresh, roasted pumpkin, cinnamon sugar, cloves, and pie crust. Taking a sip brings you flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon, ripe pumpkins, and caramel malts. It all ends with a nice sweet, slightly dry finish.
This is a complex beer. It’s bold, rich, sweet, and loaded with pumpkin flavors with a gentle dry, slightly bitter presence well-suited for fall sipping.
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