Every fall, we see a stark division among beer drinkers. Like cilantro, blue cheese, and Maroon 5, pumpkin beer is either loved or despised. There are no shades of gray here. Even in a community where IPA fans and haters are equally vehement, no beer style is as divisive as pumpkin brews.
Jeremy Allen, bartender at MiniBar in Los Angeles, sums up his distaste for the style by referencing the classic slasher movie Scream.
“Don’t answer the phone,” he says. “Don’t open the door! Don’t try to escape. You see what happened to Drew Barrymore in Scream? We tried to warn you, but you still wouldn’t listen. Who’s laughing now?”
Nathan Matusiewicz, bartender at Pajarito in Minneapolis believes that, while pumpkin beer works in theory, it rarely translates to a great tasting product.
“Pumpkin and beer reminds me of any time I hear about truffle oil being added to a dish,” he says. “On paper, it sounds like a genius no brainer amalgamation until you taste it and say: ‘I didn’t imagine it could taste so bad!’”
But while the anti-pumpkin movement is out in full force yet again, that doesn’t mean there aren’t folks who look forward to this style every autumn. To find a few beers that even pumpkin haters might want to test, we asked a handful of bartenders to tell us their picks for pumpkins beers that actually aren’t trash.
Two Roads Roadsmary’s Baby
Nico Diaz, owner of CRFT Cocktail Catering Service in New Hope, Pennsylvania
The only pumpkin beer I’ve ever tried without immediately wanting to throw it away was Roadsmary’s Baby by Two Roads. It’s aged in rum barrels, giving it flavors of vanilla and caramel, on top of the pumpkin.
Marble Pumpkin Noir
Timmie Hoffman, bartender at Salt7 in Delray Beach, Florida
The one and only Marble Brewery’s pumpkin Nior. It is brewed with pumpkin and yams and the flavor is not lacking. It also has incredible spice flavors but it’s not too overwhelming.
This is a darker beer that is rich and creamy and tastes like they packed fresh (not fake) pumpkin, yams, spices, and caramelized sugar into all the cans. It’s seriously incredible.
Eli Privette, bartender at Dogwood: A Southern Table in Charlotte, North Carolina
Noda Brewing Gordeous — a sour pumpkin beer that to me is as good as they get. This Gold Medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival is full of real pumpkin, brown sugar, and a proprietary spice blend.
Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
Meredith Barry, executive beverage chef of Angad Arts Hotel in St. Louis
Schafly’s Pumpkin Ale still tastes like a beer and not like liquid pumpkin pie. That’s pretty much the best way to differentiate between good and bad pumpkin beers.
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
Benjamin Burch, bartender at The Nolen in San Diego
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. This is one of the classics in the style and they just get it right. It is super well-balanced. It incorporates the spices and pumpkin so well, but it still tastes like beer. And most importantly? I can drink a couple of them and still like them.
Punkin Ales aren’t too alcoholic, they aren’t too sweet, they don’t have too much spice. It’s just beer done right.
New Holland Ichabod
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The spirit board spelled out "Ichabod" so I popped open a bottle! IMHO, the BEST pumpkin ale ever!!!! #pumpkin #pumpkineverything #beer #beer🍻 #beerporn #autumnal #autumn #autumn🍁 #autumnseason #fall #fall🍁 #fallseason #fallbeer #pumpkinale #ichabod #newhollandbrewing #newhollandichabod #ouija #ouijaboardsays #ouijaboard #spiritboard
Rebecah Hunter, bartender at The Monarch Club in Detroit
New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale from Holland, Michigan. The taste is not the overly malty potpourri that some would expect of a pumpkin-spice beer. That’s a good thing.
Eva Al-Gharaballi, bartender at Datz in St. Petersburg, Florida
I have been drinking Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale for years. This pumpkin-wheat ale is crisp and refreshing while giving you all of the cinnamon and spice that you want out of a fall beverage. I prefer to drink it in a chilled glass with a caramel and cinnamon-sugar rim.
Elysian Night Owl
Mig Feliciano, head bartender and mixologist at the Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles
Night Owl by Elysian Brewery out of Seattle, Washington is a great pumpkin beer. It’s surprisingly not heavy and the pumpkin flavor doesn’t overpower it. It’s perfect for a Halloween party, thanksgiving, or if you just love pumpkin.
Dope name for a beer too.
Southern Tier Warlock
Damian Langarica, head bartender at a.bar in Philadelphia
For this one, I’m going to go with Southern Tier Brewery, which makes two types of pumpkin beers. Pumking, for those who really love that pumpkin pie flavor, and the Warlock, an imperial stout brewed with pumpkin and spices, for those who are looking for more richness and sweetness
Saint Arnold Pumpkinator
Emmanuelle Massicot, assistant GM and beverage director of Kata Robata in Houston
Saint Arnold’s Pumpkinator. I consider this the OG of pumpkin beers, especially as a Houstonian. And as an imperial stout, the combination with the pumpkin gives it a pleasant richness.
Samuel Adams Jack-O
Marta De La Cruz Marrero, food and beverage supervisor of Burlock Coast in Fort Lauderdale
Samuel Adams Jack-O because it’s very smooth and has a roast sweetness, light hop character. It’s just a great fall beer. Bonus points because the pumpkin flavor isn’t overwhelming.
Elysian The Great Pumpkin
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**NEW TAP ALERT** Elysian The Great Pumpkin. We were able to get our hands on only 1 barrel of this hard to get Pumpkin Ale. Roasted pumpkin seeds in the mash with extra pumpkin added along with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and all spice make this beer hands down one of the most flavorful Pumpkin Ales out there. Extremely limited availability. Grab a pint fast before it’s gone!! #elysianthegreatpumpkin #fallbeer #pumpkinales #broadwaybrewhouseohio #21beersontapattgebrew
Tommy Ergle, bar manager at Dr. BBQ in St. Petersburg, Florida
One of the only pumpkin beers I grab at the store is Elysian’s The Great Pumpkin. They actually use locally sourced pumpkins in their mash for this beer that really gives it such a fresh, unmatched fall-flavor profile.