In case you haven’t been to a grocery store/Starbucks/shopping mall or on the internet recently, it’s officially pumpkin season! With Halloween right around the corner, so many foods are now available in pumpkin flavors: coffee, chocolate, crackers, ice cream, tea, pastries, pasta sauce, breakfast cereal, etc. I’m here to tell you about just one: beer. Yes, I tried all the pumpkin beers so that you can try the best. You should’ve seen my roommates’ faces when I came home from the Beer Cellar, my arms full of deliciousness.
First, a little background on my preferences: I prefer complex, flavorful beers, especially if those flavors include hoppy, sour, or malty. I’d pick ambers and IPAs over scotch ales and lagers. Additionally, I don’t feel high levels of sweetness really belong in beers- if you want something sweet, just eat a chocolate bar! Anyway, if you do like sweet beers, take my opinions with a grain of salt (see what I did there?). Here are the beers, in alphabetical order:
Photo courtesy of Blue Moon Brewing Co.
The Beer: Harvest Pumpkin Ale
Brewery: Blue Moon Brewing Company – Golden, CO
Alcohol Content: 5.7%
My Rating: ∗∗
Description: An enjoyable beer with the crisp sweetness you’ve come to expect from Blue Moon. Solid pumpkin spice flavor, but a little too syrupy for my tastes. It’d be hard to drink more than 1 of these in 1 evening. Pairs well with leggings-as-pants, a North Face jacket, and Uggs.
The Beer: Hey! Pumpkin
Brewery: Denver Beer Company – Denver, CO
Alcohol Content: 5.4%
My Rating: ∗∗
Description: The employees at the Beer Cellar recommended I mix Hey! Pumpkin with Denver Beer Co’s Graham Cracker Porter (also pictured above) for a fuller fall effect. I tried Hey! Pumpkin alone first. The pumpkin flavor was a subtle one; it tasted more like a typical brown ale. The Graham Cracker Porter was also understated in its graham-crackeriness. Adding it to the mix introduced some deeper, smokier flavors. Overall the beers felt somewhat watered down to me. I could see how they might be better when paired with certain foods (pumpkin pie, perhaps?) or while sitting at a campfire, draped in a flannel blanket, after a day spent frolicking through fall leaves. If you value drinkability in your beers, these might be for you.
The Beer: Pumking
Brewery: Southern Tier Brewing Company – Lakewood, NY
Alcohol Content: 8.6%
My Rating: ∗∗∗∗
Description: If you want your pumpkin beer to remind you of a slice of pumpkin pie and a spoonful of whipped cream, this one fits the bill. Not too sweet, not too strong, and plenty drinkable. The sweetness comes with a hint of maple syrup but is balanced by a deep, almost musky flavor that evokes fall. Pairs well with a Trader Joe’s Crispy Crunchy Ginger Chunk cookie, I must admit.
The Beer: Pumpkick
Brewery: New Belgium Brewing Company – Fort Collins, CO
Alcohol Content: 6.0%
My Rating: ∗
Description: This beer’s defining characteristic is also why I dislike it- the zing of cranberry juice. I like cranberry under normal (read: sauce & pie) circumstances, but the cranberry in Pumpkick makes it too fruity for me when, I think, pumpkin is more of a squash flavor. I could see cranberry working really well in a sour beer or a kolsch, but I prefer my pumpkin beer on the pumpkin-y side.
The Beer: Pumpkin Patch Ale
Brewery: Eddyline Brewing – Buena Vista, CO
Alcohol Content: 5.78%
My Rating: ∗∗∗
Description: Here is some full-on, unabashed pumpkin flavor for ya! This seasonal beer comes in a pint-sized (literally) can. It tastes fairly light compared to other pie-inspired pumpkin beers, and I didn’t find it to be syrupy at all. Pairs well with various low-key activities including but not limited to cooking dinner, watching YouTube videos, and petting a dog. (Important note: Matt professed to dislike this one, but drank the whole can anyway. Waste not, want not.)
Photo courtesy of @almanacbeer on Instagram
The Beer: Pumpkin Pie de Brettaville (Farm to Barrel series)
Brewery: Almanac Beer Company – San Francisco, CA
Alcohol Content: 7%
My Rating: ∗∗∗∗∗
Description: If you’re a fan of sour beers, this is the pumpkin beer for you. Unfiltered fermentation at its finest, I was pleasantly surprised by the complexity of flavors in this one. The beer’s bitterness is definitely at the forefront, but behind that lies a mysterious layer (veil?) of pumpkin and spices like cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and ginger. As this only comes in 375ml bottles, either find a fellow pumpkin/sour beer-lover, or get cozy because this will take care of the rest of your night. #stayingin
Photo courtesy of Avery Brewing Co.
The Beer: Pump[KY]n
Brewery: Avery Brewing Co. – Boulder, CO
Alcohol Content: 15%
My Rating: ∗∗
Description: Yep, you read that right- 15%. Matt and I split this 12oz bottle and it was still intense. Why so strong? Well, the “KY” in the name is actually a reference to the land of bourbon, Kentucky. Pump[KY]n started out as a mere pumpkin beer, but then was elevated to the 15% level by virtue of being aged in bourbon barrels. The porter flavor is definitely still there underneath a light layer of maple/battery acid. If that’s not what bourbon reminds you of too, this beer may suit you better than it did me. Avery has a similar pumpkin beer available this season as well, called Rumpkin. Guess where that batch was aged!
The Beer: Punkin Ale
Brewery: Dogfish Head – Milton, DE
Alcohol Content: 7.0%
My Rating: ∗∗∗∗∗
Description: I admit I’m a little biased because I love everything Dogfish Head brews, but this is just a fun beer to drink, folks. A little maple, a little molasses, a little spice, a lot pumpkin. I’m also partial to amber ales, and this one strikes me as a pumpkified amber. Pairs well with contemplating life- also cheese and potatoes.
I’m still mourning Alaskan Brewing Company’s decision to replace last year’s amazing pumpkin porter with this fall’s coffee brown ale. That one got five stars in my book, too. Any good pumpkin beers I missed? Let me know! Happy fall, y’all- cheers!