Sure, the IPA has its haters (especially bitterly hoppy West Coast IPAs), but there are few beer styles as divisive has the annual fall release of the pumpkin beer. Maybe it’s because many drinkers want a “beer that tastes like beer” and not one that tastes likes a pumpkin pie or a Starbucks drink. Perhaps it’s because we are inundated with pumpkin spice-flavored soap, coffee, air fresheners, and a million other products beginning in mid-July and by fall we’re already tired of pumpkin, spice, and everything (not so, according to many) nice.
Either way, pumpkin beer makes people generally fall into one of two camps. You either love it and look forward to it each autumn or you despise it so much you get annoyed when you see breweries announcing it’s release and think of un-friending people on social media who post about it.
Yet for every over-the-top generic pumpkin and in-your-face seasonal spiced beer, there are a slew of balanced, flavorful beers that taste more like a crisp fall day than a store-bought, past-it’s-sell-by date pumpkin pie.
Cigar City Good Gourd
Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing is well-known for its Jai Alai IPA as well as a handful of other notable beers (including the highly sought-after Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout). But, when fall begins, it’s known for its well-balanced, flavorful Good Gourd. This imperial pumpkin ale is brewed with cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. It’s a warming 8.8 percent ABV and is loaded with flavors like raisins, toasted vanilla beans, roasted pumpkin, and fall spices.
Two Roads Roadsmary’s Baby
Rosemary’s Baby is a classic novel and 1968 film about a demonic baby. It only makes sense to name a spooky, autumnal beer in this terrifying story’s honor. Two Roads Roadsmary’s Baby is a classic pumpkin ale brewed with seasonal spices. It’s then aged in rum barrels along with vanilla beans to give it a complex flavor profile featuring roasted pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice, toasted vanilla beans, oaky wood, and a sweet rum finish. Best paired with a chilly night, a warm blanket, and a scary movie (not necessarily Rosemary’s Baby, but it’s not the worst idea).
Left Hand Nitro Pumpkin Spice Latte
This beer’s name is a quite a mouthful, but that’s just a hint at how flavorful the beer itself is. This is not your average pumpkin beer. This 5.5 percent pumpkin stout is brewed with dark roasted malts as well as pumpkin, coffee beans, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. It sounds complex and it is. Add the fact that it has a creamy, indulgent mouthfeel (due to the nitrogen) to go along with the massive amount of complimentary flavors and you have the makings of an epic pumpkin beer.
Noda Drop Dead Gordgeous
With a name like Drop Dead Gordgeous, you know you’re in for a treat with this seasonal favorite. This award-winning pumpkin ale brewed with real pumpkin puree as well as ginger root, brown sugar, allspice, cloves, and cardamom. Unlike many pumpkin beers on the market, Noda Gordgeous doesn’t have any nutmeg or cinnamon, allowing the other fall flavors to shine through. This fall favorite needs to be added to your seasonal list where it will likely remain for years to come.
Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin
Portland, Maine’s Shipyard is well-known for its Pumpkin Head Ale, but its Smashed Pumpkin is the real autumnal winner. This big and bold 9 percent ABV beer is brewed with pale ale, wheat, light Munich malts, and pumpkin. It gets its floral, noble hop presence from the liberal use of Willamette, Saphir, and Hallertau hops. It has a mix of light spices, roasted pumpkin, brown sugar, and floral hops. Try it side by side with the classic Pumpkin Head and see which one you prefer.
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale has been a fall staple since it was first introduced back in 1995. Named for the famous Delaware tradition called “Punkin Chunkin”, it’s a 7 percent ABV brown ale brewed with real pumpkin, brown sugar, and fall spices. The result is a complex, rich, sweet, fall beer loaded with caramel, brown sugar, roasted pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and other spices. It’s a warming treat if ever there was one. No need to launch pumpkins across a field to enjoy this one. But you can if you want to.
New Belgium Voodoo Atomic Pumpkin
This beer gets its name because this definitely isn’t your typical pumpkin ale. This 6.4 percent ABV pumpkin ale is brewed with ale yeast, Nugget hops, Pale, Munich, and Caramel 120 malts. But it’s the addition of cinnamon and habanero chili peppers that really give this beer a warming, seasonal zing. Drink it slowly on an unseasonably cool fall night and let the peppery heat warm you inside and out.
Saint Arnold Pumpkinator
The Terminator was a (seemingly) unstoppable humanoid robot. So, you can only assume that this beer is an unstoppable pumpkin-filled triumph. Well, that’s exactly what it is. First released in 2009, this popular season brew is made with pale two-row, caramel, and black malts as well as Cascade and Liberty hops. They add pumpkin, molasses, brown sugar, spices, and it’s even dry-spiced to guarantee a ridiculously flavorful beer. It really tastes like fall in a pint glass.
Troegs Master of Pumpkins
Troegs Maste of Pumpkins is as epic as the Metallica song it gets its name from. It all starts when Troegs sources more than 3,000 pounds of local pumpkins. They’re cleaned, cut, roasted, and pureed before being added into the mash tun along with Munich, Pilsner, and Special B malts. It’s also loaded with German Northern Brew hops and Belgian ale yeast. The addition of cinnamon, ginger, clove, and nutmeg make this a rocking fall beer you won’t soon forget. The result is a roasted pumpkin, vanilla, caramel, and gently spiced autumnal ale. Like many of Troegs’ beers (and Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin), this one only arrives once per year (and is only available from September to October).
Southern Tier Warlock
While Southern Tier Pumking gets all the press when it comes to pumpkin beers out of this popular New York State-based brewery, it would behoove you to broaden your horizons a bit and grab some Southern Tier Warlock. This seasonal spooky offering is an 8.6 percent imperial pumpkin ale. But it’s so much more than that. Brewed with 2-row pale, Munich, C60, debittered black, and chocolate malts as well as CTZ hops, pumpkin, and spices, it has a pumpkin pie and coffee aroma as well as a palate of sweet roasted pumpkin, chocolate, coffee, and gentle spices.