When the weather cools down and people start breaking out sweaters and scarves, breweries start breaking out the pumpkin beers.
So after sampling a number of seasonal releases — and with a little help from craft beer authority RateBeer.com — we came up with the 15 best pumpkin beers you won’t want to miss out on this fall.
15. SHOCK TOP — Pumpkin Wheat (5.2% ABV)
Say what you will about Shock Top, but the company known for its Raspberry Wheat and Lemon Shandy beers actually makes a decent pumpkin beer. The Pumpkin Wheat is slightly acidic in a way that’s reminiscent of orange juice, yet malty with a mild pumpkin flavour.
14. HEARTLAND — Imperial Smiling Pumpkin Ale (8% ABV)
Heartland Brewery partnered with Brooklyn’s Greenpoint Beerworks and KelSo Beer to concoct this dark amber-coloured imperial pumpkin ale. It’s well-spiced and only slightly bready, a bigger and better version of the standard 5.5% ABV Smiling Pumpkin Ale.
13. HARPOON — UFO Pumpkin (5.9% ABV)
Strong aromas of cinnamon and spice are the first thing you’ll notice about this beer, a seasonal addition to Harpoon’s UFO (UnFiltered Offering) series. Pumpkin beers are notorious for being bready and heavy in body, but Harpoon’s UFO Pumpkin is surprisingly light and clean for a pumpkin beer. It’s perfect for one of those warmer fall days.
12. CONEY ISLAND — Freaktoberfest (6.6% ABV)
Freaktoberfest is a roasty, dark orange pumpkin beer brewed with espresso beans. Sounds like an odd combo, but if you drink pumpkin spice lattes, this makes sense. Freaktoberfest received poor marks on RateBeer, but I personally liked this unusual beer and was surprised, with such strong flavours preset, how easy and enjoyable this was to drink.
11. SCHLAFLY — Pumpkin Ale (8% ABV)
This Saint Louis brewery makes its pumpkin beer with both pumpkin and butternut squash, creating an amber-coloured beer that screams fall. Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale is nicely spiced, with nutmeg front and center.
10. SOUTHERN TIER — Pumking (8.6% ABV)
Perhaps one of the best-known and most sought-after pumpkin beers on the market, Pumking pours clear orange. The beer itself, just like the bottle label, is a little bit different every year. This year’s batch is maltier but lighter on spices than last year’s version, which I enjoyed more, and most agree that the 2011 was still the ‘king’s best year.
9. CIGAR CITY — Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale (8.5% ABV)
Good Gourd is like pumpkin pie à la mode in liquid form. This imperial pumpkin ale from Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing incorporates Ceylon cinnamon, Zanzibar cloves, allspice, and nutmeg to make a spicy and exotic pumpkin beer.
8. AVERY — Rumpkin (16.7% ABV)
Each September, Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, Colorado, releases Rumpkin, a mega imperial pumpkin ale aged for four months in rum barrels. Rumpkin usually ranges in ABV from 15-18%; this year it finished at a whopping 16.7%. Richly spiced and boozy, it’s a good idea to share this one.
7. ELYSIAN — Night Owl Pumpkin Ale (5.9% ABV)
Night Owl is a light-bodied, generously spiced, but easy-to-drink beer brewed with with nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Elysian Brewing also makes a number of other pumpkin beers, including their Dark O’ The Moon Pumpkin Stout and The Great Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale.
6. ITHACA — Country Pumpkin (6.3% ABV)
This hazy orange pumpkin beer from upstate New York is malty and nostalgic of fall. It’s light with a dry finish, and doesn’t punch you in the face with too much pumpkin.
5. MIDNIGHT SUN — T.R.E.A.T. Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter (7.8% ABV)
Just the name, T.R.E.A.T., says it all with this beer. The dark warmth that porters are known for blends perfectly with the breadiness of pumpkin and roasted cocoa nibs. Made by Anchorage’s Midnight Sun Brewing Co., the oak-aged version of this beer back in 2007 is still rated the best ever pumpkin beer by RateBeer.
4/3. ALMANAC — Dark Pumpkin Sour (7% ABV), and Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine (12% ABV)
This San Francisco brewery hit the ground running in New York last month, finally making its beers widely available to the Big Apple, including two exceptional pumpkin beers. The Dark Pumpkin Sour, a dark pumpkin beer soured in red wine barrels, is complex and appeals to multiple palates. The Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine is a soul-warming, wine-strength beer aged half in rye barrels and half in brandy barrels that draws out the sweetness of heirloom pumpkins.
2. DOGFISH HEAD — Punkin Ale (7% ABV)
Named for the annual Punkin’ Chunkin Festival in Lewes, Delaware, Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The smooth, brown ale is lightly carbonated and slightly sweet, with notes of cinnamon and brown sugar that don’t overwhelm.
1. STEVENS POINT — Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale (7.5% ABV)
Low in bitterness but high in flavour, Stevens Point Brewery’s pumpkin ale is medium-bodied and brings a subtle, apple-like tartness to the beer. The balance and complexity of the Wisconsin brewery’s Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale makes it the clear winner this year.
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