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Pumpkin beer is everyone’s fall obsession, but these ales actually taste good

Some pumpkin ales aren't really that great, but these are

Cigar City Brewing Good Gourd Pumpkin Ale
Cigar City Brewing

There are certain annual indicators that show that fall is here. One is (if you live somewhere that has seasons) the leaves on trees begin to turn from green to yellow, gold, red, and orange before eventually slowly tumbling to the ground. The other thing is massive Halloween candy displays weeks (if not months) before the holiday takes place (not to mention the Halloween costume pop-up stores). The last is pumpkin-spiced everything, specifically pumpkin beers.

As beers go (not just seasonal beers), few have as much of a love/hate relationship in the beer world as the pumpkin beer. Just like drinkers either love or completely despise bitter West Coast IPAs, they either eagerly look forward to their favorite brewery’s seasonal pumpkin ale or they dread it.

This is because there’s a fine line between seasonally spiced, delicious pumpkin beer and over-the-top, cloyingly sweet, air freshener beer. Luckily, while many beers fit into the latter category, there are also quite a few that fit into the former. We’re talking about pumpkin beer from Southern Tier, Weyerbacher, Hardywood, and others. Beers like Noda Gordgeous Pumpkin Ale, Shipyard Pumpkin Head, and others. Keep scrolling to see some of our favorites.

Noda Gordgeous pumpkin beer
Noda Brewing

Noda Gordgeous Pumpkin Ale

Noda Gordgeous has racked up a ton of awards over the years. This includes a Gold Medal at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival. The main thing that sets this complex, flavorful beer apart from others is the fact that it doesn’t incorporate cinnamon or nutmeg (two spices many other brewers lean into heavily). It begins with real pumpkins that are mashed to create the base for this amber ale. It does have spices, including cloves, allspice, cardamom, and even real ginger root. The result is a 6.4% ABV full-flavored, lightly spicy seasonal sipped you’ll go back to year after year.

Weyerbacher Imperial pumpkin ale

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

If you were to take a poll of brewers, bartenders, and pumpkin beer fans and ask them to tell you their favorite pumpkin beer, you’d get a lot of people answering with Weyberbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale. This highly beloved seasonal release is a potent and warming 8% ABV. It’s known for its rich, sweet, borderline indulgent flavor profile featuring roasted pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, and clove. It’s as close to a warming pumpkin pie in a pint glass as you’ll ever get. Crack one (or more) open on a cool fall evening and enjoy the vibrant, abundant foliage. You’ll be glad you did.

Hardywood Farmhouse Pumpkin

Hardywood Farmhouse Pumpkin

With a name like Hardywood Farmhouse Pumpkin, you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re about to get into when you crack one open. This isn’t your average pumpkin ale. This 8.5% seasonal favorite is brewed with wheat, barley, rye, floral hops, and Saison yeast. On top of its funky, yeasty farmhouse flavor, it gets its seasonal flavors from the addition of roasted pumpkins, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. If you’re looking for something different this fall, look no further than Hardywood Farmhouse Pumpkin. It’s a great flavorful beer to bridge the gap between warm early fall weather and cool late autumn weather.

Southern Tier Brewing Company Pumking
Southern Tier Brewing Company

Southern Tier Brewing Company Pumking Imperial Ale

Sipping this beer, it’s easy to wonder why all in the style aren’t done as an imperial. Pumpkin wants to be rich, and it takes a bigger beer to match that heft. It’s the product of two kinds of hops and two kinds of malts, with a delicate bit of bitterness. On the palate, there’s pecan, pie crust, and allspice. It truly is a king among pumpkin beers. Fans of this beer should know there are nitro and coffee riffs as well.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
Dogfish Head

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Dogfish Head is as reliable as they come, whether you’re looking for a quality IPA or seasonal vegetable beer. It’s technically a brown ale, offering plenty in the way of molasses notes. It’s a tried-and-true recipe that goes back to 1994, back when the brewery was entering local competitions. Get it early and often, as it tends to sell out by late November.

Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Beer.

Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale

A member of the pumpkin beer old guard, the Night Owl claims to be the planet’s first imperial pumpkin ale. It excels not only in its reliable nature but the tidiness of the spice additions. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice all join the batch but in perfect harmony.

Midnight Sun TREAT pumpkin beer label.
Midnight Sun Brewing Company

Midnight Sun TREAT Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter

An imperial chocolate pumpkin porter from Alaska, this beer is like craft beer’s equivalent of an involved Starbucks order, mid-fall. It’s a full sensory experience. If you know how to drink a brandy, pour it into a snifter or tulip glass and enjoy. For those looking for a decadent beer-themed treat this Halloween, this is your porter.

Prairie Pumpkin Kerfuffle beer can.

Prairie Pumpkin Kerfuffle

Who knew you could make a quality sour beer out of jack-o’-lanterns? Prairie proves you can, and in style. In fairness, it’s also an English strong ale, but there’s a tart and vegetable quality, which are signature elements of most sours.

Harpoon Dunkin' Pumpkin beer bottle.
Harpoon Brewery

Harpoon Dunkin’ Pumpkin

In a real East Coast connection, Harpoon is known to collaborate with Dunkin’ Donuts. The beers aren’t always a hit (the blueberry matcha IPA was, well, strange) but they can be. This one is creamy and pumpkin-y, sweet enough to sub in for a slice of pie as a beer dessert.

Cigar City Good Gourd
Cigar City Brewing

Cigar City Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale

A good pumpkin beer out of Florida? Of course. Cigar City’s is hit with vanilla and nutmeg, among other things, and shows pleasant, caramelized flavors. It has all the hallmarks of pumpkin pie while still being medium and body (and stressing the crust as much as the filling).

Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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