It’s pumpkin season, people. The portly orange produce is invading everything these days, from your morning upper to post-dinner dessert. Soon enough, fall will give way to winter and the last remnants of pumpkin spice will fade as everyone swaps out the spice for peppermint. Until then, pumpkin beer it is.
Pumpkins have even infiltrated the beer realm, sometimes with not-so-desirable results. When done poorly, a pumpkin beer tastes like little more than a bunch of brown sugar and cinnamon hit with carbonation and alcohol. But the practice is so popular that there are some really tasty options out there, especially when combined with other ingredients in pumpkin coffee beer.
When executed properly, there’s balance and warmth, the vegetable notes playing off the bitterness of the hops and the sweetness of the malt. Similar to cooking with pumpkin, many of the best pumpkin beers involve dialed-in additions of spices, affording the beer a very autumnal, pastry-like quality. Here are seven pumpkin beers worth popping this fall. And keep in mind that a lot of these hover around 8% ABV, so sip leisurely, don’t chug.
Southern Tier Brewing Company Pumking
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 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
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
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
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
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
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).
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