Some people seem to think we have reached our saturation point when it comes to pumpkin spice-flavored things, which seems pretty fair, actually, since you can now purchase everything from pumpkin spice lattes to pumpkin spice Oreos to pumpkin spice ChapStick to pumpkin spice dog treats. I get the backlash, I really do — but I refuse to be deterred by it! Autumn means one thing to me: pumpkin beer season, and oh, what a tasty, tasty season it has been.
I made a spreadsheet at the beginning of September to chart my months-long pumpkin beer tasteapalooza. Below are my findings, 25 pumpkin beers ranked from least awesome to most awesome, along with my verbatim tasting notes, which are mostly conversations between me and my girlfriend and/or me and my best friends.
25. Blue Point Pumpkin Ale (6% ABV)
“Eh, tastes like an Oktoberfest with some Allspice thrown in as an after thought.” “Yeah, I expected it to be a lot more syrupy, which would not have been better, but would have seemed more like a Blue Point fruit/veggie beer. Like their blueberry ale.” “That blueberry ale is a terrible beer, but it would make a fucking delicious pancake topping.”
24. Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat (5.2% ABV)
“Remember when your dad bought us those Shock Tops?” “He thought they were like the most exclusive craft beers on the market. I didn’t have the heart to be like, ‘Yeah, Shock Top is really just Anheuser-Busch, Dad.’ He loves Heineken, though. He thinks Heineken is world class.” “This tasted like any old Shock Top to me.” “Yeah. It’s whatever. It’s like the Budweiser of pumpkin beers.”
23. Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale (5.7% ABV)
“I don’t mind a Blue Moon if my choice is between it and whatever other MillerCoors thing.” “This is fine. I wouldn’t go out in the rain to buy a six pack of it, but I wouldn’t complain if it’s all we had in the fridge. I mean, I’d complain if that’s all we ever had in the fridge, but on a cold, rainy Sunday, it would do.”
22. Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale (5.7% ABV)
“Did you know the former mayor of Boston is named Sam Adams and he plays Kyle MacLachlan’s assistant mayor on Portlandia?” “Burn me once with tea, shame on me. Burn you twice in your own mouth, shame on everyone involved! “This beer was fine. Better than Blue Moon by juuuust a smidgen.”
21. Magic Hat Wilhelm Scream Pumpkin Ale (5.4% ABV)
“Does this taste kind of sour to you?” “I mean, kind of? But mostly it just tastes watered down. Like watered down pumpkin and spices.” “That’s too bad. Magic Hat is so good sometimes.” “And so average other times. I still love a Circus Boy on any warm day. Circus Boy is what keeps me coming back to Magic Hat. Wilhelm Scream would not, but the name is funny.”
20. Wolaver’s Organic Pumpkin Ale (5.35% ABV)
“This is okay. Not too sweet, not too spicy, not too malty, not too hoppy.” “It’s not bad, but it’s not exciting.” “Yeah, I’d rather taste a seasonal beer that’s trying too hard and failing than just showing up to the party with a shrug.”
19. Harpoon Pumpkin Cider (5.9% ABV)
“Wait, what? This is so good. How is this so good? This should be on the scale between ‘just okay’ and ‘kinda gross’ but it’s so good.” “First off, this is way better than Harpoon’s regular cider. The apples are more tart, like green apples.” “It should be too sweet, especially when you factor in the cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger that are in here, but it’s not too sweet at all. It’s actually refreshing. It’s a perfect fall time brunch drink, right out of the bottle.” “It’s not really beer, though.” “Who cares?”
18. Flying Dog The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale (9% ABV)
“This is like a dark, rich, creamy pumpkin bread, instead of a pumpkin pie. It’s earthy, but also sweet.” “I think you could pass this off as an imperial IPA if it didn’t say ‘pumpkin’ on the label.” “Yeah, I agree. This is a beer I would drink though all the cold weather days.”
17. Harpoon Pumpkin UFO (5.9% ABV)
“It was a good year for Harpoon. That grapefruit shandy was an awesome summer staple, and this is really solid too.” “I think those two beers have a lot in common. They’re light, but they still pack a flavor punch for your mouth. And they’re almost too sweet, but they manage to rein it.” “I wouldn’t seek this out, but I’d definitely drink it again.”
16. Terrapin Pumpkinfest (6.10% ABV)
“I may rank this one a little too high because I’m from Georgia and I have such a soft spot for Terrapin, especially their seasonal brews. They make the best peach beer on earth.” “No, it’s good! Just the right blend of spices and sweetness; it’s super drinkable.” “There’s nothing really interesting about it, but it could be a staple in the genre if Terrapin had a wider reach. It’s solid.”
15. Post Road Pumpkin Ale (5% ABV)
“Post Road should market this as a pumpkin ale that does not taste like other pumpkin ales.” “You’re right. I mean, it’s got all the standard pumpkin stuff but there’s a rye sourness or something that really sets it apart.” “I couldn’t drink a lot of these, but it is unique enough that I think it deserves to be praised. It’s not copycatting other pumpkins. It’s trying a different thing that mostly works.”
14. Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin (10.5% ABV)
“This is definitely the highest ABV of any pumpkin beer we’ve tried. It tastes very boozy, but in a nice way. It doesn’t taste cheaply boozy. It’s earning that ABV.” “Yeah, it’s like pumpkin pie with a dark brown sugar crust. Dark brown sugar and molasses. The high quality stuff.” “It’s like a pumpkin s’more!” “A pumpkin s’more that will leave you trolleyed after three bites.”
13. Great’ER Pumpkin (10% ABV)
“Cripes! How strong is this?” “10 percent and you can taste every bit of it. What I mean is it pours heavy and feels heavy in your mouth. It tastes heavy, but not syrupy, which is always the danger with beers like this.” “It tastes like what you’d think: pumpkin, spices, caramel, but the surprise is the tartness!” “It’s almost a cherry flavor. It’s good. This is a good damn beer.” “Are you drunk already?” “Kind of.”
12. Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale (8% ABV)
“Huh. This feels really light to have such a kickin’ ABV.” “In a bad way, do you think?” “No, in a dangerous way, like it doesn’t taste alcoholic, so a person would drink three and fall over.” “This would make a good dessert beer because it’s not so sweet that you’d go into a sugar coma if you had it with some pie.” “This would make a good dessert all by itself. I want to drink it from a snifter in front of a fire wearing a smoking jacket and a monocle.”
11. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale (8% ABV)
“It’s bizarre that this is one of Dogfish Head’s tamer beers, right?” “You can’t compare this to their 120 Minute IPA, though. That shit is like toffee-flavored whiskey.” “But the Punkin is like an IPA. A lot more like an IPA than the other pumpkin beers on shelves this season. A little sweet, a lot bitter, with a some ubtle spice undertones.”
10. Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale (5.84% ABV)
“This tastes the least like something from Starbucks’ fall menu, and I mean that in a nice way.” “It reminds me of the Dogfish Head Punkin because it’s a little more daring with the hops; it’s almost like a floral-based IPA.” “That’s true. It’s a nice break from the sweetness of other pumpkins. I love that flavor, but this late in the season, it can start to feel cloying.”
9. Schlafly Pumpkin Ale (8% ABV)
“What I loved about this is it has all the other pumpkin spices, but there’s something caramel-y and cinnamon-y about it also.” “Yes! There’s a distinct cinnamon bite at the end of it! It leaves a little burn in my mouth, which totally works!”
8. Anderson Valley Fall Hornin’ Pumpkin Ale (6% ABV)
“Best canned pumpkin beer of the season, hands down.” “Agree. This is one of the few pumpkins that I didn’t think would have benefited from being on draught. Good carbonation, perfectly balanced spice and sweetness, and weirdly less expensive than Blue Moon.” “I think we’re nearing a canned beer revolution.” “Oh, I hope so!”
7. Southern Tier Imperial Pumking (8.6% ABV)
“I don’t think Pumking is as good this year as it was last year. It’s kind of vanilla-heavy, and the mouthfeel is a little too thick. I’d like more pumpkin spice and less actual pumpkin.” “I agree, but I do think this is still miles ahead of most other pumpkin beers. And the ABV is outrageous, in a good way. But yeah, there’s something more medicinal about this batch than years past.”
6. Epic Fermentation Without Representation Pumpkin Ale (8% ABV)
“I don’t understand why there aren’t more pumpkin stouts and porters. This makes a pumpkin spice latte taste like the biggest joke.” “The color threw me — it is so dark! — and it actually smelled a little like licorice, which would have been a disaster in my mouth, but the taste is straight up dark chocolate and marshmallows and pumpkin and spices and vanilla and what else?” “I think that’s it. I think you nailed it. It’s a damn shame you can only buy Epic beers in Salt Lake City.”
5. Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin (9% ABV)
“Hubba hubba!” “I’ll say the flavors are nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and whiskey.” “Hahaha! Whiskey?” “This thing tastes boozy as hell, man. I mean, it’s delicious as all get out. Like pumpkin pie on performance enhancing drugs, but boooooozy. This is what Beyoncé was talking about when she said she was drunk in love.”
4. Two Roads Roadsmary’s Baby (6.8% ABV)
“The deal with this pumpkin ale is it’s aged in rum barrels, so in addition to the cinnamon, vanilla and pumpkin, you’re also getting oaky hard-boozin’ goodness.” “But caramel apples also, which seems like it would be weird, but is not weird at all.” “It tastes exactly like a fall festival feels.”
3. Southern Tier Warlock Imperial Pumpkin Stout (8.6% ABV)
“I’m shocked that Warlock is better than Pumking this year, but it totally is. If it were on Top Chef, Padma would be like, ‘Making an imperial pumpkin stout was an interesting choice. I thought the chocolate and malt notes would overpower the pumpkin flavor, but they balanced it out quite nicely. You’re lucky. This could have been disgusting. I could have spit it out.'” “And Gail Simmons is over there having herself another pint.”
2. Shipyard Pumpkinhead (4.7% ABV)
“Is this as good as we think it is, or are we remembering it too fondly because of our autumn time vacation to Maine?” “It’s as good as we think it is.” “Would you say it’s like cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin spice, and sour apple?” “Yes, and the secret ingredient of unpretentious deliciousness.” “Best served with a cinnamon-sugar rim.”
1. Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale (5.9% ABV)
“This is the best pumpkin beer I’ve ever had in my life.” “I know, baby, you’ve told me like 100 times.” “It’s like pumpkin pie with homemade filling and a homemade graham cracker crust. It’s creamy, but not like a cream ale. It’s malty, but not like a Doppelbock.” “You want to have this beer’s babies.” “I don’t deserve this beer’s babies.”
Now share your lists! What were your favorite/least favorite pumpkin beers this season?
I am so happy this exists! I have been hesitant to try the plethora of pumpkin beers but worried about being disappointed and having to force my way though the rest of the 6-pack especially since I have no one who enjoys pumpkin spice as much as I do in my life.
Any one want to go through the top 10 with me?!
OOO I’ve heard great things about the Elysian beer.
My favorite is Uinta’s Punk’n. Not too sweet, but it’s basically the best pumpkin taste I’ve ever had in a beer. Every time I see it in the store, i squeal a little bit.
I tried Elysian last week, I personally wouldn’t have made it number one on my list…although I’m not a big pumpkin beer fan. But it was pretty good.
It seems as though they (pumpkin ales) are getting better every year, I think when I think the early years (what five years ago the craze started?) they were way too sweet for me.
Delicious list! Haven’t had all the beers on ir but my favorite pumpkin beer IS on the list … The Anderson Valley Fall Hornin Ale.
I get paid on Friday and any money leftover after rent and cellphone is going to pumpkin beer. Priorities!
Pssst, you can also get Epic in Denver! And Fermentation Without Representation is absolutely the best pumpkin beer ever, period. My second favorite this year was Wasatch Black O’Lantern. The best thing about October is trying every pumpkin beer my beloved liquor store carries, especially if they are dark as fuck.
I am Upset that I can’t find Terrapin in Michigan.
I definitely want to try the Elysian ale and wish I could try Anderson Valley, but I don’t think we get that here. Has your girlfriend ever tried the New Glarus pumpkin beer? I think I like it but am not much of a pumpkin beer aficionado, so.
She’s never had that, but we’ll be in Wisconsin in a couple of weeks; maybe it’ll still be around! I like the New Glarus Spotted Cow pretty good!
Just returned from Madison for a four day amazing beer bender (I love their beer) with my best friend. Tried theirs, it was good and if you get the chance go to their brewery and take a tour, it’s really cool.
Don’t forget the Kwak!
According to their beer schedule (and god, do I love that they have a beer schedule), it should be around through December, so it looks like you’re in luck! http://newglarusbrewing.com/index.cfm/beers/beerschedule
(My favorite seasonal of theirs is Totally Naked, which is a lovely, light summer beer that is the only thing I will drink between the months of May and August, except for Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. I adjust my beer drinking seasonally.)
“It’s like pumpkin pie with homemade filling and a homemade graham cracker crust.”
Are you talking about my pumpkin pie? You’re talking about my pumpkin pie, aren’t you :)
I love you. :)
I know it’s not technically beer (or beer at all) buuut I love me some Pumpkin Woodchuck! I guess it’s because I’m not really a beer person.
Yasssss i ❤️ shipyard so much
This is cool! I like have these lists come out.
On a similar note, Team Nostalgia Chick has been doing something similar (in video form!). They’ve got a lot more, (40+??) but obvs a lot of crossover. I think they’d agree with a lot of this, except maybe the Shipyard Pumpkinhead.
Hell yes Shipyard was number five! I will say that I really enjoyed the Dogtoberfest this year it was absolutely awesome on tap.
Your commentary/review on Shock Top made me laugh out loud! My mom likes good beer but for whatever reason she drinks them and for the life of me I don’t know why.
This was awesome!
I made an account just to post this! I bought these three last night. If you haven’t had the other Elysian pumpkin beers, you should definitely try them. I haven’t tried the bourbon barrel one yet, but the alcohol content is 17% and it sounds fantastic.
Oh I’ve had the Avery one! I like it a lot! It doesn’t taste as overwhelmingly boozy as you’d think.
Oh BRAVO!!! Good list. Amazing list! Ive always been on the fence about trying pumpking ale/beer/drinks. Well im off to the store. Toodles!!
This is an awesome idea for a list! I’ve been mostly sticking to local microbreweries for my pumpkin beer this year, but I do love Dogfish Head Punkin a lot. My favorite non-local pumpkin I’ve had this year is DuClaw’s 31 (I know DuClaw’s can be pretty divisive as a brewery, but I love them) followed pretty closely by Long Trail Imperial Pumpkin. I’ve heard great things about the Elysian, though, so I’ll have to try that before the end of the season.
Unquestionably my least favorite pumpkin beer I’ve had this year was Block House Pumpkin Ale. That might be my general distaste for overly sugary beer, I admit, but wow, that stuff tastes like a liquefied pumpkin pie in the worst sort of way. It was so heavy on the cinnamon that I had to pour out the last half of the bottle. Also, on the subject of Shock Top, the only Shock Top I’ve ever liked is their chocolate wheat, but that could be because I had it on free draft sample while surrounded by a bunch of rich straight people, so just about anything drinkable with an ABV might’ve tasted amazing.
I bought Shipyard Pumpkinhead last week and I thought it was way too cinnamon-y. I guess it grew on me though.
Very happy to see Night Owl at #1, though I think Punkuccino is my favorite of Elysian’s pumpkin beer lineup.
This list needs more west coast/Rocky Mountain west beers though =P
I’m here to back up the Elysian love.But have you tried The Great Pumpkin? Soooo good!
I was almost afraid to read this list because I love autostraddle but I also really love beer. Nice job with this article… I would have died if Sam Adams was near the top :p
My favorites are punkin, warlock, pumking and schlafly. I keep hearing good things about night owl, but when I tried it, it was pretty watery and pretty terrible. Am I missing something here or did I just get a bad bottle?
Pumpkin beer is the best pumpkin thing (aside from actual pumpkin pie) although my pumpkin palate is somewhat unrefined since my mother detests pumpkin for whatever unholy reason and so I was 20 years old when I had both pumpkin pie and pumpkin beer for the first time.
Shipyard Pumpkinhead is wonderful and since I haven’t tried the #1 on this list, I’ll trust your judgement and smile for #2.
It’s disappointing that the Wilhelm Scream beer is so low. As a big fan of Star Wars and Ben Burtt (pretty much the sole designer of the soundscape of my young imagination), the Wilhelm Scream makes me smile every time I hear it or hear of it.
Shipyard Pumpkinhead is my patronus, probably.
I could talk pumpkin beers for hours. In fact I have talked pumpkin beers for hours! I’m right there with you on the Elysian. If you ever find yourself in eastern VA/DC area in the fall, you have to try Alewerks Pumpkin Ale. Less of the pumpkin spice and more malty sweet amber ale with rich pumpkin flavor and toasted pumpkin seeds in the finish. I’d kill for just one more….
I’m excited to try the harpoon cider. I find so many ciders way too sweet. I have celiac disease and read through this list with longing. Maybe next year there will be seasonal GF beer.
I am shocked at how highly you ranked Shipyard Pumpkinhead! It’s not even actually beer, just a malt beverage :-D …I am from Maine and everyone here is obsessed with it, I just don’t understand.
this is so beautiful
Wow! I’ve never been much into beer, but some of these sound pretty tasty.
So many Pumpkin beers, so little time!
Well now you’re making me want to actually try a pumpkin beer. *sigh* To be fair, my aversion to pumpkin is all about a misguided soup my ex once made, and not beer deliciousness. And I’ve only tried one pumpkin beer ever, many years ago, and I think it was Shock Top, which you’re telling me was a poor choice. Dammit, Hogan, now I need to know if I actually like it or not. Well, cheers! Here’s hoping when I do try it, I don’t get a salt and cinnamon rim! ;)
This is where it’s at!
I love the vanilla and pie crust flavors of Pumpking. I need to pick up a bottle before they’re gone.
I’m seconding the comment about Uinta’s Punk’n. It was not to spicy, not too sweet.
If you can get ahold of Woodchuck’s Private Reserve pumpkin cider, DO IT
Love the Woodchuck Pumpkin!
WHY DO I LIVE IN AUSTRALIA WITHOUT ANY OF THESE BEERS
LIFE IS SUPREMELY UNFAIR
Love this list! I just moved to Florida & have been subsisting on a diet of avocados and Cigar City. Haven’t been able to find their Good Gourd yet, but I’m on a mission.
So I stumbled on this post probably a couple weeks too late, but Traveller’s Jacko Pumpkin Shandy is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had. Their winter seasonal I don’t know the name of is on point as well.
Not a single Canadian one on the list. Sad, since we have a ton of great ones just in BC alone.
My lady and I have a friend that just started working for Elysian a few weeks ago. On Saturday, my girlfriend asked me to marry her (aaaaahhhhh!!!) and our friend gave us a case of Night Owl as an engagement present. Everything is wonderful.
happy engagement and pumpkin beer!
I once (like, 8 years ago) took a girl on a date to play croquet and have a flight of pumpkin beers at the Elysian, I think it was a late-September date.
She was not that impressed by me/the date but for years I have been like, fine, you don’t have to date me, but that date was an EXCELLENT suggestion, you must admit, lady-who-thinks-I-am-a-drunk-hussy-which-let’s-be-honest-she-wasn’t-wrong-but-I-think-makes-me-more-not-less-dateable. Especially with pumpkin beer involved.
The Sam Adams that appears in Portlandia as the mayor’s assistant is actually the real former mayor of Portland. Not Boston. (Although it would be pretty funny if Boston had a mayor named Sam Adams.) Also, Adams was the first openly gay mayor of a major US city. :)
With regard to the beers, I haven’t had many on this list, but I agree that Elysian’s pumpkin is fantastic. Best I’ve had this season, but I have a lot more pumpkin beer drinking to do.
I do not care for Dogfish Head’s Punkin. To me it just tastes like an ale w/ some spices in it, not like actual pumpkin.
We have Epic here in Denver. I’ll have to look for their pumpkin on the shelves.
Heather! Love ya! I am reading the entire back catalog of AS and saw this. I thought it said “pumpkin BEARS ranked” and clicked on it immediately hoping for something akin to ranked-by-lesbianism or some such. Alas, I am not particularly a beer gay so I am moving on…