As the days get shorter, the longing for pumpkin everything grows greater.
These days, the gourd is enjoyed in coffee, pastries and even elegant pasta dishes. And the innovative craft brewing industry has long since seized on this fall harvest to produce a cornucopia of beer styles that celebrate pumpkin.
Like many modern beers, pumpkin ale is a resurrection of a historical style. Colonists in New England brewed a beer in which pumpkin served as a source of fermentable sugar (somewhat similar to cider), rather than as a star ingredient like today’s versions. By all accounts, the modern iterations are likely more enjoyable.
Of course, there remains a portion of the beer community that scoffs at the pumpkin beer craze. But like any ingredient, when pumpkin is handled by skilled artisans, the results are usually quite good. Here are 12 of our favorite pumpkin beers to drink this season.
Rogue Ales Pumpkin Patch (6.1% ABV)
Rogue maintains an expansive farm where they grow pumpkins and hops, both of which make a short trip from the soil to the bottle. Using those fresh ingredients have helped Pumpkin Patch beer win numerous medals, including Gold at the World Beverage Competition in 2018. In addition to fresh pumpkin and gentle hop flavors, there are familiar pumpkin pie notes like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, vanilla, ginger and nutmeg. But the kiss of citrus from orange peel gives the beer a lovely zing that makes it even better.
Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale (7% ABV)
Dogfish Head unveiled its Punkin’ Ale in 1995. “But its story begins back in 1994 at the World Championship of Punkin Chunkin, a legendary fall event that brings folks from around the world to the Delmarva area to see who could hurl a pumpkin the farthest,” Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Founder, says. “It was there that I entered my first-ever batch of pumpkin beer into a baking contest. It ended up winning first place—beating out a boatload of homemade pumpkin cookies, pies and cakes—and Punkin’ Ale as we know it was born. I even named the beer after the festival’s Punkin Chunkin competition.” This year’s version, which is the 25th iteration, enjoys a fresh look with artwork from artist Michael Hacker. The label pays homage to the brewery’s love of punk rock music. Meanwhile, the liquid inside remains highly coveted, a full-bodied brown ale made with real pumpkin meat, brown sugar, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon.
New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin (6.4% ABV)
For those who feel that pumpkin ales have grown dull, New Belgium came along and produced Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin with habanero, aji and del arbol peppers, as well as Saigon cinnamon. On the nose, there’s a healthy dose of pumpkin pie aroma, including a bit of pepper that immediately reveals the beer’s personality. Tasting notes of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg lead the way, offering sweetness and earthy spices. That habanero arrives at the finish, which gives the beer depth and will surely warm the soul on those chilly autumn days.
Southern Tier Brewing Company Warlock Imperial Pumpkin Ale (8.6% ABV)
Southern Tier doesn’t just produce pumpkin ales, but the brewery embraces pumpkin, celebrates pumpkin, champions pumpkin—they are all-in. And this year, you can purchase its Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale along with four variants: coffee, chai tea, rum barrel-aged and nitro. But nothing tops the brewery’s Warlock Imperial Stout with pumpkin and pumpkin spice. The beautiful marriage of robust stout and gourd receives high grades by both experts and amateurs beer geeks. With Warlock, flavors and aromas mirror a tasty pumpkin pie, along with stout notes that include roasted coffee and dark chocolate. Despite its complexity, the beer is silky smooth and finishes with a comforting sweet flavor.
Scorched Earth Brewing Crypt Keeper Pumpkin Porter (8.3% ABV)
Chicago-area brewery Scorched Earth produces a beer that’s a local favorite and appeals to those who love fall, Halloween, pumpkin flavors and robust porters. Crypt Keeper is a sumptuous dark beer with rich chocolate and coffee notes, along with pumpkin and warming spices. No flavor is hidden, yet none of them are overpowering, which makes for a superbly balanced brew.
Weyerbacher Brewing Imperial Pumpkin Ale (8% ABV)
As Weyerbacher notes, its pumpkin ale is “heartier, spicier and more caramelly and pumpkiny than its faint brethren!” For those who enjoy, and we mean really enjoy pumpkin, Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale is the one you should try. The brewery added a copious amount of pumpkin along with pumpkin pie spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and a little cardamom and clove. The full-bodied beer is a sipper and should be slowly savored, preferably in front of a bonfire.
Lone Tree Brewing Pumpkin Ale (6.4% ABV)
This family-friendly Colorado brewery offers a grown-up version of a classic pumpkin ale. Lone Tree Brewing Pumpkin Ale pours a terrific amber-brown color that’s as pretty as the area’s fall foliage. But what really matters is that Lone Tree Brewing added 23 pounds of real pumpkin to the barrel, so it’s a true pumpkin-lover’s delight. In addition to allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon, the brewers used vanilla to help balance the spices and pumpkin flavors.
Brooklyn Brewery Post Road Pumpkin Ale (5% ABV)
Few have a better understanding of how to create a well-composed beverage than Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster, renowned author, foodie and winner of the 2014 James Beard Award for Excellent Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional. While Brooklyn, New York may not be a hotbed of pumpkin farming, when an ingredient is put in the hands of someone like Oliver, you know it will be good. And Post Road Pumpkin Ale is, in fact, very good, made with heirloom malts, real pumpkin and fall spices.
Endo Brewing No Pumpkin, Punkin Autumn Spice Ale (6.5% ABV)
If we can have Impossible Burgers, we can also drink pumpkin-less pumpkin beers. As Endo proclaims, “No pumpkins were harmed in the making of this beer!” But when you sip No Pumpkin, Punkin Autumn Spice Ale, you’ll still experience Ceylon cinnamon, candied ginger and an assortment of spices that screams autumn. The flavor combination makes the mind perceive pumpkin, but the gorgeous showcase of autumn spices is the star.
Schlafly Pumpkin Ale (8% ABV)
Largely regarded as one of the best pumpkin ales for the past 10 years, Schlafly’s stalwart Pumpkin Ale has won several awards, including silver at the Great American Beer Festival. It’s an exceptional example of the style that is well-balanced with enticing caramel-malt and fall spices. The beer is fermented in an abundance of fresh pumpkin squash prior to being filtered through a spiced infusion of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. The result recalls of a Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.
Avery Brewing Rumpkin Rum Barrel-Aged Pumpkin Ale (16.3% ABV)
The only thing that’s better than pumpkin ale is pumpkin ale that’s aged in rum barrels. Cap’n Jack O’ Lantern would surely approve of Rumpkin Rum Barrel-Aged Pumpkin Ale, which is a truly delectable libation. The roasted pumpkins used in the base come from a local Boulder County farm, and then the brewery adds spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. The robust, earthy pumpkin ale is then aged in rum barrels to add refined notes of molasses and oak. It’s a little sweet, spicy, boozy and goes down smoothly.
Brewery Vivant Farmhouse Pumpkin Tart (7% ABV)
This beer is inspired by Belgian brewing and local agriculture, a concept that’s easy to mimic in farm-rich Michigan. Brewers once relied on a kettle-souring technique for Pumpkin Tart, but the already-tasty tart beer has enjoyed an improvement in 2019. “The non-sour beer for Pumpkin Tart is an amber-hued Farmhouse ale,” Jonathan Ward, Experience Warden and Creative Director of Brewery Vivant and Broad Leaf Local Beer, says. “This year, we blended in a Barrel-Aged Sour farmhouse ale—this is basically a wild saison—to taste.”