It’s October. The air is getting crisp, the leaves are turning and pumpkins are appearing at grocery stores and farmer’s markets. But that’s not the only place you’ll find ’em—they also show up in brews along the shelves of bottle shops and on the tap handles at taverns. And while there are hundreds of varieties, we recommend you start with our favorites.
Uinta Brewing Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin This beer pours the color of red velvet and smells like crème brûlée. But the pumpkin flavor that comes through is more like its close cousin butternut squash and less like pie. Aging in oak imparts notes of vanilla, and you’ll also find molasses, common in barrel-aging beers. Weighing in at 10.31 percent ABV, this baby is definitely more treat than trick.
Southern Tier Imperial Pumking Ale Pumking is probably what most people picture when they think of pumpkin beer: a brew that smells like fresh-baked pumpkin pie. And it’s got a lot of the flavors you’d expect: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and allspice. It’s sweet like the loot of candy your childhood self scored on Halloween but still a sipper at 8.6 percent.
Big Boss Brewing Co. Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale A copper colored beer, Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale smells like vanilla wafers and banana taffy. The pumpkin is muted but you’ll still find pie-style hints of brown sugar and spices. Sessionable at 4.5 percent and not overdone in its pumpkin-ness, it’s one of the better seasonal beers of its ilk out there. Consider this a gateway beer to pumpkin ales.
Shipyard Brewing Co. Pumpkinhead One of the few canned pumpkin beers actually has a wheat ale base. So alongside the typical cinnamon, clove, allspice and ginger notes, you’ll also find hints of apple and malted wheat. The gourd’s presence is muted, and it’s easy to drink at 4.5 percent. That might explain how this “seasonal” beer outsells everything else Shipyard offers.
Dogfish Head Craft Beer Ales Punkin Ale Punkin Ale is born out of a brown ale with allspice, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and real pumpkins (as opposed to extract) thrown in the mix. We’re talking oven-baked pumpkin interwoven into a sweet malty body mouthfeel. As delicious as this beer can be, it’s also great to cook with—think pumpkin beer bread.
Brooklyn Brewery Post Road Pumpkin Ale Brooklyn’s offering pours amber with a thick white head and features lots of pie notes, a very prickly carbonated mouthfeel and a hearty malt backbone. The flavor isn’t as big as the notes would lead you to believe, making this less of a pumpkin beer and more of a spiced lager. It’s still a strong entry into fall seasonals for novices and anyone who, ya know, enjoys beer.
Heavy Seas Great’er Pumpkin Ale Here’s another big, brawny, boozy (9 percent) imperial pumpkin ale. Lots of vanilla from the oak imparted into the standard pie spice mix. You’ll also find typical barrel-aging notes like dried figs and fruitcake. More viscous and chewy then any of the others, this brew is simply gourd-a-licious!