Autumn's arrival heralds a pumpkin flavor frenzy. From Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte to myriad treats, pumpkin reigns supreme, and a visit to the grocery store shows that pumpkin spice products sprinkle nearly every aisle. So, it's hardly a shock that craft breweries have also jumped on the pumpkin wagon, but the way we picture pumpkin beer today is different from the early days of American brewing. The joy here lies in the diversity — while we all appreciate the classic medley of pumpkin and spice, it's particularly thrilling when a brewery ventures off the beaten path.
With such an expansive range of options, the choice can be dizzying, yet those offerings undeniably stand out from the pack. To narrow down our favorites, we evaluate each option based on the presence of pumpkin, taste of the beer, can or bottle decor and theming, and, of course, the uniqueness factor that sets it apart from other favorite beers. We found that beers often offered pumpkin or spices, but rarely would they have both, and it's even rarer that the beers would have something totally unique. Without further adieu, here's how we ranked them.
Read more: 40 Most Popular Beers, Ranked Worst To Best
Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale
As you pour a glass of the Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale, there's a subtle hint of pumpkin, but the dominant flavor is the strong bourbon. It's robust, with a formidable 10% alcohol by volume, and introduces a somewhat unexpected tingly sensation. This is further layered with an abundant spice feel, making it evident that this brew certainly doesn't hold back when it comes to delivering a sensory experience.
The can is adorned with drawings of pumpkins, and the design is simple and refined, aligning well with its established branding. While the theming is undeniably prominent, the strength of the bourbon and spices tends to overshadow the pumpkin flavor, making it less pronounced than what one might expect or hope for from a pumpkin ale. This results in a flavor profile that, though intense and consistent with the rest of the bourbon barrel line, might not resonate fabulously with everyone, especially pumpkin lovers.
Bottle Logic Barrel-Aged Pumpkin Ale
Stepping into the realm of bourbon barrel-infused delights, Bottle Logic presents a unique twist on the seasonal pumpkin ale. The marriage of pumpkin and spices with a bourbon barrel aging process results in an experience where spices and the unmistakable bourbon undertones dominate the palate. While the pumpkin essence remains somewhat elusive, it has not vanished entirely.
As for the overall taste, it's intense and assertively bourbon-forward, with the promise of increasing potency as time goes by. The can's decor resonates with nostalgic intrigue with a narrative reminiscent of the "Twilight Zone," yet humorously rebranded as the "Pumpkin Zone." Boasting a robust 12.88% ABV might be too potent for casual sippers, but those with a penchant for bourbon barrel-aged concoctions will undoubtedly find it captivating.
Rogue Pumpkin Patch Ale
Rogue's offering to the pumpkin ale enthusiasts is a delightful journey down a more traditional autumnal lane. The beer greets the taste buds with a pleasing roasted pumpkin flavor, a unique take that stands out amidst the sea of pumpkin brews. The roasted essence is complemented by a malty backbone, lending the beer a sweet profile.
In appearance, the ale boasts a rich, deep amber hue with a slightly syrupy mouthfeel that may appeal to those seeking a fuller-bodied drink. The can's design plays into the classic Halloween vibes with a hauntingly eerie pumpkin motif, adding a layer of thematic charm to the overall experience. At 6.1% ABV, it's moderately potent, ensuring the taste remains center stage without overwhelming the drinker. For those who enjoy a slightly different take on the pumpkin flavor, this ale indeed delivers, even if it's not what all pumpkin lovers look for.
Saint Arnold Pumpkinator
Saint Arnold Pumpkinator also strays from the predictable pumpkin path, choosing instead to delve deeply in another direction. With each sip, it's evident that spices reign supreme in this brew, overshadowing the pumpkin undertones and imparting a rich, enveloping taste. This heavy feel might be a bit much for some, but for those seeking a robust flavor profile, it's an enthralling experience.
Visually, the beer presents itself in a deep, captivating stout hue that promises a taste adventure. The can art does not disappoint either. Saint Arnold's signature playful artwork graces the packaging, with Saint Arnold accentuated with the imagery of a hauntingly detailed haunted house and a menacing jack-o-lantern, tying it perfectly to the Halloween season. With a strong 11.2% ABV, this brew pairs its intense flavors with a kick to match.
UFO Journey To Planet Pumpkin
Another detour from the heavy pumpkin-laden brews, the UFO Journey to Planet Pumpkin offers a subtle dance of mild spices. Surprisingly, the pumpkin presence is a whisper, a background note that could easily be missed among its gentle, spicy undertones. While the flavor profile might be understated, the can's design is anything but. It boasts an audaciously fun graphic representation of a pumpkin planet, riding the crest of neon-green waves, all rendered in a style reminiscent of a noir mystery title. This playful, almost cinematic design is truly the star of the show.
At 5.9% alcohol by volume, it is a relaxed, easy-drinking option. While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the brew, the simplicity might leave some yearning for more depth. However, for those looking for a gentle introduction to pumpkin ales, this might just be the ticket.
Elysian's The Great Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Elysian's Imperial Pumpkin Ale presents a more muted interpretation of the seasonal pumpkin ale. The expected pumpkin flavors, which are generally bold in other offerings, are more reserved here. Similarly, the spices, while detectable, are less pronounced, especially when compared to Elysian's own Night Owl.
Visually, the can embodies the season's spirit, showcasing a ghostly jack-o-lantern graphic that gives it a touch of Halloween whimsy. Texture-wise, the ale leans towards a heavier feel, bordering on the syrupy side, which might appeal to those preferring a more full-bodied brew. Despite its 8.4% ABV, the overall experience seems to tread a middle path. It might not stand out in a crowded pumpkin ale field, but its subdued spice presence could make it a suitable choice for those seeking something less intense.
Greenport Harbor Leaf Pile Ale
Greenport Harbor's Leaf Pile Ale has a subtler touch than you might expect from a seasonal brew. The pumpkin notes are there, but they allow the gentle spices to have a stronger presence. These spices bring an aftertaste reminiscent of crisp autumn days. The overall profile is smooth and comforting, giving off a warming sensation one might associate with the transition of seasons.
Aesthetically, the can art aligns perfectly with the beer's name, showcasing a diver whimsically holding a leaf rake amidst a mound of fall leaves. This brew, described poetically as autumn in a glass, encapsulates the season in a gentle embrace. With 5.2% ABV, it is easy-going and unpretentious. While it might be considered basic by some standards, its delicate spicing offers a gentle nod to the joys of fall.
Alewerks Pumpkin Ale
This ale leans more toward the profile of a sweet amber ale punctuated by some subtle spicing. We like this hint of sweetness, and it's nice to taste in a brew for the season. Visually, the can speaks of autumn, with evocative images of pumpkins providing a serene backdrop. While this brew might not be the one to choose for those seeking bold, adventurous flavors, there's an undeniable charm in its simplicity, and the design celebrating the pumpkin more than the jack-o-lantern is also a welcome charming decoration.
A noteworthy aspect of this ale is the inclusion of lactose, which could impart that slightly creamy texture and contribute to its sweet undertone. With a respectable 7.3% ABV, Alewerks Pumpkin Ale is a modest nod to the season, appreciated best by those who seek subtlety over intensity.
Southern Tier Pumking
Southern Tier's Pumking ventures into a realm of its own. At first sip, the pumpkin presence may seem a tad elusive, making way for an odd flavor. While its distinctiveness might throw you off initially, it doesn't echo the typical spiced pumpkin profile we've anticipated. Instead, it offers a perplexing taste that leaves you curious and captivated.
Visually, the can promises a regal treat, featuring a whimsically designed pumpkin character adorned like royalty with a cape and crown. This kingly pumpkin truly epitomizes the brew's name. The uniqueness of Pumking is undeniable; it defies the typical pumpkin ale archetype and brings forth a flavor adventure that, over time, grows on the drinker. With every sip, the essence of pumpkin pie becomes more pronounced, making this 8.6% ABV ale an intriguing journey from start to finish.
Blue Point Mother Pumpkin Ale
Blue Point's Mother Pumpkin Ale is a nod to the essence of raw pumpkin. In a market often dominated by the spices accompanying pumpkin flavors, this brew stands out by allowing the authentic pumpkin taste to shine. It offers an easy-drinking experience with an intriguing touch of floral hops. It doesn't dive deep into the IPA territory but flirts with a hint of hoppiness, which is refreshing and surprising in a pumpkin ale.
The can design, too, is a fun and whimsical concoction; the name Mother Pumpkin is playfully represented by a pumpkin parting to unveil a skeletal surprise. For those weary of the typical pumpkin pie flavor profiles inundating the market, this ale offers a cleaner, more straightforward pumpkin experience. Sitting at 5.5% ABV, it's a brew that might not appease the spice aficionados but will be a treat for genuine pumpkin purists.
Southern Tier Warlock
Southern Tier's Warlock brew weaves a mystical spell with its subtle interplay between pumpkin and spices. The pumpkin taste harmonizes beautifully with the spices that take a more prominent role. This beer resonates with stouts' rich and robust character, punctuated by an emphasis on spiced sweetness rather than the overt pumpkin flavors typical of the season.
The can design is nothing short of enchanting. It showcases a captivating depiction of a warlock cradling a pumpkin, the latter illuminated with a constellation of stars upon its flesh. This thematic touch adds a layer of whimsy and intrigue to the drinking experience. The Warlock sits at 8.6% ABV, and its unique balance of flavors sets it apart in the crowded seasonal ale landscape. It's a bewitching brew for those seeking a different kind of autumnal magic.
Lakefront Brewery's Pumpkin Lager
Lakefront Brewery's Pumpkin Lager brings a beautifully orchestrated melody of pumpkin and mild spices out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This lager lets the pumpkin sing, accentuated just enough by spices like cinnamon, allspice, and ginger without being overpowering. The overall flavor profile is harmoniously balanced, offering a delightful and refreshing palate experience.
The can's aesthetically pleasing presentation features a matte label that lends a sophisticated touch. The clean, minimalistic design of the pumpkin graphic aligns perfectly with the beer's essence, evoking a sense of elegance and simplicity. What distinguishes this lager is its pristine clarity, achieved through filtration, resulting in a drink that's light and devoid of any thickness. Sitting at 6.1% ABV, this lager might leave spice fans yearning for a tad more kick, but its refined pumpkin-forward taste will surely captivate many.
Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale
Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale takes a flavorful pivot, letting the spices lead the symphony with an undertone of pumpkin that melds into a pie-like essence. Rather than saturating the palate with bold pumpkin flavors, this ale opts for a more delicate balance, allowing the spices to shine through, creating a sensation reminiscent of a freshly baked pumpkin pie. The brew's sweetness brings warmth and comfort, especially for those who love dessert.
Aesthetically, the can keeps things simple. It leans more towards the representation of the gourd itself than heavy-handed seasonal theming, resulting in a straightforward yet classic design. This ale's pie-like character is its crown jewel, and at 7.0% ABV, Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale offers a dessert-like experience for those who savor a spiced, sweet brew.
Tripping Animals Pumpkin Ale
The Tripping Animals Pumpkin Ale is an exploration of contrasts. The pumpkin's presence is subtle at first but becomes more noticeable as it rests on the palate, revealing its depth over time. The spices present a robust flavor that dissipates swiftly, like a brief, flavorful gust of autumn wind.
The can design is an artful juxtaposition of playfulness and intrigue. A possessed-looking raccoon takes center stage and is set against pumpkins that shimmer with a glossy finish, contrasting the matte label. It's an ultra-memorable design. The brown ale distinction further sets this beer apart from its peers. At 6% ABV, the Tripping Animals Pumpkin Ale offers a flavor profile that's layered and distinctive, making each sip a journey of discovery.
Shipyard Pumpkin Head
Shipyard Pumpkin Head is a full-throttle pumpkin profile, nicely accented by a harmonious mix of autumnal spices. This beer's pumpkin presence is obvious, making it an ideal selection for those seeking that quintessential fall flavor. Regarding the overall taste, it's clear this beer was crafted with care. It offers a delightful mouthfeel that's easy to appreciate, making it a joy to drink.
Design-wise, the can doesn't disappoint either. It sports an imaginative label featuring a statue astride a horse, its head replaced by a pumpkin and one hand holding a pint, obviously alluding to the headless horseman. Despite its rich flavor profile, it remains a relatively light option with a 4.5% ABV, setting it apart in a market of heavier brews.
Elysian Dark 'O The Moon Pumpkin Stout
In Elysian's Dark 'o the Moon Pumpkin Stout, chocolate notes dominate, punctuated by cinnamon's unexpected yet tasty touch. This distinction from the often-muddled mix of spices in other brews is a refreshing change. The stout's deep hue is almost mesmerizing, with a consistency that's rich and almost velvety.
The can art only adds to the allure. Featuring a werewolf rendered in detailed artwork, it's set against a backdrop of eerie typography, conjuring images of a moonlit Halloween night featuring the latest horror flick. With 7.5% ABV, the stout is robust without being too overpowering. Dark 'o the Moon stands out not just for its flavors but for its approach to a stout that somehow remains reassuringly familiar to those who love dark beers.
3 Sons Pumpkin Spice Latte Ale
The 3 Sons PSL is a masterclass in bending beer conventions. While there's a hint of pumpkin, it's the coffee and spices that take center stage, mimicking the familiar flavors of a pumpkin spice latte. Indeed, this brew is reminiscent of a PSL, even containing lactose to complete the latte experience. If you love pumpkin spice lattes and have a casual appreciation for beer, this might just be the autumnal elixir you've been looking for. However, die-hard beer enthusiasts might find its latte likeness too overwhelming.
The can design harmonizes beautifully with the fall season, displaying a delicious pumpkin spice latte graphic and seasonal color palette. Boasting an aroma that draws you in from a distance, its 8.5% ABV underscores its distinct identity as a brave fusion of pumpkin spice latte and beer.
Florida Ave The Lantern Imperial Pumpkin
Florida Ave's The Lantern Imperial Pumpkin is an ideal middle-ground for those who enjoy a pronounced pumpkin presence without it becoming overwhelming. This brew has an inviting sweetness and feels like a nod to the taste of pumpkin pie. The subtlety of the spices is what sets it apart; they exist in such a mellow mix that accentuates rather than overpowers the overall flavor profile.
Visually, the can is a work of art. It showcases a captivating design that pays homage to the spirit of Halloween. A bevy of hearts and jack-o'-lanterns are deftly woven into the design, surrounded by pumpkin leaves and cinnamon sticks. This creates a festive and a tad eerie tapestry, capturing the dual essence of the season beautifully. With an alcohol content of 8.5%, The Lantern balances taste and potency, offering a distinct take on the classic pumpkin beer.
Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale
Elysian's Night Owl Pumpkin Ale's pumpkin essence is distinct but is complicated by an ensemble of spices. The amalgamation of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, clove, and allspice creates a warm and inviting aroma and taste. Each sip delivers a promise of the pumpkin and a cascade of spices, ending with a delightful pumpkin aftertaste that lingers just long enough.
Visually, the can design is an ode to the twilight hours. An owl stands out against the backdrop of a setting sun and adds an air of mystery and wonder synonymous with evening. Despite the melange of flavors, there's an elegant balance, ensuring no single taste dominates. Smooth and with just the right body, a 6.7% ABV makes Night Owl an easily enjoyable experience.
Elysian Punkuccino Coffee Pumpkin Ale
Elysian takes the cherished taste profile of a pumpkin spice latte and elevates it to the next level with its stout base. The gentle presence of pumpkin blends with rich, aromatic coffee, courtesy of Stumptown, creates a taste profile that's an absolute delight for stout and pumpkin aficionados. Adding depth are hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, reminiscent of that iconic pumpkin spice latte.
The can's artwork is whimsically appropriate. A jack-o-lantern blissfully inhales the aroma of a steaming coffee, all set against a backdrop adorned with spider webs, seamlessly blending the spirit of Halloween with the comfort of a morning brew. Including lactose lends a smoothness to the beer, enriching its body and mouthfeel. At 6% ABV, Punkuccino offers a perfect blend of coffee stout and pumpkin, a nod to the PSL trend and yet another testament to Elysian's craft mastery, particularly when it comes to pumpkin.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.