IGNORE THE Christmas decorations showing up in stores. It’s only October and for the craft beer world October can mean only one thing: Pumpkin beer.
There are two basic types of pumpkin beers. The first group is flavored with actual pumpkin. Sometimes the pumpkin is roasted or otherwise cooked in some way but the flavor relies primarily on the actual pumpkin flesh.
The second type taps into the smells and flavors associated with pumpkin pie or more specifically the spices used in cooking those pies. Nutmeg, clove and cinnamon play a big part in these brews as does sweetness.
There are, of course, many beers that find a happy place mixing the two types. On top of that there are a multitude of beer styles that work well with both pumpkin and its affiliated spices.
Strong Ales, stouts, porters all accept the spice and pumpkin well. All these variables lead to a wide-ranging variety of pumpkin beers available for all types of palettes.
The list below is made up of mostly easily accessible and locally available pumpkin beers crafted by breweries from all over the country.
The Local Options:
Taterator, Moon River. Some brewers move away from the traditional pumpkin beer and work with the pumpkins distant cousin sweet potato to create a “yam” beer. Taterator Ale falls into this bucket. Taterator is a German-style Dopplebock brewed with lots of North Carolina sweet potatoes and features a heavy malt back bone. Taterator is 8.3% ABV and is available in the brewery and in bottles.
Coastal Empire Brewing held their Fall Lick off party this past week. One of the beers featured was a pumpkin spices Marzen style beer. It’s a brewery only release so get over there and give it a try.
The Best of the Best:
Pumking, Southern Tier. Readily available as (what seems like a year round) seasonal in Southern Tier’s Pumking A mix of rich roasty pumpkin and added spices Pumpking is a flavorful but accessible pumpkin beer. The sweetness is tempered by nutmeg and vanilla flavors and has a hint of graham cracker to round out a full flavored pie. Available in 22 oz. bottles and four packs Pumpkin is a good one for sharing with family at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and for just enjoying a good pumpkin beer. This year Southern Tier is also offering a cold coffee pressed version of Pumking to make your beer even more like that frappuccino you wait for each year.
Warlock, Southern Tier. The fact that Southern Tier is on this list twice is testament to the variety of pumpkin beers on the shelves. The base beer of Warlock is an Imperial stout. Warlock has a lot of similarities between it and Pumking but there are some subtle roasted flavors that fit with the stout style add a “baked” quality to the mix. At 10% Warlock packs a punch so share this one.
Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Weyerbacher. Weyerbacher bills this beer as “the mother of all pumpkin ales” and they may not be far off. Imperial Pumpkin Ale has a lot of all the rich flavors that you would expect from a pumpkin beer, spice, pumpkin flesh and caramel are all here. At 8% it’s not as big a beer as Warlock but worth sharing.
Punkin’ Ale, Dogfish Head Brewing. Punkin’ has a brown sugar sweetness that balances out the spices and pumpkin. These flavors blend well with a creamy malt base. Punkin’ carries some rum flavors derived from brown sugars used in the brewing process, that give it a boozier taste than other on this list despite is relatively low 7% ABV.
VooDoo Ranger: Atomic Pumpkin, New Belgian. Weary of the beers based on “frozen coffee,” New Belgium brewed up a new fall seasonal that replaces Pumpkick, its previous seasonal offering. Atomic Pumpkin is brewed with habanero peppers and Saigon cinnamon to up the ante on the traditional pumpkin pie spicing. Ending with a touch of a sourness Atomic Pumpkin may not be for everyone but it is sure to “spice” up your fall.
Worth the Work:
Good Gourd, Cigar City Brewing. If you need something a little different and are willing to put in a little work Good Gourd brewed by Florida’s Cigar City is excellent beer to hunt down. CCB has limited distribution to Georgia so the likeliest close spot to find Good Gourd is Jacksonville. It’s a high quality beer and worth a drive. If you’re even luckier you might find Good Gourds bourbon barrel version Good Gourd Almighty. If you do, pick up two it’s a great beer.
Ghoulship, Allagash Brewing. Good Gourd Almighty could be this entry but I’ll also slip in Ghoulship, Allagash Brewings Halloween seasonal. Allagash exposes some of their beers to the elements to be inoculated with wild yeasts. The vessel that is used for this process is called a cool ship. These sour beers tend to be tart and rich in flavor. Allagash has brewed up their version of a pumpkin beer three times. Each version is brewed with 200 pounds of pumpkin meat and roasted pumpkin seeds. Ghoulship is a brewery only release so a trade or a trip to Maine is necessary to get your hands on it. It’s a beautiful beer with lots of flavor and the sour notes make it special. If you do go to Maine for one make sure you being me a bottle too.