You’ve seen it scrolling through your late night social media binging session: A forgotten friend from high school shared a meme with the following insight, “How to enjoy pumpkin beer. Step 1: Throw it in the trash." It is perhaps not surprising that amongst the ever-growing list of pumpkin foods and beverages, beer is virally rejected alongside by connoisseur and casual drinkers alike.
This includes me. To (hopefully) prove myself wrong, I set off on a quest to learn if there were, in fact, pumpkin beers worth tasting. And, following weeks of extensive and thirst-quenching research, I am happy to say there are several that are not only worth going against the negativity train for, but also worth drinking on their own merit.
Each of the 10 beers below are totally worthy of a seasonal quaff in place of your go-to brews. Most are Southern, with a few mixed in from northern breweries, but you shouldn't have too much trouble finding all of them in beer shops in the Southeast.
#1. Good Gourd (Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, Fla.)
High in pumpkin flavor and moderate in spice, this not-very-sweet beer from Cigar City achieves a perfect trifecta of beer, pumpkin and spice. The malt and pumpkin are allowed to speak for themselves, making for an enjoyable brew that doesn’t overtake the palate. I find it most respectable that Cigar City rejected any urges to include imitation pumpkin pie spice and instead focused on creating a genuinely delicious and complex beer. The double barrel-aged Good Gourd Have Mercy is just as amazing and has a hint of yam flavor amongst the spice.
#2. Pumpkin Ale (Schalfly Beer; St. Louis, Mo.)
With notes of cinnamon, clover and nutmeg, this perfectly balanced ale, made with both pumpkin and butternut squash, hits a delightful medium with both its spiciness and pumpkin flavor. Schalfly managed to make a beer that is sweet and full-bodied yet still delicious, making this the perfect beer for tailgating or a simple night on the couch.
#3. Imperial Pumpkin Ale (Weyerbacher Brewing; Easton, Penn.)
Here is my personal everyday drinking favorite. With both high spice and pumpkin profile, much like grandma's pumpkin muffins, this is the beer if you want to drink a pumpkin ale every single day of the season. I promise you won’t get tired of it. (Don’t ask me how I know.)
#4. Pumpkin Ale (AleWerks Brewing Company; Williamsburg, Va.)
The smell of this pumpkin ale alone takes the cake. Earthy, peppery and intriguing, AleWerks hits the ball out of the park. The quality of the beer is high enough to carry all of the spices, making it enjoyable for every palate.
#5. Pumpkin Ale (Selin’s Grove Brewing Company; Selinsgrove, Penn.)
I lovingly refer to this one as “smooth, creamy gold.” Selin’s Grove delivers a rich and balanced beer with the perfect hint of vanilla. The brewers put pumpkin up front and let the spices take the background, which is just fine with me. My advice: This beer is best enjoyed at a brewpub on a nitro tap.
#6. Imperial Pumking (Southern Tier Brewing Company; Lakewood, N.Y.)
I might get push back on this, but to me, Southern Tier’s Imperial Pumking earns its way into the top ten. Some describe this beer as overly sweet, and while it does remind me of candy corn, I would argue that Pumking brings in the right amount of sweetness for a festive and delicious dessert beer that's perfect if you want to treat yourself, much like you would with a piece of pie. I’d also like to give a nod to Southern Tier's Cold Press Coffee Pumking, which is both highly rated and exceedingly tasty.
#7. Punkin Ale (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, Del.)
Dogfish Head delivered exactly what I hoped with their Punkin Ale, a perfectly balanced beer that's always ready for a fall tailgate. With hints of brown sugar and loads of spice, this brew is distinctly in season and, in my opinion, perfect with barbecue.
#8. Old Towne Pumpkin Ale (Straight to Ale Brewing; Huntsville, Ala.)
Strangely and deliciously enough, Straight to Ale Brewing leaves out the typical fall spices for a distinct vegetable profile in this ale. The flavor works for me, since the pumpkin is perfectly sweet in its natural state. This is an ideal beer for anyone that loves pumpkin but hates the spice.
#9 Pumpkinfest (Terrapin Beer Co.; Athens, Ga.)
Technically a lager, this brew affords plenty of hops and even malts amongst the pumpkin flavoring. I give my hometown brewery a nod for their creativity and good blend of spices.
#10. Pumpkinator (Saint Arnold Brewing Company; Houston, Texas)
Stout-like with a perfectly pumpkin aftertaste, this beer rounds out my list nicely. I found myself detecting notes of coffee and chocolate in this tasty and well-balanced beer. Spicy and reminiscent of the fall desserts we all love most, you'll findi Pumpkinator on several best pumpkin beer lists, including this one.
Without hesitation, I urge you to refute the nay-sayers and haters. Walk — no, run — to your local craft beer dealer for any (or all) of these ten great beers. I promise you won’t be disappointed ... unless you actually hate the flavors of fall. And in that case, we may have a bigger problem.
One final note: my personal beverage store attendant and fellow craft beer enthusiast recommended that I age all my pumpkin beers for at least a few months. So, if you need me, I’ll be anxiously watching them sit in my pantry, doing all that I can not to let my impatience win.
Photo Credit (Good Gourd): Cigar City Brewing
Photo Credit (Aleworks Pumpkin Ale): Picquery.com
Photo Credit (Pumpking): Southern Tier Brewing