If you've made your way to a bar or local beer seller in the past month, you can't help but notice pumpkin beer season is in full swing. BeerAdvocate has 197 products in their "pumpkin ale" reviews archive, and since pumpkin products tend to be seasonal, familiarity can be fleeting, often making it feel like we might as well have all 197 in front of us when making a selection.
Adding to the confusion, Pumpkin beers cover quite a range. Some emphasize subtlety, showing almost no overt pumpkin flavor, instead focusing on light winter spices (like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves). Others can be like pouring a piece of pumpkin pie down your throat with a sugary, sweet taste and a huge mouthfeel.
Like all beers, personal preference is the final factor, but with pumpkin beers especially, when trying one for the first time, it might behoove you to know what you're diving into before you make your purchase.
After the jump, find a quick breakdown of BeerAdvocate's eight most reviewed pumpkin beers, with some personal thoughts on each.
- Punkin' Ale (Dogfish Head) -- As one of the most reliable brewers on the market, Dogfish Head provides an extremely solid pumpkin offering with a tasty mix of spice and brown sugary sweetness.
- Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale (Coors) -- Unlike the exceptional Honey Moon Summer Ale, their fall seasonal falls a little flat. It's not the worst pumpkin ale on the list, but doesn't take the risks to be exceptional.
- Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale (Buffalo Bill's) -- Pumpkin ales can produce picky people since spice and sweetness tend to be very particular to personal palates. So it appears this product can't be recommended, but I can fit as many "p's" into the paragraph as possible.
- Pumpkinhead Ale (Shipyard) -- Pretty universally panned, Pumpkinhead Ale appears to be the worst of the bunch. I've yet to give this one a go, but I'm guessing I won't get to it this season.
- Post Road Pumpkin Ale (Brooklyn) -- Slightly sweet, spicy and drinkable, Post Road Pumpkin has proved itself a dependable pumpkin beer for years now.
- Imperial Pumpkin Ale (Weyerbacher) -- I'm a huge Weyerbacher fan. I've yet to try this offering, but with a "B+" rating and an 8% ABV, I'm guessing it's a powerful pumpking treat.
- Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale (Smuttynose) -- Of those I have tried, I can recommend Smuttynose as being the best in balance and elegant simplicity. Light and crisp, but flavorful and not overbearing.
- Pumking (Southern Tier) -- At 9% ABV this beer is bordering on blow you away territory. With an aggregate of "A-," it's also the top ranked of the bunch. Coincidence? Probably has more to do with it's mammoth aroma and big pumpkin pie flavors.
- Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale (Anheuser-Busch) -- For the second week in a row, I offer a Slashfood Ate (8) bonus. I added Jack's Pumpkin to the list because as an A-B brewed beer, some might find it has better availability. Mild and light, this simple pumpkin product works for those who like a little spice and not much more.