Pumpkin Beers

I have a love-hate relationship with pumpkin beers. For many brewers, making a pumpkin beer mostly means adding pumpkin pie spices and slapping an orange label on the bottle. I like well spiced beers (e.g. Anchor’s Christmas ale), but when it says ‘pumpkin’ on the label, I want to taste just that. A trick I learned brewing, was to use acorn squash instead of pumpkin and you end up with more flavor.

With my local store stocking a wide array of pumpkin brews, I picked up a good selection. It has taken me some time, but I’ve managed to get through all of them. Here are my notes on this batch:

Hey! PumpkinDenver Beer Co.
5.4% ABV

This was actually the first beer I tried and reviewed from the DBC. That time it was from tap in their tasting room, and I loved it. While I still enjoyed the beer from a can, it didn’t impress me as much. The beer was a clear amber in the glass. The flavor balanced spice and malt with a bit of the pumpkin peeping through.

Pumpkin Ale – Kennebunkport Brewing Co.
4.5% ABV

Okay, this was a last minute addition from Trader Joe’s. Is this a re-label of Shipyard? This beer poured a clean, clear golden color in the glass – the lightest color of the bunch. The nose was very spicy, which followed through in the taste. Entirely spice here, with no pumpkin to be found. As a lighter beer, there was not much malt to balance the spice. This is a perfect example of what I don’t look for in a pumpkin beer. Overall it’s not a bad beer, but… meh!

Punk’n Harvest Pumpkin AleUinta Brewing Co.
5.0% ABV

Uinta brews some tasty beers in the land of the LDS. This poured a deep copper color, and was not as clear as the others. The slight haze seemed promising. Could this be my pumpkiny pumpkin? The nose was mostly rich malt. The first sip… pumpkin goodness. I didn’t detect any spices to speak of, despite the bottle claiming they are there. Do I mind? No! This is hands-down the best pumpkin beer I’ve ever had. Though, I might need a few more bottles to be sure.

Our Pumpkin AleSaranac
5.1% ABV
14 IBUs

I was convinced to select this beer because of its bottle, which looks like an old moonshine bottle — I’ll plead the fifth on the moonshine. This is by far the strangest of the beers I tried. It was clear and medium golden in color. It has a vanilla flavor and sweetness which didn’t win me over. They don’t list vanilla as one of the ingredients, so maybe it’s the combination of other spices. Very little if any pumpkin, though they say they used over 3000 lbs in the brewing process.

Black Pumpkin Oatmeal Stout – Buffalo Bill’s Brewery
7.5% ABV
40 IBUs

Poured dark with a thick, rich head that stuck around. Lot’s of roasted malt on the nose. Again with the vanilla flavor. While this has more body and isn’t overwhelmed by the vanilla-ish flavor, still not what I expected from a pumpkin stout. The sweetness is a bit more than the subtle they advertise. Okay, If I had been sold this as a vanilla stout, I would be hapoy right now. I taste no pumpkin. Did somebody stick the wrong label on these bottles? Another peeve here. Instead of ABV they list ‘specific gravity’ on the label, by which I assume they mean ‘original gravity’. This is clearly a beer that’s meant for ‘real beer aficionados‘: if you don’t know what ‘SG’ means, go home. But this is a sweeter beer, so the sugar didn’t all get fermented… so the SG doesn’t really help guys. This beer is clearly too cool for me. Somebody want to finish this bomber?

Dark o’ the Moon Pumpkin StoutElysian Brewing Co.
7.6% ABV
20 IBUs

A blackout stout (I don’t see light through the glass) with a rich frothy head. Lot’s of spice on the nose. However there is plenty of backbone here to support the spice. Rich dark malts and a creamy texture. This beer is so good I can’t bring myself to complain about there not being more pumpkin.

Pumpkin Patch AleRogue

6.1% ABV
25 IBUs

How could I resist this bright orange bomber? I love Rogue, so my expectations were high for this beer. I got malt and spice on the nose. The first sip brought just this, spice and malt. There is a mouth feel that you get from squash beers, and this definitely had it. I was a bit disappointed at first, since the pumpkin wasn’t prominent. But, after awhile I grew to appreciate the complex flavors this beer was offering. There is some pumpkin there, and the spice is not overwhelming. A worthy contender, if not my blue ribbon winner.

Venetucci Pumpkin AleBristol Brewing

5.8% ABV
20 IBUs

Dark amber in color, this beer greets you with a aromas of pumpkin and spice. There is a respectable amount of spices in the taste, with cloves being prominent. I’ve had beers dominated by cloves before, which left my tongue numb. So, I was surprised by how much I like this beer. There is enough pumpkin and malt to justify the spice. I liked this beer.

Pumpkin AleAlaskan Brewing Co.

6% ABV
20 IBUs

A pale amber beer with lots of pumpkin on the nose. Taking my first sip, I found some pumpkin, but also some of the hops coming through. This seems like an Oktoberfest Bier with whisper of pumpkin. It lacks the rich, full mouth feel of my favorites. As a beer, I really like it. As a pumpkin beer, I’m a bit disappointed. I’ll just think of it as a Fall beer, and be happy.

About the Author

avatar Geoffrey hails from the U.S., but has lived in Germany, Sweden, India and China. In his many travels he has sought out the best drinks to be found. He's burned his fingers on cups of Madras filter coffee in India, and discovered the effects of Baijiu on body and soul in China. He has tended bar at both a pub and Biergarten in Germany. He is co-author of a forthcoming publication on Udipi Restaurants.