The pumpkin spice craze has ruined perfectly good lattes, over-spiced our favorite cereals and potato chips, and now, it threatens to overshadow our favorite season for beer. Lightly toasty, malt-forward lagers that the Germans have been releasing every fall for more than 200 years are pretty much perfection in a beer stein. Pumpkin beer, on the other hand, is an American innovation that started in the colonial era when early Americans simply didn’t have enough grain.
Pumpkins aren’t an ideal ingredient. They don’t actually taste like much of anything once incorporated into a beer. The yeast ferments out all the pumpkin’s sugars, and beyond that the gooey vegetable adds a bit more water. This is why brewers tend to turn their spice cabinet upside down over the kettle in an attempt to make their beers taste like, well, pumpkin pie.
While most beer geeks turn up their noses at these beers, they’re certainly popular. Precise stats are hard to come by, but fall seasonals are the only category that can go toe to toe with IPA at the checkout counter these days and pumpkin beers are right at the center of the trend. We’ll always have a soft spot for the German Oktoberfests, but if you want a break, there are worthy pumpkin beers out there, so long as the bartender isn’t rimming the glass with cinnamon. Here’s our informal, highly-subjective cheat sheet on what to buy.
For Those Who Want…
Something to Drink by the Pitcher
1. Anderson Valley: Fall Hornin’
2. Ballast Point: Pumpkin Down
3. Smuttynose: Pumpkin Ale
4. Brooklyn Brewery: Post Road Pumpkin
5. Two Roads: Roadsmary’s Baby
6. Long Trail:Pumpkin Ale
7. Uinta: Punk’n
8. Rogue: Pumpkin Patch
1. Avery: Rumpkin (16.75%)
2. Flying Dog: The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale (9%)
3. Sam Adams:Fat Jack Double Pumpkin (8.5%)
4. Cigar City Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin (8.5%)
5. Schlafly: Pumpkin Ale (8%)
6. Weyeberacher Imperial Pumpkin (8%)
7. Elysian: The Great Pumpkin (8.1%)
Loads of Spice
1. Southern Tier: Pumpking
2. New Belgium: Pumpkick
3. Redhook: Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter
4. New Holland: Ichabod
5. Harpoon: UFO Pumpkin
1. Dogfish: Punkin Ale
2. Boulevard: Funky Pumpkin
3. Jolly Pumpkin: La Parcela
4. Elysian –Elysian: Dark O’ The Moon
5. Alaskan: Pumpkin Porter
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