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A Guide to the Best and Worst Pumpkin Beers

September 26, 2013  |  8:32am
A Guide to the Best and Worst Pumpkin Beers

It’s decorative gourd season, motherf@^#%*$. That means it’s also time for beer that includes the more edible varieties—pumpkin ales are everywhere.

After three years of tasting every pumpkin beer we could get our hands on—28 that are still commercially available—we’ve learned that there are a lot of bad pumpkin beers out there. Thankfully a handful of breweries have taken the somewhat gimmicky style and created liquid works of art—the perfect blend of fall spices with a hint of pumpkin sweetness. The secret is that pumpkin ales and lagers are really more about the spices—the gourd is usually just there for decoration.

Here, ranked from worst to best, is our Guide to Pumpkin Beer. Let us know which ones we need to add to next year’s tasting in the comments section below.

Note: We’ve updated our guide with seven more beers, including commenter-favorite Schlafly (which was delicious!). See the expanded list below:

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35. Horny Goat Horny Copia Pumpkin
City: Milwaukee
ABV: 5.7%
Tastes like: A Pier One scented candle
Pumpkin flavor: High
Spiciness: High
Perfect for: The Halloween frat party
The verdict:: This is everything wrong with pumpkin ales. It tastes more like whoever dreamed up the Bud Light Lime Lime-a-Rita imagines pumpkin beer should taste like.

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34. Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat
City: St. Louis
ABV: 5.2%
Tastes like: Budweiser made it.
Pumpkin flavor: Low
Spiciness: Low
Perfect for: Putting out the fire of your jack-o-lantern
The verdict:: Q: What do American macrobrews and making love in a canoe have in common? A: They’re both f—-ing close to water.

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33. Southern Tier Imperial Pumking
City: Lakewood, N.Y.
ABV: 8.6%
Tastes like: Candy Corn
Pumpkin flavor: Very high
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: Handing out to adult trick-or-treaters
The verdict:: This is one of the most divisive beers we’ve come across. Though one of our judges thought this was the best of the bunch, several named it the worst. I guess it depends on whether you like beer that tastes like a bag of candy corn was simply melted into the batch. Even the mouthfeel is a little like drinking a candle. As one of our tasters put it: “You never go full pumpkin.”

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32. Anderson Valley Fall Hornin’ Pumpkin Ale
City: Boonville, Calif.
ABV: 6%
Tastes like: Pumpkin juice
Pumpkin flavor: Medium
Spiciness: Low
Perfect for: When you’re so thirsty you don’t care what your beer tastes like.
The verdict:: The only real flavor coming through is the pumpkin sweetness, but even that doesn’t hit you very hard in this bland entry from a promising brewery.

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31. Shipyard Pumpkinhead
City: Portland, Maine
ABV: 5.1%
Tastes like: Cinnamon
Pumpkin flavor: Medium
Spiciness: Very high
Perfect for: Making gingerbread men
The verdict:: The lightest colored beer of the bunch has an overpowering cinnamon flavor that overshadows other notes like pumpkin…and beer.

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30. Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale
City: Golden, Colo.
ABV: 5.7%
Tastes like: Lemon-ale
Pumpkin flavor: Low
Spiciness: Low
Perfect for: Fall…in Florida.
The verdict:: Blue Moon’s attempt at a pumpkin ale tastes a lot like you’d expect. Call it a citrus-y pumpkin wheat.

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29. Cisco Pumple Drumpkin
City: Nantucket, Mass.
ABV: 6.88%
Tastes like: A thin spiced beer
Pumpkin flavor: Low
Spiciness: High
Perfect for: A bachelor’s version of potpourri
The verdict:: Hops meet spice with very little body or complexity.

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28. Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin
City: Portland, Maine
ABV: 9%
Tastes like: Someone spiked the pumpkin ale
Pumpkin flavor: Very high
Spiciness: High
Perfect for: Late-night Halloween pranks
The verdict:: The booziest of the bunch unfortunately wasn’t one of the best. Like Southern Tier, the idea here seems to be Maximum Pumpkin Overdrive and only works if you love pumpkins even more than you love beer.

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27. Post Road Pumpkin Ale
City: Brooklyn
ABV: 5%
Tastes like: Light pumpkin ale
Pumpkin flavor: Medium
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: Listening to The Fall.
The verdict:: Brewed at one of our favorite breweries, Brooklyn, this one nonetheless left a lot to be desired with several judges complaining of wateriness and one saying “it tastes like pumpkin stem.”

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26. Lakefront Pumpkin Lager Beer
City: Milwaukee, Wis.
ABV: 6%
Tastes like: Drinking Bud out of a hollowed out pumpkin
Pumpkin flavor: Very High
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: People who love redundancy
The verdict:: This “lager beer” definitely doesn’t skimp on the pumpkin but that didn’t turn out to be a great thing.

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25. Bluepoint Pumpkin Ale
City: Patchogue, N.Y.
ABV: 6%
Tastes like: A solid beer
Pumpkin flavor: Low
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: An unseasonably early snowfall.
The verdict:: Last year we were unimpressed by Bluepoint’s pumpkin beer, but it faired a little better this year—either the beer or our tastebuds must have improved.

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24. Hoppin’ Frog Double Pumpkin Ale
City: Akron, Ohio
ABV: 8.4%
Tastes like: Pumpkin pie
Pumpkin flavor: Medium
Spiciness: Very high
Perfect for: Spiking the eggnog
The verdict:: The nutmeg hits you before you even take a sip. The spices almost hide the flavor of the pumpkin. Not the best balanced, but undeniably flavorful. It’s the first beer I’ve tasted that begged for a scoop of Cool Whip on top.

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23. Uinita Punk’N
City: Salt Lake City
ABV: 4%
Tastes like: Something out of Harry Potter
Pumpkin flavor: High
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: Serving at The Three Broomsticks
The verdict:: Very strange flavor that split the jury, with some praising the unique spices and one proclaiming, “I’d only drink this Punk’N if I was more Drunk’N.”

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22. Harpoon Pumpkin UFO
City: Boston
ABV: 5.9%
Tastes like: It just came out of the oven
Pumpkin flavor: Medium
Spiciness: Low
Perfect for: Making sure First Contact is a friendly affair.
The verdict:: This unfiltered ale smells like pumpkin bread with mild but tasty pumpkin and spice notes.

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21. Tommyknocker Small Patch Pumpkin Harvest Ale
City: Idaho Springs, Colo.
ABV: 5%
Tastes like: Pumpkin pie flambe
Pumpkin flavor: Low
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: A late-night campfire
The verdict:: In addition to pumpkin and spices, molasses gives Tommyknocker an almost smoky malt flavor

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