The 10 Best Pumpkin Ales

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October means it’s time for a new Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror and a new list of the Best Pumpkin Ales at Paste. We’ve tried a bunch more since last year and feel even more qualified to declare the 10 Best Pumpkin Ales. Let us know what we’re missing and we’ll update the list again in October 2013.

To qualify, the beers had to claim to be a pumpkin ale, not an Oktoberfest (listed in our list of Best Fall Beers), and we judged them on taste alone.

Note: We’ve since updated this list after tasting 30+ pumpkin beers. Our full Guide to the Best and Worst Pumpkin Beers is here.

First, the 10 who didn’t make the cut:

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20. 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:: 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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19. 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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18. 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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17. Bluepoint Pumpkin Ale
City: Patchogue, N.Y.
ABV: 6%
Tastes like: Generic beer
Pumpkin flavor: Low
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: People who don’t like fall.
The verdict:: There was very little remarkable about Blue Point’s pumpkin. More than one judge simply wrote, “boring.”

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16. 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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15. 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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14. 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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13. 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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12. 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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11. 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.”

October means it’s time for a new Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror and a new list of the Best Pumpkin Ales at Paste. We’ve tried a bunch more since last year and feel even more qualified to declare the 10 Best Pumpkin Ales. Let us know what we’re missing and we’ll update the list again in October 2013.

To qualify, the beers had to claim to be a pumpkin ale, not an Oktoberfest (listed in our list of Best Fall Beers), and we judged them on taste alone. Ten Paste staff and interns, along with David Wax Museum drummer Greg Glassman (who is also a brewer for New York’s Fire Island Brewing) voted on our favorites and we count them down for you.

And now for the 10 Best Pumpkin Ales:

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10. 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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9. 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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8. New Belgium Kick (Lips of Faith Series)
City: Fort Collins, Colo.
ABV: 7%
Tastes like: Cranberries
Pumpkin flavor: Mild
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: Thanksgiving dinner
The verdict:: New Belgium’s Kick should have turkeys on the bottle instead of pumpkins. This cranberry and pumpkin sour is delicious and very much the flavor outlier of the bunch. Our tasting panel either loved it or hated it, which is pretty much the case with any beer this sour. I personally had it at #2, so if you have a taste for farmhouse ales, this is something special.

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7. Heavy Seas The Great Pumpkin
City: Halethrope, Md.
ABV: 8%
Tastes like: An IPA
Pumpkin flavor: Low
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: Watching some Charlie Brown
The verdict:: Heavy Seas took the best name for a pumpkin ale, but it’s a PINO (pumpkin in name only). That’s not to say that it’s not still yummy. The hoppiest beer of the bunch, The Great Pumpkin is a little soapy on the head but with hints of spice that still make for a tasty fall beer.

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6. Terrapin Pumpkinfest
City: Athens, Ga.
ABV: 6.1%
Tastes like:
Pumpkin flavor: High
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: Carving a masterpiece in your jack-o-lantern
The verdict:: A flavorful beer with more hops and even malts peeking through the always-present pumpkin notes—all the more surprising since this is technically a pumpkin lager, not an ale. Creative stuff.

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5. Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale
City: Hayward, Calif.
ABV: 5.2%
Tastes like:
Pumpkin flavor: Medium
Spiciness: Low
Perfect for: Halloween in May.
The verdict:: This is a year-round pumpkin beer, ‘cause that’s how they roll out in California. It’s a mildly pumpkin beer, but very drinkable.

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4. Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale
City: Boston
ABV: 5.7%
Tastes like: Fall
Pumpkin flavor: Medium
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: Any day between Sept. 21 and Dec. 21.
The verdict:: They may be just a few barrels shy of mass-produced but Sam Adams often beats the craft brewers at their own game. This was one of the best balanced beers of the bunch—darker, maltier and full-bodied.

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3. Southampton Pumpkin Ale
City: Southampton, N.Y.
ABV: 5.5%
Tastes like: Fall
Pumpkin flavor: Medium
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: Gearing yourself up for the onslaught of Trick-or-Treaters.
The verdict:: Neither the pumpkin or spice is overpowering, but it all blends together in a way that says, “keep drinking me; I’m only 5.5%!”

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2. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
City: Rehoboth Beach, Del.
ABV: 7%
Tastes like: Your spice rack
Pumpkin flavor: Medium
Spiciness: High
Perfect for: A better football-watching party than your neighbors
The verdict:: The pumpkin is subtle, but Punkin still tastes like fall thanks to all spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and a hint of brown sugar. It’s a well-balanced, delicious beer—just what we expect from our favorite American brewery.

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1. Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
City:Easton, Penn.
ABV: 8%
Tastes like: Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin flavor: High
Spiciness: High
Perfect for: Every day in October
The verdict:: This is what a pumpkin beer should be. It tastes unmistakably pumpkin-y while still very much tasting like beer. The label lists cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and cloves, but no single spice throws it off balance. Their logo might as well be comic sans, and their labels are routinely the worst on the shelves, but the beer is undeniably great.

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