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A Guide to the Best and Worst Pumpkin Beers

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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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20. Timmermans Pumpkin Lambicus
City: Itterbeek, Belgium 
ABV: 4%
Tastes like: Veggie lambic
Pumpkin flavor: High
Spiciness: Low
Perfect for: Celebrating The King’s Feast in Belgium (Nov. 15)
The verdict:: This is a lambic without the fruity sweetness. “Sour” and “vegetables” don’t necessarily go together well, though. We prefer the rest of Timmermans line-up to this one.

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19. 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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18. McAuslan St. Ambroise Pumpkin
City: Montreal
ABV: 5%
Tastes like: Pumpkin cider
Pumpkin flavor: High
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: Remembrance Day
The verdict:: The McAuslan is unique in that the pumpkin flavor is at the front without the beer becoming too syrupy sweet. A cider-like effervescence gives it a lightness that balances the spice.

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17. Terrapin Pumpkinfest
City: Athens, Ga.
ABV: 6.1%
Tastes like: Octoberfest, Southern-style
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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16. Jolly Pumpkin La Parcela No 1 Pumpkin Ale
City: Dexter, Mich.
ABV: 5.9%
Tastes like: Pumpkin Sour
Pumpkin flavor: Medium
Spiciness: Low
Perfect for: People who only drink sours.
The verdict:: Jolly Pumpkin must have felt some pressure to brew a pumpkin beer—it’s in the name for crying out loud. But be warned that this is full-on sour—and the combination of pumpkin and sour takes a little getting used to.

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15. Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale
City: Portsmouth, N.H.
ABV: 5%
Tastes like: A PPA (pumpkin pale ale)
Pumpkin flavor: Low
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: People who want to get in the spirit of the season but frankly would rather just drink an IPA.
The verdict:: This is no hop bomb, but the floral notes still overpower the pumpkin and spice flavors.

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14. Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale
City: Hayward, Calif.
ABV: 5.2%
Tastes like: Beer!
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. The pumpkin is mild, but the beer is very drinkable.

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13. New Belgium Pumpkick
City: Fort Collins, Colo.
ABV: 6%
Tastes like: Cranberry sauce
Pumpkin flavor: Low
Spiciness: Low
Perfect for: A non-traditional Thanksgiving meal
The verdict:: Made with cranberry juice and lemongrass in addition to the usual pumpkin and fall spices, Pumpkick has a pleasant tartness not found elsewhere on this list. It’s a more accessible version of last year’s Kick from New Belgium’s Lips of Faith series.

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12. New Holland Ichabod
City: Holland, Mich.
ABV: 4.8%
Tastes like: All the right spices
Pumpkin flavor: Low
Spiciness: High
Perfect for: Getting ready for the haunted house
The verdict:: Nutmeg and cinnamon are the basis for this spicy, complex, but smooth pumpkin ale that’s surprisingly flavorful for its low ABV.

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11. Elysian The Great Pumpkin
City: Seattle, Wash.
ABV: 8.1%
Tastes like: Low-sugar pumpkin pie
Pumpkin flavor: High
Spiciness: High
Perfect for: When you really want to taste the pumpkin
The verdict:: Elysian manages a massively pumpkin-y beer without the puckery sweetness of some of its fellow bombers. There’s a big bite and the front end that doesn’t let you forget you’re drinking beer.

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10. 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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9. Southampton Pumpkin Ale
City: Southampton, N.Y.
ABV: 5.5%
Tastes like: Somebody cares
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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8. Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale
City: Seattle, Wash.
ABV: 5.9%
Tastes like: Gingerbread
Pumpkin flavor: Low
Spiciness: High
Perfect for: When you don’t want milk with your cookies
The verdict:: Ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg make this a dessert of a beer while citrus hops bring it all into balance. Just a well-crafted beer.

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7. Heavy Seas Greater Pumpkin
City: Baltimore, Md.
ABV: 9%
Tastes like: Your dad’s liquor cabinet
Pumpkin flavor: Low
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: Alternating with shots
The verdict:: We may not have been swayed by The Great Pumpkin, but the Greater Pumpkin just isn’t messing around. This is a boozy beer, aged in bourbon barrels, balancing the pumpkin and spice with a whiskey kick.

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6. Chatoe Rogue First Growth Pumpkin Ale
City: Newport, Ore.
ABV: 5.6%
Tastes like: Fresh pumpkin rind
Pumpkin flavor: High
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: Harvest day
The verdict:: Very pumpkin-forward without the cloying sweetness that other very pumpkin-y beers have. Rogue grows its own pumpkins and the beer is surprisingly light and fresh.

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5. Samuel Adams Fat Jack Double Pumpkin
City: Boston
ABV: 8.5%
Tastes like: An imperial stout in costume
Pumpkin flavor: Low
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: A cold fall night on the porch. Cigars optional.
The verdict:: This great, big beer is malty sweet as opposed to fruity sweet with just a hint of pumpkin and spices to qualify as a pumpkin beer. A definite outlier from the style, but so very delicious.

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4. Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
City: Maplewood, Mo.
ABV: 8%
Tastes like: Pumpkin beer!
Pumpkin flavor: Medium
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: Any Halloween party
The verdict:: This is center-of-the-bullseye pumpkin ale weighing in at a hefty 8%. The Missouri brewery’s secret weapon seems to be the butternut squash. So tasty and so refreshing.

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3. Cigar City Good Gourd
City: Tampa, Fla.
ABV: 8.5%
Tastes like: A strong, malty beer with pumpkin and spice to match.
Pumpkin flavor: High
Spiciness: Medium
Perfect for: Impressing your beer-geek friends who think pumpkin beers are novelties.
The verdict:: While the beers with the most pumpkin flavor tended to turn off our panelists with a cloying sweetness, Cigar City treats the pumpkin as a vegetable, finding sweetness from the ever-present malts in beer. The result is a very pumpkin-and-spice-forward beer that doesn’t taste like candy or pumpkin pie. It tastes first and foremost like a big, complex malty beer with strong enough of a backbone to carry the pumpkin and fall spice flavors. This is pumpkin beer done right.

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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 one of our favorite American breweries.

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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. This is what a pumpkin beer should aspire to be.

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