Pumpkin is like the popular kid right now.
Pumpkin-flavored muffins, pumpkin-flavored coffee and let’s be real, pumpkin-flavored anything is all the craze.
It’s like pumpkin is the new pomegranate. How do such fandoms occur anyway and who started the whole pumpkin-spice latte chaos? While the phenomenon may never be fully understood, it’s Halloween and we can all agree that beer, flavored or not, is welcome at any time.
So, when I was presented with the task of writing this week’s Thirsty Work column about pumpkin-flavored beers, I got really excited.
Needless to say, I took this thing pretty seriously.
Let’s get started.
With its perfect blend of pumpkin and spices, Point Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale was the only one out of the bunch I actually enjoyed drinking until I reached the bottom of the bottle.
When I arrived at the package store to explore the abundance of different pumpkin beers at my disposal, the staff members were eager to tell me this beer would undoubtedly be my favorite, claiming it tasted just like homemade pumpkin pie. I hesitated to believe them, as I wasn’t sure I even liked pumpkin pie. Turns out I do.
In fact, I liked it so much I wanted to go back for seconds, so it was a good thing this particular beer wasn’t available for purchase as a single. I’ll admit I reluctantly bought the four-pack, skeptical about the whole ordeal, but hopeful the beer connoisseurs were right. I never imagined I would drink the first and then the second and the third … you get the point.
When poured, the beer is a nice amber color, but the most memorable first impression is the smell. The aroma is like a savory pumpkin pie with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.
For me, this beer took the No. 1 slot because there was no artificial aftertaste and the pumpkin flavor was noticeable but not overwhelming. It was very drinkable.
Brewed by Stevens Point Brewery in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Point Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale claims it’s the Perle hops balanced with Munich, roasted and caramel malts that give it its full-bodied taste and exceptional flavor. If you’re hesitant about the whole pumpkin spice craze or even if you’re a bonafide pumpkin lover, this beer has a great taste that’s certain to please. ABV: 7.5 percent
Straight to Ale Olde Towne Pumpkin Ale was the second-to-last beer I sampled, and after dabbling in some really heavy pumpkin beers, this brew was a welcomed surprise because it actually tasted like beer.
While the pumpkin flavor isn’t very prominent, it’s definitely there in combination with cinnamon, nutmeg and the one additional ingredient that sets it off from the rest – clove. The clove is an excellent touch to the unique set of herbs that differentiates this orange-tinted, amber ale from all the other pumpkin beers that are actually just fall-spice beers. Yes, this could easily be categorized as an Oktoberfest fall-spice beer, but there’s just enough pumpkin to do the trick.
Like Point Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale, there’s no terrible aftertaste and this beer is highly drinkable, perfect for a cool, fall night.
Brewed by Olde Towne Brewing Company in Huntsville, Alabama, Olde Towne Pumpkin Ale definitely gives Alabama some bragging rights when it comes to brewing pumpkin beer. ABV: 6 percent
Samuel Adams Fat Jack Double Pumpkin is the powerful, heavy hitter of the group – the cleanup batter, the Great Bambino, if you will. The amount of pumpkin in this one will slap you in the face and knock you straight out of the ballpark.
When I took the first sip of this rich, reddish-brown brew, my senses went into pumpkin overdrive. It was thick with malty sweetness and full of pumpkin pie spices, cinnamon, nutmeg and yet another new ingredient – ginger. The ginger is a nice touch to this beer that provides layer upon layer of delectable spices.
Brewed by Boston Beer Company in Boston Massachusetts, Samuel Adams Fat Jack is the perfect beer for those who really want to dive head first into a strong, full-on pumpkin beer that doesn’t taste like a pumpkin-spice latte gone terribly wrong.
However, be warned that with over 28 pounds of pumpkin used per barrel, Fat Jack has an intense potency and high alcohol by volume percentage, meaning that you have a pretty good chance of getting wasted on pumpkins. ABV: 8.5 percent
When I first embarked on my pumpkin-beer-tasting adventure, several close confidants told me Southern Tier Imperial Pumking was by far, hands down the best pumpkin beer on the market, so I saved this one for last. In my mind, I dreamed I would have some sort of pumpkin beer epiphany with the first sip.
That didn’t happen.
My first thought was, “Wow, these people must really love pumpkins. They must love pumpkins more than they love beer.”
I don’t love pumpkins more than I love beer, so this one wasn’t for me.
When poured, Pumking is nice gold color and the smell is exceptional, boasting a sweet aroma of vanilla, gingerbread and pumpkin spices. But, the aftertaste can be a huge deal breaker for me and with Pumking, it came off a bit too artificial and lingering.
Brewed by Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, New York, a commercial description for Pumking suggests one “pour Pumking into a goblet and allow its alluring spirit to overflow … as the first drops touch your tongue a magical spell will bewitch your tastbuds making it difficult to escape the Pumking.”
I love Halloween, I love goblets, I love magic and I definitely love bewitching, but aside from its All Hallows Eve spirit, Pumking wasn’t as magical as I had hoped.
Perhaps one must be bewitched to enjoy this brew. ABV: 8.6 percent
Packaged like a champagne bottle, I was excited for the next one. I imagined some light, bubbly form of pumpkin goodness. But alas, Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin held true to its name and tasted like what I imagine smashed pumpkins might taste like.
This pale ale was heavy, much heavier than other pale ales I usually find quite tasty, and the blend of wheat, malts and spices was really overwhelming. Willamette and Hallertau hops are used to balance the sweetness, but there’s a distinct fruitiness to this beer that leaves a strong aftertaste.
Brewed in Portland, Maine, Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin is said to be best enjoyed at 55 degrees Fahrenheit and served with sharp cheeses, nuts and desserts like flan or, of course, pumpkin pie.
Perhaps that was my error when I partook in the light coppery orange color brew.
While ranked last on the list, I’d be willing to try this booziest beer of the bunch again with said recommendations. AVB: 9 percent
Editor’s Note: Regular Thirsty Work columnist Susan Larsson is recovering from too many drink reviews and will return next week.