For beer drinkers, there is no more divisive time of year than fall. Some see this as a season filled with gimmicky brews that are loaded with artificial pumpkin flavoring designed to take advantage of this temporary fall craze. Others enjoy a frosty mug of liquefied autumn and know how and where to get the best pumpkin ales that the American craft beer movement has to offer.
Nearly every brewery now has a pumpkin beer to call their own (some even have two or three), so it's important to know which ones are actually worth your time. To get the best, you can't go into your local liquor store blind, and that's why we've compiled a handy list of 10 worthy pumpkin beers you need to drink this fall.
Southern Tier Pumking
What you'll taste: Pumpkin, vanilla, graham cracker, cinnamon
Why you'll like it: If you've been looking for that proverbial pumpkin pie in a bottle, there is no better mug to chug than Southern Tier's Pumking. This brew has attained legendary status over the past few years for good reason. It's sweet, it's strong and it has all of the great flavors fall has to offer in a beautiful 22-ounce bottle. The over-the-top sweetness of Pumking isn't for everyone, though, so if you don't want your beer to taste like your entire dessert table at Thanksgiving, you might be better served with something else on this list. For everyone else, don't let fall slip away without indulging in the amber madness that is Pumking.
Two Roads Brewery Roadsmary's Baby
What you'll taste: Pumpkin, vanilla, pumpkin pie spices, rum, oak
Why you'll like it: Two Roads Brewery is still fairly new, but that hasn't stopped these folks from pumping out some of the best beers the Northeast has to offer. And one of the company's highlights is its annual pumpkin concoction: Roadsmary's Baby. This isn't just any pumpkin beer, though. Roadsmary's Baby is aged in rum barrels to give this offering a layer of depth and complexity outside of the typical pumpkin pie spice fare.
Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale
What you'll taste: Pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon
Why you'll like it: Elysian's Night Owl Pumpkin Ale might just be the most underappreciated pumpkin beer out there. While many pumpkin ales boast about tasting like, well, pumpkin, Elysian's offering is one of the rare beers that actually backs up that claim. According to the brewery, each batch of this amber-colored beer is brewed with 150 pounds of fresh pumpkin. Many other brewers use far less pumpkin, or a pumpkin puree. This is what gives Night Owl a distinct pumpkin flavor that should win over craft newbies and jaded suds snobs alike.
Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
What you'll taste: Pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg
Why you'll like it: Schlafly's Pumpkin Ale is one of the most desired seasonal brews among the craft beer aficionados of the world. This beer is an artfully crafted brew with the flavors of fall (pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg) all taking center stage. The best part is that not one aspect of the beer overpowers the other, leaving Schlafly's beer to stand as one of the most balanced and memorable offerings of the fall.
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
What you'll taste: Pumpkin, brown sugar, spices
Why you'll like it: The folks at Dogfish Head are the mad scientists of the craft beer industry, and Punkin is one of the brewery's highlights. This brown ale has all of the pumpkin flavors you would expect from a fall beer, but there is also a layer of brown sugar notes that add some depth to the brew. At 7% ABV, Punkin also isn't a beer to be over-indulging on. However, the boozy aspects of the beer are masked by the high-quality ingredients and autumnal flavors.
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
What you'll taste: Pumpkin, heavy spices, caramel
Why you'll like it: Weyerbacher's Imperial Pumpkin Ale can be seen as the savior to those beer-drinkers who despise sweeter ales like Southern Tier's Pumking. Weyerbacher's Imperial Pumpkin Ale trades in overt sweetness in favor of a more-balanced rendition of autumn's greatest hits. The spices, caramel and pumpkin flavors are all there, but this time they are allowed to linger on the palate a bit longer, as opposed to being so front-loaded and sweet. This is a more complex beer with plenty of depth, but it's also incredibly rich, packing in an ABV of 8%.
Southampton Pumpkin Ale
What you'll taste: Subdued pumpkin and spice
Why you'll like it: Southampton Publick House is one of the hidden gems for us in the Northeast, and one of the brewery's finest offerings is its Pumpkin Ale. What separates Southampton from so many beers on this list is the fact that it never tries to do too much. Instead of loading the beer with vanilla, spice or pumpkin flavors, Southampton offers an ale that is subtle, offering you the same flavors as the other fall drinks without feeling the urge to pound you over the head with them. And due to its lower alcohol content, this one is perfect for a relaxing, all-day drinking affair.
Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale
What you'll taste: Big pumpkin flavor, subdued spices
Why you'll like it: Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale is a fall beer for people who actually want to taste pumpkin in their brew. Smuttynose Brewery does away with all of the sweetness and overbearing flavoring that other companies use, and instead concentrates just on the pumpkin flavor itself. This makes the beer incredibly unique by the flavor never becoming too overpowering. Similar to the Southampton offering, Smuttynose crafts this entry for people who want to drink an actual beer, not a fall-flavored novelty.
Cigar City Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale
What you'll taste: Pumpkin, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg
Why you'll like it: The first thing you'll notice about Cigar City's Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale is the burnt orange color that pours out of the dark brown bottle. It's the perfect color to complement the drinkable pumpkin pie that the brewery has crafted here. Good Gourd is a must-have for craft enthusiasts, and with good cause. The resulting brew is bright with the taste of real pumpkin and a symphony of spices, including Ceylon cinnamon, Jamaican allspice and Zanzibar cloves.
Samuel Adams Fat Jack Double Pumpkin
What you'll taste: Malt, caramel, pumpkin, spices
Why you'll like it: Samuel Adams is like the New York Yankees of the craft beer industry. It's been so successful for so long that people tend to overlook the brewery's actual accomplishments. And even though Sam Adams has fallen out of favor with the community over the years, it is still capable of pulling out a gem every now and then, and that's exactly what Fat Jack Double Pumpkin is. This boozy behemoth is pumpkin nirvana for fall lovers. The pumpkin flavor comes across naturally as the spices hit the tongue just right. And despite being a stout 8.5% ABV, you can't really feel it. Instead, all you get is a solid fall beer that is among the company's best seasonal entries.