Finally spotting pumpkin beers on the shelf or beer cooler is a sure sign that summer is nearing its end. Just like the arrival of Halloween candy, pumpkin beers (even in mid-September) signal that fall is right around the corner. This happens every year. Also, the arrival of these brews is met with a mixture of excitement and dread. There are few beers as divisive as the pumpkin beer.
Haters will say it tastes like a generic, overly sweet pumpkin-spiced mess. Others will tell you that when made well, pumpkin beers are complex, balanced, and carry the flavors of fall. Spices, pumpkin, and other ingredients make it a popular choice for many.
That being said, we found eight of the best pumpkin beers (a mix of lower and higher ABV brews) on the market that are actually worth drinking this fall. We ranked them based on pumpkin flavor, balance, and overall drinkability. Keep scrolling to see how it turned out.
8) Iron Hill Pumpkin Ale
Average Price: $11 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans
This fall seasonal pumpkin beer from the folks at Iron Hill is known for its balanced flavor profile and recipe that includes pumpkin pie spices and vanilla. The result is a pumpkin ale that literally tastes like a slice of pumpkin pie in beer form.
Right away, the pumpkin aroma hits you. There are also fall spices, and caramel. It’s a very welcoming start. The palate is loaded with more real pumpkin flavor, autumnal spices, toffee, and vanilla. Nothing is over-the-top though. It’s surprisingly easy to drink.
This is a good choice for drinkers who want to dip a toe into the pumpkin beer world. It’s lower in ABV than many on the market and less in-your-face in the pumpkin spice department.
7) Southern Tier Pumking
Average Price: $14 for a four-pack
When it comes to well-known pumpkin beers, it’s tough to beat the appeal of Southern Tier Pumking. This aptly named imperial ale is available from August through October. It’s brewed with 2-row pale malt, Munich Malt, and C60 malts as well as ale yeast, two kinds of hops, pumpkin, and various seasonal spices.
On the nose, you’ll be treated to aromas of vanilla beans, pie crust, cinnamon sugar, and other seasonal spices. The palate begins with pumpkin flavor and moves into toffee, vanilla, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves. It’s sweet, balanced, the perfectly spiced.
Another beer that tastes like pumpkin pie in beer form, the best thing about Pumking is that everything tastes fresh and real. No generic tastes here.
6) Cigar City Good Gourd
Average Price: $12 for a four-pack
This popular imperial pumpkin ale gets its flavor from the addition of allspice, clove, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon. Like many on the market, its recipe was created to taste as close to a pumpkin pie as possible. It definitely does.
Complex aromas of ripe pumpkin, pie crust, cinnamon, clove, and allspice hit your nostrils before your first sip. The palate only expands on this with roasted pumpkin, vanilla beans, toffee, pie crust, more spices, and even some gentle, floral hops at the finish.
As pumpkin ales go, Cigar City Good Gourd is surprisingly well-balanced and flavorful. Add it to your fall list immediately.
5) Saint Arnold Pumpkinator
Average Price: $8 for a 22-ounce bottle
This award-winning pumpkin stout is a seasonal can’t-miss for many beer drinkers. First released in 2009, it’s brewed with pale two-row, caramel, and black malts as well as Liberty and Cascade hops. It gets its seasonal flavor from the use of pumpkin, molasses, brown sugar, and spices.
A lot is going on with this beer’s nose. There are underlying notes of roasted malts and coffee as well as pumpkin, pie crust, cinnamon, and other seasonal spices. The palate continues this trend with more robust, roasted malts, chocolate, coffee, pumpkin, molasses, brown sugar, and spices. The finish is dry and gently spicy.
This is a very complex beer with a ton of flavors. To find them all, you’d need to sample it multiple times. And you’ll probably want to.
4) AleWerks Pumpkin Ale
Average Price: $14 for a six-pack
This 7.3% pumpkin ale out of Virginia’s AleWerks is made with fresh, natural ingredients including pumpkin, cinnamon, brown sugar, and even nutmeg. It smells and tastes like pumpkin pie and that’s definitely not a bad thing.
The nose begins with roasted pumpkin, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, and caramel malts. Drinking it reveals hints of ripe pumpkin, roasted malts, butterscotch, nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon. The finish is dry, spicy, and lingering. It’s a complex memorable beer.
Another beer with a lot going on in terms of aroma and flavor. Crack open one of these bad boys on a cool early fall evening and sip it slowly.
3) Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale
Average Price: $13 for a six-pack
Available from August through October, this 7% ABV, award-winning pumpkin ale is most well-known for its spices. Sure, it starts with real pumpkin like any good pumpkin ale should. But a bit of real cinnamon, nutmeg, and other pumpkin pie spices propel this beer to another level altogether.
The nose is all roasted pumpkin, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. It’s a great sweet, spicy start. Sipping it brings forth more cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pumpkin as well as allspice and sweet vanilla beans. Even with all the spices, it goes down easy with a nice sweet, lightly bitter finish.
This is a great example of a pumpkin ale done right. It ticks all the boxes but doesn’t lean too heavily in any direction.
2) Hardywood Farmhouse Pumpkin
Average Price: $7 for a 22-ounce bottle
This isn’t your average seasonal pumpkin ale. Hardywood’s version is a Wallonian-style farmhouse ale with pumpkin and spices. It’s brewed with sugar pumpkin, whole nutmeg, allspice, clove, and even ginger.
Rustic, yeasty Saison aromas are up front, followed by ripe pumpkin, cinnamon, and spices. The palate is filled with roasted pumpkin, yeast, clove, cinnamon, and a gentle kick of ginger. The finish is a mix of yeast, sweetness, and light seasonal spices. Overall, a unique take on the style.
The end of the summer and the beginning of fall is a great time for Saisons — so why not get really into autumn and drink a pumpkin Saison?
1) Avery Rumpkin
Average Price: $14 for a 12-ounce bottle
Fans of Avery Rumpkin look forward to this seasonal beer year after year. This one is different than the others on this list as it begins as a spiced, pumpkin ale brewed with nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger that’s then aged in rum barrels. The result is a complex, barrel-aged banger that’s not to be missed.
A triumphant nose of roasted pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla beans, and sweet, boozy rum greets you right away. Drinking it reveals a warming, boozy flavor profile of caramel candy, pumpkin, cinnamon, vanilla cookies, ginger, and more rum. The finish is dry, warming, and leaves you craving more.
This beer is fairly high in alcohol. That being said, it’s surprisingly balanced and complex. Definitely a beer to warm you on a cool fall night.