Ah, pumpkin beer. I can’t think of another hot topic in the Halloween community more polarizing than your love of or disdain for these autumnal treats. We all have VERY strong feelings about pumpkin beer, and we all seem to fall in two very clear camps: love or hate. There is no in-between.
Over the last few years as the craft beer market has grown leaps and bounds, so has the availability of pumpkin beers. Every brewer worth their malt seems to have one in their fall seasonal collection.
Pumpkin Beer: A History
But pumpkin beers are nothing new to America. In fact, they have a long and storied history dating back to the mid-1600s, well before we even became a country. Fermentable sugars weren’t always readily available in those days, and the meat of pumpkins could easily replace malts in a pinch. The drink’s continued until the early 19th century when pumpkins began to be viewed as rustic, and quality malts became more readily available.
The more modern revival of pumpkin beers goes back to the late 1980s when Buffalo Bill’s Brewery began producing America’s Original Pumpkin Beer – a brew that uses one of George Washington’s recipes as inspiration. (Source)
Pumpkin Beer: Today
These days, you can walk into any grocery and liquor store and easily find 10 different pumpkin brews just waiting to go home with you. In fact, according to beeradvocate.com’s list there are more than 1,250 different pumpkin beers in production. Crazy!
Unfortunately, I could only talk my family into trying nine, and today I’m sharing the results of our pumpkin beer tasting with you!
Plus, at the end of the post you can download a FREE tasting card to use for your own tasting. Then stay tuned because Thursday party hostess extraordinaire Chrystina Noel will be guest posting on spookylittlehalloween.com and sharing her very best tips for hosting a beer tasting party on a budget!
On to the pumpkin beer tasting >>>
How the ratings were calculated
A total of five people sampled nine pumpkin beers. (We split the beers between us, for the record.) We rated each beer on the following using a scale of 1-5, five being the highest rating:
Between each beer sampling we sipped water and snacked on plain pretzels to clear our pallets. And please don’t judge us too harshly for our glassware – we’ve since upgraded and now have proper beer sampling glasses!
The final ratings you’ll see below are the average of our individual ratings. Beers are listed in alphabetical order, and I’ve included as much information as possible to help you locate them near you.
Special thank you to my family for agreeing to take on this challenge! They made me swear to never make them drink that many pumpkin beers again when we were done…
Alaskan Pumpkin Ale
Brewer: Alaskan Brewing Co. | Juneau, AK | Website
Description: This beer pours clear deep golden brown with a creamy off-white head and a wonderful holiday aroma of pumpkin, nutmeg and cloves. A lighter style than our Pumpkin Porter, this beer strives for balance in the sweetness and pumpkin flavor with a hint of hops in the background to cut through the forward spicy flavors. A vibrant clove and cinnamon finish wakes up the palate for the next sip.
Note: It looks like Alaskan Brewing Co. isn’t offering this or any other pumpkin beer in 2016.
Overall Rating: 3.8 out of 5
Harvest Patch Shandy
Description: Satisfy your thirst for autumn with our Leinenkugel’s Harvest Patch Shandy. It’s our traditional weiss beer with natural pumpkin spice flavor to give you notes of nutmeg, allspice and clove for a refreshing fall seasonal. It’s crisp and smooth, just like a perfect fall day on the Leinie Side.
Note: Our family is a Leinie’s family. We love their beers, have toured the brewery, own T-shirts and beer soap and act as their unofficial Texas ambassadors. Our opinions might be biased here…
Overall Rating: 3.2 out of 5
Jack-O Traveler Pumpkin Shandy
Description: Jack-O Traveler is an alluring wheat beer illuminated by the tastes of fall. He strikes a perfect balance between bright refreshment and seasonal spice. Jack is brewed with fresh pumpkin, for a delicious dark-hued, Shandy-inspired beer.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Post Road Pumpkin Ale
Description: Early American colonists, seeking natural ingredients for brewing ales, turned to pumpkins, which were plentiful, flavorful and nutritious. Blended with barley malt, pumpkins became a commonly used beer ingredient. Post Road Pumpkin Ale brings back this tasty tradition. Hundreds of pounds of pumpkins are blended into the mash of each batch, creating a beer with an orange amber color, warm pumpkin aroma, biscuity malt center and crisp finish.
Overall Rating: 1.5 out of 5
My brother felt compelled to note on his tasting card this beer “tasted like soap”. My sister-in-law agreed. Drink at your own risk.
Pumpkick Spiced Seasonal Ale
Description: What’s that bite of tartness doing in a pumpkin beer? Adding the unexpected kick of cranberry juice to brighten this traditionally spiced seasonal ale. Pumpkick is brewed with plenty of pumpkin juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, but it’s the cranberries and touch of lemongrass that send your taste buds sailing.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Description: Pumpkin Wheat combines the smooth taste of Shock Top with the flavors of fall. Shock Top starts with a traditional Belgian-style wheat ale and then brew with ripe pumpkins and a variety of autumnal spices, including nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, for a refreshingly smooth pumpkin wheat beer that fully captures all the flavors of fall.
Overall Rating: 1.6 out of 5
Description: Imagine a pumpkin vine wound it’s way in a field of barley, and a brewer harvested it all to make a beer. Add Northwestern hops and a blend of spices, and you’ve got UFO Pumpkin. The malt combination provides a smooth body and slightly sweet flavor, which balances perfectly with the earthy notes derived from the pure pumpkin. And like all of our UFO beers, UFO Pumpkin is UnFiltered.
Overall Rating: 2.1 out of 5
Wasatch Pumpkin Ale
Brewer: Wasatch Brewery | Salt Lake City, UT | Website
Description: Brewed with the finest barely and pure pumpkin, then spiced like your favorite holiday pie. This amber-hued ale is sure to please!
Note: Wasatch’s Black O’Lantern Pumpkin Stout may have replaced this beer for 2016.
Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Wilhelm Scream Pumpkin Ale
Description: Wilhelm Scream is ripe with fall flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and caramel malts. Medium-bodied and the color of orange setting suns, it finishes similar to the way we finish summer: with just a hint of bitterness.
Overall Rating: 2.9 out of 5
Here’s the breakdown of the overall ratings, in order from highest rating to lowest rating.
I should also note we tried Pumpkin Batch from Sam Adams, but it received such a low rating I decided to leave it off. Shocking, right? I’ve never had a beer from Sam Adams I didn’t like, so I’m chalking it up to the single-serve I purchased not being stored properly in the Texas heat. We’ll give them another go in the next pumpkin beer tasting.
Download the tasting card
Ready to host your own pumpkin beer tasting? I’ve made my tasting card available for you to download! The cards are on a standard letter size page (8.5 x 11 inches) and each page contains four cards.
Host a beer tasting party on a budget
Don’t forget to come back to spookylittlehalloween.com on Thursday for Chrystina Noel’s guest post on how to host an awesome beer tasting party on a budget. You can also check out her autumn beer and cheese party she hosted last year.
What’s your favorite pumpkin beer?
Share your picks in the comments!
Happy pumpkin beer picking,
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