Many find Northeast Ohio to be one of the best locations in the U.S for autumn enjoyment. Trees put on a fantastic display of color, the air turns refreshingly cool and crisp and apple orchards produce bushels of plump fruit waiting to be grabbed by eager hands in pick-your-own orchards.
Countless seasonal beverages also make an appearance this time of year along the Great Lakes. The apple orchards save a portion of their crop to press into sweet-sipping cider while local craft breweries are busy turning pumpkins into hearty brews.
Pumpkin beers have proliferated over the last decade in on-going efforts by brewers to differentiate their product. Countless traditional and sometimes exotic flavors have been added to beer, but pumpkin remains a favorite. This In The Mix blog looks at some top picks for pumpkin-flavored beer.
Pumking Imperial Ale
Main Location: Lakewood, New York
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 8.6%
International Bitterness Units (IBU): 30
The “king” in Pumking is appropriate. It is arguably the best pumpkin beer, especially if you have a sweet tooth.
Typically served in a snifter, Pumking looks and tastes different than almost any other beer. In a blind taste test, many may not even identify it as beer.
Pumking’s body and flavor are heavy, very sweet (almost syrupy), and full of pumpkin flavor and autumn spices. Some describe it as liquid pumpkin pie.
Despite its lack of beer flavor, Pumking is a delicious beverage and should be on your must have list every autumn.
Other Pumking varieties include Pumking Nitro and Pumking Warlock (Imperial Stout with pumpkin flavor). These are also good, but the original Pumking Imperial Ale is hard to beat.
Pumking Imperial Ale experience is expensive. A four-pack of 12-ounce bottles typically costs about $14. Each bottle packs a punch, however, at 8.6% ABV. The high alcohol content, sugary taste and cost per bottle make Pumking a low volume sipper enjoyed on its own or after a meal.
Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Wheat
Brewer: Blue Moon Brewing Company
Main Location: Denver, Colorado
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 5.7%
International Bitterness Units (IBU): 16
The beer that became Blue Moon was first produced in 1995 at Sandlot Brewery inside Coors Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies. Since then, the Blue Moon brand has marketed many seasonal beers including Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Wheat. It is an ideal autumn beer for those that enjoy malt, fall spices and sugar but don’t want to be overwhelmed by them.
Like Pumking, Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Wheat is brewed with real pumpkin and autumn spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. It has a lighter body and less sweetness than Pumking (although both are still pretty significant). It also has more carbonation (which produces a head) giving it a mouth feel comparable to more traditional beers.
Brewer: Fat Heads Brewing Company
Main Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cleveland, Ohio
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 9.0%
International Bitterness Units (IBU): 22
Spooky Tooth Imperial Ale is made by Fat Heads Brewing, a frequent award winner in national and international beer competition.
At 9.0%, Spooky Tooth Ale has the highest ABV of the pumpkin beers on our list. The high alcohol content translates to a slight alcohol smell on the nose, but it’s not off-putting. The alcohol content also makes this beer best for slow sipping like Pumking.
The body and flavor of Spooky Tooth Ale is a cross between Pumking and Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale. It’s sweeter and heavier than Blue Moon but falls short of Pumking in both respects.
ShipYard Pumpkinhead Wheat Ale
Brewer: Shipyard Brewing Company
Main Location: Portland, Maine
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 4.5%
International Bitterness Units (IBU): 18
Not all pumpkin beers are flavor and alcohol bombs. ShipYard Pumpkinhead Wheat Ale is a lighter-bodied, golden beer with more subtle (but noticeable) pumpkin flavor and autumn spices.
The milder flavor of ShipYard Pumpkinhead Wheat Ale makes it a better choice for drinking with meals than most of the heavier, sweeter pumpkin ales. The lower ABV also won’t put you on the couch as soon as the meal is over.
Yammy Yammy Sweet Potato Ale (special mention)
Brewer: Platform Beer Company
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 7.7%
International Bitterness Units (IBU): 16
Color: Light Amber
Not all “pumpkin beers” are necessarily made with pumpkin. Yammy Yammy Sweet Potato Ale is a sweet potato-based beer, but its use of autumn spices makes it very comparable in flavor to pumpkin beers.
The use of sweet potatoes in Yammy Yammy is somewhat polarizing. Drinkers either like the flavor – which is a little sharper than pumpkin – or they don’t.
If you find Yammy Yammy in your area, definitely give it a try. Platform Beer Company is a highly regarded craft brewery known for its unique recipes and flavor combinations. Their creativity has even drawn the attention of Anheuser-Busch InBev, which bought the then five-year old Platform in 2019.
For More Information
Many more pumpkin beers are on the market than those in our list. If you like pumpkin flavor in general, sample different pumpkin beers to see which suit your taste preferences best.
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