Pumpkin season is apparently the new Christmas–it seems to start earlier and earlier every year (like August, gasp!?) and everyone counts down the days until it begins. While we were able to practice just enough self control to wait until the high temps dipped below 70, we admit, we were eager and ready too! How could we not be with so many of our favorite craft breweries getting in on the pumpkin game? But with all these options we realized that it’s really hard to know which breweries have killer pumpkin brews, and which were just kind of “meh.” So, being responsible food bloggers, we decided to visit BevMax in Stamford to buy 10 different pumpkin beers from across the Northeast (and DE just for fun) and see which ones we liked the most (and least) so we could report back to you. See the sacrifices we make for you?
To keep things fair, we held a double-blind study on a laid back Sunday night. Kristien poured out samples for Dan and he rated, not knowing which beer it was…then Kristien did the same in a different order. We judged based on taste, appearance, and smell. In terms of taste we wanted to make sure we knew at first sip that it was a pumpkin beer, but we were also looking for it to be nicely balanced—not too light or too heavy with the spices. For appearance we were searching for a dark golden brown hue, nothing more, nothing less. And for smell, we wanted that warm and spicy scent we’ve come to expect from pumpkin beer.
So let’s get into our ranking of these 10 brews from lowest rated to highest, along with ABV and notes. We hope you enjoy…
10 Post Road Pumpkin (5%) from Brooklyn Brewery, NY
While Brooklyn’s beer had a nice aroma of wheat and pumpkin, the color was very light. In addition, the only flavors we got were from the beer…no hints of any spices came through, nor did we really taste notes of pumpkin. A easy drinking beer? Sure. A pumpkin beer? Not by our definition.
9 Blue Point Pumpkin Ale (6%), NY
We were hopeful with Blue Point’s seasonal offering, and we were excited when we saw a pour approaching that dark golden hue that we were searching for. In terms of aroma, though, there wasn’t much going on at all with very faint notes of pumpkin. In terms of taste, there was a subtle pumpkiny taste, but the spices such as cinnamon and clove were very light and barely came through.
8-6 (Tie) Captain Lawrence Pumpkin Ale (5.5%), NY
We’ve been big fans of Captain Lawrence and tend to love their stuff, so we had decided to throw this one into the mix. This brew poured out a light golden color, but did have a good pumpkin nose to it. The pumpkin carried over into the taste with only a few spices coming through. An interesting note that added some complexity was the finish that had a slight bitterness to it. Also, there were some interesting flavors going on like a bready, malty flavor that added some complexity.
8-6 (Tie) KBC Pumpkin Ale (4.7%), ME
Notes of pumpkin and spice hit the nose, although this beer pours out a light golden color. At this point we noticed an interesting correlation between stronger smell and lighter beers. The KBC Pumpkin had very strong tastes of cinnamon in it, actually overpowering other flavors like the pumpkin. Overall this was too light for our tastes.
8-6 (Tie) Saranac Pumpkin Ale (5.4%), NY
Like the KBC Pumpkin, the Saranac was light golden, but the only notes we got from the smell was strong pumpkin and nutmeg. In terms of taste, it was light on the spices and the pumpkin. The beer itself, also, was light and a tad bit watery tasting. Not horrible by any means, but also missing that punch and flavor that you crave in a pumpkin beer.
5 Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale (4.7%), ME
The aromas from this brew were some of the most impressive of all 10 choices. It had a warm, sugary, and spicy smell, inviting us in. The brew was light golden, but still had some good spices like cinnamon and nutmeg going on and was easy drinking. This is the kind of pumpkin beer you could drink all day without feeling like you want to vomit all over the place. Could it be better? Sure, but it’s a good choice as a sessionable pumpkin beer.
4 Southern Tier Pumking (8.6%), NY
We were interested in testing this one because people constantly say that this is one of their favorite pumpkin beers. Well, we’ll be the judges of that…and we were. Starting off with the nose test, we felt that this had the best aroma of all the beers that we tasted due to the strong pumpkin and caramel notes. Yes, it was golden in color, but we were impressed with the amount of flavor that was packed into this beer. We got pumpkins, we got tastes of brown sugary caramel, and there was also a very prominent flavor that was punching through. It was a little vanilla, but also the kind of taste that you might get from eating a pie crust or a sweet butter cookie. We liked this beer, but definitely agreed that this was the kind of beer that you could only have one pint of because more than that would just become overwhelming.
3 Two Roads Roadsmary’s Baby (6.8%), CT
Now in its second production, Two Roads Roadsmary’s Baby was a beer that we were really interested in seeing how it would hold up to the other pumpkins. On the nose there was lots of pumpkin, rum, and vanilla flavor, with a medium-dark golden color. In terms of tasting, the rum flavor comes through nicely at the finish with some tiny hints of oak. At the front of the sip, you get spices, but the pumpkin is a bit subdued. This was easy drinking, unique, and stood out from the rest because of its complexity and flavor profile. We can confidently say we love this beer.
2 Dogfish Head Punkin Ale (7%), DE
Dogfish Head Punkin…it’s clearly a favorite of people, so we picked this one for that very reason. We wanted to see if it really could hold up in a blind tasting. Well, it did. The Punkin Ale was approaching a dark golden color (it’s a brown ale) and had nice notes of pumpkin and spices. Flavors included strong notes of pumpkin and a warming brown sugar feel. In addition, there were plenty of other tastes poking through like cinnamon, caramel, and allspice. Again, this isn’t your typical kind of boring pumpkin beer, and that’s why we dug it so much. It has character and it has complexity just like the Roadsmary’s Baby and Pumking.
1 Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin (8%), PA
Since we tried this last year, it quickly rose to the top of our pumpkin beer list. So, when we picked it up at the store, we were anxious to see if we still thought so highly of it, even during a blind tasting. After having so many pumpkin beers, we weren’t able to pick out which one was the Weyerbacher, but definitely were drawn to this tasting. We smelled strong notes of cinnamon and pumpkin and noticed a dark golden color. Like the Dogfish, there were great notes of pumpkin and spices that came along with a bitter end. In addition, we got lots of other great flavors like a maltiness, some nutmeg, and some allspice. What we like most about this beer is it’s ABV: 8! It’s the kind of pumpkin beer that you sip on while you’re hanging by the fire or trying to keep warm on a cold fall day.
Well, that’s it for the 10 beers we tried. We’d love to hear if you agree, disagree, or if we didn’t include of one of your faves from the NE.