October is here and so are pumpkin beers. Well, they’ve actually been here for a couple months, but it now seems seasonally appropriate to drink them. Though it’s almost impossible to walk into a bar or restaurant without seeing a plethora of sugared rims, not all pumpkin beers are created equal.
Here are some of our favorites, brewed from the East End to California.
1. All Hallows Eve
Spider Bite Beer Co.
Spider Bite Beer Co. in Holbrook has two pumpkin beers this fall and they’re both a little unconventional. The first, All Hallows Eve, is an imperial pumpkin ale. Clocking in at 9% ABV, it has the aroma and flavor of spiced pumpkin pie. The finish is dry, not sweet, and the alcohol is very well hidden. “No need to rim the glass on this one,” says brewer and owner Larry Goldstein. All Hallows Eve is currently on tap at the brewery and a very limited run of bottles will be available in a few weeks. Also coming soon is All Hallows Night, an imperial porter brewed with pumpkin pie spices. The roasted, cocoa flavors of the porter nicely compliment and round out the spice. Some customers even opt to blend Spider Bite’s two pumpkin offerings, creating their own spooky version of a black and tan.
2. Southampton Pumpkin Ale
Southampton Publick House
Southampton Pumpkin Ale is one of the first local pumpkin beers we ever tried. Widely available in a six pack, its 5.5% ABV makes it perfect to enjoy while raking leaves or sitting around a bonfire. The pumpkin ale is brewed with five varieties of malt plus fresh pumpkin pulp. Southampton drew inspiration from colonial times, when malted barley was not widely available so brewers would look for alternate sources of starch—namely, pumpkin. They found that not only does pumpkin contribute sugar, it also imparts a distinct flavor. Southampton enhances the vegetal notes with a small amount of traditional pie spices. This amber colored ale strikes a balance between savory pumpkin and malty, spiced sweetness.
3. Pumpkin Ale
Long Ireland Beer Company
Though only available for a limited time, Pumpkin Ale is one of Long Ireland Beer Company’s most popular beers. The 5% ABV ale is brewed with pale and crystal malt, pumpkin puree and spices. German Tettnang hops add a slight earthy bitterness that helps round out the flavor. The result is a beer that transports you to a crisp fall day without tasting like pie in a glass. You can find it on tap at the brewery and local beer bars, or grab a six pack to share after a long day of apple picking.
4. Punkin Ale
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale made its debut 23 years ago—six months before the brewery officially opened—and has been a staple pumpkin beer ever since. It’s a full bodied brown ale brewed with fresh pumpkin, spices and brown sugar. Don’t let the sugar fool you though, this beer is not overly sweet and tastes more like a nutmeg spiced roasted pumpkin than a plate full of dessert. Every fall we spot it on tap at many places that aren’t typical “craft beer” destinations—always a welcome sight.
Southern Tier Brewing Company
Southern Tier Pumking hails itself “The King of Pumpkin Beers” which isn’t too far off. The 8.6% ABV imperial pumpkin ale is rich and has notes of cinnamon, vanilla and even pie crust, without ever being cloyingly sweet. It’s brewed with actual pumpkin which nicely balances the spices. The beer comes in a 4 pack or 22 oz. bottle which is perfect for sharing. Locally, it’s widely available everywhere from Whole Foods to our neighborhood beer shop, Saint James Beverage. If you’re looking to take it up a notch, try the rum barrel aged version, affectionately nicknamed “Rumking.” The barrels add oaky, rich notes to the already flavorful pumpkin ale. Bottles can be enjoyed this year or further aged, so put one or two away with your Halloween decorations for a delicious surprise next year.