The Great Tour de Pumpkin (Beer): Review of 10 Pumpkin Beers!

Ever since I spotted the first Post Road Pumpkin Ale hit the shelves back at the tail end of August (or was it the front end of September?) I’ve had a dream. That dream was simple.

To taste as many pumpkin beers as I could grab a hold of, in one sitting, and compare/contrast them.  It was only through this method that I could truly grasp whether they were tasty or just appealing to my fairly inappropriate lust for all things pumpkin.  Slowly but surely, I’ve been collecting and hoarding (not unlike my hoarding of koozies and teeth I discovered in my Spring Cleaning Post), waiting for the right moment.  The perfect night.

Saturday night was that night.

Armed with 10 pumpkin beers (okay, 8 pumpkin beers, 1 pumpkin hard cider, and 1 harvest ale), and my good friend Melissa (the lady who introduced me to the Death Deck workout), it was time.

Let's do this thing.

We used an incredibly scientific method, and took meticulous notes.

Melissa getting super serious.

Beers were rated using a 1-10 scale on the following:

  • Smell
  • Pumpkinosity (told you, super scientific)
  • Drinkability
  • After-taste
  • Overall Impression
I’ll list them in descending order, from worst to best, for your reading ease (and I always like to save the best for last.)

The Smuttiest Nose

The Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale was unanimously voted as the worst of the pumpkin beers (which translates to both of us agreeing it sucked.) It received either a 2 or a 3 in each of the categories. This was the least pumpkiny of all (except the one non-pumpkin beer we tried, I guess. It didn’t have much going on in the way of spices, it smelled a little sharper than the rest, and there was a bitter aftertaste. I wrote on the notes, “don’t love this one”. But honestly, I actively disliked it.

8. Woodchuck Hard CiderPrivate Reserve Pumpkin

Cider =/= Beer

Ok. I know. Hard Cider, though boozy, is not beer. At first look, this could almost pass as beer. There’s no head, though, and at first sniff, you know we’re not in Kansas anymore (because Kansas is where we drink only beer?) The smell of this beer earned a solid 6. There was a slight hint of pumpkin, but mostly it smelled like sweet apples. Or maybe even candied apples. OR like, if Kool-Aid made a candied apple flavor. There’s no carbonation and it was incredibly sweet, but only received a 2 on “pumpkinosity”. The smell was really the only saving grace here.  If you like cider, I’d say this would be great.

If you like beer, get another bottle.

7. New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale

Bonus points for clever name!

I had high hopes for this beer, I really did. And, honestly, it’s not a bad beer. The smell earned a 7, it was spicy and a little hoppy.  However, on pumpkinosity, it only received a 4. It was like all smell, no taste, like a hollowed out pumpkin pie. We both agreed it was a fairly drinkable beer, rating a 6, but aftertaste and overall were both middle of the road with a 5. Not as strong as expected from the scent of cinnamon, while this beer wasn’t bad, it also didn’t hold a candle to some of our other picks.

6. Dogfish Head Punkin

Punkin Chunkin

Here’s one that I’ve heard all about, and recently managed to pick up a 4-pack in Carrboro. It’s been waiting patiently, and I’ve been watching it longingly.  At the initial pour, it smelled caramely with some spices, but not too strong. It scored mostly 7s with one 6 and, alas, a 4 on aftertaste. The taste and smell were underwhelming considering all the hype I’d heard regarding this beer. It was maltier than the other beers, both in smell and taste, with hints of caramel. The aftertaste on this one, though, really brought me down. Alas…. while I’m a Dogfish Head fanatic most of the time, this was not my favorite.

5. New Belgium Kick

A kick in a glass!

Ok, let me start off by saying: this pumpkin beer is NOTHING like the rest of them. Described by New Belgium as “a rich and tart pumpkin cranberry ale blended with wood-aged beer”, the key word here is cranberry. The initial smell was tart and almost juicy.  We both agreed that a great term to describe this beer: “drinker friendly”. Each sip made me want to try another sip (luckily, we had 22 oz to go around!).  A nice, tart beer, this is like an intro to sour for folks who might not want a sour. With an ABV of 8.5%, this beer definitely does bring a kick to the table.  However, on pumpkinosity, this beer only scored a 4. It rated high everywhere else, and I’d totally recommend it to everyone, it just wasn’t all about the pumpkin.

4. Big Boss Harvest Time

The most menacing bottle ever

Finally, a hometown hero!! Well…. a Raleigh-based hero. I’ve spoken before of my fondness for Big Boss‘s Monkey Bizz-ness before, and honestly, I love almost all of their beers. But Harvest Time is my favorite thing that comes out of their brewery. We started our tasting out with this beer and, as I placed my nostrils near the glass, I smelled that familiar pumpkin spice that I know and love.  It was a great way to start off the tasting, and set the bar pretty high. It’s got a lower carbonation than I normally go for, but the drinkability is top notch. The pumpkinosity at the taste, though, is a little lower than some, as the dominant taste is spices like cinnamon and maybe nutmeg. The smell of pumpkin is definitely stronger than the taste. It goes down easy, has a sweet aftertaste, and is just an all-around fantastic pumpkin beer. In fact, it was nearly tied for #3, but the next one just barely eeked it out.

3. Shipyard Pumpkinhead 

Bonus points for the name!

I loved the smell of this beer. It was cinnamon, it was light, it was sweet, maybe there was some apple cidery action going on… I don’t know, but we tasted it 5th and it was definitely the most spice of the bunch. It actually kind of reminded me of a cinnamony snickerdoodle. It was light with a quality carbonation and reminded me of a warm pie. We loved this beer, it scored high on drinkability, and the smell put it over the moon.

2. Terrapin Pumpkinfest

Pumpkin FIESTA!

I just recently reviewed the Georgia based Terrapin’s Peaotch, and this beer, much like that one, I want to make a candle out of this beer. It smelled delicious and ranked 8-9 on nearly all scales. It was pleasantly more pumpkin than spice for once, and handled my tastebuds with a smooth cinnamon and pumpkin taste. My favorite part of this beer, though, was the aftertaste. It was almost as if the flavor changed as it rested on your tongue from pumpkin to cinnamon, as if it was ending with dessert. The carbonation was nice and bubbly without being overwhelming, and it was all-around just a quality beer. Great on all accounts and, if it hadn’t been for our last contender, it would’ve won the title.  Alas…..

1. Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

The Motherload

Oh, Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale…. the pumpkin beer on which all others will be judged.  The smell was literally intoxicating (get it…. because it’s beer). It’s the only beer that truly scored a 10 on any level, and that level was aroma. It smelled almost as if root beer had a love child with pumpkin, and sprinkled some cinnamon on that child. It was very low in carbonation, normally a turn off for me, but for this beer… it just worked. It was like the innards of a good pumpkin pie, one that isn’t dominated by sugar and spice, but lets all the flavors shine through. I want it to be a chapstick. It has an 8.0% ABV and doesn’t taste at all boozy, which could be very dangerous. Melissa even drew a smiley emoticon on this one, signaling her approval. This beer was the top of the charts for both of us, and I would suggest trying it for anyone interested in Pumpkin beers.

Honorable Mention: Abita Pecan Harvest

Autumn is for pecans too!

Not to be outdone (but since they have no pumpkin beers [yet!]), Abita wanted to join the seasonal beer party with some Louisiana harvested pecans in their Pecan Harvest!  The nutty smell was a great way to break up the spices and pumpkinosity were accustomed to, and the aftertaste was sweet and well-rounded, like a slice of tasty pecan pie! We both agreed that this beer would make a great addition to any Thanksgiving table and, although the pumpkinosity on this one was N/A, the smell, drinkability, and aftertaste gave it a great overall impression. If it’d been in the running, it would’ve been a top contender!


That was a mouthful (and a belly-ful… of beer.)

I know there’s a lot done locally that aren’t available near me, so I tried to make due. I didn’t include the Southern Tier Pumking (a personal favorite, warm and smooth, a great pumpkin choice), either, or quite a few of the ones only available in 22 oz because we were just two ladies and didn’t want to blackout (though it would’ve been in the name of science). Maybe next time I do a massive tasting, I could do it en masse and diversify the options. Then again, these are all readily available in singles, so that might be more approachable.

What I’m trying to say is this isn’t a totally comprehensive list, but it’s a great starter for any pumpkin-beer lovah (like myself). If you’re interested in seeing many more (incredibly comprehensive) pumpkin beer reviews, check out the folks at The Great Pumpkin Beer Review!

What’s your favorite pumpkin beer? 

or if you don’t like pumpkin beers….

What’s your favorite Autumn Seasonal/Octoberfest beer?!

Six Pack Sunday: Best Laid Plans Edition

Hello there, all, we made it to Sunday!  Hopefully, you all survived Irene unscathed (or only barely scathed…)

We managed to get through it without having to deal with anything too crazy, a power surge or two, a lot of wind, and a temporary cable and internet outage (TORTURE!) This particular weekend was supposed to be spent with 50 of my cousin’s closest friends and loved ones hosting a wine tasting in Ocean City. Alas, due to a mandatory evacuation, the only wine tasting was my mom and I with a classy bottle of Riesling (ending that Summer of Riesling on a high note.)

Dainty dearest and I, making the most of a bad situation (also, my black eyes are due to my CONSTANT red eye. I may be a demon.)

There were all sorts of parts of this weekend that weren’t according to plan.  But it ended up turning into something wonderful, so thanks Irene, but no thanks.

And so, in honor of that classless broad, Hurricane Irene, I’d like to honor this Six Pack Sunday with the distinction of being the Best Laid Plans edition.

  1. I said goodbye to the beau.

    Best roomie ever.

    He moved to Manayunk in Philadelphia to begin a super smart PhD program. However, 10 hours later, guess who I found in my home in Pennyslvania?

    Beer-friend! Like a boyfriend.... with beer!

    Since his new place didn’t have a bed yet, he spent some of the weekend with my family. It was like weaning a child off of bottles, and I got to be surrounded by family when I finally said goodbye. It was the best surprised of the weekend.

  2. Ever wonder what garlic looks like when you just let it grow?

    Vintage garlic.

    Sometimes, in my home, we forget that we have garlic. So we buy more garlic. and then, a few months later, VOILA! baby garlic plants. These didn’t make it into dinner, though. But they did make a beautiful science experiment.

  3. No one looks cute when they cry.

    But, least of all, me.

    I promise, I cleaned up my face before I got on a plane. I wouldn’t want to scare the children who get on between groups A and B.

  4. Pumpkin Beers are HERE!


    This is, quite literally, my favorite time of the beer-year. On the beer-calendar, this is my Christmas. And the presents are wrapped in oranges, browns, and gourds.  Yumbo.  I’m hoping that at the next Girls’ Pint Out event, or maybe sooner, we get a hold of some Big Boss Harvest Time, my favorite local pumpkin beer. Can’t even wait.

  5. Weirdy Beardy

    The apple doesn't fall far from... the other apple.

    So the thing is, when I was a little lady growing up, I always used to make a beard out of my looooong hair by braiding it.  And today, I found out that my sister Kiley, 9 years my junior, does the same thing. Like sister, like sister.  But NOT like Sister, Sister. Did you know Tia just had a baby? My, how the times have changed….

  6. Double Denim Damage

    I did something today that I hadn’t done in maybe 5 years. I went into an Abercrombie & Fitch… and looked for myself.  When I started putting weight on, I stopped fitting into their tiny sizes, and wouldn’t even try anything on. Also, when you walk in, the music blaring added to the aromatic barrage of their combined fragrances made me feel an instant headache in a perma-rave.  But, when shopping with the little sister for her newest skinny jeans…. I grabbed a pair myself. AND THEY FIT!

    Super Skinny and Semi-Short!

    Feeling my newfound denim-daring, I picked up a pair of Paige jean shorts, an article of clothing I’ve been trying to find all summer with no luck (everything’s either too short, too tight, too long, or too dowdy looking). These are JUST right and I feel like an all-American gal rocking em. I LOVE Paige jeans, they’re always long enough and I can frequently find them on RueLaLa deeply discounted (in FACT they’re on sale tonight in the Sunday Night Styleathon!!), and the quality is impeccable. In addition: they make my booty look incredible.

I will happily say that this weekend was a surprise hit, despite the best efforts of Mother Nature. I’m off to soak up the last few hours with the people I love the most. And, in honor of my sexy new butt-huggers, here’s a shot of my family with me WEARING SOME!

See what I mean? EXCELLENT booty shot.

What’s your favorite brand of denim?

What was the highlight of your weekend?