The Search for This Year’s Best Pumpkin Beer

We found it. And a few others.

By The Editors
October 20, 2015 9:00 am

Welcome to Distilled, InsideHook’s deep dive into the spirits world. Drink up.

We know what you’re thinking.

“You mean, ‘the least worst’ pumpkin beer, right?”

We get it. We have pumpkin spice fatigue like everyone else.

Thankfully, breweries across the country have started to learn how to strike the right balance of sweet and spice, creating brews with a nuanced pumpkin kick alongside plenty of malt and hop flavor.  

And we found plenty of ‘em at Elysian Brewery’s Great Pumpkin Beer Festival in Seattle, where more than 50 American breweries tapped some 80 pumpkins brews earlier this month.

As host, Elysian goes all out with their pumpkin offerings, with 20 styles ranging from sours and ales to barley wines and porters. They even offered a Punk-a-Rita beer slushie and a Pumpkin Old Fashioned (pumpkin ale aged in bourbon barrels and served with a maraschino cherry).

All well and good. But let’s talk pumpkin beer. Here are the five that made the cut:

Squash Buckler Pumpkin Amber
Fort George Brewery, Astoria, OR
6.5% ABV
This non-spiced amber ale is brewed with organic pumpkin fire-roasted at Fort George’s Oregon brewery. The most subtle beer in terms of squash flavor, but bringing a well-rounded malty finish as well.

Jackdaw Pumpkin Dark Saison

Black Raven Brewing, Redmond, WA
6.1% ABV
The brewers at Black Raven started with a Dark Saison and added some toasted fresh pumpkin and acorn squash to the kettle post-boil. There are mild spice flavors thanks to the use of a traditional saison yeast strain, which complements the pumpkin notes gracefully.

Fireball! Fireball!
Georgetown Brewing Co., Seattle, WA
8.5% ABV
The name alone almost made us run the other way, but the masterminds behind Manny’s Pale Ale delivered another stellar brew with this cinnamon-infused, barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout. Despite the heavy spice, this brew was smooth, dry and crisp. 

Pumpkin Sour

Almanac Beer Co., San Francisco, CA
8.5% ABV
Almanac takes its spiced brown ale and ages it for several months in wine and Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels with some roasted heirloom pumpkins. The resulting tart and flavorful beer would be a great accompaniment to any rich, savory meal.

Pumpkinator Imperial Pumpkin Stout

Saint Arnold, Houston, TX
10% ABV
This brew has big, bold flavor and plenty of spice. Saint Arnold uses a combination of caramel and black malts, Cascade and Liberty hops, pumpkin, molasses and brown sugar to make this wallop of a beer. 

Pro tip: If you have a favorite brewery (we love Fort George), chances are you’ll enjoy their seasonal offerings — like a pumpkin beer — as well. Seek out taps that aren’t widely distributed or sold in bottles; the smaller the batch, the more unique the flavor tends to be.

Words by Sonja Groset


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