Best Pumpkin Beers – Blind Taste Test

by Daniel on September 29, 2012

This time of year is extremely popular for pumpkin beers, and every year there seem to be more and more breweries releasing their unique contribution.  Some nail it while others may miss the mark, depending on your taste.  My friends got together and collected all of the pumpkin beers we could find to make our own blind taste test in order to thin down the herd.  Afterward we counted up the votes and ranked them, and now I get to share our results for your benefit!

When judging the beers, we were looking for 1.) the best overall pumpkin beer, and 2.) the beer that tasted most like pumpkin pie.  Then we ranked the rest of them.  Of course, this is only a ranking of those we tasted.  If you’ve had an awesome pumpkin beer that’s not on the list, please share it!  I personally wish we could have had access to purchase some of the many highly acclaimed pumpkin beers from Elysian Brewery from my hometown of Seattle.  We had to settle for just one however.  If you live in the northwest, see if you can pick up some more from Elysian, they make more than handful of them and each is unique.  Here is what we found from what we did get:

Best overall pumpkin beer:  Samuel Adams – Harvest Pumpkin Ale

Beer tasting most like pumpkin pie:  Horseheads Brewing – Pumpkin Ale

Sam Adams Harvest being voted best overall was a bit of a surprise to all of us!  Anyway, it was a solid beer, and they did a great job.  Personally, the Horseheads won both categories for me, but the group has spoken, and I also had liked the Sam Adams a lot.  So here’s how the rest of the beers did:

  1. Samuel Adams – Harvest Pumpkin Ale
  2. Horseheads Brewing Co.  – Pumpkin Ale
  3. Long Trail Brewing Co. – Imperial Pumpkin Ale
  4. Samuel Adams – Fat Jack Double Pumpkin Ale (yup, two in the top 5 from Boston Beer!)
  5. Bethlehem Brew Works – Devious Imperial Pumpkin (bottle says Fegley’s Brew Works)
  6. Southern Tier Brewing Company – Pumking (tastes a lot like pumpkin pie, with a lot of hazelnut.  Some people really don’t like this one though, it was controversial with our group)
  7. Southampton Publik House – Pumpkin Ale
  8. Weyerbacher Brewing Co. – Imperial Pumpkin Ale
  9. Harpoon Brewery – UFO Pumpkin
  10. Elysian Brewing Company – Night Owl (being a fan of Elysian, I was surprised it wasn’t rated higher)

The rest of the beers we tried really didn’t make the mark.  Mostly because they just didn’t really have much if any pumpkin flavor to stand out but were okay, but one was just outright bad.

Beers that were nothing special (no particular order):

  • Matt Brewing Company – Saranac Pumpkin Ale
  • Otter Creek Brewing Company – Wolaver’s Organic Pumpkin Ale
  • Brooklyn Brewery – Post Road Pumpkin Ale
  • Lavery Brewing Company – Stingy Jack Pumpkin Ale
  • Smuttynose Brewing Company – Pumpkin Ale
  • Dogfish Head Craft Brewery – Punkin Ale
  • Buffalo Bill’s Brewery – Pumpkin Ale
  • Shipyard Brewing Co. – Pumpkinhead

And the worst beer was:  Shipyard Brewing Co. – Smashed Pumpkin.  It had a medicinal type of flavor due to an overpowering amount of ginger.  All of us agreed it was not good.  Anyway, if I bashed a favorite of yours, sorry!  We just didn’t like it compared to others in our blind taste test.  So go forth and do a taste test yourself.  I highly recommend it!  But if you want some really solid pumpkin beers, seek out any of our top 10 (and especially the top 6) above, and you won’t be disappointed.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

brendon October 25, 2012 at 8:44 am

I’m going to agree with sam being a damn good pumpkin beer, disagree and say Brooklyn Post Road should be higher up, and be taken aback that you liked Pumpking (so overly sweet imo).

Good write up. To each his own taste, right?


Daniel October 26, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Thanks for the comment Brendon. I agree that Pumpking is quite sweet. It was a bit controversial in our group: we certainly had a divide of people who liked it and some that really didn’t. If anything at least it’s different, right? As for Post Road, I’m glad you mention it because it’s possible that we just had a bad bottle or something, and because of that it just didn’t stand out in the group–but it certainly wasn’t bad tasting.


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