Nothing is more autumnal than a good pumpkin beer.
If you're one of those people who pretends to dislike pumpkin flavored things, we get it: You unironically wear cargo shorts, probably decline to pet dogs when given the opportunity, and just generally hate joy.
Be yourself–it's fine. But for the rest of us, fall means packing the few short months after summer and before winter with as much pumpkiny, cinnamony goodness as possible.
Pumpkin spice lattes are good and all, but they aren't beer, and anything that isn't beer isn't as good as beer (I'm pretty sure that's a bible verse). Luckily, thanks to pumpkin beer, it's possible to have all the joy of pumpkin spice with the delight of a high alcohol percentage! If you haven't yet experienced your first pumpkin beer, know that I envy the rebirth you will soon experience. For the uninitiated, here's what you need to know:
1. Stick with pumpkin ales.
Any pumpkin beer is sure to be far superior to your average beer, but a pumpkin ale will provide the richest, most interesting flavor.
2. If at all possible, drink your pumpkin beer out of a cold glass with a cinnamon sugar rim.
I know, I know, this sounds a little much. But I promise some things are worth the extra effort and this is absolutely one of them. A cold pumpkin beer with a sweet hint of cinnamon sugar in every sip? Unbeatable.
3. Buy in large quantities.
You will not want just one pumpkin beer. You will not even want just two pumpkin beers. You will want three pumpkin beers minimum in one sitting. Be prepared.
Now that you know the basics about pumpkin beer, let's get into which are the best of the best. Here are our top five American pumpkin beers of fall 2020.
Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin
While Shipyard makes two different kinds of pumpkin beer (the other is called Pumpkinhead), we prefer their higher percentage option that comes in full pint cans. The Maine brewing scene has Shipyard to thank for it's growing popularity in the last few years, and this OG brewery definitely lives up to the hype. Smashed Pumpkin has an excellent balance of spices, including plenty of delicious notes of nutmeg, but is also sweet enough to make it easy drinking (careful, it is 9%).
Type: Pumpkin ale, 9%
Origin: Portland, Maine
Where to find it: Smashed Pumpkin is available in more than a dozen states. Use Shipyard's beer finder tool here.
This pumpkin ale is definitely on the sweeter side, with lots of delicious vanilla flavoring and hints of nutmeg that perfectly compliment the pumpkin flavor. This is a great choice for those who are looking for something a little less dark and intense, but still full of flavor.
Type: Pumpkin ale, 5%
Origin: Salt Lake City, Utah
Where to find it: Use Uinta's beer finder tool here.
Southern Tier Pumpking
This copper colored beer promises to be "pumpkin pie in a glass" and it does taste pretty darn close to the real thing. With plenty of malty sweetness, vanilla, clove, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and even a distinctive pie crust flavor, this is one of the most uncomplicated, purely delicious beers you'll ever try. Less spicy than other selections on this list, this is another great choice for the less daring palette.
Type: Imperial Pumpkin Ale, 8.6%
Origin: Upstate New York
Where to find it: Use Southern Tier's beer finder tool here.
If you love pumpkin spice lattes, this is basically an alcoholic PSL. While this is a slightly darker, bolder beer, it's still sweet enough to make for easy drinking. It's made with Stumptown coffee toddy and pumpkin, along with a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg. We particularly recommend this one be served in a glass with a cinnamon sugar rim!
Type: Coffee Pumpkin Ale 6%
Origin: Seattle, Washington
Where to find it: Use Elysian's beer finder tool here.
Frankly, if you were only ever going to try one pumpkin beer in your life, it should be this one. With the most distinctive pumpkin flavor of any beer we've tried, Schlafly has a complex, cinnamony flavor without being overwhelming. It's a little spicy at first but quickly reveals itself to be medium bodied and extremely smooth. If you don't like Schlafly, you just don't like pumpkin beer.
Type: Pumpkin Ale 8%
Origin: St. Louis, Missouri
Where to find it: use Schlafly's beer finder tool here.