We’ve all seen them. Memes like this one about pumpkin beer.
This sells short a style that’s growing in popularity. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of crap pumpkin beer. The proliferation of beers with a smattering of spices and pumpkin flavor means that there is more and more sub-par beer out there. But, the opposite is also true. As there are more and more pumpkin beers, there must be more good beer as well, just by the law of large numbers.
I consider myself an early adopter of pumpkin beer. There have been orange labels in my fall fridge for over a decade. At its best, this style augments and enhances the flavors of the underlying beer. There are some overrated, overpriced, and uninspired versions (Dogfish Head Punkin comes to mind), which are not bad, per se, but give the style a bad name. Here are three that I rather enjoy.
1. Wolaver’s Pumpkin Ale: There’s a nice, basic ale at the base of this stand-by. The sweetness of ale compliments the spice note here. Speaking of the spices, they are certainly present, with more than a hint on the palate. But, as the label says, it’s brewed with Vermont pumpkins, and the richness of the gourd stands up to the spice and adds a nice bottom to the ale. Delicious, every time.
2. Lakefront Pumpkin Lager: If an ale is sweet, a good lager is bready, and that’s what we have here. Lakefront, out of Milwaukee, WI, makes consistently solid beers, with some real gems besides. Here, the lager is still the star of the show, but the spices and pumpkin are dynamic backing vocalists. Do you like pumpkin bread? This might be the pumpkin beer for you. Plus, it’s only 5.8%, so you can drink a session while handing out candy to trick-or-treaters.
3. Southern Tier PUMKING: The pumpkin pie beer! This one is an outlier for me, in that normally I like flavored beer to taste primarily like beer. This one tastes like dessert. But damn, is it a delicious dessert. It is 8.6%, so too many is not advised, but for one nice beer in a tulip glass, it’s tough to beat.
There are, I am sure, many other good pumpkin beers. More importantly, from a proud curmudgeon, writing off flavored beers, especially one as widespread as pumpkin beer, does nothing but make you miss out on delicious beer. Embrace your inner basic bitch, grab a pumpkin labeled beverage, and enjoy yourself!