Fall is in the air and that means pumpkin beer is back on the shelves. But which one do you buy? Are they even good, or is this just part of the pumpkin craze? Don’t worry, The Savory has got you covered. We set out to test some of this year’s pumpkin suds. We left the big boys like Sam Adams and Blue Moon out of the mix and took a peek at the small batch craft beers.
We headed out to our favorite beer store and found seven craft pumpkin beers. Our Cocktail and Food editors, Pete Capella and Brooke Newberry, were joined by two other staff members and took to the kitchen to get a taste of fall.
Pete Capella: Cocktail Editor and Host for The Savory- Pete has spent most of his life behind the bar and has created cocktails in bars across the country. When drinking beer, he prefers a stout or porter, but can often be found with a light beer in his hand.
Brooke Newberry: Food Editor for The Savory- Brooke has her WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) Level 2 certification, has baked many a pumpkin pie and once spent an entire 72 hours drinking beer in Torino with Italian brewmasters. Her preferred beer is “anything good from Belgium.”
Leah Hennessey: Editor-in-Chief for The Savory- Leah is a Level I Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and has 4 years in the wine industry. She likes to drink a crisp, clean lager when drinking beer.
Trisha Chan: Illustrator for The Savory- Trisha is the newest and youngest member of the team. At the tender age of 22, she is just beginning her journey into the world of beer. If she’s drinking, she drinking a wheat beer.
We sat down and tasted each beer, not having read anything prior about their flavors or what the breweries set out to achieve. We then shared our notes and rated each beer on overall taste on a scale from 1-10.
Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale:
Our team was very divided on what Buffalo Bill had to offer. While Pete and Trisha found it bland and almost Budweiser-like, Brooke found it more citrusy with floral notes. Leah, on the other hand, loved it and found it perfectly balanced with notes of bread and ginger.
Overall Taste: Pete- 5.5 Brooke- 6 Leah- 9 Trisha- 4
Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale:
The pumpkin nose and taste were, agreed by all, VERY pumpkin-y. With notes of honey, cardamom and brown sugar, this puppy screamed sweater weather. But not everyone agreed that that was a good thing.
Overall Taste: Pete- 8 Brooke- 8 Leah- 4.5 Trisha- 7
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale:
People who know Dogfish Head know to expect some hops in their beer. They did not disappoint. We all agreed that this was a nicely balanced beer with less of a pumpkin note than most, and more of a caramel and chai flavor. The group was all on the same page, save Trisha who was not a big fan of hops.
Overall Taste: Pete- 6.5 Brooke- 7 Leah- 7 Trisha- 3
Alaskan Pumpkin Porter:
Pete and Brooke fell in love immediately with this porter that somehow gloriously combined the dark smokiness of a classic porter with pumpkin, brown sugar and fall spices. It lent notes of toasted marshmallow and clove. This was all too much for Leah and Trisha. Leah felt it was a bit too in-your-face flavorwise, while Trisha said it was too strong for the lightweight in her.
Overall Taste: Pete- 9.5 Brooke- 8 Leah- 6 Trisha- 4
We all loved the nose on this beer, as it was not like a baked good, but more like a pumpkin carving party, with raw gourd strewn across the room. There was very little sweetness, but more floral and baking spices. Our illustrator Trisha gave it the “packaging win”.
Overall Taste: Pete- 7 Brooke- 6 Leah-9 Trisha- 9
Anderson Valley Fall Hornin’:
The crew loved the nose of this beer over any other. It was earthy and nutty to the olfactory glands. The taste was just as good, if not better. Leah called it “easy like Sunday mornin’ ”, while Trisha exclaimed “Ahhhhhh, fall harvest.” It was incredibly balanced and had a truly amazing pumpkin pie flavor while still holding its name as a beer.
Overall Taste: Pete- 9 Brooke- 6 Leah- 9 Trisha- 7
Epic Brewing Company Imperial Pumpkin Porter
Camping this fall? Bring this beer. This was a true porter - bigger and darker than all the rest. There wasn’t one person who didn’t think of a campfire while tasting. Pete thought the pumpkin got a little lost in the heaviness of the beer, but he loves a good porter, so it didn’t much matter. Trisha stepped her beer game up and really dug on the Pumpkin Porter.
Overall Taste: Pete- 7.5 Brooke- 6 Leah- 8 Trisha- 8