Pumpkin ale. Some hate it, some wait all year for it. I’m in the latter group. Each year I look forward to having my old favorites and seeing if there are any new brews to try out. Being a person who loves pumpkin and loves beer, it’s really a terrific match for me. I just wanted to share the beers I’ve tried and which were my favorites.
Okay. Beer now!
1. Harvest Moon (aka Blue Moon): Pumpkin Ale
Blue Moon is part of the Coors family and the great thing about this beer is that you can pretty much find it every where. While I’m not a huge fan of Coors, Blue Moon makes decent tasting, affordably priced beer. It won’t be the best you ever had, but I’d venture to say it’s way better than anything else that Coors brews. The pumpkin flavor is there, but not too pronounced. Another bonus is that supposedly all beers brewed by Coors are vegan friendly ,(with the exception of Honey Moon) aka no isinglass or other animal parts hiding in the beer.
2. Buffalo Bills Brewery: Pumpkin Ale
Here is another pumpkin ale that is pretty accessible. You can find Buffalo Bills pretty much anywhere this time of year. It’s affordably priced and like Blue Moon, pretty decent, but not anything great or spectacular. Buffalo Bills and Blue Moon are both great autumn/winter party beers. Flavors are not overly complex, and drink-a-bility is high.
3. Indian Wells Brewing Co: Spicy Pumpkin Ale
This was once my favorite pumpkin ale. It’s cheap, but has a slightly more complex flavor than Blue Moon or Buffalo Bills in my opinion. You can taste some of the spices that its been brewed with as well as the pumpkin which I really liked when I first tried it. It was a nice step away from the others I had tried at the time. Unfortunately, I have now tried so many more pumpkin ales that in comparison, this one isn’t the best anymore. I still like it though, and I’d still buy it, you know, for old time’s sake.
4. Kennebunkport: Pumpkin Ale
Another sort of mild beer. I find this one similar to the Blue Moon and Buffalo Bills. I don’t think it has quite as much flavor as the Spicy Pumpkin Ale, but isn’t terrible. When I drank this beer last year, I didn’t really get that strong of a pumpkin flavor with it. Maybe it was just the batch I drank, who knows? This is another affordable beer and quite easy to drink. It doesn’t taste as good as it warms to room temp, so make sure to drink this one cold and finish it cold.
5. Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin Ale
So, first things first and unfortunately, this beer is NOT vegan. This brewery uses isinglass, a fact that I found out after I had consumed this beer last year. Yuck. I don’t always remember to check on the vegan-ness of my booze, so this one slipped past me. It was, on the other, hand, very tasty. Fuller body than the others and sweet caramel, pumpkiny flavor. I think it was sort of like pumpkin pie and beer got together. There are beer lovers out there cringing, but whatev. Anyhow, I will not be trying this beer again until this brewery stops using isinglass. Most of the BEST beers are not processed with isinglass, so we should basically all tell this brewery to stop that. Stop that right now!
7. BJ’s Brewhouse: Pumpkin Ale
Oh BJ’s. If you’re not familiar with BJ’s, you guys should get to know each other. BJ’s is a chain restaurant, some of which have in house breweries, others don’t. They specialize in this bready delicious pizza goodness, which, after some negotiating with waitstaff can easily be made vegan with no cheese. The dough is vegan, but you have to request that you don’t want cheese and that they use olive oil on your crust and pan rather than butter. Typically, they are pretty happy to oblige. Most of the beers are also vegan friendly, so even if you’re not hungry, BJ’s is still a decent place to go for a beer. Anyhow, BJ’s has a pumpkin ale that they introduce every fall. I generally only wind up at BJ’s with my family, but if we happen to be there in the fall, I always order the pumpkin beer. It’s mild, but still delicious. Maybe it’s because I’m always drinking it with a cheese-less veggie pizza (which is far more delicious than it sounds) but I like this brew a lot.
8. Dogfish Head: Punkin Ale
First things first, Dogfish Head is an outstanding brewery. If you’ve ever seen the documentary “Beer Wars” you can get a great look inside Dogfish Head and it will make you want to try all of their beers. Every beer I’ve tried from this brewery is great. I have even given Punkin Ale to the most skeptical guys who hate pumpkin or “flavored” beer and most of them end up being really impressed by this one. Full of body and luscious flavor, this pumpkin beer will become a quick favorite. Out here in SoCal, it runs about $10 for a 4 pack, so the price is pretty steep. I have to say that it’s worth it though, to grab a pack and share with a friend….or you know, have a good time by yourself. I also encourage you to try many of the other beers brewed by Dogfish Head. They are really something special. I’ve got a special bottle of Sah’tea in the fridge brewed with chai and juniper berries that I can’t wait to try. Their Midas Touch beer is also something to write home about (does contain honey) but it’s 12% alcohol and will rock your socks.
9. New Belgium Brewing Lips of Faith Series: Kick
This is one of the new brews that I picked up this year. I was perusing the beer selection at my local Whole Foods….which is outstanding btw and I came upon this stuff. I picked up the bottle to read: 75% Ale brewed with Pumpkin & Cranberry Juice, 25% Ale Aged in Wooden Barrels. What?!?! That sounds cray cray and in my cart it went! I knew by that description that this was something I had to try. I opened the bottle and smelled the beer first. I always smell my beer before I taste it. I have to say that at first sniff, I totally thought it smelled like vinegar and then I felt scared to try it. Haha, well, not scared, but was hoping I wasn’t going to pour myself a glass of vinegar beer. Upon smelling it some more, I realized that it was just the combination of the cranberry juice and fermented beer. I poured myself a glass and this beer was some sort of pinkish amber. Those lil cranberries makin’ this beer all kinds of special! I gave it a taste and didn’t know what to think at first. It was sharp, almost tart–from that cranberry, and then the beer flavor came after. All in all, I have to say I enjoyed it. The pumpkin and cranberry worked together. It was very different from all of the other beers on this list so far and …if you haven’t noticed from this blog, I def enjoy unique flavors and flavor combinations. I often get bored of the same flavor combinations used over and over again, which happens a lot, especially in the vegan world. So, I appreciate this beer. It had a complex flavor and body, albeit a little different from the norm, but still rather good. I had a friend also try some and she rather liked it as well. A win for New Belgium.
10. Michelob: Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale
I forgot to add this beer on this original post, so I’m adding it now. I totally forgot all about this beer, because unfortunately, it’s not the greatest. I remember it being rather flat and not very flavorful. I’ve never really been too into Michelob, so I’m not surprised this beer isn’t my fav. If you only have a choice over this one and the Harvest Moon, go for the Harvest Moon.
11. Bootlegger’s Brewery: Pumpkin Ale
Last, but certainly not least, is the seasonal pumpkin ale from Bootlegger’s Brewery. Bootlegger’s is located here in SoCal, in the wonderful city of Fullerton. I’ve not yet had an opportunity to visit the actual brewery, but I have tried several bottles of their beer sold in local stores and I’m a fan for sure. I, again, found myself transfixed in the beer aisle of Whole Foods. Every store has such a varied and incredible selection that you could stand there for an hour examining the different beers and still not know which one you want. They all sound so good and many of them, like Bootlegger’s are local craft brews. But anyway, on to the pumpkin ale. I LOVED this beer. So far, this and Dogfish Head are my top 2 picks for best pumpkin ale. First sip of this beer and you could really taste the pumpkin and molasses. I really loved that. The flavor was so exceptionally good that I just wanted to sit and savor it. It made me want to bundle up and go outside and see leaves change color and watch my brothers play a game of football. Then I remembered that I live in LA and it’s warm here and we have no colorful leaves and I only have one brother. What I’m trying to say is that this beer spoke fall to me. I enjoyed it with a friend who felt the same. I now want to go visit Bootlegger’s in the next week or two, to see if they will sell me a growler of this stuff. Not sure if that’s a possibility, as many breweries don’t do growlers of their seasonal beers, but we’ll see. If not, I’m happy to sit or stand in the tasting room or where ever and just enjoy a pint from the tap.
So there you have it. That’s my Southern California pumpkin beer round-up. If you know of any other pumpkin beers available in the SoCal region that are not on the list, send the name of the beer and brewery my way so I can give them a try!