1. Southern Tier PumKing
Come autumn, pumpkin beers are all the rage. People start to crave brews swimming with nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon: the spices that make pumpkin pie so damn nice. Most pumpkin beers offer a dash of such spice and a gentle touch of the orange super-squash itself—just enough to make for a noticeable twist on your run-of-the-mill autumn beer. PumKing, though, by New York’s Southern Tier, takes all that and jacks up the volume to 12 with the explosive sweetness of loads and loads and loads of pumpkin. This is perhaps the most extreme pumpkin beer on the market; you won’t be able to finish a full glass of it, but you’ll be glad you tried. Watch for this to arrive on tap in the weeks ahead.
2. Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale
Now let’s reel it back in a bit. Years before pumpkin beers were trendy, Brooklyn was very quietly making their annual pumpkin ale under the Post Road label, helping set the stage for the pumpkin-beer boom we now experience annually. Brooklyn’s brew is tame by today’s standards, but it retains a drinkability many others can’t match; its light body, puffy head and lively carbonation are a far cry from the uber-spicy brews that now dominate this style. The pumpkins show through in the flavor without being overpowering, suggesting a sweeter-than-normal Oktoberfest. It’s a great accompaniment to traditional autumn meals, and you can have a pint at Fox and Hound or Falls Taproom.
3. Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin
When it comes to breweries who release their pumpkin ales way too early in the year, Easton, Pa.’s Weyerbacher is among the guiltiest of the guilty, pushing out Imperial Pumpkin in mid-July. That’s absurd. It’s easy to forgive, though, since the beer is so damn good. At a robust 8 percent ABV, this is no shrinking violet of a beer, either in alcohol content or taste. It’s rich and hearty from the use of real pumpkin—most pumpkin ales don’t incorporate any actual pumpkin, instead deriving their pumpkin-pie-like taste purely from the spices—making it a fat, chewy, sweet brew with oodles of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and cardamom wafting from every glass. There’s a touch of alcohol heat in the finish, too; try it at 2nd Street Brew House, Kite & Key, the Industry and Jolly’s.
4. Stoudt’s Pumpkin
The folks at Pennsylvania’s Stoudt’s Brewing don’t get nearly the credit they deserve as pioneers in the craft beer world. Founded in 1987, they’ve been making great regional brews for longer than almost anyone else. Though they’ve generally stuck fast to tradition, they do a little experimenting from time to time, too—such as this pumpkin-infused twist on their gold-medal-winning Oktoberfest. Mild spices and the faintest hint of pumpkin blend perfectly with the bready caramel malts of the Oktoberfest style, making this a pumpkin beer for people who traditionally don’t like pumpkin beer. Look for it at Baggataway Tavern.
5. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
True story: Punkin Ale was a prize-winning beer before Dogfish Head was even a thing, winning the 1994 Punkin Chunkin Recipe Contest a full six months before the brewery officially opened its doors. As with almost everything they do, Dogfish’s take on pumpkin beer is its own: full-bodied and sweet with hints of brown sugar and molasses along with earthy charred pumpkin. They then load up on the traditional pie spices. This isn’t a quaffing beer—not because its 7 percent ABV is particularly strong, but because it’s heavy and bold. Try it at Resurrection Ale House and Moriarty’s Pub.
Follow PW’s Year of Beer online weekdays at: philadelphiaweekly.com/drinks
PW's Year of Beer: Bell’s Hopslam