Skip to main content

Pumpkin beers in review


Pumpkin BeersEach year, I savor the autumn with seasonal beers—including pumpkin beers. And, I begin making pumpkin pies in October. I truly enjoy the seasons here in Missouri. In early October, I found an interesting pumpkin at the Blue Springs Farmer’s Market, and it is my colorful decoration at the doorway, along with a beautiful mum from my friend Cindy’s greenhouse. I’m no Martha Stewart when it comes to decorating, but it is fun to put out the Halloween decorations each fall. Now, it’s time for some harvest decorating—getting out the cornucopia that belonged to my mother, and the pilgrim and Indian figurines. I hang onto the pumpkin décor for Thanksgiving; they provide the transition between the holidays.  In the surrounding countryside, I cherish the color changes through October and November; this year the leaves of our oaks and maples gave a spectacular display of colors that is now blending into shades of rust, beige and brown and of the grasses, fields,  and bark.

So, for several weeks I’ve been sharing pumpkin beers with friends. My friends at Gomer’s in Lee’s Summit stock a nice assortment, and I purchased an assortment 6-pack and a few other bottles for parties. Many beer geeks frown upon pumpkin beers—but being a fan of pumpkins, I really enjoy them. I must not be the only one—I overheard a guy asking for seasonal “pumpkin” beers in a new brewpub (Broadway Brewery) in Columbia last weekend. Pumpkin ales have become a popular seasonal beer in the last few years. I must say, some pumpkin beers are really over-spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. One of those that I’d say was over-the-top in spice this year is Southern Tier’s “Pumpking”.  I shared the “bomber” bottle with a friend, and neither of us could finish a glass.  I'm rather surprised at the high score this beer is given on Beer Advocate--and suspect it has something to do with the high alcohol content.

Other pumpkin ales that I tried this year included Schlafly’s, Buffalo Bill’s, Arcadia, O’Fallon, and Harvest Moon. Pairing theseO'Fallon's Pumpkin Ale with foods depends upon the level of spices. To enhance the enjoyment of the flavor, I first paired pumpkin beers with homemade pretzels—because they offer a neutral flavor. The yeasty aroma and chewy salted goodness went well with a glass of O’Fallon’s Pumpkin Beer.

I had heard good things about Schlafly’s pumpkin beer; Gomer’s got another supply just before Halloween. Saturday I shared a bottle with my son at his off-campus apartment—he was not too enthused by the pumpkin/spice beer. The sweet & spice did not appeal to him.

Finally, this evening, I enjoyed the most subtle pumpkin beer of my selection; Harvest Moon. This is the fall seasonal in the Blue Moon/Coors production lineup, and probably my favorite because the spices and pumpkin flavor are subdued; the spice level is low enough that the mild pumpkin comes through. I’ve tasted it annually for several years, and I think this year’s Harvest Moon is much improved. In the sunny afternoon yesterday, I was lucky to glean the remaining Harvest Moonharvest of peppers from Cindy’s garden, and used them to spice up some chili for dinner (I also added some stout to my chili)—then paired a bowl of my chili with a goblet of Harvest Moon. I began the meal by enjoying several sips of the pumpkin beer; the slight sweetness of the beer tamed the spiciness of the chili. It was a truly enjoyable end to a beautiful fall weekend.

As the temperatures drop, I will move on to enjoy hard ciders, hop-harvest ales, and stouts through November. Although retailers try to make the jump directly from Halloween to Christmas--and the Christmas beers have begun appearing on the shelves, I prefer to continue to focus on the harvest season! I would suggest making a trip to your local liquor store this week, to purchase a 6-pack of pumpkin beer—if you can still find it--to share at Thanksgiving.


  • Amy 5 years ago

    It's funny, John and I did a pumpkin beer tasting a while back and I was kind of surprised at the results. I preferred the subdued beers that were drier & hoppier, and he veered toward the sweet beers that profiled flavors of pumpkin pie spice. O'Fallon ended up my favorite, but now you have me curious about Harvest Moon. I do like Pumking as a treat/dessert, but do agree it's over the top - and requires a certain mood or interest in a dessert beer :)

  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    I think that your article is very well thought out although there is one problem that I do have with it. I am not judging you for not enjoying a Southern Tier Pumking, although I do find it to be a wonderful brew. No, what I find to be problematic is that when discussing it that you seem to think that the beer has such a high review on one of the most online beer forums simply due to it's alcohol content. Now I know that you did not mean that the alcohol content is it's sole reason for it's high review, but I must disagree that this fact is even considered by most reviewers. If I was attempting to get extremely hammered and wanted something that I could enjoy while at the same time get the job done, I would opt for an Old English. OE is both high in alcohol, and for it's style and quality, I must admit that this is one of the better of its variety. Why the comparison of OE to Pumking you may ask? Well, a beer such as OE will tend to get higher reviews solely on alcohol content. This does not mean that I thoroughly enjoy this beer. There is a level of quality that people will eventually stop using alcohol percentage as a factor for review. I don't drink craft beers simply to get drunk, I drink craft brews to appreciate as much as I enjoy the effects. If I am searching for a high-alcohol beer, I am not overly concerned with taste. In these instances I am trying to get 'more bang for my buck.' So Sir, I urge you to reconsider that any individual's review on a craft brew is not really influenced by it's level of alcohol.

  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    I meant one of the most respected online beer forums... I guess I forgot the word "respect."

  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    Some people are impressed by a beer's alcohol content, but I do not think that it is generally considered in a review about quality. One may note that the "flavoring agents of the beer aid in masking the beer's exceptionally high alcohol content", but this is not the same.