The Eggnog of the Fall: Pumpkin Ales

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Mid October has come, and even though pumpkin ales have been available in the market since late August, I finally feel that it is time to switch beer-gears from sharp and hoppy to malty and full-bodied. Thus, pumpkin ales are the perfect seasonal treat to embrace the Halloween and Thanksgiving season.
Pumpkin ales are somewhat of a new kid on the block in the beer world but have exploded in popularity in recent years, leading to an almost flooding of the market of ales cleverly named after pumpkins, Halloween, or the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane. So how are you supposed to know which ones are great and which are not worth your time? Or which ones are as rich as Grandma’s pumpkin pie and which are actually sessionable? Read on to see my picks for the best pumpkin ales on the market this fall!

Southern Tier’s Pumking

Boldly flavored and definitely not lacking in the flavor department! Strong pumpkin pie flavor with a lot of sweetness reminiscent of whipped cream topping. Great nutmeg and cinnamon spice flavor. Slight hop bitterness on the finish brings it all together. Very much a dessert beer, the sweetness can definitely become cloying. However, I still highly suggest this beer!

New Holland Ichabod Ale
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Quite possibly the most balanced of the pumpkin ales in terms of real malty beer flavor balanced with pumpkin spice flavor. Very pleasant and easy to drink despite full body and slightly chewy mouthfeel. A great pumpkin ale overall. Another fantastic beer from New Holland!

Devil’s Backbone Ichabod Crandall
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A good pumpkin ale that has a little lighter bodied than others in the style, but also a little less flavor. Good for sessioning, but only because it is not overpowering or particularly alcoholic. This is definitely a pumpkin beer that you could drink several of without exhausting your palate.

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
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Definitely one of my favorite pumpkin ales. Like drinking pumpkin bread, with strong pumpkin and spice flavor and a balanced and thick mouthfeel. Absolutely stunning.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
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One of my favorite fall pumpkin ales because it balances pumpkin and spice flavors with real beer and malt flavors. Sometimes pumpkin ales are overdone and overwhelming to the palate with sweetness and dessert like flavors. I like this one because it is one you can definitely drink a full six pack of and not completely fatigue your palate.

Hardywood Park Farmhouse Pumpkin
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Great balance between real pumpkin flavor and Belgian yeast character. The spice notes of nutmeg and cinnamon blend perfectly with the spicy Belgian yeast notes. Overall very drinkable and delicious!

Beer and Food Pairing
Many of these pumpkin ales, particularly the stronger ones, would overpower a meal and thus would need to be consumed either with dessert or by themselves (as dessert!). Vanilla ice cream, creme brule, or a rich pecan or pumpkin pie would make suitable companions to the strongest pumpkin ales listed here. The more drinkable pumpkin ales would complement any Thanksgiving like meal of poultry, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, and vegetables.

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