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Review: Icon Vs. Icon’s First Annual Pumpkin Beer Power Rankings

Fall is my favorite time of year, for many reasons. Football is back. Halloween is lurking around the corner, which means that there’s usually a zombie movie, show, or videogame on my TV. And, of course, you can’t enjoy football and all things zombie without a good pumpkin beer in hand.  If I could watch The Walking Dead while watching a football game, playing Dead Rising, and chugging a good pumpkin beer, I would be in heaven.  But what makes a good pumpkin beer? Which ones are worth your hard-earned dollars? Lucky for you readers, I spent my September weekends sampling various pumpkin beers and ranked them.  Don’t thank me, it was my pleasure.  — Pedro Moreno

11. America’s Original Pumpkin AleBuffalo Bill’s Brewery, Hayward, CA (5.2%).   This beer is awful.  It tastes like Miller Lite with some pumpkin syrup poured in.  It’s also super-carbonated.

SCORE: 1.0 out of 4

10. Shock Top Pumpkin WheatShock Top Brewing Co., St. Louis, MO (5.2%).  I’m  not a huge Shock Top fan; I think the regular beer tastes like cheap Blue Moon.   Thus, I didn’t really expect to love their Pumpkin Wheat.  It pretty much tastes  like a cheap Blue Moon, with a bit of orange flavor added.  There was no  pumpkin to be had.

SCORE: 2.0 out of 4

9. Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin AleBlue Moon Brewing Co., Golden, CO (5.7%).   Speak of the devil. Blue Moon’s pumpkin is a step up from Shock Top’s, though  not significantly so.  There is very little pumpkin taste. Otherwise, there is a clean,  crisp taste and a hint of spice in the finish.

SCORE: 2.5 out of 4

8. Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin AleThe Boston Beer Co., Boston, MA (N/A  provided).  Samuel Adams is one of the first large breweries to get into the  pumpkin beer market.  I generally enjoy Samuel Adams; therefore, I was  somewhat disappointed with their pumpkin beer.  It’s not bad. It tastes like  regular Samuel Adams with a hint of pumpkin flavor.  Starts strong and has a  clean finish. Still, I expected more.

SCORE: 2.5 out of 4

7. Fisherman’s Pumpkin StoutCape Ann Brewing Co., Gloucester, MA (N/A  provided).  Fisherman’s is the first pumpkin stout that I have tried.  It’s pretty  good. It has a slightly chocolate taste.  Unfortunately, there really isn’t much  pumpkin flavor.  If you’re looking for a different type of stout, give FIsherman’s a  try, but don’t expect much pumpkin.  

SCORE: 2.75 out of 4

6. Uinta Punk’n Harvest Pumpkin AleUinta Brewing Co., Salt Lake City, UT (N/A  provided).  This offering comes all the way from the land of Jazz and Mormons.   It has a distinctive fall harvest taste (trust me).  The pumpkin flavor was  secondary to the fall vibe, which will immediately have you seeing gold and red  leaves.  Not a great pumpkin beer, but a pretty good fall beer.

SCORE: 3.0 out of 4

5. Schlafly Pumpkin AleThe Saint Louis Brewing Co., St. Louis, MO (8.0%).   Schlafly is a brand I’m not familiar with.  Their pumpkin beer is pretty good,  though.  It has a great dark amber color and is velvety smooth to the palate. The  beer is unique; it has a roasted pumpkin taste and smell.  It’s almost as much fun  to smell it as it is to drink it. Like Dogfish, Schlafly packs a punch.

SCORE: 3.0 out of 4

4. Saranac Pumpkin AleMatt Brewing Co., Utica, NY (N/A provided).  I also enjoy  Saranac’s fall offering.  The vanilla taste makes it stand out from other pumpkin  beers.  There’s also a nice aftertaste and subtle pumpkin spices.  Not the best  pumpkin beer, but it’s better than most.  

SCORE: 3.0 out of 4

3. Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin AleElysian Brewing Co., Seattle, WA and Fort  Collins, CO (5.9%).  Another brand that I’m not familiar with.  Elysian is similar to  the Schlafly.  It has a roasted pumpkin taste that likely comes from being brewed  with pumpkin seeds.  When you think of pumpkin ales, you think pumpkin pie.  But not the Night Owl – it tastes and smells like a roasted pumpkin. A really  delicious roasted pumpkin. I give the slight edge to Elysian due to the larger  bottle and the slightly better smell.

SCORE: 3.25 out of 4

2. Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale – Weyerbacher Brewing Company, Easton,  PA (8.0%).  Weyerbacher reminds me of a poor man’s Dogfish Head. That’s not a  bad thing; Dogfish Head is the king of pumpkin beers.  The Weyerbacher has a  hint of pumpkin flavor, but it lacks that sweet pumpkin pie taste.  There is a lack  of spice at first, but it catches up at the end and has a nice finish.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 4

1. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale – Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE (7.0%).   Dogfish Head got me into pumpkin beer a few years ago and has been my  favorite ever since.  There is a strong pumpkin spice flavor, with distinctive brown  sugar and cinnamon flavors. This is a very clean tasting beer and has a great  aftertaste.  Best of all, the smell of the beer as you draw the glass to your mouth is like a warm pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.

SCORE: 3.75 out of 4