Now that everything seems to be getting pumpkin-spice-ified these days, it’s easy to dismiss pumpkin beers as a fad. And while there are probably more pumpkin-themed beers on store shelves than ever before, brews made with the ubiquitous orange gourd are anything but a novelty—and they’re gonna be around for a while.
“Regardless of how you feel about the use of pumpkins, purée, spices or extracts, pumpkins are tremendously popular and here to stay!” says JT Thompson, Smuttynose Brewing Company’s minister of propaganda. (That’s his actual title.)
Back in the days of early American settlement by beer-drinking Europeans, Old World grains like barley were expensive to import and not yet widely cultivated. So in place of traditional malt grains, early American brewers turned to the ubiquitous pumpkin—a fruit native to the New World—to supply the malt for their beers. (George Washington was a brewer himself, according to this report in All About Beer magazine.)
The pumpkin beer renaissance began in 1985, when “Buffalo” Bill Owens launched what is believed to be the first commercially available pumpkin ale in America. The phenomenon spread—America’s roots are intertwined with the pumpkin, after all—and now American craft brewers annually churn out quality beers made with pumpkins and all the spices we’ve come to expect on the Thanksgiving dinner table.
One of our top picks: Wolaver’s Unfiltered Organic Pumpkin Ale. Without a doubt one of the finest pumpkin beers around, Wolaver’s certified non-GMO pumpkin ale achieves a rich, natural pumpkin taste without a hint of artificiality. The spices are muted, and the rich flavor is perfectly balanced, bringing the natural pumpkin—farmed in Shoreham, Vermont—to the fore. The attention to detail has paid off, earning it a coveted gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.
Here, in no particular order, are 19 more to try.
(Calorie counts are per 12-oz serving, unless otherwise noted. And, as always, remember to enjoy responsibly.)