Taste is subjective, especially when it comes to pumpkin beer. What you like depends on three main factors, says Juliet A. Boghossian, a behavioral food expert. First is genetics, she says. But after that, taste preferences often come down to cultural factors, like a person’s socioeconomic status, location, and education. Emotional factors can also affect preferences. Those rolls your grandma always made at Christmas may not be remarkable, but because you’ve tethered them to happy emotions, you always reach for a second helping. For some, a beer derived from the humble orange gourd is another way to appreciate the fall season.
It’s OK if you don’t like pumpkin beer. Really! But it’s not cool to tell everyone how much you hate it. Keep it to yourself. Or better yet, try one of these—you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.
Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin, New Belgium Brewing
I think this is the best pumpkin beer I’ve ever had. I know that’s a bold statement, but I’m ready to stand by it. If at first sip you think it’s too sweet, hang with it. The habanero peppers hit you right in the back of the throat, just as the Munich and pale malt remind you that this is a beer, not a latte. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice bring the festive mood.
Pumpkinator, Saint Arnold Brewing Company
If you want your pumpkin beer to count as a meal, this is for you. Pumpkinator is a dark, caramelly, imperial stout that’s laced with sweet pumpkin and just a few handfuls of hops to keep things from going too desserty. Pumpkin beer is only as good as the base that brewers add the pumpkin into, and Saint Arnold gets its imperial stout right.
Pumpkin Ale, Schlafly
You shouldn’t mess with perfection, and this tried-and-true pumpkin ale is perfect. Is it super showy, with tons of weird ingredients mixed in at the end? Nope. And really, that’s its beauty. Maybe it’s the fact that Schlafly’s brewers actually ferment the pumpkin with the beer, or maybe it’s just that the brewers exercise restraint in adding sweetness and spices. Whatever it is, Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale is the beer to convert your friends who swear they don’t like these seasonal offerings.
Want both a pumpkin beer and a sour? Allagash has you covered. Aged in oak barrels for up to three years, the final brew released each fall is a mix of one-, two-, and three-year-old beer. If you’re tired of selections that use the descriptor “pumpkin pie in a glass,” try this. You’ll get lots of tartness—think white wine and apricot—and some spice, but the pumpkin is really only present in a touch of earthiness at the finish.
Nitro Fall Seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte, Breckenridge Brewery
Hey, if you love pumpkin-spice lattes, we’re not here to judge you. We are here, however, to hand you one of these: a lovely, nitro-infused can of stout with all the toffee, coffee, vanilla, and cinnamon notes you’d expect in your favorite latte, now jammed into an alcoholic beverage. You’re welcome.
UFO Pumpkin, Harpoon Brewing
This hefeweizen brewed with pumpkin is the antidote to those summer days that linger past their welcome, when you feel like fall should be here, but you’re sweating through your flannel. This beer is yeasty, just a touch earthy from the added pumpkin, and pretty darn refreshing.