Is there any vegetable more versatile than the pumpkin? They can be turned into delicious pies, magical carriages, whimsical lanterns, terrifying (or hilarious) helmets and, best of all, beer. Pumpkin beers come in a variety of styles, from ambers to porters, Belgian styles to sour wild ales, but the best ones all have an earthiness and spice that's perfectly suited to a cool Hallow's Eve.
5. Stone/The Bruery/Elysian La Citrueille Celeste de Citricado: With the great minds at Stone, The Bruery and Elysian all working together, it should come as no surprise that the new collaboration beer with the ridiculous name (just put "Celeste" into Untappd) is a winner. The base beer is supposedly an amber ale, but it pours much darker, and while it's cold the taste more closely resembles a porter, with a lot of coffee flavor. The listed ingredients are pumpkins (grown at Stone Farms), yams, toasted fenugreek, lemon verbena and birch bark. As the beer warms up, the lemon and spice emerge, and it opens up into a wild bouquet of flavors perfect for a chilly fall evening.
4. Dogfish Head Punkin: The Delaware weirdos at Dogfish Head have been putting out the quintessential pumpkin beer for years now. It is big, rich and sweet, with the brown sugar and pumpkin pie spices playing well off the brown ale. It almost perfectly mimics pumpkin pie, and the malt and yeast even work to recreate the flavor of crust. The slightly bitter finish serves as a necessary reminder that you are, in fact, drinking beer, and perfectly holds the sweetness in check. Be careful: That 7% ABV will sneak up on you.
3. Bootlegger's Pumpkin Ale: Bootlegger's Brewery, the pride of Fullerton, continues to impress with this pumpkin ale brewed with molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin juice. It smells sweet, with a healthy dose of molasses and brown sugar, and tastes powerfully pumpkiny. It is an incredibly rich brew, full of sweet, homey flavors that come together in wonderful harmony. The 6.1% ABV is low enough to keep it quaffable, but big enough to steel your nerves against any ghoulish activity.
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2. New Belgium Kick: Brewed with pumpkin and cranberry, this wild ale is perhaps the least obviously autumnal beer on the list. New Belgium's long-running Lips of Faith series graces us with another winner in Kick. It pours translucent golden with a sizable white head, and it smells predominantly of cranberry with vinegar and pumpkin in supporting roles. It's a pleasant beer, more tart than bitingly sour, with just the right amount of tang. The pumpkin provides a spicy note underneath the tart cranberries. Even though it's a hefty 8.5% ABV, it feels crisp and light enough to enjoy during a hard day of pumpkin carving and costume building.
1. Kern River Pumpkin Ale: If Punkin and Bootlegger's are like drinking pumpkin pie, then Kern River Brewing Company's Pumpkin Ale is like drinking a pumpkin. It is much lighter in color than our other favorites (save Kick), and it goes easy on the spice. There's a hint of allspice to go with the pumpkin, a decision that makes Kern's pumpkin ale stand out. It is refreshing and easy to drink, with a healthy amount of carbonation, a lot of pure pumpkin flavor and a lovely lingering spiciness at the back end. It's not the strangest or most extreme pumpkin beer around, but it's bright, crisp and a stellar expression of pumpkin flavor that's perfect for a Los Angeles Halloween.