So many pumpkin beers. Photo by Catherine Downes.

Taste Test Thursday: Pumpkin Beer

D Magazine staffers sipped on (and chugged) a selection of pumpkin libations. Here’s what they thought.

I grabbed a shopping cart at Spec’s this past weekend and loaded it up with every single gourd-infused brew that I could get my hands on. It was apparent that my enthusiasm for drinking all of the pumpkin beers had taken over when it came time to check out. I had to put some back. With help from a lovely beer aficionado, I narrowed down my selection to ten. Surely, ten was a good number? Wrong. It was still too many.

I made a final cut on the day of the taste test, squeezing it down to six, pumpkiny beers. Yes, Lakewood’s Punkel was axed. But everybody already knows how delicious it is, right? I wanted to feature some lesser-known brews. So, for this week’s installment of Taste Test Thursday D Magazine staffers sipped on (and chugged) a selection of pumpkin libations. Here’s what they thought.

The beers:

A. Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale
B. Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin
C. Rahr Pumpkin Ale
D. Punkin Ale
E. Warlock
F. Alaskan Pumpkin Porter


Tasting notes:

Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale:

  • “First, before I begin, let me say that I hate spiced beer and fruit-flavored beer and gourd-infused beer. That said, I hate this one.”
  • “This has a nice pumpkin spice aroma. Could make for a nice autumnal candle.”
  • “Very spicy nose. The most pumpkin flavor. Lingering sweetness is off-putting.”
  • “Very strong pumpkin notes.”
  • “The winner.”
  • “Nutmeg and allspice notes. Yeasty overpowers pump sweetness.”
  • “Synthetic, pumpkiny nose that tastes like banana bread bathing in agave syrup.”
  • “No. This tastes a bit too much like a caricature of pumpkin flavor. Maybe I assumed it would be sweeter.”

Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin:

  • “Generally, I prefer IPAs. This one is good and hoppy, with those hops masking the taste of the reviled pumpkin. I like it. Kinda.”
  • “Good head, good bitterness. Not much pumpkin flavor.”
  • “Too bitter.”
  • “EW!”
  • “No pumpkin aroma or flavor, heavy alcohol taste, unpleasant, bitter. No.”
  • “This one smells like funky cheese. But surprisingly sweet flavor. A little hoppy.”
  • “Tastes like syrupy beer sweetener.”
  • “This is creamier than the first. I overheard Catherine say it was the most expensive, so I feel that I am more inclined to like it.”

Rahr Pumpkin Ale:

  • “I’m not a fan.”
  • “Good caramel/spice on nose, creamy mouth-feel.”
  • “Mild. Just tastes like plain old beer.”
  • “No go.”
  • “Silky and mediocre. Watery and flat.”
  • “Not a fan. Too sour.”
  • “This just tastes like if someone made beer into a damn gumdrop flavor.”
  • “The bitterness here is a welcome one. It did not work out so well for beer A. But I also may not know this is pumpkin without being told.”

Punkin Ale:

  • “What has happened? Is this a trick? I don’t taste any pumpkin in this one. Perhaps that’s because I’m drunk. Perhaps that’s because my palate is already fried. Methinks, though, it is because this one was slipped into the tasting to test the tasters. I’m not fooled.”
  • “Surprising citrus on nose, but flavor falls flat. Get pumpkin scent, not flavor.”
  • “Creamy and heavy.”
  • “Light, not too overpowering.”
  • “Blank, weak, blag — no pumpkin.”
  • “Funky smell. I can actually taste some cinnamon, it’s very subtle though.”
  • “This tastes most like a beer. Like a smoother Bud Ice without the gag factor.
  • “Again, there is not enough pumpkin involved here. And you know what? That’s a damn shame.”


  • “Chocolatesyrupcoffee-flavored pumpkin? I wouldn’t drink this with Brad Pearson’s mouth.”
  • “Dark color — tastes like maple syrup was dropped into it.”
  • “Smells like coffee, yum! Don’t get the pumpkin, though.”
  • “More gingerbread than pumpkin. Smells like the worst scratch and sniff sticker, ever.”
  • “Licorice notes, malty and balanced. Dense, chicory and coffee.”
  • “Sour, molasses.”
  • “Smells and tastes like mixed candied nuts. Fake like celebrating Christmas in April.”
  • “Two different people have claimed that they ‘don’t really like pumpkin beer.’ ‘I love pumpkins,’ I reply. ‘You’re in a real conundrum,’ says a staffer. ‘You’ve backed yourself in a corner.’ Beer E really went for it. It’s a dark syrup of pumpkin beer.”

Alaskan Pumpkin Porter

  • “I thought E was bad. Then I tasted F. At the end of my tasting, I mixed them all together for a suicide of pumpkin beers. Let’s call that sample G. I actually preferred G over F.”
  • “Bland.”
  • “Tastes roasted? Very smooth.”
  • “I’m most likely to drink this one again because it tastes the least like pumpkin. Toasty, slight smoke. Delicious.”
  • “Roasted malt, hearty, mild pumpkin seasoning.”
  • “Smokey flavor, not much pumpkin. Kind of tastes like burnt pumpkin seeds.”
  • “Smoky, coffee-esque flavor. Wouldn’t guess this is a pumpkin beer.”
  • “This attempts to be neither pumpkins nor beer.”


Tally up:

Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale: 2
Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin: 2
Rahr Pumpkin Ale: 0
Punkin Ale: 1
Warlock: 1
Alaskan Pumpkin Porter: 2

The winner:
It’s a three-way tie between Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale, Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin and Alaskan Pumpkin Porter.

So, what’s your favorite seasonal brew? Let us know in the comments below.


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