Don’t Be a Blockhead: Battling Pumpkin Beer So You Don’t Have To


What a special time of year. Football is back, nature’s colors are (maybe) changing and pumpkin beer is in the fridge.

No time to worry about seasonal creep any more.

I’ve recently been lucky to come into contact with Lisa from Taste Cook Sip, a fellow pumpkin-head and beer enthusiast. After trading some emails, tweets and Untappd check-ins sharing our affinity for all things gourd, we wanted to offer a duel blog post highlighting a few pumpkin beers you may see hanging around your local bottle shops and grocery stores.

Our goal? We want to share our favorites and try to steer you away from some of the skunkier pumpkin beers out there. Using my handy pumpkin pie slice rating scale, we’ve done some of the “hard” work on four of this year’s pumpkin beer crop so you can find what you’re looking for.

I’m hosting two beers – Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead and Anderson Valley’s Fall Hornin’ – and you can head over to Taste Cook Sip to read about two others – Harpoon’s UFO Pumpkin and Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale.

Anderson Valley Brewing’s Fall Hornin’



I thought this had the strongest red ale/amber base of any of the beers I’ve had so far, which pairs well with Fall Hornin’s thick body. The pumpkin aroma smelled a little light to me, but the taste was rich in brown sugar and netmeg.

My Rating: pumpkin pie-pumpkin beer-beer-fall-autumn-pumpkin-three


I agree with Bryan – this is a nice red ale base, something that sets Fall Hornin’ aside from the pack. I’ve had the pleasure of having this tasty beer on draft, in bottle and can. Draft or bottle is the way to go, as the spices come through nicely. And, somehow there is that bit of pumpkin to round this beer out. A nice fall beer and something a bit different for Pumpkin beer fans.

Lisa’s Rating: pumpkin pie-pumpkin beer-beer-fall-autumn-pumpkin-three

Shipyard Brewing’s Pumpkinhead


A pilsner or pumpkin beer?

My beer nerd senses went off – “natural flavors” listed as ingredients and a screw-off cap. Am I cliched? Pumpkinhead has a lower ABV than other pumpkin brews – 4.5 percent – which helps enhance the scientifically created flavors added to this beer.

Pumpkinhead is overpowering with a cinnamon and sugar mix, which covers up a sugary pumpkin taste. It’s also the lightest colored pumpkin beer I’ve ever seen. I’m torn, because it’s got the pumpkin pie aspects I like, but far too sweet.

My Rating:

pumpkin pie-pumpkin beer-beer-fall-autumn-pumpkin-two


I’ve also had this years Pumpkinhead on draft, in bottle and can. It’s a mild, easy drinking beer- the several I’ve had were lacking much in the way of pumpkin or spices. It’s a lighter styled beer that even when a bar adds a cinnamon and sugar rim (yep, they do that!) doesn’t give me that awesome spicy pumpkin pie feeling. Seek out Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin, which brings the pumpkin and spices in a heavier styled ale.

Lisa’s Rating: pumpkin pie-pumpkin beer-beer-fall-autumn-pumpkin-two

Want some more pumpkin beer recommendations? Head over to Taste Cook Sip to see who comes away a winner between Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale and Harpoon’s UFO Pumpkin. You can also vote for your favorite pumpkin beer.

What have been some of your pumpkin beer winners this season? I’d love to take suggestions.

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac


16 thoughts on “Don’t Be a Blockhead: Battling Pumpkin Beer So You Don’t Have To

  1. Dueling banjos: pumpkin beer style.

    1. This would finally give me an excuse to travel to West Virginia.

  2. Do you have an NCAA style bracket for this so there can be an overall winner of all the pumpkin beers?

    1. Ha! This is actually something Lisa and I discussed, but even the distance between North Carolina and Florida proved to be difficult to match up distribution networks.

      That said, this may be something worthwhile to look into…

      1. Distribution is one of those odd things that makes Craft Beer exciting yet miserable at the same time. I was using seekabrew to see what Craft Beers look like the obvious choice to hit all 50 but the obvious ones are the only ones there Sam and Sierra. That being said I know the complete difficulty of this request without a bottle trading syndicate going on!

  3. I have not had the Fall Hornin’ Sounds interesting. I’ve had shipyard but I don’t remember what I thought of it, which means I probably didn’t think very much of it.

    1. I had chosen Smashed Pumpkin in lieu of Pumpkinhead in recent years, which I prefer. However, having Pumpkinhead again was an interesting realization. The makeup of that beer – color, flavor, etc – just seems odd for a pumpkin beer. At least compared to others.

  4. I’m of the mind that Pumpkinhead is the worst pumpkin beer there is. Ironically Smashed Pumpkin is one of my favorites.

    1. It strikes me as out-of-step with others, mostly because of its lab-created kind of appearance and construction. Very strange, especially considering the next step up (Smashed) is very legit.

  5. The Spiritual Pilgrim September 20, 2013 — 1:39 pm

    Nice. I’m gonna keep an eye out for that “Fall Hornin”. Have you tried Bootlegger’s Pumpkin Ale? I thought it was good but I haven’t tried many other pumpkin ales to compare to.

    1. I haven’t even seen such a thing! Where have you found it? I suspect we’re once again at the whims of the Scourge of Distribution.

      1. The Spiritual Pilgrim September 20, 2013 — 1:52 pm

        I found it at a liquor store in Chino Hills, CA. Just looked up the brewery and they are in Fullerton, CA.

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