SHOOTOUT: There is a Pumpkin for what Ales you!

Posted By I Love Pumpkins on October 25, 2008

A Taste Test of four fine Pumpkin Ales by Gordo Grassi

   Seasonal beers have been around for ages, and some would claim that Pumpkin Ales may be among the first to appear - before the widespread use of hops, when spices and herbs were the dominant adjuncts to the barley mash.  Pumpkin Ales have been a mainstay of East Coast brewers for some time, but there are more and more breweries west of the Mississippi jumping on the Pumpkin Wagon!

   Here is a Pumpkin Ale Shootout of four likely suspects: Saranac Pumpkin Ale from upstate NY, Dogfish Head Punkin Ale from DE, Four+ Punk’n from Utah, and Post Road Pumpkin Ale brewed by Brooklyn Brewery, NY.  Read on below… and off to the suds’n'lace races!



Saranac Pumpkin Ale

   The only label with a Halloween connection, a Jack’O'Lantern face graces this bottle.  This gives a clue to what treats lay inside:  this was the sweetest ale of the test, featuring a creamy head and lager-like drinkability.  There was a definite cream-soda taste of vanilla going on beneath the spice-laden cinnamon’n'nutmeg nose.  This beer is FUN!  Absolutely the best one to pair with dessert, be it pumpkin pie, pound cake or a Reese’s.  Save this one for Oct. 31st! Rating:  4/5 Pumpkins

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

   Definitely more Ale than Pumpkin, this is the beer-lovers pumpkin ale.  The only one with a noticeable hops complement, it has an herbal bitterness to it.  Heavy on the spice to balance the ale’s weight, this was also the strongest beer of the bunch.  While robust enough to stand up to food, it may prove too much for some dishes - best savored alone and possibly with a shot of Jagermeister to go with that herbal spiciness.  That oughtta tune up your gourd!!! Rating:  4/5 Pumpkins

Four+ PUNK’N

   Once again, the label tells a tale - with a clean. modern design, funky name and unassuming stance…  unfortunately the tale is not a happy one!  Like the label, this beer was spare, charmless and too cool for its own good.  Nary a hint of pumpkin character, there was a bit of spice in the nose which quickly dissipated.  Sadly, the only “proof of pumpkin” came as the beer warmed to produce a vegetable-y off-flavor.  Yikes!  Guess there’s pumpkin in there after all!  Sorry, PUNK’N - you got PUNK’D by the other beers here. Rating:  2/5 Pumpkins

Post Road Pumpkin Ale

   The Archetype.  This beer may well define the style, with a nice balance of pumpkin, spice and drinkability.  This is one you can take home to the parents!  Definitely the choice for Thanksgiving dinner, this beer will pair well with typical harvest dishes, and take you right through to dessert.  If there is room for improvement, perhaps there is a touch too much allspice, with a clove-like bouquet in the nose.  Otherwise a classic Pumpkin Ale! Rating:  5/5 Pumpkins


   All four of these breweries are known for fantastic beers, and each is entitled to their own interpretation of what a pumpkin beer should be.  But it is reasonable to expect a distinct pumpkin flavor that is either supported by or at least sprinkled with a dose of spices.  Four+ Brewing’s PUNK’N is the only one that fell short here, which surprised me because they brew a belgian-style ale called Monkshine which I cannot recommend highly enough!  So, as the only contender from the western USA here failed to inspire Pumpkin Platitudes, the question remains…  Can the West pass the Test?  Look out for Part 2 of the shootout while we track down more competition that claims West is Best!!!

Gordo Grassi, 2008

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4 Responses to “SHOOTOUT: There is a Pumpkin for what Ales you!”

  1. I love this sassy and clever review!!! I would like to have critic Gordo Grassi judge my pumpkin spice muffins!

  2. I’ve been looking for places to get pumpkin beer in SF. Where can I find these beers… The ones at BevMo have been very disappointing…

  3. Hi there and thanks for your comment!

    I recommend trying City Beer Store at 1168 Folsom St 94103, although of these four beers they only have Dogfish Head. However, they also have Shipyard which has been well-received by many of my readers.

    I’ll do some more research about this and let you know where you might get these beers in San Francisco. Master Brewer Gordo Grassi who wrote this article lives in Philadelphia where distribution of beers seems a little different.

    Keep an eye out and let’s see what we can find out in the next few days!!

  4. Thank you for your interest in the Brooklyn Brewery and our Post Road Pumpkin Ale. Unfortunately we do not distribute our beers on the West coast yet. That said, you should check out Sam’s Wine and Spirits ( as they carry a variety of our products and ship across the country.

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