9 of the Best Pumpkin Beers for 2023, According to an Expert

Pumpkin beer has a long history that dates back to the very first American president.

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Updated on September 20, 2023
By: Tara Nurin

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Like shopping mall holiday decorations, pre-season football and, well, most things pumpkin flavored, pumpkin beers seem to show up costumed for the season long before the weather suggests they should. With a few early arrivals set up on store shelves in July, this year’s crop of pumpkin beers started to appear full force by early September.

So what’s aglow in the neighborhood of pumpkin beers circa 2023?

As we analyzed internet data and tasted our way through several dozen different commercial examples, the traditional flavor combination of malty and spicy rose above others in search and production trends.

So what does “malty and spicy” mean for a category already loosely defined by that description? Fewer-than-usual pumpkin IPAs or other hop-forward or assertive styles and perhaps an overabundance of sweetish, medium-bodied base beers that describe themselves as standard-issue “ales.”

Though a surprising number of so-called pumpkin beers don’t actually contain the star ingredient (certainly not fresh, anyway), the flavor of gourd almost completely ghosted this year’s crop. Heavy doses of pumpkin-pie spices – and sometimes a chili pepper or two – turn some of these brews into frothing fripperies of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and clove that force any hint of pumpkin flavor into hiding.

Perhaps it’s time to refresh some of the many tried-and-true recipes in rotation, as interest remains relatively high for beer’s most popular seasonal style.

“There was a period where pumpkin was huge (2011-2015), followed by a pullback (some of this was that brewers got too aggressive and so there was some oversupply, leading distributors/retailers to pull back) – but that decline has stabilized and we may have even seen a bit of a rebound in recent years,” emails Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association craft brewing trade organization.

The list below spotlights nine of the best-tasting commercial pumpkin beers available either regionally or nationally this year.


STYLE: Pumpkin Ale

ABV: 4.4%



Beating pretty much every other pumpkin beer to market this year, Jack-O beat most of its competitors onto this best-of list, as well. With notes of nutmeg on the nose and soft cinnamon on the swallow, this Sam Adams seasonal oozes warmth and comfort on every sniff and sip. While some pumpkin beers get heavy-handed with the seasonings or specifically put forth a gourd-forward flavor, this one wraps a drinker up in just the right balance of sweet and spice that, together with a crisp mouthfeel and low ABV, makes it oh-so-easy to cozy up to the next one and the one after that.

Ship Bottom Brewery

STYLE: Imperial Pumpkin Ale

ABV: 9.4%

HEADQUARTERED: Long Beach Island, NJ


Feel like slipping into something spooky? Ship Bottom’s Imperial Pumpkin treats and tricks with a bold and dark element lurking around every corner. It casts its spell with an aggressive alcohol content; a deep ruby hue; a powerful aroma of medium-roasted malts; a flavor punch of dark toffee and vanilla; and a very big body.

Giggling after a few sips, I wrote, “Teasingly menacing and smells like Halloween. It gits ya alright.”


STYLE: Pumpkin Ale

ABV: 6.7%



Swooping in to snap up the gold medal for pumpkin beers in the last two Great American Beer Festival competitions, the original pumpkin ale from the most prolific brewer of the style has been lining its nest with fans since 1997. Allspice dominates the aroma and the recipe packs in quite the variety with “pumpkin, roasted and raw pumpkin seeds, and … nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice,” not to mention six different malts. That hearty complexity builds a sturdy backdrop for equally hearty food, while the spices restrain themselves to the background enough to allow for the flavors and textures of robust, fatty, slow-cooked food like brisket or beef stew to seep in nicely.


STYLE: Imperial Pumpkin Stout

ABV: 8.6%


AVAILABILITY: Pennsylvania

One of the only stouts I sampled in the bunch, Southern Tier’s iconic imperial pumpkin stout does the style proud – tasting voluptuous now and probably even better later. An aroma of chocolate brownies follows one of nuts, particularly chestnuts. The cycle repeats itself upon drinking with more chestnut, walnut, dark toasted malts, pumpernickel bread and vanilla, followed again by chocolate – this time a bracingly bitter baking variety. The rich body satisfies with the same closed-eyed euphoria as chocolate chips melting into fresh-from-the-oven cookies.

But here’s the rub: The bottle says to drink by 7/3/25, and I’m going to put away my extra until then. I suspect a little age will allow the caramel and softer flavors to emerge and the tiny bit of boozy heat and prickle on the mouthfeel to subside.

Iron Hill Brewery

STYLE: Pumpkin Ale

ABV: 5.5%


AVAILABILITY: Deleware, Georgia, Jew Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina

If you looked up “pumpkin beer” in the proverbial dictionary, one could imagine a picture of Iron Hill’s simply named Pumpkin Ale printed beside it. With a light taste of its genuine pumpkin and vanilla bean providing the canvas for a dominant but not overpowering cinnamon flavor, this unassuming yet pleasing pumpkin sets the standard for your prototypical fall seasonal. A comforting medium body and a straight-up-the-middle 5.5% ABV makes this an enjoyable pumpkin beer for all but the most hardened haters.


STYLE: Pumpkin Ale



AVAILABLE: Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Wyoming

Holidaily’s Patchy Waters didn’t make this list as the best gluten-free beer I tasted. (Yes, it’s the only one I tasted.) It makes this list DESPITE being gluten-free. As in, it’s good. Really good. GF or not. In fact, in my draft notes I jocularly called this category, “HELL YA, IF A GF BEER MAKES IT ONTO THE LIST BECAUSE IT DOESN’T TASTE GF, SAIL ON.”

Brewed with buckwheat, toasted millet malt, organic pumpkin and “a blend of fall spices,” according to the website, Patchy Waters’ ingredients integrate so well that one senses no competition at all between them. Switching between tasting a bit malty sweet and other times dry and perhaps a touch grainy, PW puts forth a solidly structured beer that warmly blankets the mouth like a loving parent covering a small sleeping child.


STYLE: Coffee Pumpkin Ale

ABV: 6%



Elysian calls its time-tested coffee pumpkin ale “Punkaccino” for good reason. It actually smells like a strong cappuccino. Not a pumpkin-spice latte, not an espresso shot, not your gas station cuppa joe. How do they do it? A brilliant mixture of Stumptown coffee, lactose, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Dark melted sugar and vanilla make flavor appearances alongside the coffee and spice, though the three pumpkin additions made during the brewing process surprisingly do not. No matter. Drink this assertive yet creamy ale with pumpkin pie after dinner to bring the depth to dessert that dear Grandma’s boxed coffee cake never could.

New Ridge Brewery

STYLE: English Ale

ABV: 6.1%


AVAILABILITY: Philadelphia

It’s my belief that more US craft breweries should make garden-variety English ales, and New Ridge has nailed their pumpkin-style English ale by adding vanilla bean and unnamed fall spices to a high-quality base whose strong yet not stiff malt structure supports the spice without overshadowing it. A soft nibble of nutmeg reveals the identity of at least one of those spices, while a bite of black pepper followed by a note of maple evoke essences that exist only in the imagination.

Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing

STYLE: Imperial Pumpkin Ale

ABV: 8.5%



Truth time. I did not treat this beer well. As much as I truly hate to admit it, I picked this beer up at the brewery and tossed it in my trunk. For four days. In a summer heat wave. Yikes. Sorry, Jamie and Seth (respectively, Queli and Dolled, the brewery’s owners), I’ve had a painfully distracting week.

BUT, and here’s the point: the beer was fantastic. It held up perfectly to the stresses of my hot car and didn’t even require me to make the allowances I thought I’d have to make to compensate for my bad behavior.

A full, even head hung around the glass more than five minutes after the pour. Light, grainy malts smelled like fresh fields down on the farm. A perky carbonation lasted through the tasting. And while I didn’t taste the pumpkin used in the beer or the usual spice suspects, hints of medium-brown sugar, booze and soda made me flash on an old favorite of mine – a Cuba Libre (rum and Coke). That said, Wednesday is From Westfield hides its alcohol well. It doesn’t act like it’s trying to impress anybody. Forgotten Boardwalk just puts its best flip-flopped feet forward and produces an impeccably crafted beer.

Editor's Note: Expert Tara Nurin requested samples from thousands of breweries around the country but received a disproportionate quantity from near her home base outside Philadelphia. Any such local overrepresentation is purely unintentional.

Veteran freelance journalist and former Forbes beer/spirits contributor and TV host Tara Nurin writes for hundreds of media publications and speaks for entities like the Smithsonian on topics that relate primarily to beer business and culture. Nurin designs and teaches for-credit beer and spirits courses for Wilmington University (DE) and provides marketing consulting services for a client roster that includes NZ Hops, Ltd. With a focus on women in beer coverage, she’s been an active Pink Boots Society member since 2010 and founded New Jersey’s original beer education group for women. Nurin is frequently quoted as a beverage expert in publications such as Wine Enthusiast and Food & Wine. After residing in 11 states and countries, the trilingual Nurin has chosen to live as an urban pioneer on Camden, NJ’s, riverfront. She released her first book, A Woman's Place Is in the Brewhouse: A Forgotten History of Alewives, Brewsters, Witches, and CEOs, in September 2021.

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