Gourdgeous by Hangar 24 Another day, another distinctive pour from the folks at Redlands, California-based Hangar 24. Gourdgeous is the latest in the company’s Local Farm series 9 (using local farm products to produce seasonal ales of the highest quality). The name kind of gives it away, but in case you’re wondering, yes, this is the company’s pumpkin-based beer just in time for Halloween and beyond. It’s a porter made with pumpkin spice and molasses, and clocks in at a weighty 8.5 ABV. I’ve had more than my share of pumpkin beers, and I gotta say, this is the most pumpkin-forward of the bunch. Between the richness of the porter and the deep spiciness of the gourd, it truly feels like you’re drinking dessert with this beast. Highly recommended for the holidays—and beyond. —Ken Miller
Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin by Uinta I was browsing the beer selection at my local Whole Foods when I spotted it: a quirky orange and blue Halloween-themed bomber with a giant Jack-o'-lantern on the bottle. Made by Uinta Brewing Company, the Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin ale is well thought out, from its bright and colorful label to the 10.31 ABV (the same date as Halloween). I’ll admit I was a little nervous to crack this one open, but I didn’t let the Jacked, part of Uinta’s Crooked Line, intimidate me too much. The ale has a sweet, maple-y nose, with festive notes like caramel and clove, followed by oak due to Uinta’s barrel aging process. Jacked is obviously an autumn selection, but I got less pumpkin and more caramel, even apple pie. Its pleasant, velvety mouthfeel is rich, never syrupy, and the smoky flavor really draws out notes of oak-aged bourbon. Jacked starts out sweet and spicy, but finishes with a kick not surprising for such a boozy beer. The $12.99 price tag looks a bit steep, but this isn’t an ale you just throw back (plus it's huge). Think of it as a great beer to split with a friend or significant other to make a chilly fall night feel a lot warmer, and a little bit more festive. —Leslie Ventura
Spicy Pumpkin Ale by Indian Wells The spicy pumpkin ale from Indian Wells Brewing Co., based in the coolly named city of Inyokern, Calif., includes pure Indian Wells spring water, malted barley, hops, fresh pumpkin and spices and yeast. The mixture of ingredients is a perfect concoction for fall. Strong, filling and sweet — but not overly — this pumpkin ale is a stellar spicy-and-sweet beverage for any autumn gathering, including the over-bloated Thanksgiving feast. —Don Chareunsy
Pumpkin Patch Ale by Rogue Pumpkin may be a seasonal flavor, but Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch Ale makes a strong case for keeping the stuff around all year. The latest addition to the Oregon brewery’s Chatoe Rogue series is made from fresh pumpkins grown in a patch bordering Rogue’s 42-acre hop yard, and their roasted flavor lingers in each pour. The smooth fall brew straddles the line between a crisp, hop-forward pumpkin bite and festive spiced sweetness with a creamy finish loaded with notes of vanilla bean, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Despite the robust flavor, this ale manages to be light and highly drinkable; at just 5.6 ABV, it’s truly a gift that keeps on giving. —Andrea Domanick
Pugsley's Smashed Pumpkin Ale by Shipyard After proclaiming Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale my favorite pumpkin beer a few years ago, many beer snob friends voiced their differing opinions. The majority mentioned Shipyard’s Pugsley’s Smashed Pumpkin Ale, stating it was the absolute best. A beer snob myself, I simply had to give this brew a try. And after putting down an entire bomber of the stuff I can safely say it: I was right. While this beer is good, it pales in comparison to the Dogfish Head. The Shipyard just isn’t as fresh, full-bodied or full-flavored as my favorite. Shipyard’s pumpkin flavor tastes completely artificial (because it is) and while the beer is sweet and light up front, an overpowering presence of nutmeg gives it a harsh, bitter end, likely aided by the 9 percent ABV.
Don’t get me wrong; Pugsley’s is definitely better than most of the gourd-centric brew crop, as most pumpkin beers completely fail to capture the essence of the vine vegetable and the fall flavors that traditionally accompany it (nutmeg, allspice, etc.). Shipyard didn’t do that with Pugsley’s. It might be a solid brew, but next time I’m reaching for a pumpkin ale it will certainly have the Dogfish label on it. —Mark Adams