Pounding pumpkins

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

So you're too old for trick-or-treating? Big deal. Halloween's approach means tasty pumpkin ales have returned from the grave. Head down to the local beer shanty for a festive six-pack and you'll find a variety of unusual offerings, but beware of bad gourds. There are as many scary pumpkin ales as there are sweet ones - I say that because I've tasted nearly every one I can find. A great fall beer both captures and enhances the best of the season. It complements turkey dinners and it warms the belly hidden beneath a sweater. Here's a sampling of some of the best seasonal sips - and some you can skip.


Brewer: Southern Tier

Alcohol by volume: 9%

Web: southerntierbrewing.com

The sinister aromas of gingerbread, brown sugar and, of course, pumpkin will pull your nose into the glass and turn up the corners of your mouth. The copper-colored sip delicately balances malty, sweet and spicy flavors, resulting in a smooth, high-alcohol ale that's like liquid pumpkin pie.

Verdict: 5 out of 5 pumpkins

Punkin' Ale

Brewer: Dogfish Head

Alcohol by volume: 7%

Web: dogfish.com

The surprisingly light brown ale tickles with flourishes of cinnamon and allspice against its subdued pumpkin canvas. One of the easiest orange-vegetable beers to drink, Punkin's faint sweetness is stabilized by nutmeg and malty flavors. It's ghoulishly good.

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 pumpkins

Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Brewer: Weyerbacher

Alcohol by volume: 8%

Web: weyerbacher.com

Lightly carbonated and full-bodied, the Imperial may not be for everyone, but it's tough and lovely. The ale features hints of cardamom, cloves and toasted caramel alongside the usual holiday suspects for a flavor rich in taste, but not overbearing.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 pumpkins

Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale

Brewer: Coors

Alcohol by volume: 5.6%

Web: bluemoonbrewingcompany.com

The dark amber-tinged beer doesn't look very pumpkiny - or taste like it, either. Instead, it relies on traces of cinnamon and spices for seasonal cheer. Like dating your ex, the medium-bodied ale starts sweet, but finishes bitter and flat.

Verdict: 2.5 out of 5 pumpkins

Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale

Brewer: Buffalo Bill's

Alcohol by volume: 4.9%

Web: buffalobillsbrewery.com

Minute traces of foamy head quickly dissipate after this cloudy orange ale is poured. While the scent is strong with Halloween spices, one sip reveals a watered-down, one-dimensional pumpkin taste. It's light and easy to drink, but as exciting as half-eaten hard candy.

Verdict: 2 out of 5 pumpkins