Between the seasonal creep of pre-fall pumpkin beers and the national disease that is pumpkin-spice mania, the once-beloved squash is getting some bad press these days. But don’t be blinded by the hate—despite the proliferation of sickly sweet, pie-in-a-glass pumpkin ales, the genre still turns out some superstars.
The standard-bearers—Dogfish Head Punkin, Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin, Heavy Seas Greater Pumpkin—continue to demand attention during the cobweb-and-candy corn season. But if you’re looking to shake things up this year, the South is where it’s at. Just as Southern breweries have flexed their muscle across other styles recently, the battle for the region’s best pumpkin beer is heating up.
They may not be easy to track down, but these three down-south brews are a must if you see them this fall.
Terrapin Imperial Pumpkin Pie Porter
From: Athens, GA
Any release coming from this Athens-based brewery’s Reserve Series is worth paying attention to. The first two installments from brewmaster Brian “Spike” Buckowski & Co.—the Cinnamon Roll’d Wake-n-Bake Imperial Stout and White Chocolate Moo-Hoo Milk Stout—had beer lovers in a frenzy last year. With a liquid-crack dealer’s mentality, the team is doing it again with the Imperial Pumpkin Pie Imperial Porter, packaged in an orange wax-topped bomber to seal in the notes of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cocoa, and pumpkin.
Crown Valley Imperial Pumpkin Smash Stout
From: St. Genevieve, MO
We love the experimentation and rebellious attitude of smaller, neighborhood breweries—but it would be nice if the extremely limited production didn’t limit our ability to get our hands on their beers. If you’re lucky enough to get a four-pack of this complex pumpkin stout, you’ll wonder what other secrets St. Genevieve, MO has up its sleeve. The muscular brew performs a phenomenal balancing act between aggressive notes of burnt sugar, roasted pumpkin, and a hint of smoke. Sip it like a cognac and propose a toast to brewmaster Jeremy Gilbert’s ingenuity.
Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale
From: Tampa Bay, FL
Already the jewel of Florida’s burgeoning beer scene, Tampa Bay’s revered Cigar City further solidifies its superiority with the Good Gourd. By fusing nutmeg, Jamaican allspice, and Zanzibar-grown cloves to enhance the real pumpkins deployed in each batch, it raises the bar for the category. Once you’re hooked by the caramel- and vanilla-tinged ale, plan a trip to the brewery to track down the even more rare rum barrel-aged versions.