Battle Pumpkin Beer... Part 2
It’s been nearly 2 years since it happened. The nightmares have mostly subsided, but the occasional whiff of nutmeg or the sharing of a PSL meme can spark flashbacks. He deals with the memories the only way he knows how, by drinking crispy pilsners. As the temperatures cool and the trees change colour he becomes more and more on edge.
Like any other day, he returns home from the office unknowing that everything was about to change. A HomeSense bag in the hallway, orange plaid dish towels draped over the oven door handle and the strong scent of a freshly lit pumpkin spice toasted marshmallow candle. He can think only one terrifying thought…pumpkin beers have returned! He opens the fridge for a pilsner and his worst fear is confirmed.
Two years ago we compared and ranked 6 different pumpkin beers, you can read that post here. So why would we want to do it all again? There are now more offerings on the market and truthfully, we actually enjoy fall flavoured and spiced beers. Pumpkin beers may be the butt of many jokes amongst the craft beer community, but a walkthrough of your local LCBO in late September will prove that they are popular.
Competitors & Scoring
We were able to get our hands on all the pumpkin beers from our London area craft breweries and from the shelves of the LCBO at the time of writing. This round sees our competitors span a wide range of styles from lagers to ales to stouts. Which makes it difficult to directly comparable. So we’ve added a new point category to award those beers that deliver to what they promise on their labels. I’ve included the marketing speak from each beer for tasting note comparison.
Disclaimer: This post and the ranking contained within is just for fun and is solely based on our taste preferences. Results will vary by individual and I encourage you to try this yourself, we’d would love to see your results. Each beer will be given a score out of 100 based on the scoring categories and weighting below:
Appearance – 10 points Aroma – 15 points Flavour – 50 points Deliver to its promise – 15 Would we buy again - 10
#10: Flying Monkeys – Theatre of Madness Lager - Score 50 / 100
6% abv - 473ml Can - $3.95
“Now playing, A Fresh Pumpkin Lager. Brewed featuring pureed pumpkin, co-starring cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and staged with a creamy dollop of lactose adding depth to the performance”
This Pumpkin Lager won our previous Battle Pumpkin but this time shows up in last place. Flying Monkeys came under fire when people who bought this beer from the LCBO turned over the can and saw that it was packaged last year. Mine was packaged 21-Oct-2021. Flying Monkeys responded to the criticism by assuring customers that their lab tested the beer and it was still good. Whether or not you agree with their decision to ship old product, I had to deduct big points as they failed to deliver “A Fresh Pumpkin lager”. The aroma was still great and the lager still presented big pumpkin spice and cinnamon flavours. We found the after taste to be oddly medicinal and discouraged another sip.
#9: Gahan - Pumpkin Ale - Score 56 / 100
5.8% abv - 473ml Can - $3.45
“Brewed with premium malts, a touch of brown sugar, real pumpkin and hand-selected spices. Gahan Pumpkin Ale brings a little warmth to cool autumn evenings”
Faint pumpkin, nutmeg and apple cider vinegar aroma. This lighter bodied ale has flavours of nutmeg, all spice and light pumpkin that finishes peppery and dry. For us, the scent of apple cider vinegar was a big turn off and compared to the others the pumpkin flavour didn't stack up.
#8: Grand River Brewing - Highballer Pumpkin Ale - Score 58 / 100
5.2% abv - 473ml Can - $3.45
"Subtle pumpkin and spice flavour balanced by a pale malt profire and hop contributions. The classic seasonal beer makes the perfrect complement to any meal and adds a festive spice to fall occasions"
This ale pours a dark orange with a head that receded as quickly as my hair line after college. On the sip is sweet pumpkin pie and a light spice that quickly dissipates to a slightly mineral finish. Overall a bit sweet and unnatural in flavour.
#7: Whitewater Brewing – Pumpkin Spice Espresso Porter – Score 71 / 100
4.4% abv - 473ml Can - $3.65
"Crafted with a selection of locally harvested ingredients, the Pumpkin Spice Expresso Porter is our full-bodied homage to the adventurous autumn lover in us all."
It’s great to find another pumpkin spice inspired porter on the market and overall it's a great lower abv option in comparison to the others. It poured a nice roasty black with a thick tan head, aromas of roasted coffee and a touch of all spice and nutmeg. On the sip you get all those roasted coffee and dark chocolate notes that finishes dry and peppery. For us this was the least pumpkin spice flavoured of the bunch, but was still very enjoyable and less sweet than most.
#6: Bobcaygeon Brewing – Sweet Tooth Pumpkin Spice Latte – Score 72 / 100
8.1% abv - 473ml Can - $4.95
"Look for all the classic fall flavours - cinnamon, ginger, and pumpkin, with a sweet coffee finish. At 8.1% this beer is a tasty sipper for the fall."
This is a great fall brew for someone with a sweet tooth, as the name aptly suggests. Sweet pumpkin pie filling aromas fill the air as you pour the can. On the sip is caramel, pumpkin candy and cinnamon sweetness that carries through the sip masking that 8.1% abv. Neither one of us could pick up much coffee flavour that could have helped balance this sweet treat. Mrs. McGoo, who is known for her sweet tooth said she would happily buy this again.
#5: Big Rig Brewery – Tales from the Patch Pumpkin Porter - Score 75 / 100
5.8% abv - 473ml Can - $3.60
"Pumpkin pie. Spiced Porter. Scary Good."
Not much marketing speak for comparison but overall a nice roasty porter with a mild dark chocolate sweetness and restrained pumpkin spice flavour. Bonus points for the glow in the dark can!
#4: Lake of Bays Brewing – Pumpkin Ale - Score 81 / 100
6% abv - 473ml Can - $3.50
"Celebrate sweater weather with this refreshing, malt-forward ale featuring Magnum and Fuggles hops, pumpkin, vanilla and spice. Subtle notes of nut and caramel make it an ideal partner for farvest fare."
For the pumpkin beer that came last in our previous Battle Pumpkin I was happily surprised with the flavour of this year’s Lake of Bays offering. It poured a nice deep copper colour with a dense lasting foam. The aroma was light but had pumpkin spice vibes. On the sip you get nice caramel malts with fall spices, vanilla and pumpkin flavours without being too sweet. We found that this ale had a bit larger hop profile than the others which provided a welcomed touch of bitterness.
#3: Anderson Ales - Pumpkin – Score 83 / 100
5% abv - 355ml Can - $2.75
"Reminiscent of Pumpkin, This copper-coloured brew is made with real pumpkin and flavoured with seasonal spices."
This pumpkin ale pours a deep caramel colour with a somewhat quickly receding foam. Fresh aromas of all spice, nutmeg and caramel. Flavours of pumpkin spice including nutmeg, all spice, touch of cinnamon, and light pumpkin with low sweetness and a crisp dry finish. An easy drinking, natural tasting ale without pumpkin dominating the flavour. One of the few beers in this line up that we could enjoy a few of in a sitting.
#2: Oast House Brewers – Country Bumpkin Spiced Harvest Ale - Score 87 / 100
5.3% abv - 473ml Can - $4.35
"A cozy fall ale made with a mishmash of house-roasted pumpkin, butternut, acorn and hubbard squash puree from Howells Farm. This extra process of caramelizing along with the addition of traditional pie spices, lends a unique characteristic, body and depth of flavour. The rich, warm aromas and flavours of sweet malt, pie filling, subtle hints of squash and nuttiness phase naturally to a rather crisp, slightly dry finish"
Definitely the most detailed and impressive marketing description and honestly... they nailed it. This ale pours a perfectly clear deep orange with a thick off white foam. Floral and sweet pumpkin aromas lead to flavours of fresh pumpkin and roasted squash with fall spice notes through the entire sip. Lightly sweet with a dry finish, this is a delicious pumpkin ale and was Mrs. McGoo’s overall winner.
#1: Great Lakes Brewing – Pumpkin Ale – Score 89 / 100
5.5% abv - 473ml Can - $3.35
“Our Pumpkin Ale has been brewed with a generous amount of locally grown pumpkin and subtle additions of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and allspice. This results in a smooth, well rounded and slightly spicy ale, perfectly suited to seasonal harvest fare”
This ale pours a golden orange colour with a thick white foam that lingered for the life of the beer. Fresh aromas of pumpkin, squash and light spice. It’s a lighter bodied ale in comparison to the rest but is bright with real pumpkin and the perfect amount of sweetness for those pumpkin pie vibes. Light Cinnamon and nutmeg spices add more depth of flavour but don’t overpower. Clean, crisp and slightly dry finish. It was a close call between GLB and Oast, but the person who writes the blog gets to pick the winner and it's GLB Pumpkin!
Stay positive and drink gourd beer