Pumpkin, Fest or Harvest Beers: Which is Your Favorite Taste of Fall?

I think fall is the best season for craft beers – we get spicy pumpkin brews, hopped up harvest ales and crisp Oktoberfest beers, each a different and delicious celebration of autumnal tradition.

If you had to pick between these three, which would you peg as your favorite taste of the season? 

For me it’s an easy decision – pumpkin ales all the way.  Most of them are rich and malty treats, perfect for cooler weather, and they are spiced with flavors that evoke a flood of fall memories going back to when I was little.  Add in that their earthiness is reminiscent of leaf raking season, and I think pumpkin beers are the best sensory expression of the season.

My second love in the fall isn’t an Oktoberfest or a harvest ale – it’s Altbier.  There’s something about these malt bombs that I begin to crave as the weather turns chilly, especially Long Trail Double Bag (and now their Triple Bag – this is ‘Murica, so three is better than two!).

So what about you?  Which of the three seasonal delights is your favorite celebration of the season?  Hit the poll below and let us know, and maybe even pop into the comments and tell us why you picked the way you did.
Whatever you choose, you really can’t go wrong.  The fall is an awesome time to be a beer geek!


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75 Comments on “Pumpkin, Fest or Harvest Beers: Which is Your Favorite Taste of Fall?”

  1. Sara
    September 13, 2012 at 7:58 am #

    I chose pumpkin. I long for this time of year and wish it could last all year! I love anything pumpkin, especially the beers and Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes! Southern Tier Pumking is my top pick followed closely by Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale.

    • September 13, 2012 at 8:08 am #

      If you haven’t had it, try Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, Sara. It’s on the East Coast this year, and it’s pretty wonderful, slotting neatly between the two beers you just named.

      • Sara
        September 13, 2012 at 8:24 am #

        Thanks for the tip! I will be sure to keep my eyes open for it.

        • RH
          September 13, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

          I completely agree with Sara on both Pumpkin beers and more specifically Pumking! This is actually the beer that first got me drinking craft! Now I try to squirrel away a few bottles to enjoy later in the season. It seems to be getting more popular, as I am seeing it in more locations, so maybe I won’t have to worry about keeping a stash? On a side note, after attempting to order a Pumking on tap this past weekend, I was told the keg was tapped but that they had DFH up next. I didn’t care for the DFH, maybe too mild compared to the Pumking?

        • September 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

          EVERYTHING is mild compared to Pumking! DFH Punkin is more subtle, but it has a unique roastiness to it that I enjoy – kinda like toasted pumpkin seeds, something i love.

      • September 16, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

        Does “East Coast” include FL? I feel like it doesn’t…

  2. September 13, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    Beautiful photo! Did you take it? It left me parched. And it’s only 9:15AM!

    • September 13, 2012 at 9:51 am #

      No, but I did “make it better” than when I found it!

      • September 13, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

        Wait… what did you do to it? Did you adjust the shadows/highlights to make it look like more light was spilling through the glasses?

        • September 13, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

          I’m voting color temperature adjustment.

        • September 13, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

          I adjusted he brightness, contrast, color balance and “overlay”ed a vignette layer to deepen the edges.

        • September 13, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

          Jim, I could have just given you a raw file to play with. Good lord.

  3. September 13, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    I like the pumpkin beers but only in very, very small doses. That’s why my choice is Oktoberfest. I can enjoy it all fall without it feeling gimmicky or getting sick of it.

    • September 13, 2012 at 9:52 am #

      I agree about the doses, but Oktoberfests just don’t ring my “fall” bell for some reason. I like ’em, but there’s no real seasonal association for me. 😦

  4. September 13, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    While I do like some of the pumpkin ales (DFH and SA come immediately to mind, and I want to try Heavy Sea’s Great’er Pumpkin–the bourbon barrel-aged version of their Great Pumpkin ale), I absolutely love Oktoberfest specialties. I guess it comes from all the time I spent in WI w/ its many and sundry Oktoberfests, but I’ve always looked forward to these seasonal beers.

    BTW: a nitpicking point of grammar, but one dear to my heart. “If you had to pick between these three…” should read, If you had to pick among these three (between indicates only two choices.)

    • September 13, 2012 at 9:53 am #

      Thanks for the grammar lesson, Wayne. I’ll leave it as-is to torture you! 🙂

  5. September 13, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    By Harvest Ales, I assume you’re referring to fresh hopped/wet hopped/green hopped ales (everyone has a different name for it), and if that’s the case, that’s my choice.

    I love the fresh, bold taste of wet hopped ales on tap. With more and more hop farms starting here in Colorado, there’s a lot more available for our local breweries, and more are offering this seasonal.

    A close second for me would be the Fest beers. Your description of why you like Pumpkin beers relates to me with the Fest beers. From a young age, my brother and I would always get at least a sip of an Oktoberfest beer in the Fall.

    My least favorite is definitely Pumpkin or any spiced beer. I’ll leave them for all of you who like them.

    • September 13, 2012 at 9:54 am #

      I guess it’s a matter of where you live as well. In New Jersey, we don’t have a lot of brewers, and while hops are grown in New York State, the “fresh” stuff hasn’t been in-your-face here (or at least in my face). I’m just getting into the wet stuff!

    • Brett
      September 14, 2012 at 9:16 am #

      Sierra Nevada Harvest is hands down my favorite beer. I love the flavor from the fresh hops. Living in CT, I think that’s the only one available (as far as I know, none of our local guys make one), but if anyone out there knows of others available in the northeast, please let me know.

      • Matt
        September 14, 2012 at 9:40 am #

        Sixpoint’s Autumnation is the best of both worlds: a pumpkin beer with a new feature harvest hop each year. I really liked last year’s.

  6. September 13, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    I’m with Will on this one. Harvest/Fresh Hop/Wet Hop ales are my favorite by a long shot. My friends and I brewed one last week with Nugget, Mt. Hood, and Cascade hops from the back yard. Can’t wait to try it.

    That said, I do love me some Avery Rumpkin, and Oktoberfest beers are always great this time of year. Still, I always look forward to the hop harvest more than anything.

    • September 13, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      I think I’d be in the same boat if I had hops growing in the back yard!

    • September 13, 2012 at 11:10 am #

      I’m with Alex, though hopless at the moment.

      • September 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

        If you were with Alex, you wouldn’t be hopless!

  7. Randy
    September 13, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    I don’t open the Pumpkin Ales until the day of the race Formerly Known as the Philadelphia Distance Run*… THAT’s the day that Fall REALLY starts!

    * now called the Evil Rock n Roll Backwards Hosewater Empire Philadelphia Half Marathon

    • September 13, 2012 at 9:56 am #

      Well stock up, just in case us pumpkin lovers drink them all on ya!

  8. September 13, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    Hmmm … I refuse to participate in the above poll. There’s no “all of the above” button. Damn you, Jim! Actually, I’ll go pick one. But it will be a laborious choice. I do quite like them all. Isn’t a bountiful cornucopia a traditional image of the fall harvest. I’m envisioning one full of Marzens, Fresh Hops, Pumpkin beers and maybe an Imperial Pilsner just for giggles. 🙂

    Speaking of Fresh Hops, I should get a chance to try Stone’s “Enjoy By” this Saturday. Chris got a keg of it. 🙂

    • September 13, 2012 at 10:35 am #

      Well, it’s almost like you’re helping him perform a time-sensitive task – how helpful!

      • September 13, 2012 at 11:14 am #

        I think there will be a lot of people helping him. Greg Koch is swinging by Boise this weekend for a multi-day, multi-location Stone Total Tap Takeover event. Aside from the Enjoy By they’re bringing a truckload of otherwise ungettable, experimental and/or cellared Stone beers to Boise. Should be fun.

  9. oliverklosoff
    September 13, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    Best part about fall beers? It means winter ales are right around the corner.

    • September 13, 2012 at 10:36 am #

      Winter stuff is good, too. I’m gonna start stocking up on Advil in preparation for Mad Elf’s arrival…

    • September 13, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

      Yeah, love them Black IPA’s and such.

      • September 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

        Haha. I like your interpretation better. I was drinking Black IPAs all summer in Vermont. Winter warmers aren’t for me…

        • September 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

          I agree that they’re great in summer but are often (usually?) brewed for winter consumption. I was drinking Black Lagers this summer. They were supposed to be brewed for last winter but just weren’t selling for some reason, so my beer enabler discounted them. I couldn’t pass up such a good deal–I bought (and drank) ’em all!

        • September 13, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

          I must be doing it wrong. I’ve never thought of them as a seasonal brew. Much like stouts.

        • September 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

          Yeah, it never made any sense to me either. But what the hell, we drink what we like when we like, no?

        • September 13, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

          When we can find it. I get weird looks when I complain about a lack of imperial stouts on a menu in the south in July…

        • Matt
          September 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

          Nothing like a beer and a ham sandwich for breakfast.

        • September 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

          *ham sandwich optional

        • September 13, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

          My beer enabler simply accepts the fact that I’m weird and tries to keep the good stuff in stock.

  10. Matt
    September 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    If I’m honest about current craving, it’s the pumpkins. (Ithaca Beer has a good one new this year.) So I went with that selection in the poll.

    BUT, I know that many breweries have the pumpkins brewed well before pumpkin harvest season, so I feel like it’s a little phony. My favorite part of homebrewing has been working in something that’s in season. For that reason, I really like the idea of the “harvest” brew better. I’ve only had a few, though, so they don’t get my vote yet.

    Octoberfests are ok by me, but most lagers just lagers to my taste. Hard to get excited about ’em.

    • September 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

      Well, with the lead times needed to brew, ferment, bottle and transport beers, you’d be getting the pumpkin brews on the shelves with the Christmas ales, so it doesn’t bug me that they use preserved pumpkins – I’d rather have the beers when I want them then the added seasonal authenticity.

      • September 13, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

        It’s a bit early for craving pumpkins. Shouldn’t that be October-November, when they’re really coming in? I think you may be pregnant.

      • Matt
        September 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

        It would definitely be later in the season. But why have a brew that’s supposed to represent the season from the previoius year’s harvest? I actually think the pumpkins go better with the Thanksgiving and winter season better. What pie is on the table for Turkey Day?

        • September 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

          But then the OTHER GUYS would sell theirs FIRST!!

          I bet there’s sales pressure put on breweries to get to market early so everyone isn’t sick of pumpkin beers by the time theirs hits the shelves. I would look into this, but that would require work…

    • September 13, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

      Have you ever had Hacker-Pshorr’s Oktoberfest Märzen on tap? If not, try to find some at one of your local beer fests. I’ll bet you change your mind.

      • Matt
        September 13, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

        Yeah, a friend brought over a sixer of Hacker-Pshorr and drank half about a month ago. I just finished the other three. I can appreciate the subtlety — balanced maltiness, noble hops. They’re good. But when some new, freakishly hoppy IPA is staring at me on the shelf, guess who I’m taking home.

        • September 13, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

          The bottled is okay, but like many imported European beers loses much in transit. Draft is infinitely better–pure ambrosia. I had it at the Frederick (MD) Oktoberfest last year. Between the H-P and Flying Dog’s Gonzo Imperial Porter, I was definitely in my beer Happy Place.

  11. September 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    Speaking of things pumpkin, lets not forget that most of those yummy pumpkin pies are made from canned butternut squash–I know oooh, yechh!–but there’s the truth of it.

    • Matt
      September 13, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

      So is that Pumpking or Punkin or….But a pie from a fresh, oven roasted pumpkin is amazing.

      • September 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

        Yeah, my wife made them for me when we were younger, but as the decades roll on I find she is less inclined to mess w/ things like homemade pickles or from-scratch pumpkin pies. (She still bakes amazing apple and lemon meringue pies though–as my ample waist line can attest.) As for Pumking or Punkin–its definitely the Punkin, I don’t like the sweet versions.

        • Matt
          September 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

          I’m with you on the baking (my wife’s is fantastic, but she’s doing the work so she calls the shots…a roasted pumkin has been deemed “inefficient”) and the beer preference. Punkin is my go-to.

          As for Octoberfest on tap, I’ve never had it so you’ve convinced me to look for a good real-live festival in the coming weeks. An easy sell, though!

  12. Matt
    September 13, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    A slippery slope for craft beer when market drives product. Which I guess is the core of my hang up.

  13. September 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    I like the Marzens, but I will definitely be trying more Pumpkin Ales this season.

  14. September 13, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    Pumpkin Ales all the way! I love the spices they use and they come in high and low ABV so there’s always something to enjoy for any occasion! I’m not a fan of Oktoberfest beers (for the most part).

  15. Mark S.
    September 13, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    I would have to say yes to all three! Don’t make me choose!

    And thanks for the tip on the Long Trail “Double Bag”. I never realized that was an Altbier-style beer. I will have to give that another look – for me Long Trail is one of those “starter” craft beer breweries whose stuff I stopped buying a looooong time ago. Though I have many good memories of nights spent killing six’s of Magic Hat, Long Trail and Otter Creek (among others) when visiting friends in VT back in the 1990’s.


    • September 13, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

      Double/Triple Bag is the only Long Trail stuffing know outside of their brewmaster series. I love that beer, especially paired with Triscuits and sharp cheddar cheese. That’s my go-to football snack.

      • September 13, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

        Their IPA is solid. Aggressive and bitter and all cascadey and shit.

  16. September 13, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    Don’t like pumpkin beers at all. In fact they shouldn’t even be available until late fall/early winter.

    Harvest (fresh/wet-hopped) beers are the one for me. Luckily, I live in the Pacific Northwest and will have a plethora to choose from!

    • September 13, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

      Yeah, unlike Jersey. 😦

      • September 13, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

        Well I’m jealous of your proximity to… um… Snooki?

  17. September 14, 2012 at 6:04 am #

    ST Pumking is my all time favourite beer. That said, I brew my own beer and don’t buy much so I miss most of what gets released this time of year. I’ve brewed all three styles in your poll and of my own efforts I still like the pumpkin ale the best. They’re more interesting to me.

  18. September 14, 2012 at 7:59 am #

    Fest beers all the way. I think it depends on where you live. I’m in Charlotte where the falls are mild and crisp Fest beers are highly enjoyable. Plus, I’m strange and hate pumpkin beers. I also don’t like pumpkin pie either though.

  19. Murphatropolis
    September 15, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    I voted Pumpkin Ale, but Oktoberfest is a close second. Here in Cleveland, Great Lakes Oktoberfest can’t be beaten. However, the favorite right now is Shipyard Pumpkin Ale from Maine

  20. jwh
    September 15, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    Shipyard Pumpkinhead is the best

  21. Tim Moore
    September 16, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    Until this year I never really cared for pumpkin beers, but I’ve had the opportunity to try Pumpking, Weyerbachers Imperial Pumpkin and DFH Pumpkin Ale and I believe I’m hooked! That being said I still have to say I haven’t found anything that beats Great Lakes Brewing Co.s Oktoberfest!! I’ll be drinking it until GLBC rolls out the Christmas Ale!

  22. September 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    I love these pumpkin beers on this list! http://www.shoppersvineyard.com/store/pc/Fall-Beer-Guide-d150.htm

  23. Sean
    September 23, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    I can’t decide…! I love them all! I get generally get the fall samplers – that way I get some of each. Saranac and Samuel Adams are my favorite sampler packs but I also love the Southern Tier Pumking and Harvest. I live an hour from the So. Teir brewery…! Will be visiting in a few weeks…! I’m giddy!

  24. Geoff Godshall
    September 27, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    Apparently hops grows well in Oregon, USA. My friend grew enough his first year to fill a stand up freezer (with help from his toddler daughter). Bright green and vacuum packed. If we weren’t 40, I’d guess it were something else he was growing. Haha. Can’t wait to try his Harvest Ale.


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    […] Pumpkin, Fest or Harvest Beers: Which is Your Favorite Taste of Fall? (beerandwhiskeybros.com) […]

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    […] sip a Keystone Light than a pumpkin.  Apparently I am alone in my hatred: in a post over on Beer and Whiskey Brothers, 55% of those polled put pumpkins at the top of their seasonal Fall favorite list.  Oktoberfest […]

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