Updated 29 Nov 2013
I'm so glad to be back on the East Coast an changing seasons. My favorite season is autumn. I love the crispness in the air, the trees changing color, and all the awesome butternut squash dishes at local restaurants. I also love the ales of the season, and being close to Wegman's!
Back in Silverdale, if I wanted to try an assortment of new pumpkin ales, I would have to buy a six-pack of each. Some were pretty nasty, and I poured out several bottles.
Wegman's (awesomest grocery store on the planet!), you can mix-and-match your own six packs, and they have quite a wide variety of pumpkin ales to try.
Sweetwater Tavern both for their extraordinarily good food AND for their AWESOME pumpkin ale in the fall. Take a growler to go!
To help out those of you who AREN'T so conveniently located next to Sweetwater Tavern or a Wegman's, and in order to prevent you from having to buy whole six-packs of what might later get poured down the sink, here's my votes for the pumpkin ales on a thumbs-up / meh-so-so / thumbs-down rating scale. I still have three more in the fridge to try, so I'll come back and add them to the list later, but for those of you who may be headed to the store soon and are looking for recommendations, here's what I've tried so far (listed in order from good to not-so-good):
New Holland Brewery's Ichabod - Two Thumbs-UP, still my favorite pumpkin ale. Strong, bold and balanced flavor. No weird initial or aftertastes. I anxiously await its arrival on the shelves at Wegman's.
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale - Thumb$ Up. Quality and taste were very good - on-par with my favorite Ichabod listed above, but pricey. It's very good if you don't mind spending the money on 4 bottles instead of a six-pack.
Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale - Thumbs-UP. Sam Adams never disappoints with their seasonal ales. Good flavor, not too strong, very enjoyable.
Red Hook Pumpkin Porter - Thumbs-UP. Very tasty. Didn't taste very much like pumpkin, but I still enjoyed it. I'd buy it again.
Devil's Backbone Ichabod - Thumbs-UP. Like the Red Hook, it didn't have a strong pumpkin flavor, but it was still very enjoyable. I'd buy it again.
Traveler Jack-O Shandy - Thumbs-UP. Added 13 Oct 2013, I liked this one a lot. It was light and crisp, with a good balance between the lemon peel and pumpkin flavors. There weren't any strong perfumy or heavy-spice flavors. There weren't any detectable hops flavors either. I bought this one as a mixed-up six-pack from Wegmans, but I enjoyed it enough that I went back and bought another full six-pack of this.
Added 13 Oct 2013. The flavor in this one was pretty strong. If you're not a pumpkin ale fan, then I would steer clear of this one. It wasn't overpoweringly perfumy or spice-flavored, so I actually enjoyed it and finished the bottle. Not much hops either. Like the Saranac above, I wouldn't turn away a bottle if offered, and if you're picking out a mixed-up six-pack at someplace like Wegman's, then I'd include this in your sampler six pack. Given how strong the flavor is, I'd be cautious about buying a full six-pack if you haven't tried it first.
Added 7 Nov 2013. Very strong, nutty flavor, but not perfumy like some of the others. Like the Weyerbacher, if you're not a pumpkin ale fan, then I would steer clear of this one. Very light on the hops / not a strong hoppy flavor. I enjoyed it though and finished the bottle. It has a pretty high alcohol content - 8.9% by volume.
Harpoon's Pumpkin UFO (unfiltered offering) - Meh. It was
okay. I finished the bottle at least, but tasted pretty perfumy. Given
the choice of other pumpkin ales on the shelf, I'd skip probably skip
New Belgium Pump-Kick. Meh. Odd flavor. It says something about pumpkin and cranberry on the label. I finished the bottle, but I won't be going back for any more of this one.
Shipyard Pumpkinhead - Yech! Thumbs-DOWN. It has an amaretto taste to it, and I HATE amaretto. That being said, if YOU like amaretto, then you might want to give it a try.
Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale - Yech! Thumbs-DOWN. Waaaaay too perfumy and overpowering strong flavors. I couldn't take more than a couple of sips. Poured the rest of the bottle down the sink. Poured the rest of the six-pack down the drain, too.
Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat - Yech! Thumbs-DOWN. Similar to the Elysian - too perfumy and very strong flavor. I did manage to finish about half a bottle of this before I gave up. I poured the rest of the six pack down the drain.
Jacques Au Lantern - Blech! Thumbs-DOWN. After one sip of this, I poured the rest of the bottle down the kitchen sink. Like the Elysian and Shock Top - very perfumy and STRONG flavor.