Pumpkin Beer Showdown

Let’s not make this any more awkward than it has to be.

So we’re back, for now, but hopefully for the rest of the season. Summer took hold of my schedule, and although I did try some very delicious breakfast foods and bubbly drinks, I let Doughnuts and Daiquiris slip onto the back burner. But enough of the silly excuses- on with the beer!


It’s autumn, the season Michigan was made for. We’ve all been waiting for it: the crunchy leaves, wind-breaking coats and pumpkin spiced lattes….and most importantly, pumpkin beers.

Back in September I went to my favorite local bottle shop (shout out to Siciliano’s) and perused the aisles for 20 minutes looking for the perfect sounding pumpkiny ales to try and compare. The winners were:

Ballast Point’s Pumpkin Down

Arcadia Ales Jaw-Jacker

O’Fallen Brewery Vanilla Pumpkin

Each sounded unique and delightfully fall inspired so I picked them up immediately. Which one will I grab again? Read on to find out.

  1. Ballast’s Point Pumpkin Down

I enjoyed Pumpkin Down while hunching over a presentation group meeting one night late in September. Popcorn in hand, eyes sore from staring at Power Point for hours, I eagerly drank this ale with high expectations.

I was immediately washed over with real pumpkin flavor- not that artificial pumpkin spice crap that’s in your favorite latte at Starbucks, but like the squash. Then, a hint of cinnamon-y spice. Not too much spice to distract you from the pumpkin. This was a true pumpkin beer, with mild sweetness and an easy to drink balance of pie spices. This one also gets points for it’s label- I mean come on, its super cool.



2. Arcadia Ale’s Jaw-Jacker

I enjoyed Jaw-Jacker (bought almost soley for the name) during a spooky movie night  after it had drizzled all day. Talk about fall up-the-ass.

This one caught me off guard…although looking back, it shouldn’t have, because its literally called Jaw-Jacker. Think spicy PSL with a strong beer taste. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not opposed to the taste of beer when I’m having a beer, ( I know those people exist and they remind me of myself as a Freshman in college) but when I’m expecting a sweet pumpkin ale I don’t think “beer” should be the number one flavor.

I’m not trying to rip this one a part, I just really wasn’t into it. The spices were actually a little hot- like cinnamon gum hot. Upon checking Arcadia’s website I realized that there isn’t actually any pumpkin in this recipe, which explains the competition between the strong spice and beer flavors. If you like fall spices and simple beer, you’ll probably enjoy this one more than I did.

3. O’Fallen Brewery Vanilla Pumpkin

I don’t remember what quintessential fall activity I was partaking in when I finally cracked open this fragrant ale, but I’m sure it involved a crisp breeze and some squash eaten in some form. Anyways, one of the first things that drew me to this one was the bottle. O’Fallen’s bottle has a skinny neck with a textured logo popping out from it, and for some reason it feels satisfying in the hand of the drinker.

The vanilla is really doing favors in this one, which makes it one of my other favorites from this list. Its creamy and sweet like vanilla bean ice cream, which does a magical thing to the pumpkin pie spices found on the second taste. Vanilla combined with cinnamon and nutmeg swirl together to make a delicious dessert style beer. O’Fallen describe it as a piece of pumpkin pie with a scoop of ice cream on top, and I think that nails it exactly.

Each pumpkiny brew was unique in it’s own way which was impressive. It excites me to think of all the possible flavor combinations I haven’t tried yet. How many different ways could a brewery inject a drink with fall spices and pumpkins? I’ve only got until Halloween to find out.

Although this is a short, inexperienced review (I suppose that is really the flesh and bones of this blog, but) expect to see more and hopefully higher quality posts in the future.