No other beer manages to be quite as contentious as a tall glass of pumpkin ale. Since the Colonial era, brewmasters have quarreled over pumpkin beer’s merits every October as the seasonal brew makes its annual reemergence. It’s all in the flavor, really: Some beer aficionados croon over the subtle hints of squash, while others pinch their nose at the cloying pumpkin-pie sweetness.
The story of pumpkin beer is as old as America. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin were all said to have experimented with it when English barley was too rare to procure. And the following bars are ready to continue the Founding Fathers’ tradition this month as they roll out new flavors fresh from the pumpkin patch.
Birreria Paradiso (2029 P St., NW, 202-223-1245; 3282 M St., NW; 202-337-1245)
At the Dupont Circle location, you’ll find Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, a hoppy beer with a clean, refreshing taste that bar manager Greg Jasgur says “you can drink a lot of.” A more traditional pumpkin ale, this beer harkens back to the olden days of pumpkin brewing. Meanwhile, on tap in Georgetown is Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale, which has a sweeter, spicier pumpkin-pie flavor, and Cape Ann’s Fisherman’s Pumpkin Stout, with a strong roasted flavor, fewer pumpkin-pie notes, and a taste of fresh pumpkin.
How much longer: Through October.
Price: $7 a pint.RFD
In addition to Dogfish Head Punkin Ale and Fisherman’s Pumpkin Stout, RFD will soon roll out Southern Tier’s Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale, a high-alcohol beer with a sweet pumpkin-pie aroma you can smell from three tables away. Also on tap will be the New Holland Ichabod Ale, a subtler amber option with a spooky label perfect for Halloween.
How much longer: Each beer stays on tap for about a week.
Price: $6 to $9 a pint.
Owner Dave Alexander says the Brickskeller introduced DC to pumpkin beers, and with a list that includes Dogfish Head Punkin, Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin, Fisherman’s Pumpkin Stout, and Southern Tier Pumking, you can’t help but believe him. His favorites include Post Road Pumpkin Ale and Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, mildly spicy and strongly pumpkiny brews that Alexander says “are so good they make you wonder why they don’t just serve them year-round.” Also at the bar are bottles of Budweiser’s take on the flavor, Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale, which Alexander describes as “really not that bad.”
How much longer: Due to popularity, expect these beers into November.
Price: $3.75 to $6.50 for bottles.
Capitol City Brewing Company (1100 New York Ave., NW, 202-628-2222; 2 Massachusetts Ave., NE, 202-842-2337; 4001 Campbell Ave., Arlington; 703-578-3888)
A whopping 100 pounds of fresh roasted pumpkin go into the mash of Capitol City’s in-house brew, the Pumpkinator. This amber ale has a malty sweetness with ginger flavoring, which makes for a beer that’s so good people start asking for it in August. What was once a one-batch-a-year production has grown to three or four batches, a trend the brewmasters at Capitol City don’t see slowing down anytime soon.
How much longer: Through Thanksgiving.
Price: $5.50 a pint.
Sweetwater Tavern (14250 Sweetwater La., Centreville, 703-449-1100; 3066 Gatehouse Plaza, Falls Church, 703-645-8100; 45980 Waterview Plaza, Sterling, 571-434-6500)
Brewmasters at Sweetwater have been making their own pumpkin ale for years. It’s called Ghost Town Pumpkin Ale, and it’s a rich, slightly hoppy beer with a pumpkin hint and a rim garnished with ground pumpkin seeds and spices.
How much longer: Hopefully for the next three to our weeks, although this is the second-most popular seasonal beer (behind Ocktoberfest), so these kegs could tap a lot earlier.
Price: $4.50 for a pint, or take home one of Sweetwater’s signature “Growlers,” a two-liter jug for $22.50.
Dogfish Head Alehouse (6220 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, 703-534-3342; 13041 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy., Fairfax, 703-961-1140)
You won’t be surprised by the selection at Dogfish Head Alehouse—it’s Punkin Ale, Punkin Ale, and more Punkin Ale. And it’s no wonder: As the brewery’s most popular seasonal brew, this beer is currently in the top three sellers, and it’s going fast. The Alehouse also sells cases of the speciality brew, in the event you’re trying to extend the fall spirit a little longer.
How much longer: With any luck it’ll last until November.
Price: $5.25 a pint.
Rustico has already sold out of some of the more obscure pumpkin ales but still has plenty of Dogfish Head Punkin Ale on tap.
How much longer: Through November.
Price: $6 for a regular, $7 for a large.
Another bar celebrating the season with a tap full of Dogfish Head Punkin Ale.
How much longer: Through October.
Price: $6 for a pint, $20 for a pitcher
Did we miss one of your favorite pumpkin beers in our roundup? Tell us about it in the comments!