People love pumpkin beer. Based largely on sales of its flagship Pumpkinhead, Portland, Maine’s Shipyard Brewing Co. climbed to No. 15 among craft breweries in sales volume for 2012, according to data released by the Brewers Association. That’s a lot of cinnamon-and-sugar rims. Pumpkin beer can be polarizing. Early release of the brew is an annual cause of consternation (summer’s not over!), and hardcore beer geeks deride the beverage for being a too-sweet gimmick. Did we mention Shipyard sells a ton of pumpkin beer?
Shipyard is not alone in selling massive amounts of it. Go into any liquor store over the next six weeks and pumpkin will be everywhere. For the second year in a row, the 99 Bottles family held a pumpkin beer tasting to help you sort through the orange muck. In one spicy night, myself, my colleague Christopher Hughes, my neighbor Meaghan, and my wife, Melissa, sampled 16 pumpkin beers and named our bests and worsts. It’s a tough job, but we endured all 16 beers so you don’t have to. After a totally blind taste test, I list my favorites.