The advent of autumn brings a chill to the air and new flavors to our beer.
Gone are the dog days of summer and a need for something light and fruity. Instead, longer nights and blustery weather inspire brewers to produce robust beers that include fall’s most familiar ingredients, such as pumpkin and cranberry. Like the vast spectrum of colors provided by Mother Nature, the diversity of fall’s harvest provides for an array of autumn beers.
So, put on your favorite sweater or hoodie, cook a little stew, and enjoy one or more of these fine brews that are sure to make you feel warm on a blustery day.
1. Dogfish Head Punkin (Milton, DE)
A little sweet, a little spice. The enticing aroma reminds one of a pumpkin pie baking in the oven on Thanksgiving Day. While the pumpkin flavor shines, the prominence of brown sugar and spices, along with a touch of caramel maltiness, provide balance that prevents the pumpkin flavor from overpowering.
2. Schlafly Pumpkin (St. Louis, MO)
A new player on the market, Schlafly’s pumpkin recipe will resonate well with those who truly love the taste of pumpkin — it is the star of the show. Nevertheless, a steady, tasty dose of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove helps cut through the pumpkin taste. Unlike many, there is nothing syrupy about this; it tastes as if the beer was brewed on the farm. The 8% ABV is hidden, so try to sip it (but, it’s not easy).
3. New Belgium Pumpkick (Ft. Collins, CO)
The introduction of cranberry in Pumpkick provides a unique spin on pumpkin beers. The added tartness of the cranberry balances exceptionally well with the sweetness of the pumpkin and the fall spices. To quote a friend, “It’s like Thanksgiving in my mouth.”
4. Anderson Valley Pinchy Jeek Barl Bourbon Barrel Pumpkin Ale (Booneville, CA)
In addition to pumpkin and warm spices, the beer is aged for six months in Wild Turkey® bourbon barrels. The taste of whiskey is impossible to miss, in both aroma and taste. The pumpkin and aged-barrel taste offers great depth; it is a deluxe, upscale play on the traditional boilermaker.
5. The Bruery Autumn Maple (Placentia, CA)
The Bruery reminds us all that there is more to the fall harvest than pumpkins. Autumn-Maple uses a plethora of yams in this otherwise traditional Belgian Brown Ale. Add a little molasses and maple syrup, and one is treated to a cornucopia of flavors. It reminds one of a well-composed fall stew — each component stands on its own, but works together harmoniously.
6. Breckenridge Autumn Ale (Littleton, CO)
A cross between an Oktoberfest and a dark ale (or porter), Breckenridge describes their Autumn Ale as enjoying the malty-goodness of a German Lager with the crispiness of an American Ale. Rather than incorporate the tastes of Thanksgiving, this fall brew relies on traditional brewing methods to produce a beer that is heavier than summer brews, but lighter than a winter warmer. The nuttiness of this beer is a nice addition to the malty-caramel taste and aroma. It would accompany a piping hot bowl of French Onion soup very well.
7. Founders Harvest Ale (Grand Rapids, MI)
Unlike many fall beers, this appeals to the craft beer connoisseur who equates fall harvest with “wet hops season.” Wet hops are hops plucked fresh from the vines in September and used immediately. Harvest Ale rewards “hop heads” with a remarkably fresh hops taste and gentle citrus flavor. Visit any craft-beer rating site and you will find this brew scored exceptionally high. It should be.
8. Northern Brewer Smashing Pumpkin Ale Small Batch Recipe Kit (West Allis, WI)
The Cornerstone of craft beer involves home brewing. Home brewing got its renewed (legal) start in 1978 when Congress finally repealed the restriction that arose during Prohibition. Over 3500 breweries later, it’s safe to say many people yearned to brew. The Pumpkin Smash recipe accompanies a starter kit, thus one only needs a little time and minimal effort to produce home brewed pumpkin ale. It’s the perfect treat and you don’t even need a costume.