The same debate among beer drinkers arises every year. As the weather starts to cool and evenings get longer, opposing parties firmly square off against each other and argue whether or not pumpkin beers are the most delicious elixir created or the worst beverage ever invented by a brewmaster.
Most in the know feel pretty strongly one way or the other about pumpkin beers. Fans espouse the usually malty spicy sweetness, while haters declare the beers unbalanced and cloying and claim that pumpkin beers are simply a marketing ploy to boost sales. What is overlooked in this ongoing craft beer blood feud is the fact that there are many delicious year-round craft brews that lend themselves perfectly to autumn, with nutty, toasty and smoky flavors, not to mention many other delicious fall seasonal beers that don’t have any pumpkin in them at all, ever.
8 great Pumpkin-free fall beers:
Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR
No beer style expresses the terroir of fall more than hop harvest or "wet-hopped" beers. In addition to using the usual dried preserved hops, this farm-to-brewery endeavor involves fresh-off-the-vine hops (picked during the late summer/early fall harvest season) that are then added to the beer within 24 hour of being picked. Released in October "until it’s gone," Hop Trip is one such beer. Deschutes’ brewers pick up their Bravo, Centennial and Fresh Crystal hop cones in nearby Salem, Oregon fields and drop them in their brew kettles within four hours of picking. The result is a hugely aromatic, delightfully punchy 6.1 percent ABV pale ale with notes of grapefruit and fall spice, plus a bone dry finish.
Long Trail Brewing Company, Bridgewater Corners, VT
Long Trail Brewing Co.'s Harvest is a 4.4 percent ABV English brown ale that hails from Vermont. It makes its territory known thanks to the addition of local maple syrup, which contributes a lingering balanced sweetness to the toasty, nutty aromatics and smoky toffee flavors. This sessional fall seasonal brings wheat scything and leaf raking to mind with each sip.
The Bruery, Placentia, CA
No non-pumpkin fall beer list would be complete without this amazing beer from Orange County’s famed brewery. Instead of pumpkin, The Bruery uses yams and then adds maple syrup, vanilla, molasses and spices to create a bold beer with notes of caramel, cinnamon, black pepper and laurel. This beer packs a whopping 10 percent ABV that is perfect to warm you up on a cold autumn evening.
Evil Dead Red
AleSmith Brewing Company, San Diego, CA
Each Halloween, elite San Diego brewery AleSmith Brewing Company releases a "sinister" 6.66 percent ABV blood-red American amber ale. This beer also celebrates the fall hop harvest, with heady aromatics of fresh pine and citrus balanced by notes of toasted grains and caramel apples.
Fuego del Otoño
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Dexter, MI
Here’s a compromise. A beer that’s great to drink in the fall from a brewery that has the word "pumpkin" in the name! Fuego del Otoño means Autumn Fire and is a radiant amber "fall saison," with notes of smooth caramel, spicy sour fruit and chestnut. This complex 6.1 percent ABV beer is wild fermented and complex, perfect to sip by the first fall fire of the year.
Double Brown Stout
Deep Ellum Brewing Co., Dallas, TX
This creamy and dark Baltic-style stout from one of Dallas’ preeminent craft brewers is actually a year-round beer, but one whose flavors are a perfect fit for fall. Aromatics of bittersweet baker’s chocolate, coffee and char are followed by secondary flavors of raisin and caramel. This 7 percent ABV warmer is fermented with a lager yeast (instead of ale yeast), which helps create a clean dry finish.
Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, NY
Every year in early fall, New York’s Southern Tier Brewing Company releases a fan favorite seasonal, Harvest Ale. This extremely balanced malt-forward 6.7 percent ABV Extra Special Bitter has pine resin, earthy grass and a waft of pineapple on the nose, with spicy hops and grapefruit rind flavors rounding out toasted caramelized notes.
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock
Brauerei Heller-Trum, Bamberg, Germay
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock is a smoky bock-style beer that originated in Bamberg in the 1500s, and today is brewed for the city’s strong beer season, which runs October through December. "Rauch" is German for smoke, and this style uses malts that are dried over an open beechwood fire, imparting a robust, meaty smokiness into the beer. Coming in at 6.6 percent ABV, Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock is matured in oak casks and tastes and smells like bacon cooked over a campfire.