Pumpkin beer season has fall-en upon us. (Prepare your groans. There will be more puns.)
American breweries, primarily in the East Coast, have a history of making pumpkin ales for the autumn season. Some, like Southern Tier and Shipyard Brewing Co., even built a reputation for themselves amongst newbies and veteran beer-geeks based on their gourd-ly ales. That still doesn’t keep us Bay Area beer-geeks from getting a hold of some of this liquid pumpkin pie. Thanks to distribution and a few West Coast breweries, we are able to experience this annual phenomena here in the Bay Area.
Here are a few recommendations I have to get us buzzed for the autumn mood:
Buffalo Bill’s Brewery – Pumpkin Ale
This is a great entry-level pumpkin ale for those who want to squash yourselves into this gourd-forsaken style (I warned you about the puns). This light-bodied ale has enough sweetness from the malts to carry the spice of the pumpkin flavor into your virgin palate. It is a favorite amongst the locals of Hayward from what I’ve been hearing.
Photo: Buffalo Bill’s
Blue Moon Brewing Co. – Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale
Yes, you heard right. I myself have tried this beer by the infamous Coors-Blue Moon. And guess what? It’s actually quite flavorful and enjoyable. Blue Moon is the sister-brewery of Coors Brewing Co. that attempts to venture into the craft beer world. This is another good entry-level pumpkin beer for those pumpkin ale n00bs.
Photo: Blue Moon
Dogfish Head Brewery – Punkin Ale
This Delaware brewery has been on the forefront of the craft beer movement and has not disappointed with their autumn seasonal. This beer was actually brewed with pumpkin meats, brown sugar, and spices. Pungent aroma from the pumpkin spices and hops makes it a fun and enjoyable experience at your Thanksgiving Day parties.
Photo: Dogfish Head
Anderson Valley Brewing Co. – Fall Hornin’
Anderson Valley Brewing began canning their beers to ensure preserved freshness. This is another local pumpkin ale worth trying for those just getting into this seasonal style. They also have a bourbon barrel-aged version of another pumpkin ale called Pinchy Jeek Barl that is supposed to be killer!
Photo: Crown, Wine, & Spirits
21st Amendment/Elysian collaboration – He Said, He Said (porter & tripel)
Another canned pumpkin delight that is quite unique! This pumpkin-infused beer comes in a 4-pack with a pair of 2 different beer-styles, both brewed with pumpkin & spices. First, our local 21A brewed a dark Baltic-style porter and the second is Seattle-based Elysian Brewery brewed the light-colored, strong Belgian-style tripel. Both sit at about 8 percent alcohol.
Shipyard Brewing Co. – Smashing Pumpkin
I am ready for dessert! This nutmeg-forward liquid pumpkin pie by Maine’s Shipyard Brewing Co. has to be the perfect balance of flavors in a big pumpkin beer. This imperial pumpkin ale is a 9 percent alcoholic beauty that is smooth and creamy like what you could ask of a good pumpkin pie. Smashing Pumkin to me is as close as it gets to Southern Tier’s legendary Pumking.
Photo: Shipyard Brewing Co.
The Bruery – Autumn Maple
We are getting into the double digits in terms of alcohol-by-volume with one of Orange County’s top breweries. Autumn Maple is a full-bodied beer that is full-flavored with a bunch of spices and 17lb. of YAMS! That’s right. This is actually not a pumpkin beer, but a yam beer! The Bruery description says it is “brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, molasses, and maple syrup, and fermented with our traditional Belgian yeast strain…”
Definitely something you would (need to?) share. Drinking liquid-potato is a lot more filling than drinking liquid-squash.
Photo: The Bruery Blog
Almanac Beer Co. – Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine & Dark Pumpkin Sour
This San Francisco brewery celebrates their 4th anniversary this year. They are keeping strong with their 2nd batch release of the Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine. This barrel-aged pumpkin barleywine clocks-in at 12 percent alcohol! An excellent full-bodied, complex, yet balanced sweetness that beckons for more after first sip.
As if that wasn’t enough pumpkin from Almanac, this year they released their brand new Dark Pumpkin Sour. Click on the image to learn the details about this highly interesting beer!
Jolly Pumpkin – La Parcela
Not a local, but definitely “el loco” with their sour beers. That’s right. A SOUR pumpkin ale to contrast with everything above, this beer by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales will be a palate-cleansing finish to your night full of pumpkin beers. This sour pumpkin ale is brewed and flavored with pumpkin, cacao, and spices. Not as heavy and complex as it may sound, which makes it refreshing after an evening of hefty eating and drinking.
Photo: Flickr user Bernt Rostad
Editor’s note: Winton White is an employee of San Francisco brewery, Anchor Brewing Co.