Pumpkin beer has been in stores since July—the craft beer equivalent of selling bikinis in February—but until we got our first temperature dip in the Northeast and were forced to consider bumping up the thermostat, I kept drinking my favorite summer beers like the stubborn gal I am. Now that the leaves on the trees outside my window are changing from green to gold, I'm finally in the mood to drink some beers that match the season.
But autumn isn't just about pumpkins; it's about those brilliant swaths of color in the forest, about maple lattés (if you're Taylor Swift), and about the promise of sweater weather and crisp evenings with a hint of smoke in the air. For you beer lovers who are looking for something seasonal but not specifically squash-themed, here are five fall-centric alternatives to pumpkin beer.
- Jolly Pumpkin Fuego del Otoño: With a name like Jolly Pumpkin, you might expect nothing but spiced, sugary beers from this Michigan brewery. But it's actually devoted to Belgian-style barrel-aged beers fermented with wild yeasts. This autumn seasonal mellows that signature tart earthiness with sweet toasty oak and a hint of spice. It's a cool-weather sour for us funky fans.
- Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche Oak Smoked Doppelbock: Wow, that's a big name to say, and it's got a big flavor to match. If, like me, you find the smell of a campfire to be one of the most intoxicating scents on the planet, try this seasonal offering from one of Germany's most esteemed rauchbier (smoked beer) producers. It's less bracing than many smoked beers on the market, balancing that beautiful oak smoke with malty sweetness.
- Denver Beer Co. Graham Cracker Porter: Speaking of campfires… if you've ever needed a beer to pair with your s'mores, I'd recommend this delicately balanced, light-bodied, not-too-sweet option from Denver Beer Co. You won't get smoky overtones in this porter, nor will you feel like you're drinking a boozy chocolate bar—it's more about subtly spiced vanilla notes here.
- Long Trail Harvest Barn Ale: While Long Trail uses local Vermont maple syrup in this seasonal brown ale, it's not overpoweringly sweet at all—instead, a touch of coffee-like roasted bitterness in each sip makes Harvest Barn a day-drinking alternative to hearty stouts. Though it tastes surprisingly strong and rich, with only a 4.4% ABV, this won't knock you down like some of its full-flavored brethren.
- Saucony Creek Maple Mistress Imperial Ale: The closest thing to a traditional pumpkin beer in this lineup, this Pennsylvania brew does include butternut squash as part of the ingredient list, but it's the maple that comes through loud and clear. I'm the kind of girl who will make a maple buttermilk pie for Thanksgiving instead of the traditional pumpkin offering, and this is the beer equivalent—in fact, I may end up drinking my dessert this holiday season.
What other fall-flavored beers do you like to drink this time of year?
(Image credits: Casey Barber)