Fall has very Big Beer Energy. While if you know us, you know we preach that all beer works for all seasons and only the drinker’s preference matters, this time of year really stands out with its seasonal, limited-time-only beer styles. Sure, the summer may see a rise, or at least a rise in the appreciation of, saisons and wheat beers and all things light, crisp, and fruity. The winter may sound the siren call of dark and decadent stouts and porters. But you could drink these all year long if you so chose. In the fall, we get a temporary explosion of Oktoberfest beers, fresh-hopped beers, and of course, pumpkin beers. The short-term visits of these beer styles make them and this season that much more special. They become a fall tradition, right alongside football, haunted houses, Instagram shoots apple-picking at orchards, layering up in flannel and sweaters, and buying pounds of candy that somehow vanish before the first trick-or-treater even rings the doorbell (we swear we do not know where it went!).
Enjoying these beers is an event in and of itself. Other beer styles might feel extra perfect to drink in certain seasons, but few really capture the entire spirit of those seasons like, say, a pumpkin beer with fall. And, to boot, pumpkin beer even has its own sport, which is arguing about it. You can actually add “debating whether pumpkin beer is the meaning of fall or not even real beer” to that aforementioned list of autumn traditions.
Yes, there are definitely two sides to the pumpkin beer story. People really love or hate the stuff. The thing is, every year, breweries really push this style forward and get more creative, which is actually good news for both pumpkin beer lovers and pumpkin beer haters. That’s because it means something for everyone! There are always plenty of truly indulgent, pumpkin-to-the-max brews for #TeamPumpkinBeer, but increasingly, we’re seeing riffs on pumpkin beer that are lighter, or spicier, or boozier--basically, bridging the gap and helping even those who thought they loathed pumpkin brews find something they actually can’t wait to toast fall with.
That’s why we’re arranging TapRm’s pumpkin offerings this year in a handy “Jack-O-Meter.” From Maximum Pumpkin Overdrive to Just a Hint of Festive Pumpkin Flavor, these are the brews to drink wherever your preferences fall.
Full On, Classic Pumpkin Time: Pumpkin Ale from Five Boroughs Brewing Co.
This one’s for the ride-or-die gourd fans. Five Boroughs’ Pumpkin Ale is as classic as they come. It’s simple and refreshing, and irresistibly never-too-heavy. All the adjectives pumpkin haters might use to boo pumpkin beers do not apply here, like “cloying” or “candy-like.” The Pumpkin Ale is an easy-drinking explosion of fall flavor, sweet, spiced, and balanced. In fact, Five Boroughs actually includes a mix of spices in the brew to conjure up those fresh-baked pie vibes. This beer is a dream to pair with pies, themselves, and also sings with roasty, herby Thanksgiving dishes, Halloween chocolates, and hearty fall cheese boards just as much as it shines on its own as the main treat on a chilly evening.
Full On, Classic Pumpkin Time--But Make It Gluten-Free: Ghosts of Pumpkins Passed from Departed Soles Brewing Company
One crucial way to lighten up a pumpkin beer a bit that’s often not discussed in rankings or round-ups is nixing the gluten. What if you’d actually love a pumpkin beer in all of its glory, thankyouverymuch, but you avoid gluten or even have an allergy? And/or: what if you’re pumpkin beer-curious but you’re tired of the same old malt profile? Well, then, have we got a beer for you! Or, at least, Departed Soles Brewing Company does.
Departed Soles has made a name for itself with, among other things, a real knack for crafting gluten-free beers that aren’t missing an ounce of flavor. In fact, we’d argue, they’re absolutely jam-packed with flavor. That’s just what they’ve done with Ghosts of Pumpkins Passed, their gluten-free pumpkin beer. In addition to the main attraction, pumpkin, this is brewed with millet, oats, quinoa, and malted rice. It’s like the superfood of pumpkin beers, and the result is complex, with body but a mouthfeel that’s not too heavy. Both gluten-free imbibers and pumpkin beer seekers looking for something a little different will appreciate this one.
Kürbis (That’s German for Pumpkin) with a Light, Clean Twist: Witch Please! A Butch’s Brew from Dyke Beer
Fall’s most beloved, awaited beers are pumpkin beers and Oktoberfest styles. What if they joined forces? All we can do is wonder why we haven’t seen more of this genius fusion before!
Dyke Beer brewed up a pumpkin märzen with Witch Please! A Butch’s Brew, meaning that this is a lager, standing out from the hordes of other pumpkin beers that are ales. Because of lager’s longer, colder fermentation periods, they’re always going to be crisper and cleaner than ales. Märzens, in particular, embody that with a twist of graham, toast, and bread crust to their flavor and aroma. Dyke Beer applied this to the pumpkin flavor profile, warming things up with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. Every spice shines and you get that fresh-baked pumpkin pie situation, only in a cleaner, more crushable format.
A Fall-Perfect Dark Lager with Pumpkin Seeds, aka an Actual Whisper of Pumpkin: Barrel Series #1 from Plan Bee Farm Brewery
Okay, we hear you, pumpkin beer critics. And we’ve actually got a way for you to enjoy a roasty, toasty, autumn-perfect beer that does at least include some element of pumpkin, without that sweet pumpkin taste. Plan Bee’s Barrel Series #1 is intriguingly and irresistibly complex. It’s a dark lager, which is already a must this time of year, with its clean crispness given some extra depth with a bit of darker malts. And this one is brewed with smoked peppers and pumpkin seeds, plus it’s then aged in whiskey barrels. So, there is some heat, some spice, some nuttiness, and a hint of warm booziness, all kept just subdued enough for this huge flavor bouquet to stay easy-drinking. This beer is something special as it is, but in the pumpkin conversation, it’s a great way to tip your hat to the autumnal gourd without actually having to drink something that tastes like it. Instead of pumpkin’s sweetness, you get the nuttiness of its seeds.
Fine! NO Pumpkin at All--BUT a Very Halloween Season-Appropriate Beer: Haunted House Hoppy Dark Ale From AllagashAnother step into dark beer territory and away from pumpkin-ness all together is the Haunted House Hoppy Dark Ale from Allagash. An ale instead of a lager, you get even a little more of dark malts’ complexity, with notes of coffee and subtle roastiness. Plus, Allagash added a real presence of hops, with Chinook, Saaz, and Tettnang contributing touches of piney, earthy, floral bitterness for a perfect balance. It’s well-rounded but easy-drinking, and it’s definitely the one to drink if you want something fun and fall-celebratory, but you are 100% sure anything to do with pumpkins is just never going to be for you. The name and can art, too, definitely help secure this beer’s spot as an October essential.