Pumpkin beer’s not all sugar and spice: There’s a faction of fall brews that depend as much on sinister roasty malts as they do on gourd meat and cinnamon. Go on over to the dark side and search for these sultry seasonals.
Avery Pump[KY]n: This barrel-aged beaut wins the biggest pumpkin (beer) contest, topping out at about 17% ABV. A beastly spiced porter aged 6 months in bourbon barrels (there’s the “KY”!), the beer’s a sibling of Avery’s Rumpkin (a pumpkin ale aged in rum barrels) and the newest addition to the brewery’s Barrel Series. Huge additions of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and cloves are joined by alcohol spice and offset by chocolate and toffee malts and vanilla-bourbon sweetness.
RedHook Out of Your Gourd: Nearly sessionable at 5.8% ABV, this pumpkin porter reads cola-like with just a smidge of dry pumpkin juice in the middle and earthy maple in the finish.
Alaskan Pumpkin Porter: Alaskan’s famous alder-smoked malt makes an appearance in this 7%-ABV porter; the subtle smoke marries roasted malt for a sturdy, dark foundation. Then, pumpkin and brown sugar step in to sweeten the sip; a little pumpkin acidity shows up at the end, sealing this beautifully cohesive beer with a dry ending.
Terrapin Imperial Pumpkin Pie Porter: Thin, boozy and spiritlike, this 9.2%-ABV porter’s a sharing beer. Boozy spice and cinnamon muscle push through roasted malt to the end of the swallow, where it meets soft pumpkin and a warm finish.
Elysian Punkuccino: If all you know of Elysian’s prolific pumpkin beers are Night Owl (the mainstay), The Great Pumpkin (the imperial), and Dark O’ the Moon (the spiced stout), you’re missing out. The brewery’s made dozens of pumpkin beer permutations, and Punkuccino, a coffee beer, is a standout; introduced last year at the brewery’s annual Great Pumpkin Festival, this crowd favorite was bumped up to bottle status this year. The beer’s a pumpkin milk stout loaded with Stumptown’s cold-pressed coffee (plus some cinnamon and nutmeg for good measure); the java turns the beer roast-forward; the lactose and pumpkin smooth out the sip; and the 5% ABV tempts you to buy two.
Almanac Dark Pumpkin Sour: Caramelized pumpkins in the brew serve to subtly sweeten and soften this sour beer’s bite; a year-long nap in red wine barrels shades the dark fruit of the base beer with a vinous smudge.
Southern Tier Warlock: Somehow, the brewery squeezed candle-shop clove into a mellow swallow. A nutmeg note, real gourd and alcohol spice perk up the ominous 8.6%-ABV imperial stout, but amazingly earthy, floral, peppery clove rides high until it’s finally foiled by traditional roast in the finish.
Wasatch Black O’Lantern: Rumor has it this stout came to fruition after the brewery realized fans were mixing its stalwart Polygamy Porter with its seasonal Pumpkin Ale. The beer’s all gorgeous stout roast and cocoa, with just breath of clove and nutmeg.