Whether it’s spicing your latte, filling your pie, or spooking your stoop, pumpkin in some form or another seems pretty mandatory in the fall. The beverage world is no exception: every September, innocent beer stores everywhere are invaded with cases and cases of pumpkin beer, spanning the gamut from mildly delightful to straight-up offensive—a subject of some controversy.
But after we all do our automatic bow to The Great Gourd, there’s still some time left to kill, and beers to drink, for the next month or so. We rounded up 11 of the best specifically pumpkin-free beers that are still (somehow?) appropriate for fall. You’ll get a lot of the same flavors you might see in a pumpkin beer—spice, molasses, maltiness—but none of the pumpkin.
Which is good, because apparently there’s a shortage of pie pumpkins this year, so the sooner we wean ourselves off of pumpkin flavors, the more likely we can avoid some kind of Pumpkin Pie Apocalypse come Thanksgiving…
What’s a more appropriate fall beer than one produced from something just harvested? Founders wet hops this ale, meaning they brew it with fresh picked hops (rather than standard kiln-dried hops), resulting in a fresher, juicier hop flavor profile overlaying the toasted malts and subtle sweetness. Easy like a fall Sunday.
Getting closer to those colder nights? Reach for a beer like this, a sort of midway point between a Marzen and a darker ale, with nutty sweetness, roasted grains and a nice full body—not to mention a warming 6.7% ABV. (No obligation to rake before or after.)
SurlyFest – Surly Brewing Co. – BEST NON-OCTOBERFEST
Specifically self styled as “not a German style Oktoberfest beer,” SurlyFest is pretty radically untraditional, brewed with three kinds of rye enriching the Vienna malts. What differentiates beyond the rye is the expressiveness of the hop flavor (not Oktoberfest style), with notes of citrus and florals, even pine, perceptible above the malt and toast. Super unique, super fall.
Another fresh/wet-hopped beer, though this one’s an IPA, so you’ll get a lot more flavor from the Cascade and Centennial hops (which go from farm to brewery in less than 24 hours). Think of a classic West Coast IPA without as much astringent bitterness—but still those lush notes of red grapefruit, pine, even wet leaves. Seriously, wet leaves? This has to be a fall beer.
Long Trail Harvest Barn Ale – BEST MAPLE BEER
Long Trail’s classic seasonal brown ale, spiked with just a bit of maple syrup. A subtler accompaniment to fall than its pumpkin pie-d brethren, with notes of malt and toast laced very subtly through with maple.
Autumn Maple – The Bruery – BEST NON-PUMPKIN BEER
Don’t be afraid—there’s something orange in that bottle, but it’s not pumpkin. For its Autumn Maple, The Bruery takes the pumpkin formula, chucks the gourd, and goes for yam—17 pounds of it. Fall spices and flavors like molasses and maple are present, but not too cloying, with Belgian yeast and hefty malts. If you’re a pumpkin beer hater, this just might be the way to go.
Abita Pecan Harvest Ale – MOST CREATIVE FALL BEER
When we’re not going crazy looking for pumpkins to fill our pie crusts, we’re (wisely) filling them with pecans. Abita honors the local Louisiana pecan harvest with a light, malty beer with a subtle aroma and aftertaste of freshly roasted pecans.
Thinking about toasted nuts got us to thinking about raisins. Maybe not the most obvious choice for a fall drinking day, but crack open one of these and try not to avoid being whisked to some nearby, inviting leaf pile. A Belgian-style brown ale, it’s brewed with beet sugar, raisins, and Belgian-style yeast. Not just raisins in a glass—expect dark, dried fruit (prunes) but also fresh stone fruit, wine, malt, slight bite, spice, and earthiness.
Looks like a lot of breweries have taken to “wet hopping” for their seasonal fall offering. The cool thing about Sixpoint, they let the fans pick the hop—Mosaic, this time, splaying bright rays of citrus and pine into the copper ale, anchored by some berry and earth notes.
If you’re gonna have an Oktoberfest (and they’re everywhere this time of year), why not try one that’s a little unique? Not that Revolution defies the classic German flavor profile. You’ll get lots of toasty German malts, plus spice, nuttiness, caramel. What’s really interesting is the use of just one kind of hop—Hallertau Gold—picked from one particular hop farm in Bavaria. If local matters in craft beer, here’s one way to find out.
Heavy Seas Deep Six – BEST SERIOUSLY COLD FALL NIGHT BEER
This is some point-of-no-return fall beer. Maybe the trees are stripped. Maybe your pea coat has become almost useless in the fight against cold, whipping winds. Either way, you’ll want a beer as robust and warming as this English-style porter, rich and malty to fill you up, while subtle fruit esters bring to mind thoughts of pie and earthiness from English Fuggle hops, making you wish it wasn’t so damn cold, so you could walk in some leaves.