HENRICO, Va. — Well beer drinkers, it’s that time of year when the leaves change and the temperature drops….and beer writers begin their pumpkin beer articles by mentioning the leaves changing and temperatures dropping. Why should I be an exception to the rule?
Yes, it is officially pumpkin beer season in the beer world, but this year is proving to be a bit different.
A few years ago, it seemed that most of the pumpkin and fall beers followed the same recipe: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and some pumpkin flavor (sometimes even from real pumpkins, as opposed to squash).
But as the pumpkin beer segment grew, breweries began experimenting more and now some Virginia breweries are actually crafting more unique offerings.
Below are some suggestions to try as you toast to fall’s arrival.
Blue Mountain Barrel House Spooky:
An old favorite, Spooky is a Pumpkin Ale that forgoes the usual pumpkin pie spice blend. Instead, Blue Mountain ages Spooky in Bourbon barrels and adds cacao nibs to give it a touch of sweetness.
South Street Twisted Gourd Chocolate Chai:
This is a new one for the Richmond market, from Charlottesville’s South Street. Twisted Gourd takes a cue from Starbucks, bringing the Pumpkin Spice Latte into the next obvious direction. They brew their imperial pumpkin ale with cacao nibs and add a blend of chai spices.
Old Bust Head Old Jailhouse Pumpkin-Peach Brown Ale:
Old Bust Head is out of Fauqier County, but has a strong presence in the Richmond market. Their fall seasonal was just normal pumpkin ale, until Big Beer took a shot at Craft Beer during the Super Bowl. Now Old Jail features peach flavors along with the pumpkin, and a thumb in the eye of Budweiser.
Ardent Sweet Potato and Sage Saison:
While not their Pumpkin Ale, this seasonal offering captures the essence of Thanksgiving with the addition of the flavors of holiday table staples, in a Belgian farmhouse beer.
Hardywood Rye-Barrel Aged Farmhouse Pumpkin:
Hardywood is well-known for their barrel aging program, and for many the release of the barrel-aged pumpkin beer is just a precursor to Gingerbread Stout season. But for others, this is the highlight of their beer calendar. Hardywood has given their farmhouse pumpkin the barrel treatment in both rum and rye whiskey barrels in the past, and according to this year’s release calendar it looks like rye whiskey is the barrel for 2016.
Three Notch’d Pumperkin Pumpkin IPA:
The marriage of two top selling styles of the past few years, Pumpkin and IPA. Named for the pumpkin ales of Colonial times, Pumperkin combines the familiar pumpkin ale flavors with traditional English hops.
And for the pumpkin traditionalists, the beers from Brothers Craft Brewing in Harrisonburg and AleWerks from Williamsburg offer delicious pumpkin pie versions of pumpkin beers.
Brothers Fairgrounds Fall Ale adds the flavors of ginger and allspice with nutmeg and cinnamon for a slice of pumpkin pie in a pint glass.
Similarly, AleWerks Pumpkin Ale brews with brown sugar, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spices to help you get your pumpkin pie fix.
While all of these beers are available at most local craft beer stores, a lot of the local breweries will have their own pumpkin beers available in their tasting rooms this fall.
And for those of you who can’t wait for pumpkin beers to go away, stout season is right around the corner.
Eric Wise is the Senior Beverage Consultant at De Fles Winkel, a Glen Allen-based bottle and growler shop. His brother is an editor of WTVR.com.