In recent years September and October signaled the introduction of autumnal beers, most notably Oktoberfest lagers. Märzen-style brews are my absolute favorite seasonal beer, so I welcome the near-endless variety: from traditional German breweries to mainstream American brewers and smaller domestic craft breweries, you can’t swing a dead cat these days without knocking over a display of Oktoberfest bottles.
Yet this fall feels a bit different. Although the ubiquity of Oktoberfest varieties remains, there’s now a strong rival to contend with: pumpkin ales. They’re everywhere this year.
A few years ago you were lucky to find some sort of pumpkin ale in a specialty grocery or on tap at a local microbrewery. Yet alongside the growth in Oktoberfest sales came the proliferation of pumpkin brews, so much so that the two now introduce the fall season hand in hand.
And it’s not just a couple of new varieties; now any brewery worth discussing at minimum brews an Oktoberfest, a pumpkin beer, and more often than not, some other autumn/Halloween/fruit or nut-inspired beer.
Not that any of this is a bad thing, certainly not. I write to consider only the mass production American microbrews have created for us, the snooty beer drinkers of the world, as well as the pace with which this explosion in varieties occurred. So to help you separate what’s good from what’s not, here are some of my favorites this year.
- Boxcar Pumpkin Porter, by Starr Hill Brewing
- Imperial Pumpkin Ale, by Weyerbacher Brewing Company
- Pumpkinhead (Maine-made Ale), by Shipyard Brewing Company
- Post Road Pumpkin Ale, by the Brooklyn Brewery
- Punk’n Harvest Pumpkin Ale, by Uinta Brewing Company
- Pumpkin Ale, by Smuttynose Brewing Company
If none of these ring your bell, don’t fret: there will likely be a few dozen more to choose from next year.