Oh hey, Orangetober! As if the spate of 80-degree weekends wasn’t enough, this decorative gourd season is full of things to celebrate. Raise a toast to all things orange and awesome with seven delicious pumpkin brews from some of our favorite Northern California breweries. The great news? You’ll be able to find one to suit any mood, from sweet, heady brews to tart, refreshing sippers.
Don’t forget to add a “Humm, baby!” to that toast, now.
Much as we’re about the local love, we dig 21st Amendment’s He Said collaboration with Elysian Brewing in Seattle—the two breweries are offering a one-two punch of potent pumpkin beer (charmingly available in a two box set). Not to play favorites, but we’ll take 21st Amendment’s Belgian-Style Tripel over Elysian’s Baltic-Style Porter (which is delicious, too)—the 8.7 percent beer is brewed with pumpkin puree, pumpkin juice, tarragon, and galangal for a spicy, smooth flavor profile.
The hardest thing about picking a pumpkin beer from farm-to-bottle mavens Almanac Brewing is picking just one. How can you really decide between their luscious, boozy Barleywine-Style ale aged in brandy barrels and the delightfully mouth-puckering Dark Pumpkin Sour? Gun to our heads, we’re going with the sour—the 7 percent beer has an addictive savory note (and was brewed with local heirloom pumpkins), making it a perfect pairing for all of those pumpkin desserts you’ve been taking down lately.
3. Mavericks Pumpkin Harvest Ale, Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
When you’ve got pumpkins on the mind there’s no place like Half Moon Bay — in addition to hosting an all-out pumpkin festival, HMB is home to delightful pumpkin patches (with pony rides available!) and a top-notch brewpub brewing a classic, pie-spiced pumpkin ale. The 4.8 percent beer is not only sessionable, it’s best enjoyed by one of the Brewery’s outdoor fire pits overlooking the water.
As soon as we feel a fall chill in the air, we like to crack open a cold Fall Hornin’ from AVBC. Or, get thirsty—whatever comes first. The rich, copper-colored beer is laced with deep notes of cinnamon and nutmeg; we love the way the caramel flavor is balanced with a little hit of hoppy bitterness. The good people at Anderson Valley recommend drinking this 6 percent baby with brie and aged cheddar; we see no good reason to not do so, as much as possible.
Get double the pleasure with Drake’s 5 percent Orbiting Gourd, featuring fresh-roasted pumpkin and spices, by tasting this year’s batch alongside the barrel-aged version from 2013. Expect a deepening of the lightly-spiced pumpkin flavor, and likely a good ol’ fashioned buzz from trying them side-by-side. Try them both at Jupiter’s Bay Area Pumpkin Beer Fest this weekend in Berkeley.
A regular seasonal release from the folks up north at the Mendocino Brewing Company, their 5 percent pumpkin ale is brewed with “copious amounts of pumpkin,” plus nutmeg, cinnamon, and spicy ginger. Their secret ingredient is the addition of cocoa nibs, which intensifies the flavor, which is nicely balanced by a clean hoppy finish.
This hometown hero of a pumpkin beer is perfect for foggy nights in the Haight, or the Dogpatch, for that matter. Brown ale is brewed with local, organic pumpkins and pumpkin seeds and complementary spices, resulting in a smooth, warming, 7.17 percent beer. A through-line of vanilla flavor will evoke thoughts of pie—we say pairing the two is nothing but a great idea.