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5 Pumpkin Beers That Are Anything But Basic

Photo:  Bildquelle\ullstein bild (Getty Images)

It’s that magical time of year when the hashtag #PumpkinEverything (or the more cringeworthy #PumpkinErrythang) starts popping up on Instagram as people flock to their local coffeeshop for seasonally spiked beverages. But coffee isn’t the only brew that benefits from hearty hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Pumpkin beers also incorporate those autumnal flavors perfectly.

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Pumpkin piques the flavors of the malts while balancing the bitterness of the hops, instantly transforming your summer-quenching sips into maple-y mouthfuls of autumnal splendor. (Who couldn’t use a little liquid splendor?) Not all pumpkin-inspired beers aspire to such grandeur, however, so here’s a roundup of the best ones, replete with fall flavors that are exceptionally complex instead of overly commercialized.

1. Smuttynose Brewing Company: Pumpkin Ale

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You know that feeling when the first waft of crisp fall air hits your face, and the leaves crumble beneath your feet as you walk? That’s what Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale encapsulates perfectly. Unlike other seasonal beers that smack you in the face with that sweet pumpkin taste, Smuttynose starts you off with a brisk stroll through a pumpkin patch, using real pumpkin purée (rather than artificial filling) to impart an earthy mix of cinnamon, ginger, and biscuits that linger off into a bitter pine, making it the ideal transition for IPA imbibers.

2. Dogfish Head: Punkin Ale

Dogfish Head is a mad scientist of scents and flavors, infusing their beers with rich aromas and tantalizing tastes that don’t overpower the brew and bring you to new heights of beer bliss you never thought possible. (We’re not just talking about the whopping ABV, although at 7 percent on a cool autumn afternoon, this one will get you sufficiently toasty.) Brewed with brown sugar, their Punkin Ale kicks up the molasses factor with creamy swirls of caramel, nutmeg, and vanilla that linger on the lips like cereal milk and will make you feel like a kid on a snow day.

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3. Southern Tier Brewing Company: Pumking

If you like warm pumpkin pie, topped with luscious layers of fluffy whipped cream, bow down to the Pumking. This beer is literally dessert in a glass, yet somehow isn’t too heavy, whisking your taste buds to a far-off land where gingerbread men reign. Flavors of graham cracker cookie crust encase hints of marshmallow and sweet potatoes, paving the way for woodsy spices and roasted pecans. There’s no hop character to this one at all, so savor it slowly by a roaring fire or your favorite Internet yule log.

4. Cigar City Brewing: Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale

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Good gourd, this pumpkin ale is delicious! (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.) But seriously, Cigar City manages to take you on a heart-pumping haunted hay ride by way of the Caribbean. Bursting with traditional Jamaican all-spice and Zanzibar cloves, this beer makes its presence known like a local greeting you with a “special” brownie as soon as you hit the mainland. Maple-flavored yams with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg commingle to create a boozy backdrop for notes of ripe figs, syrupy dates, and sugarplums that make you feel like you went to bed one cold holiday night and dreamt the whole thing.

5. Avery Brewing Company: Rumpkin

If a plump pumpkin and a cheeky bottle of rum had a tawdry tryst, Rumpkin would be their love child. Aged in fine rum barrels, this gourd-forward ale is shrouded in delicate oak that crescendos into a candied maple climax, bursting with burnt sugar, honey, and succulent stone fruit. From the moment it hits your tongue, its sticky sweetness seizes your senses as butternut squash and marshmallow take you from rustic to red hot (think Big Red gum). And at 16 percent ABV, this one’s definitely staying for breakfast.

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