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Well, here we are – it’s pumpkin time again. I’ve historically not been a fan of pumpkin beers, but last year I discovered Warlock, Southern Tier’s pumpkin imperial stout. No Yankee Candle taste here – this is just a solid stout, pumpkin or not. So… What else is out there off the beaten path of pumpkin beers?
Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin
If you’re not a fan of the typical tastes associated with pumpkin beers, imperial stouts might be your best bet for jack-o-lantern season. That sometimes cloying flavor is nicely cut by the roasty taste of a good stout. And if you don’t mind traveling a bit for great beer, you might want to seek out Harpoon’s take on the style. Available just over the Maryland border, this is a beer that’s worth the drive. The spices are MASSIVE, but they’re offset by the malty booze of this 10.5%-ABV monster.
Spring House Spinal Remains
If you’d prefer to stick closer to home, my favorite locally made pumpkin imperial stout is Spinal Remains, from Lancaster’s Spring House Brewing Co. It’s not as overwhelming as the Harpoon, but that’s not a bad thing – and depending on your taste, it might be a very good thing. Most of the flavors here are along the coffee/chocolate/smoky lines, but the pumpkin spice is still there; it’s just much more subtle. It’s a good bit less boozy, too, at a comparatively light 8.3% ABV.
New Belgium Pumpkick
Finally, if you’re looking for a pumpkin beer that’s neither a Yankee Candle nor a heavy stout, give New Belgium’s Pumpkick a try. The key here is the addition of a good amount of cranberry (and a touch of lemongrass) to the mix. They add a refreshing, pleasant tartness that really dries out the sweetness inherent in the style and adds a crisp, quenching note to the finish. In my opinion, this is just about the only pumpkin beer that’s truly sessionable.