As a diehard fan of fall, I was ready for summer to end before it started. This oppressive heat makes me thirsty and miserable.
Thankfully, Southern Tier Brewing Co. released its autumnal lineup of beers — including Pumking Imperial Ale, Pumking Nitro and Cold Brew Coffee Pumking — on July 29. I stopped by the North Shore taproom and got the first pint of Warlock Imperial Pumpkin Stout of the season.
I sat there grinning like a jack-o’-lantern. Hey, if people can celebrate Christmas in July, I’m sippin’ spooky brews in Augtober! If I get a fangover so be it. This stuff is wickedly good.
Of course, not everyone is a fan of pumpkin beers, a style that generates more heated arguments than the Miller Lite “Tastes Great! Less Filling!” debate of the 1970s and 1980s. (As a kid, I remember thrillseekers on opposing sides of Kennywood’s Pirate ride screaming this at each other as the ship swung back and forth.)
For a less pumpkin-friendly palate, East End Brewing’s Nunkin Ale masquerades as a pumpkin beer. It’s made with loads of seasonal baking spices but none of the sacrificial fruit that we carve each year to ward off evil spirits. Owner Scott Smith’s been aging it in bourbon, rye whiskey and Madeira oak barrels from Wigle to create a boozier version. It’s the perfect way to warm up on a chilly evening.
“Look for it in September, after everyone has already filled up their fridge with pumpkin beers from other breweries,” Smith says.
Necromancer Brewing Co. in the North Hills specializes in bringing old beer styles back from the dead. That, combined with their creepy can art, makes them the go-to haunt for Halloween imbibing.
Head brewer Lauren Hughes has some tricks and treats up her sleeve for fall, including a pumpkin latte beer, a Schwarzbier, a Mexican hot chocolate stout and two cellarable resurrections in 22-ounce bottles. Necromancer also is planning to host a big Oktoberfest event.
Another newcomer, Two Frays Brewery in Garfield, isn’t doing a pumpkin beer in 2021.
Co-owner Mike Onofray says no one on the staff likes them enough to try to squeeze them into the production schedule.
“If we were going to do one, we would do a modest, fresh and roasted pumpkin beer and we wouldn’t release it until October,” he says. “July for pumpkin beers is like stores selling Christmas stuff in September.”
I understand the backlash, and there are still plenty of summer days ahead to enjoy hazy IPAs and fruited sours, but in my heart, it’s always Halloween.
Just call me Kristy Warlocklin.
The NEXT Beer is a column highlighting different brews, breweries and events in and around Pittsburgh. If you have a beer-related news tip, send me an email. Cheers!