The popularity of pumpkin spice during the fall season seems to grow every year…as does the inevitable backlash and mockery of this most “basic” of flavor trends (see: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver’s regular reminders that pumpkin spice is taking over the world). Starbucks’ now-iconic Pumpkin Spice Latte inspires a plethora of other products with hints of gourd, nutmeg, cinnamon, and espresso, and while brewers have long understood the value of a quality pumpkin ale for autumn, they’re now giving in to the siren song of the PSL by crafting beers with both pumpkin and coffee flavors.
But before you start lamenting the tyrannical rule of pumpkin spice, we encourage you to give these pumpkin coffee beers a try. Without the signature (and somewhat off-putting) sweetness of the Starbucks original, these six PSL-influenced brews offer beautifully balanced flavors ideally suited to crisp autumn evenings.
“Nitro” cold brew became a smash hit at cafes throughout the U.S. this summer, with customers loving the idea of getting their iced coffee on-tap and infused with nitrogen bubbles that yield a smooth texture and a foamy head (both traits commonly associated with draft beer). At Breckenridge Brewery in Colorado, the brewing team applies this same concept to a suite of “Nitro” beers, each of which boasts a velvety mouthfeel and an especially pillowy head. The brand’s Nitro Pumpkin Spice Latte Stout contains both roasted coffee beans and roasted malts, making for a warm, comforting drinking experience that’s bolstered by notes of pumpkin, vanilla, and baking spices.
Another Pumpkin Spice Latte-esque stout hailing from Colorado, Great Divide Brewing Pumpkin Spice Yeti Imperial Stout is the result of a local collaboration between Great Divide and Pablo’s Coffee in Denver. The imperial stout undergoes a brewing process with coffee, pumpkin, and a secret blend of autumn spices, all of which contribute to this beer’s rich, pumpkin-pie-with-a-cup-of-joe taste profile.
Looking for a pumpkin-coffee beer that’s more lightweight than a stout or a porter, but doesn’t compromise on flavor? This amber ale from Atwater Brewery in Michigan aptly fits that description. Pumpkin Spice Latte Ale gets its eponymous notes and aromas from pumpkin spice and coffee extracts made locally, and these ingredients present themselves in a subtle manner that balances expertly with the beer’s dark malt, honey malt, and Melanoidin malt foundation.
Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Washington has plenty of experience with pumpkin beers; in fact, the brand’s current roster includes four distinct pumpkin brews. Their Punkuccino Ale is an elegant re-interpretation of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, but with plenty of creative license. Elysian makes this beer by adding a shot of Stumptown toddy coffee to the mash along with a hearty supply of pumpkin, and the resulting ale sings with spice, mellow gourd, and an appealing structural backbone from the coffee’s slight bitterness.
New York pumpkin beer enthusiasts have long lauded Southern Tier Brewing Co.’s Pumking, an indulgent imperial ale that flies off the shelves every October. A few years ago, Southern Tier debuted a new edition of Pumking: Cold Brew Coffee Pumking, which adds cold brew to the Pumking imperial ale formula. The addition of coffee brings out savory notes to serve as a counterpoint to the gentle sweetness for which Pumking is rightfully famous, making Cold Brew Coffee Pumking a luxurious autumn treat.
As a Boston brewery, Harpoon has every reason to collaborate with Dunkin’; after all, there’s no place on Earth that loves Dunkin’ coffee as much as its home state of Massachusetts. This year, Harpoon launched a very special seasonal project: Dunkin’ Pumpkin, a medium-weight ale brewed with Dunkin’ coffee, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, and lactose. This easy-drinking beer has a creamy texture, a frothy head, and a perfect pumpkin-to-coffee flavor ratio.
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