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A high percentage of sour and funky beers are brewed with fruits, herbs, and other fresh produce. Pumpkin? Sure. Plenty of interesting brews incorporate the trendy ingredient -- either as actual pumpkin or just the spices that make the beer taste like pie. But we thought it’d be fun to dig a little deeper for other intriguing seasonal sours with more complex, unexpected flavors. Here are six delicious beers that bring the pleasures of an autumn day straight to your glass.
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Barrel-aged wild ale, 7% ABV
This San Francisco brewery is a pioneer of the “farm to glass” philosophy, and has released several vintages of this brew made with California heirloom pumpkins from small, local farms (in this case, La Tercera Farms). But this is no straightforward pumpkin beer -- it incorporates other seasonal ingredients like Fuyu persimmons and fresh ginger from the Santa Clara Valley. Once brewed, the beer is aged for over a year in white wine barrels, and then blended for your autumnal pleasure.
If you dig pie spice in your funk, Almanac also makes Pumpkin Pie de Brettaville, which combines their house Brett saison with roasted Bodega Bay pumpkins, aged in oak with spices like vanilla bean, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
Farmhouse ale, 5.3% ABV
This funky farm brewery releases a seasonal autumn beer every year. Past versions have featured butternut squash, acorn squash, sage, satsuma mandarin citrus, and cinnamon. The version released this fall features grilled pumpkin, fig leaves, sorrel, and horehound (it’s in the mint family). Jester King classifies this as a farmhouse ale, brewing it with a mixed fermentation of brewer’s yeast, native yeast (cultivated from the brewery’s own property), and wild bacteria. If you find yourself in Austin anytime soon, the 2016 vintage (which was just released -- don’t be fooled by the date!) is still currently available at the brewery.
Barrel-aged sour ale, 6% ABV
Avery has a robust Botanicals and Barrels program that features different beer styles aging in a variety of of barrels. You’ll also often find various herb, spice, and fruit ingredients like vanilla bean, coconut, tangerine, raspberry, and apricot. For fall, the series offers a sour ale made with fresh ginger, a much loved ingredient often used in pumpkin pie and gingerbread for the spicy heat it imparts. It’s fresh, yet comforting; bright and bold, but cozy.
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Barrel-aged sour ale, 7.1% ABV
Apple is an oft-overlooked fall flavor in beer even though it's used to make one the most autumnal beverages of all time: fresh apple cider. Bruery Terreux teamed up with Tin City Cider Co. and combined a juice blend of nine apple varieties with their sour wheat wort, and then fermented it in oak barrels with wild yeast and house cultures (plus whatever lived on or inside of those apples to begin with). This beer might take a bit of work to track down, but it’s out there for the determined. If hunting serves fruitless, get to Bruery Terreux’s Anaheim, California taproom for the equally fall-appropriate Melange #11 sour rye ale with dates, cinnamon, and anise.
Smoked Lichtenhainer Weiss, 6% ABV
There’s nothing like drinking a smoky flavored beer in front of a fire to ward off the seasonal chill, and this German beer combines smoke and sour in a classic German Lichtenhainer style wheat ale. Freigeist is committed to searching out and bringing back styles that are near extinction, and the Abraxxxas Smoked Lichtenhainer Weiss is a pretty funky gamble that pays off. To freak your less brave friends out (or to challenge your own palate), try the peated version. Talk about a smoky beer...
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Saison, 7.2% ABV
Another brewery influenced by seasonal ingredients is Crooked Stave, which finally brings its brett saison to cans. Now drinkers can envelop their tastebuds in the nature that inspired this white sage and lemongrass-tinged brew. Some palates detect ginger and/or peppercorn spice notes in this complex, unusual, and refreshing beer. It assuredly brings the funk -- if the first sip doesn’t impress, keep at it. This beer might need time and a few more sips to grow on you. It's worth it, though.
It’s also worth noting that the Colorado Wild Sage served as an inspiration for Denver’s premiere small batch pickle company, The Real Dill, who used the beer’s ingredients (including a malt base with Centennial hops, sage, lemongrass, and other herbs) for the latest in its extraordinarily popular Briners & Brewers collaboration series. It’s sold out online, but perhaps you can track some down in Colorado!