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There was a time when beer nerds chased elusive beers like Avery Rumpkin or Elysian Punkuccino, but now almost every brewery produces a pumpkin-themed beer to remain relevant. The result is a market that’s muddled with oversupply, too-early releases, and worse yet, unbalanced beers. Has the pumpkin brew peaked in D.C.? Perhaps, according to nearby breweries, who are branching out beyond the bandwagon suds to explore the full breadth of fall flavors.
Hellbender’s Wheat Dunkelweisse
Thanks to a state-of-the-art mash system, Hellbender was able to brew one of the the first-ever 100 percent wheat (rather than barley) dunkelweisse in America. The traditional Hefeweizen aromas of banana and clove hit you up front and are complemented by the darker, prominent bready and toasty flavors. The high wheat content provides just a bit of tartness for a unique and satisfying finish.
Hellbender Brewing Company, 5788 2nd St. NE, (202) 827-8768, hellbenderbeer.com
Bluejacket’s Darling Buds
This wet-hop American pale ale is brewed exclusively with more than 10 pounds of locally grown Cascade hops per barrel. Wet-hopping is traditionally done in the fall, immediately following the hop harvest before the buds are processed, resulting in a fresh flavored yet balanced beer. Bluejacket’s has soft yet supple aromas of grapefruit, grass, and fresh-cut flowers.
Bluejacket, 300 Tingey St. SE, (202) 524-4862, bluejacketdc.com
Port City’s Oktoberfest
Port City is going old school with the king of fall beer styles—a classic Oktoberfest. The traditional lager brewed with German malts and hops has a brilliant amber color with gently sweet flavors of crusty bread, leading to a clean, dry finish punctuated by just a touch of noble hops. The beer is served “Kellerbier” style, completely unfiltered and naturally carbonated.
Port City Brewing Company, 3950 Wheeler Ave., Alexandria, (703) 797-2739, portcitybrewing.com
Adroit Theory’s Sweet Potato Casserole Porter
This brewery-only gem launching in November is Adroit’s take on a sweet potato casserole, complete with a marshmallow-like topping. They use locally grown sweet potatoes and dark brown sugar to brew a porter with an earthy roasted grain nose tempered by caramelized notes of brown sugar, molasses, and roasted malt. The beer has a slightly sticky body with hints of vanilla.
Adroit Theory Brewing Company, 404 Browning Court, Purcellville, (703) 722-3144; adroit-theory.com
Lost Rhino’s RhinO’fest
A traditional Märzen lager, this beer is designed with festival drinking in mind. Lost Rhino uses Hallertau, Czech Saaz, and Perle hops for a crisp, dry finish, and German malts to provide the smooth body that pairs well with rich fall foods. A moderate ABV puts this beer in the easy-drinking category.
Lost Rhino Brewing Company, 21730 Red Rum Drive, Ashburn, (571) 291-2083, lostrhino.com
Denizens’ Junk in the Dunk
This dark lager emulates a traditional Munich-style dunkel, but it packs a higher ABV and more body than typical traditional German beers. Subtle notes of cocoa, caramel, and fresh-baked bread are highlighted in the flavor and aroma of this clean lager.
Denizens Brewing Company, 1115 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, (301) 557-9818, denizensbrewingco.com
Mad Fox’s Hitzig Frau
Hitzig Frau, which translates to “hot lady,” is an appropriate name for a beer brewed in collaboration with the women from the local homebrewer club BURP (Brewers United for Real Potables). This is a traditional German-style Oktoberfest, but pale in color unlike the typical American versions that are deeper red and loaded with caramel malts. It’s brewed with 100 percent imported malt and hops, then slow-lager-fermented for a minimum of eight weeks.
Mad Fox Taproom, 2218 Wisconsin Ave. NW, (202) 791-0389, madfoxbrewing.com
3 Stars’ Nectar of the Bogs
With this cranberry saison, 3 Stars is back with its celebration of fall fruits. It’s dry and slightly tart, but has a nice clean finish. The aroma is full of bright cranberry and some subtle yeast notes. This beer can pair with fall and winter holiday foods, but it’s also light enough to accompany cheese before or after dinner.
3 Stars Brewing Company, 6400 Chillum Place NW, (202) 670-0333, 3starsbrewing.com
Click here for more stories from the 2016 Beer Issue.