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Schlafly Pumpkin Ale

Where In Town: Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, 5544 Connecticut Ave. NW

Price: $2.69/12 ounces

Gourdness Gracious

There’s no avoiding pumpkin ales. They creep onto shelves like the tendrils of their namesake plant earlier and earlier each year, until—boom!—you’re trapped, surrounded by orange bottles, and it’s only August. There’s something conspiratorial about the pumpkin phenomenon, as if the style were invented by a marketing guru instead of booze-starved colonial Americans, who made beer from the indigenous fruits and brown sugar when barley was scarce. Unfortunately, many of our modern “pumpkin pie in a glass” concoctions, in which pumpkin and spices are accents rather than main ingredients, smell like the fall lineup at Yankee Candle and still taste like something that should only be consumed by desperate pilgrims. Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale, however, is a balanced, pleasant exception.

Sugar and Spice

It’s impressive that St. Louis-based Schlafly can pack so many fall flavors into a single beer. A one-note pumpkin ale this isn’t: The aroma is a sweet, complex blend of caramel, pears, pumpkin, and spices. The beer itself is rich and sticky—and a decidedly unpuritanical 8 percent alcohol—with notes of raisins, whole-grain bread, squash, and rum. Enjoy it before the annual invasion of the Christmas ales.

Photo by Daniel Fromson