Seasons are overrated, but seasonal beer is not. Most of these California breweries aren’t in areas that get much colder in the fall, and the leaves on the palm trees won’t be changing colors. Still, give one of these beers a try; it’ll give you a quick taste of what it’s like to live in the Northeast, then you can get straight back to endless pleasant weather.
Claiming to be “America’s Original Pumpkin Ale,” this beer’s first batch was made back in 1985, long before the microbrewery explosion that spawned the plethora of craft pumpkin beers available today. With all the crazy recipes being experimented with, Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale is refreshingly pared down and a cornerstone of the style.
2. BigLeaf Maple Autumn Red, Anchor Brewing Company (San Francisco, CA)
Brewed with maple syrup, BigLeaf goes for a different aspect of the fall harvest than most of the season’s beers. This is an amber that balances the malts and syrups with more bitter notes of three different kinds of hops. Drinking it should feel like taking a breath of fresh air on an autumn hike through the woods.
3. HopTime Harvest Ale, Russian River Brewing Company (Santa Rosa, CA)
This is a wet hop ale, meaning the hops are recently harvested and still carrying all their moisture, unlike the vast majority of beers, which utilize dry hops. Any fan of hoppy beers should appreciate HopTime. It’s just a slightly different take on something you know you already love.
4. Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale, Sierra Nevada (Chico, CA)
Made famous by their top-tier, high-ABV hoppy IPAs, this is a more subdued autumnal offering from Sierra Nevada. Still, don’t turn your nose at the subtlety in this malty brown ale, which manages to balance sweet and fruity hints with roasted cacao and, of course, some hop bitterness.
5. Autumn Maple, The Bruery (Placentia, CA)
A cut above your average pumpkin beer, mostly because it don’t use pumpkins—those are actually yams. This is a Belgian-style brown ale brewed with vanilla, molasses, maple syrup, and other spices, so there’s naturally a lot going on here. Don’t expect it to be too carbonated, but the alcohol is also somewhat dangerously subtle, considering that the high ABV can knock you on your ass pretty quickly.