When most people think of fall beer they think of pumpkin beer. Pumpkin offerings have dominated the autumn landscape in recent years, and judging by the amount of e-mail I received on my column last week, many of you are on board. So you have to admire the conviction with which The Bruery, an Orange County, Calif. brewery, rejects the pumpkin trend. Written right on the bottle of The Bruery's fall beer, Autumn Maple, is a slogan that states, "We don't need pumpkins in our beer". No ambiguity there.
The Bruery has taken a different approach with their fall offering, and it's a welcome one. Instead of using pumpkins, they use yams. Instead of traditional ale yeast, Belgian ale yeast. Instead of some watery, cinnamon-y mess, a thick, warming, satisfying beer.
The beer pours a thick, dark amber with an off-white head. The nose starts with the Belgian yeast, which gives off delicious banana notes. Yams and maple sugar make up the rest of the aroma.
Candied sugar, raisins, yams, and vanilla come together on first sip. The mouthfeel is somewhere between cream soda and chocolate milk. There's a lot going on here, and you taste the various components of the beer in different ways as you take more sips. The beer is unsurprisingly sweet in the way that some of the best double-pumpkin beers out there are sweet, but the flavor profile is different. This unfiltered, bottle-conditioned ale weighs in at 10 percent ABV.
It says on the bottle you can age this beer up to five years, and I agree that a little seasoning would only enhance the flavors here. Let's call this one a late-autumn beer. You certainly wouldn't be wrong to share a bottle on a cold, winter's night.