Beer Notes: The return of pumpkin ale

It certainly hasn’t felt like fall in recent weeks as temperatures have topped 90 degrees in parts of the Southland. Yet regardless of the reading on the thermostat, two Orange County craft breweries are keeping an autumn tradition alive.

Taps Fish House & Brewery and Bootlegger’s Brewery, separated only by about five miles, are once again serving a pumpkin ale. The style, often spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, is a regular sighting at supermarket beer sections this time of year, but more rare is a spotting at an area craft brewery.

“In Southern California we don’t have much of a season,” says Victor Novak, brewmaster for Taps. “Fall cools down a little but there aren’t seasons like there are in the Midwest or East Coast. But this is still a calendar thing. Come Sept. 1, even though it was 95 degrees here, everyone was looking for pumpkin lattes, pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin ales. I want to see people’s eyes light up when they put their nose to this.”


Though there are numerous respected pumpkin offerings in the craft beer sector, Punk’n from Utah’s Uinta and Punkin Ale from Delaware’s Dogfish Head among them, Bootlegger’s communications director, Chris Sakacs, concedes that “some craft beer drinkers tend to shy away from this style.”

Both outfits are out to dispel the notion that pumpkin beers are overly accessorized, dessert-like offerings.

“I like to have a certain level of malty sweetness to complement the spices,” Novak says. “I remember one of the breweries, locally, heated theirs up and put whip cream on it. That was absolutely disgusting. It is a beer. It should still taste like a nice amber ale.”

Bootlegger’s will make its pumpkin ale available in coming days at its Fullerton tasting room (401 S. Richman Ave., and have it on tap throughout the holiday season. Taps is pouring its take on the pumpkin style through at least Thanksgiving, unless it runs out earlier.

The public’s taste for pumpkin ales, says Novak, quickly diminishes after New Year’s Eve, and the brewmaster says there’s only about 25 kegs spread between the Brea and Corona locations of the restaurant-brewery (

“We’ve come up short a couple years and people get a little upset when we don’t have it for Thanksgiving, but i just can’t see making another batch in mid-November,” he says. “Then I’d just be sitting on that.”