Here they come again: beers that taste like pie. Every fall, craft brewers trot out ales brewed with pumpkin puree or flavoring and spices meant to channel a slice of pumpkin pie. I have a theory that no one actually likes these beers, and that we mostly drink them out of some kind of seasonal obligation, during which time we spend at least a few minutes justifying our order. “Yeah, it’s not that bad.” "Better than I expected.” “You can really taste the cinnamon!” Then we switch to something else. Some pumpkin ales are decent I suppose—the ones with modest spice and just a hint of sweet squash—but most taste like an overwrought dessert cooked by a stoner who didn’t know when to cool it with the clove.
The point is, if you’re looking to pair your beer with weather this fall, there’s a better option out there. Upstate’s always impressive Ommegang has just released one of the best intentionally fall beers I’ve had in a while. The name is a tribute to the harvest season—a scythe is a hand tool for reaping crops; a sickle, from what I gather, is pretty much the same thing. It’s a nice beer to look at with its hazy copper tone. The amber ale has a malty aroma and a hint of toasty hard candy sweetness like you find in Oktoberfest beer—just the right amount of Werther’s Original. But where Oktoberfests stop, Sycthe and Sickle keeps going. Brewed from barley, oats, wheat and rye—all traditionally grown in Upstate New York—it has an added spicy complexity and a bit of creamy smoothness from the wheat. Hops are noticeable but reserved and contribute to the beer’s perfect balance.
Ommegang, which opened near Cooperstown in 1997 and is now owned by respected Belgian beer giant Duvel, was one of the first breweries to dabble with the amazingness of Belgian beer, and expose us can-drinking Americans to beer in large format corked Champagne bottles, which, despite now being available even at sketchy Brooklyn bodegas, were rare at the time. This fall they’ve funneled their Belgian chops into a creative all-American autumn ale—a tribute to New York State farming and grain. With no goddamn pumpkin.
Scythe & Sickle is available on tap at 61 Local in Boerum Hill and at bottle shops throughout Brooklyn..