Not long ago, you can walk around on a crisp October day and not stumble upon pumpkin coffee, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin oat bars, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin popcorn, non-dairy pumpkin creamer to pour into your pumpkin coffee, pumpkin ice cream, and pumpkin goldfish – the Golden Fish! Pumpkin beer of course.

Many brewers brew and store their pumpkin beer before the cold weather. People love them, apparently. (Our publisher is passionate about pumpkin beer. Like, he honestly loves the stuff. He starts drinking it in the summer. I don’t know what’s wrong with him.) They’re careful to chronicle the subtleties that set pumpkin beer apart from… other pumpkin beers. I’m a kid, of course. They all taste like cinnamon-infused pumpkin. In general – and I apologize for ranting – I don’t want my beer to taste like pumpkin. I want it to taste like beer.

I have strong feelings about this. I’ve found that I can process these feelings best over a pint or glass of dark beer, the kind that goes with fall like your favorite sweater but takes away from the pumpkin patch. Here are a few of our favorites in the Charlotte area.

Courtesy, Armored Cow Brewing Company.

Beechin Betty Brown Ale
Armored Cow Brewing Company

It’s not one of those gluten-free specialties at University City Brewery, which is sometimes overlooked. But it’s been an Armored Cow standard since it opened in 2019, and a few sips confirm why: It has the substance and flavor you want from a beer when the weather turns cold. The alcohol content, 5.4%, is a little higher than light but not an IPA-level slug in the jaw, and the chocolate and honey malts contribute to the warmth of the fire in your heart.

Dark chocolate and sea salt
Ass Clown Brewing Company

I wrote about the local Braves a couple of years ago and failed to include this. No disrespect intended. On a fall or early winter day that brings what I call “Tchaikovsky weather”—a cold, grey, rainy, sweater day that makes you want to grow a beard—a suitably brave or porter can feel like a hot blanket. The Himalayan sea salt in this beer opens a gateway to bittersweet richness on the back end.

It’s meant to be a food supplement, explains Ass Clown owner Matt Glidden. Salt stimulates the taste buds to register sugars better. I think of it as the perfect cold-weather drink, but Glidden says customers ask for it in the summer, too. “For some reason, sea salt is also sold at 100 degrees,” he told me. “I think people like what they like when they like it.”

Lazy Bird Brown Ale
Birdsong Brewing Company

This is one of the beers that laid the foundation for Charlotte’s elaborate cathedral of craft beer, and has won more awards than any other Birdsong offering. It’s an American-style brown ale—halfway between a mild English brown ale, such as Newcastle, and a stronger English ale—with a gentle bitterness balanced by the toasted malt and a light citrus flavor from the hops.

To my taste, it’s great for fall: rich mahogany color with hints of chocolate and coffee and a manageable 5.5% ABV. Unlike many dark beers, it is sold year-round and is surprisingly good on any page of the calendar. Co-owners Chris and Tara Goulet built on that when they launched Birdsong in the fall of 2011 with two inaugural beers, Lazy Bird and Free Will Pale Ale. They no longer brew free will. Lizzie Bird, named after the last track on John Coltrane’s 1958 album Blue trainRises.

Fat Boy Beer Page

Courtesy, OMB

Fat Boy Baltic Porter
Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

How dark is this beer? no one. Nothing is darker. Here’s a comment from a fan on Untappd that neatly sums up Fat Boy’s appeal: “Absolute beauty of beer. Delicious, dark maltinies. Easy to drink stealthily. Definitely dangerous.” ABV is 8.3%. But it is Smooth. It hits notes of caramel, candy, fruit and chocolate, a siren song that leads you towards the next day’s hangover rocks. Careful, friend.

Like Lazy Bird, Fat Boy is a staple beer for one of Charlotte’s OG breweries – well, the The OG brewery, when OMB was located across the street at what is now Sugar Creek Brewing. It is named after the Harley Davidson of original brewer Carrie Savoy, which he parked outside in OMB’s early years. Savoy is now director of maintenance. Unfortunately, he no longer has a Harley. But see? See how cool things can be when you not only carve a pumpkin, but carve it too.

Greg LaCour is the editor.

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