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Jamesport Farm Brewery’s Sugar Skull Ale comes in a difference collectible glass each fall. (Credit: Joseph Caggiano Photography)

Pumpkin season seems to start earlier each year. Starbucks kicked things off with the release of its pumpkin-spiced latte Aug. 25, the earliest it’s ever been available. And pumpkin beer hit the shelves soon after. But Jamesport Farm Brewery is making something you won’t find in stores. 

Its limited-edition Sugar Skull Pumpkin Ale, now in its third season, is aged in Rough Rider whiskey barrels from Long Island Spirits

“[It gives] it a little more flavor profile, a little extra depth and a whisky after-finish,” said brewer and co-owner Melissa Caggiano.

Caggiano says this batch tastes a bit stronger and has more of a whiskey aftertaste than the previous two releases. It seems appropriate given everything that’s happened in 2020, though Caggiano laughs that she didn’t plan on that when they put the remainder of the pumpkin ale in barrels in November of 2019, where it’s aged for 10 months. It also doesn’t mean there’s more booze in it.

“Our beer is consistent, but sometimes, the barrels give a little difference [in taste],” she said, later adding, “It actually has the same alcohol as the regular pumpkin beer. It does not add more alcohol to the beer, just the flavor.”

There’s also a bit more of the beer in 2020, as the brewery made five casks instead of three because of popular demand. Though Jamesport Farm is only three years old, the Sugar Skull Pumpkin Ale already has a cult following and has helped the new hotspot begin to brew a tradition.

“Each year, there’s a commemorative glass you purchase to get access to the beer,” Caggiano says. “The glass is different every year…it’s become something of a collector’s item, and people want to get the glass.”

Other favorite fall drinks at Jamesport Farm Brewery include a cranberry cider, new this year, and the seasonal Gentleman Joe Porter.

Sugar Skull isn’t the only local pumpkin ale to develop a cult following: Fans also anxiously await the fall arrival of rich, copper-colored Leaf Pile at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company (though they bill it as “pumpkin pie in a glass,” it’s far from cloying) and Imperial Butternut the Hut from North Fork Brewing Company, made with local squash and (we’re sensing a trend) aged in local bourbon barrels.

If you’ve tried these classics and still can’t get enough pumpkin beer, keep your eyes peeled for bottles and cans from these Long Island breweries.

Great South Bay Brewery, Bay Shore

This South Shore spot, located in an old warehouse in Bay Shore, uses roasted pumpkins, malted barley, cascading hops, cinnamon and clove in its Splashing Pumpkin. The brewery has also gotten in on the hard seltzer trend. Its seasonal take, the “Spiked” Pumpkin Spice Coffee, tastes like a morning brew that’s equal parts crisp and clean. At 7 percent ABV, it’s best enjoyed after work hours, not as a replacement for your morning joe. 

Blue Point Brewing Co., Patchogue 

The brewery that helped launch Long Island’s craft beer scene is once again serving Mother Pumpkin Ale. The annual favorite features flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and all-spice. It’s spicy, roasty and boasts depth, courtesy of a malty background. 

Port Jeff Brewing Company, Port Jefferson

Pumpkins take center stage in the Boo Brew. The amber-colored beer is brewed with local pumpkins, and it has subtle spicy flavors and aromas that aren’t too overbearing. 

Long Ireland, Riverhead 

Caramel and smokey malts give this classic spiced pumpkin ale some balance. Guests can get it to-go, taste indoors or enjoy the last of the warmer weather on the socially distant outdoor area.

Tradewinds Brewing Co., Riverhead

Guests say this Riverhead brewery’s Incarnation Pumpkin Spice is full of fall spices and good until the last drop. For a second beer, consider the Smoked Maple Stout. It’s a smokey and a little sweet with notes of maple and vanilla.