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Drinks: Pumpkin where it belongs - in the brew

The pumpkin meets its destiny in pies, puddings, breads, cookies, cheesecake, gingerbread, curry, chili and, to go with all of them, ale.

Pumpkin ale is a seasonal brew and now is its peak. Typically, these brews include the traditional autumn spices, from cinnamon and nutmeg to allspice and clove. But there are variations on the theme.

Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, from the outstanding New Hampshire brewer, offers a delightful aroma and doesn't overdo the pumpkin flavor. It's one of the subtler choices, with a note of the fruit and a fine balance of spices. Medium-bodied, with an apricot-orange hue, Smuttynose's production has broad appeal. About $9 for a six-pack.

Upstate yields Saranac Pumpkin Ale. This brownish fruit beer is full and satisfying, with a hint of vanilla to complement the ginger in the pumpkin-pie mix. A six-pack of Saranac goes for about $8.50.

Post Road Pumpkin Ale is made by Brooklyn Brewery. The ale has an amber tint and some carbonation. It's a lighter pumpkin ale, crisp and refreshing, with the spices admirably restrained. There's a trace of biscuit in Post Road, too. Enjoyable with pie. And about $9.50 a six-pack.

Local guys put together the ingredients for Fire Island Pumpkin Ale, which is brewed in Saratoga Springs. The mellow brew delivers all the requisite spices plus Long Island pumpkins in the mix. Easygoing and to the point. Figure about $12 for a six-pack.

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