Summer is officially over, according to the calendar. However, the real end of summer is marked not by a set date, but a series of events that herald the coming of autumn (and, with it, winter) much more accurately than a silly solstice—the plethora of pictures extolling the beauty of the turning aspen leaves that inundate Facebook; Oktoberfest celebrations complete with oompah bands and lederhosen; advertisements for SNIAGRAB and other pre-season ski sales; and the yearly who’s-going-to-open-first battle between Arapahoe Basin and Loveland Ski Resort in Colorado.
Yes, fall is here and, as the summer sun fades into an earlier dusk, the autumnal feeling should be reflected in your beer selection as well. Say farewell to the light, bright kolsch and the refreshing Shandy that you sipped with abandon during the halcyon days of summer. Autumn, with its opportunities to traipse through the changing colors and spend nights cozying up to an early fire, should be enjoyed with beers that reflect the changing season.
While craft breweries are reveling in the demand for varied offerings and creating different palate pleasers for each changing season, there are certain styles that are perfect for the next few months before winter becomes full on. Here are a few of our favorites fall beers to enjoy.
Oktoberfest, the annual celebration held in Munich each year, means dirndls, oompah bands and lots and lots of beer. Last year, more than 6.7 million liters of beer were consumed during the 16 day festival, which this year takes place from September 20 – October 5. All of the beer served comes from Munich breweries like Augustiner, Paulaner and Spaten and it’s only served in liter steins. It’s the perfect recipe for a spectacular event.
While you may not be able to make it to Munich (raise a stein for us, if you do), you can enjoy a taste of Oktoberfest at home by sipping on an Oktoberfest-style lager or one of the actual brews that’s served to the millions of visitors that make it Munich each year.
A Few To Try:
- Salvator. Paulaner, Germany
- Oktober Fest-Marzen. Ayinger, Germany
- Oktoberfest Lager. Thomas Hooker Brewing Company, CT.
These are the quintessential fall beers. Much like saisons in the summer, which were created by farmers to be bright and refreshing when the work was done, harvest ales are created by the harvest season—the hops are straight from the field.
While the resulting beers can be as varied as the hops that are used and the brewers that create them, most harvest beers tend to be a bit darker in color and heavier than their summer counterparts. Regardless of individual differences, one element is universal: fresh hopped beers are made to be enjoyed immediately. It’s hard work, but someone’s got to do it.
A Few to Try:
- Hop Knife Harvest Ale. Troegs Brewing Company, PA
- Flipside. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, CA
- Harvest Ale. Founders Brewery, MI
You knew this was coming. Like the inexorable reappearance of the Pumpkin Spice Latte each year (which, by the way, does not contain any hint of real pumpkin), the appearance of pumpkin beer is inevitable, with some breweries producing their harvest as early as August. However, if you’ve been avoiding the pumpkin beer phenomenon because of a preconceived notion that they’re overly sweet and cloying, it’s time to consider giving this option another shot.
The addition of pumpkin in the beer making process can actually add body as well as flavor to the end product. The natural spices such as nutmeg and allspice also contribute to the end result, creating a mighty tasty beverage that is perfect for fall.
Fact: pumpkin beers actually outsell IPAs during the month of August, according to the Brewer’s Association.
A Few to Try:
- Sasquash. Milwaukee Brewing Company, WI
- Pumking. Southern Tier Brewing Company, NY
- The Great Pumpkin. Elysian Brewing Company, WA.
Bonus: Hard Ciders
No, hard ciders are not technically beer, but they do follow some of the same processes, and they do contain alcohol…so there.
Actually, the fall is a great time to explore the growing crop of hard ciders that are available. Unlike the kindergarten snack time version from your college days (cough* Woodchuck *cough), these newer options are crisp and refreshing with a bit of bite. Try Angry Orchard’s Apple Ginger version for a slightly spicy yet sweet and tart version—it’s your spiked apple juice, just all grown up.
It’s difficult waiting for winter, but think of autumn as more than just an extended period of time to get your ski gear organized. Enjoy the changing leaves (and the subsequent raking of said leaves) with one of these favorite fall beers. Ski season is just around the corner.
Great List! Shipyard Pumpkinhead from Portland, Maine is another worth considering.