A Taste Of AutumnWhat to expect in your fall collection
September 28, 2017
By Jeff Gredlein | The Beer Snob
Although some styles of beer scream summer and are best enjoyed during those hottest of months, most if not all of them are available year round. While you may choose not to drink wheat beers, pilsners, golden lagers and saisons after Labor Day, these varieties are generally still accessible at your nearest bottle shop throughout the year.
Yet, it’s the fall releases that signal a deluge of seasonal beers, yearly one-off releases, that will continue on throughout the winter months and shall not stop until the end of spring! As it is, each season, beginning now with autumn, followed by winter and ending with spring offerings will bring certain styles and releases of beer that will only be available for a limited time.
And since the first day of fall has finally arrived, let’s discuss the main autumn-only released beers. There may be a few other random styles that only hit shelves in September, October, and (gasp) August, and there are certainly examples of a style, like Bell’s Best Brown, to which many samples can be found throughout the year. But for the most part, your big 3 fall beers are Marzen, Pumpkin and fresh hop ale.
Historically, the most obvious fall seasonal release is Oktoberfest. A perfect transition beer for the shift from summer to autumn, this style is a lager, but with more malt and fuller in body. In general, I tend to recommend the German versions of this amber lager over our own home grown options mainly due to tradition. Paulaner is a favorite German-brewed selection, as is Hacker-Pschorr, but you won’t be faulted and can’t go wrong with the Oktoberfest from Great Lakes.
In more recent times, and increasingly every year, pumpkin ales are a definite signifier that fall is upon us. Maybe more than any other style, the popularity of pumpkin beer outshines even the reach of craft beer itself. Beyond the notion of numerous different faux-craft versions of pumpkin beer that clog shelves, this seems to be a style that everyone from macro lager drinkers to wine snobs will take up and enjoy.
Being almost exclusively an American only style, you won’t have to compare with examples from overseas. My two favorites for this year are Punk’n Harvest Ale from Uinta Brewing Co. and Fall Hornin’ from Anderson Valley. While both beers give a taste of pumpkin along with cinnamon and ginger flavors, Punk’n is very subtle and easy going, where Hornin’ is rich, robust, and not sweet but fall flavorful indeed.
A fall trend for the tongue abusers has seen the release of fresh hop beers, those IPAs, pale ales and the rare amber which make use of just harvested hops. Comparing non-harvest ales to fresh or wet hop beers is much like making a meal with dried herbs from a shaker versus living herbs from the garden; the flavors are similar but worlds apart.
My first introduction to these juicy and obviously fresh-tasting beers was with the Sierra Nevada Harvest IPA series, which is still fantastic. The most recent favorite is actually a pale ale, Fresh Hop from Great Divide. Citrus like you wouldn’t believe, oozing juicy sips of bright deliciousness, this beer offers enough malt to keep it from becoming puckering and keeping those pungent hop cones in check.
There are certainly other styles of beer that may be released in September and October, but in any case we have now begun what I think of as the true beer fan’s best time of year – release season. Enjoy the brews … Cheers.
Gene’s Haufbrau has at more than 200 beers in bottles or on tap. While they don’t have every beer the Beer Snob writes about, they probably have most. E-mail the Beer Snob at firstname.lastname@example.org.