With crisp, cool October weather comes a new crop of seasonal beers on store shelves, all a little heartier than their summer counterparts. We asked beer expert Jason Henry for an overview of some styles to look for this time of year, along with a few of his favorite picks. Cheers!
Brown Ale: These beers have a malty style, with very little hop aroma or bitterness. They tend to be reddish to dark brown in color, showcasing lightly roasted, nutty flavors.
Pumpkin Beer: The ubiquitous fall brew! Whether you’re celebrating Halloween or Thanksgiving, pumpkin beers mirror the earthy characteristics of the vegetable, bolstered by a slew of pie spices.
Oktoberfest/Marzen Beer: This copper-hued lager style beer is defined by notes of toasted malt and caramel. It’s also rich and sturdy enough to hold up to heavier autumn foods.
Fresh Hop/Wet Hop Beer: Once a year, during hop harvest season in late September, brewers make “wet” or “fresh” hop beers that show up on taps throughout October. Instead of using the typical dried hop pellets (dried for stability and consistency in recipe formulation), brewers rush the freshly picked hops back to the brewery and throw them straight into the pot. The result is an aromatic brew that downplays the bittering aspect of the hop and brings the flavor and aroma of the hop varietal front and center.
|Lagunitas Brown Shugga
This rich, heavy brew weighs in just under 10% ABV. The brew is the result of a barleywine brewing session that didn’t go according to plan. In order to rescue the beer, the brewers dumped a bunch of brown sugar into the beer.Needless to say, people liked it.
Pair it: The caramelized sugar notes in this beer would compliment pumpkin or sweet potato pie.
This Oktoberfest/Marzen brew is a prototype of the style. While smooth and clean, there is a depth of malt character.
Pair it: This brew will complement roasted meats. A slightly grassy, crisp hop character serves to cut through fatty foods as well.
|The Bruery Autumn Maple
Where most breweries typically make beer with pumpkins this time of year, The Bruery’s fall seasonal is brewed with 17 pounds of yams per barrel. The beer also has a laundry list of fall ingredients: maple syrup, molasses, vanilla, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
Pair it: The brewers ferment the beer with a Belgian yeast strain, which contributes notes of clove and dark fruit that go nicely with roasted fall vegetables (or pan-roasted sweet potatoes with charred marshmallows!).
|Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop Ale
This beer falls into the wet hop/fresh hop category discussed above. The beer features freshly picked, still-wet whole cone hops that are delivered to the brewery within 24 hours of picking. The result is a beer that showcases the resiny, piney, and almost spruce-like character of the hops. Slight grapefruit notes emerge as well.
Pair it: This brew is delicious with a creamy soup or charred shishito peppers.
|Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar
This brown ale just won a Gold Medal in the “Specialty Beer” category of our country’s biggest beer competition – the Great American Beer Festival. Brewed with hazelnut extract, the beer exhibits a rich, nutty aroma and flavor with notes of mocha and chocolate malt.
Pair it: This beer augments the flavors of roasted butternut squash soup or pecan pie. Also delicious as a contrast to aged cheddar.