Cooler days, drier air, and planning for the holidays are all hints that fall has arrived. With the change in season come fall seasonal beers.
These beers are typically of the sweeter variety, with deeper color and rich, roasted flavors (the tastes of the harvest table call out for malty partners). Autumn brews evoke thoughts of leaves turning, fireplaces burning and winter clothes being unpacked from storage. Even in Florida, where the temperatures stays in the 70s and 80s well into November, if you close your eyes and sip a good fall beer, you can almost feel the cooler winds blowing.
Here are some recommended seasonal brews: Sierra Nevada’s Tumbler is a quintessential autumnal beer, welcoming you in with a friendly and comforting scent. Toffee and chocolate, roasted malt — from start to finish, Tumbler transforms on the tongue, and keeps your taste buds engaged with a spectrum of flavor. The medium-bodied beer starts crisp and sweet, but the longer it hangs on the palate, the more bitter and sharp the flavor becomes. Upon swallowing, the beverage has a leathery, drying finish and a sour flavor like sourdough bread. Perfect for fireside while camping, or paired with roasted vegetables and poultry or grilled, smoky meats. Tumbler comes in at a modest 5.5 percent ABV, and is widely available.
The Bruery in Orange County, California, has its own take on the pumpkin beer style. Its Autumn Maple ale is a blend of yams, maple syrup, allspice, vanilla, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg and the Bruery’s own traditional Belgian yeast strain. The result is a bold, spicy, Belgian-style brown ale clocking in at 10 percent ABV. The bold flavors and warming quality of the high alcohol content make Autumn Maple an excellent libation to appreciate on a cold evening. (Or a warm one — both are good!) This beer is perfect for those who enjoy sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, but without the dreaded “pumpkin pie in a glass” effect.
Although brewed with English hops and billed as English-style Extra Special Bitter, Southern Tier’s Harvest Ale out of Lakewood, NY, reflects American heritage through its not-so-subtle hop use. Harvest Ale pours a lush, orange color with hop aromas of grapefruit, resinous pine and caramel. Although the fruity fresh hop flavor is at the heart of the beer, it’s not overly bitter, with enough of a roasty malt backbone coming through to allow the hops to balance into the malt. While Harvest Ale may be a tad bigger than most ESBs (running the ABV up to 6.7 percent), it’s still an easy-drinking beer, with the added bonus of hop notes lingering well after the sip.
The newest addition to Rogue Ale’s “Chatoe Rogue” series is Pumpkin Patch Ale, a beer made from fresh pumpkins grown in a patch that borders Rogue’s 42-acre hop yard in Oregon. The pumpkins are picked, loaded into Rogue’s farm truck, immediately driven the 77 miles to the brewery in Newport, then quickly roasted and pitched into the brew kettle to create a batch of Pumpkin Patch Ale.
This delightful brew pours a clear dark copper with a substantial head. The nose is spicy pumpkin, earthy molasses, and a touch of orange vanilla. Flavor is bitter orange, molasses, fresh toasted grain, pumpkin and just a hint of nutmeg. The medium body is smooth, soft, and well-balanced by a nice finish of woody hop and earthy spice. The brewers have done an excellent job of letting the toasted malt and pumpkin shine, and balancing the spices to complement the fresh pumpkin, not overpower it. And at 5.6 percent ABV, Pumpkin Patch Ale is a beer you can enjoy freely.