As fall brings cooler temperatures, the lighter beers we’ve been enjoying all summer will give way to more full-bodied, complex and deliciously malty fall flavors.
Beer is a seasonal beer, with many traditional styles created specifically for the changing climate throughout the year. Before refrigeration and other modern technology, the seasons dictated the types of beer a brewer could successfully create at any given time – brewing a lager, for example, required cold temperatures.
Today, of course, any beer can be brewed at any time, but I still prefer to let the seasons dictate what I store in my fridge. Here are a few that are perfect for sipping fall.
Dark beers were once big, in part thanks to Pete’s Wicked Ale, which popularized the style nationwide in the 1980s, along with Newcastle Brown Ale. These beers originate from Great Britain and have a pronounced malt, often with a caramel and nutty character, but less roasted than porters. Unsurprisingly, an American brown ale tends to exhibit a bit more hoppy character than those made by our English cousins.
To try: Look for Nut Brown Ale from Samuel Smith from the UK, Moose Drool from Big Sky Brewing from Montana, and Hazelnut Brown Nectar from Rogue Ales from Oregon.
Another style originating in England, carriers almost disappeared there, before rebounding in the early 1970s, in part thanks to Anchor Brewing of San Francisco. These dark beers come in two varieties: the brown wear and the robust wear. Both have a roasted malt character with flavors of chocolate and caramel. The American version is often a bit more bitter and has hints of coffee, while the English versions tend to be sweeter, sweeter, and with more toffee or toffee.
To try: Look for Fuller’s London Porter and Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter, both from the UK. For the American versions, I like the Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery in Oregon and, of course, Anchor Porter.
It wouldn’t be fall without the pumpkin ale. This popular seasonal beer is a relatively recent phenomenon: Hayward’s Buffalo Bill’s Brewery produced the first modern pumpkin ale in 1986. But pumpkin beers originated in colonial New England, as barley and wheat were rare. Pumpkin beers are brewed with pumpkin, of course, but many contain allspice and other flavors. A few years ago, almost every brewery made one. There’s less now, but still enough to satisfy your pumpkin beer cravings.
To try: A few of my favorites include the Punkin Ale from Dogfish Head from Delaware, as well as the Fall Hornin ‘Pumpkin Ale from Anderson Valley from Boonville and the original Pumpkin Ale from Buffalo Bill.
These strong Belgian beers have rich, malty flavors with hints of fruit, like plums, raisins or cherries, and spices, like cloves or black pepper. They tend to be quite complex, perfect for sipping on a fall day.
To try: Westmalle Dubbel or Chimay Premiere (alias Red), both from Belgium, or Unibroue Maudite from Quebec.
It’s not a real, well-known type of beer, but a growing number of breweries are trying to make ale that mimics this traditional camping treat. S’mores, in case you’ve never camped, consist of toasted marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. One of the first to do this – and arguably the best – is Campfire Stout, from Lodi’s High Water Brewing, which does an incredible job of recreating s’more in liquid form.
To try: They also make another version, called Campfire Stout with cold pressed coffee.
The use of beechwood smoked malt by brewers dates back centuries in Bamberg, Germany. A few breweries continue to make Rauchbier using the traditional method, and this region of Franconia remains the epicenter of smoked beers. Rauchbiers have intense smoky aromas and flavors and are a nice addition to heavy smoked meat dishes. There are also modern versions that use all kinds of methods and woods. They’re all very intense – definitely an acquired taste – and perfect with smoked salmon and heavy foods that can withstand those great smoky flavors.
To try: All of the beers from Bamberg’s Aecht Schlenkerla, but especially the Rauchbier Märzen, are prime examples of the style. Do you prefer an American version? Try Alaskan Brewing or California’s Stone Brewing, both of which make smoked porters.
Contact Jay R. Brooks at [email protected]