Food purists believe in the seasonality of their produce. Beer purists are the same way. Some beers can’t be made year-round because the right local ingredients have already been harvested. Fortunately for beer purists, October is one of the best months of the year for beer making. The harvest season is in full swing and the time is ripe for celebrating Oktoberfest. So, if you’re hankering for the perfect autumn beer, which ones to choose? The beer market is saturated with many different styles from all over the country, but here are five beers that will be the perfect accompaniment to any fall meal or chilly afternoon in your favorite local pub (if it stocks them). Two are from the autumn seasonal variety, two from the Oktoberfest style, and the last is a pumpkin beer that should help you see that gourd-like squash in an entirely different light. Enjoy!
1. Beer: Peak Organic Fall Summit
Who makes it: Peak Organic Brewing Co.
Score: 4 out of 5 Hops
Why we like it: Just in time for the cooler weather comes a fuller-bodied seasonal brown ale from Portland, Me. Peak Organic Brewing Co. prides itself on sustainable practices and quality beer—and Fall Summit does not disappoint. From the bottle, this brew evokes the season, with a dark caramel-colored pour and a malt-laden spice, grain, and hop nose. Where this beer really delivers is in the taste: crisp with a moderate mouth-feel that comes with a slight hop introduction and a malty dry finish. The foam head leaves a delicate lacing on the glass, a perfect ending to a fantastic beer.
To find out more, visit peakbrewing.com.
2. Beer: Sierra Nevada Tumbler Brown Ale
Who makes it: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Score: 2 out of 5 Hops
Why we like it: Sierra Nevada has time and again provided well-balanced styles of beer, no mean feat given that the Chico (Calif.) company is the second-largest U.S. craft beer maker by sales. (The Boston Beer Co. (SAM), maker of Samuel Adams, is No. 1.) The Tumbler Brown Ale is the brewery’s fall offering—in winter it produces its Celebration Ale, in spring its Glissade bock-style beer, and in summer a pilsner named Summerfest. The Tumbler usually hits the shelves around September and disappears in mid-November. Sierra Nevada normally brews with a generous amount of California hops, but in the case of the Tumbler, drinkers will get more of the malt and spice, as is appropriate with this style of beer. The color is a ruby orange and the beer has a nose of grains with a trace of hops. The Tumbler is light on the palate with subtle flavors and an alcohol content of 5.5 percent—great for a meal or casual drinking.
To find out more, visit sierranevada.com.
3. Beer: Victory Festbier
Who makes it: Victory Brewing Co.
Score: 3 out of 5 Hops
Why we like it: From the great craft brewing state of Pennsylvania, Victory delivers its German-style Oktoberfest Märzen. Typically, Oktoberfest beer is low in alcohol and lighter, and this Festbier is spot on. It pours a clear amber hue, with an aroma of nutty, malty notes. This style of beer tends to be a bit sweet due to the malts, but finishes refreshingly dry. The combination keeps you coming back for more, hence its popularity during Oktoberfest. Great in quantities, wonderful on its own, the Festbier is best when paired with cheeses, grilled chicken, or pizza.
To find out more, visit victorybeer.com.
4. Beer: Otter Creek Oktoberfest
Who makes it: Otter Creek Brewing
Score: 3 out of 5 Hops
Why we like it: There are dozens of fall seasonal beers, but Otter Creek’s Oktoberfest is one not to miss. The Middlebury (Vt.)-based brewery has been making this seasonal beer since 1995, and there’s a reason it’s still in production. It pours a hazy burnt orange hue, with a nose that brings the anticipated malts followed by a surprising grassy, herbal hop aroma. There is a nice floral addition to the typical Oktoberfest beer, and it continues on through to the palate. A very smooth mouth-feel complements the medium body of this beer, which finishes dry and crisp.
To find out more, visit ottercreekbrewing.com.
5. Beer: Elysian Night Owl
Who makes it: Elysian Brewing Co.
Score: 4 out of 5 Hops
Why we like it: Another great West Coast brewing company, Elysian makes one of the finest pumpkin ales of the season. Most pumpkin beers can go one of two ways: watered down to the point where it should be called “beer with a hint of pumpkin,” or, at the other end of the spectrum, cloyingly sweet. Neither does justice to pumpkin beer, which is a shame because done right it can be delicious, but too often brewers appear to settle for some sort of confirmation that they were crazy to try it in the first place. Elysian nails it, though, brewing this beer with 150 pounds of pumpkin as well as green and roasted pumpkin seeds in each batch. The Night Owl smells like the most wonderful pumpkin bread you have ever eaten, highlighted by nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon in the nose. What also sets this beer apart is Elysian’s use of ginger in the brewing process, which helps create a unique smell and taste. While the flavor isn’t as strong as the nose, I find the Night Owl to be well-balanced and enjoyable. In an oversaturated market, this is one beer you won’t want to miss.
To find out more, visit elysianbrewing.com.