Perfect Brews for Fall

As the days shrink and afternoon tee times are moved up to get the round in before twilight, there’s no denying another summer has burned off and harvest time has come, with the leaf rule in full effect. Enjoy the brisk approach of fall; it’s no time for dark moods, but somewhat darker beers may well be in order. Rather than bobbing for apples at the Halloween party, fill that metal tub with ice and stock some richly malty lagers and ales for autumn.

There’s a solid 200-year-old precedent for this. Oktoberfest, the party, began in Munich in 1810 as a celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese. It has been going strong ever since, always beginning in mid-September, a fortnight before the first Sunday in October. It always begins the same way, with the Lord Mayor of Munich tapping the first keg of beer at noon. But this year’s anniversary [2010] is being called a Jubilee Year, and so festivals-goers will have one extra day to cram in as much sausage and pigs’ knuckles as possible.

Oktoberfest, the beer, is actually a style called Märzen (or Vienna lager), that no self-respecting former apple-bobbing tub should be without. So here are some suggestions, in good company with other seasonal picks. Some are more regional than others, but most should be widely available in better beer shops:

Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen (Germany, 5.6% ABV (Alcohol by volume), In pre-refrigeration days of the mid-19th century Bavarian brewers began producing full-bodied, malty beers in March (Märzen) and then lagering them in cool caves until it was time to celebrate Oktoberfest. The style has existed ever since, and this interpretation from the town of Aying represents exporting at its best.

Rahr’s Oktoberfest Celebration Lager (Rahr & Sons Brewing Company, Texas, 5.5% ABV, A snow-induced roof collapse this past winter has slowed down but not stopped Fritz Rahr of Fort Worth, who decided to sponsor a September 25 Rahr Oktoberfest 5K Run to benefit the local Habitat for Humanity. Lederhosen race togs are optional, but the post-race beverage should be interesting.

Hoptober Golden Ale (New Belgium Brewing, Colorado, 6% ABV, A bit lighter in profile if not strength is this August through October seasonal from the makers of Fat Tire, packed with barley and wheat malts as well as oats and rye. Five different hops contribute a citrus note. Those closer to Colorado can look for the Fall Wild Ale from the Lips of Faith series, a malty dubbel at 8.5% ABV spiced with schisandra berries.

Harvest Ale (Long Trail Brewing Company, Vermont, 4.4% ABV, It’s an apt year for the beers from Long Trail, since its namesake, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the U.S. is now celebrating its centennial year, although work continued on the 273-mile Vermont Long Trail until 1930. Running from the Massachusetts line to the Canadian border, the Trail meets up with the Appalachian Trail for 100 miles, and just thinking about all that walking deserves a few bottles of this malty brown ale tribute.

Poperings Hommel Ale (Brouwerij Van Eecke, Belgium, 7.5% ABV, Don’t let the pale golden color of this ale fool you; it packs a wallop, and is loaded with about twice the bitterness of other Belgian beers, which are not big on hops. But the city of Poperinge was once the hop capital of the country, and still has a gala hop festival every three years. Tickets still available for the 2011 blowout.

Pumpkinhead Ale (Shipyard Brewing Co., Maine, 5.1% ABV, What would the fall be without a pumpkin beer? Shipyard has two, the more widely available Pumpkinhead wheat beer replete with pumpkin pie spices, and the Smashed Pumpkin in the Pugsley Signature Series (named after brewmaster Alan Pugsley). The latter is a bigger, sipping beer at 9% ABV, with subtler spice flavors. Visitors to the Shipyard gift shop in Portland can get Smashed in a year-old cellar-aged limited edition.


Saison Dupont Vieille Provision (Brasserie Dupont, Belgium, 6.5% ABV, Okay, this is a bit of a holdover from summer, but saisons are fine year-round refreshers, fruity and dry, and this corked beauty was dubbed a world classic by the late, great British beer writer Michael Jackson. Concocted in a Belgian farmhouse brewery and conditioned in the bottle, Saison Dupont will cellar well and grace any dinner table, matching nicely with fish or fowl.

Double Bastard Ale (Stone Brewing Co., California; 10.5% ABV; “Warning: Double Bastard Ale is not to be wasted on the tentative or weak.” It’s tough to compete with the copy on the Stone beer labels, but this hop monster takes the brewery’s popular Arrogant Bastard Ale one arrogant step beyond. It will appear November 1, just in time for San Diego Beer Week, which also goes a step beyond by lasting ten days, November 5-14.

Ommegang Zuur (Brewery Ommegang, New York, 6% ABV, Baseball’s Fall Classic is threatening to linger into winter, and one can hope the same for this offering from Ommegang, a Belgian-owned brewery as American as cherry pie, since it’s in Cooperstown, home of the Hall of Fame. The Zuur is a collaboration, blending two beers from Liefman’s in Belgium including a kriek (beer with cherries), resulting in a Flemish Sour Brown ale with a cherry on top. Bring on the pies!

Related Posts:
TAP Beer(s) of the Week: If It’s September, It Must Be Oktoberfest

TAP Beer(s) of the Week: Fall Classics

12 Responses to “Perfect Brews for Fall”

  1. Ryan Finn

    Definitely DogFish Head Punkin and Southern Tier Pumpking. Big fan of Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale as well

  2. Rob

    Well, I’ve said this a million times, but I hate South Florida because there are basically no seasons here. But I grew up in PA, so I still get it!

    I just tried a beer a few weeks ago: Autumn Maple by The Bruery. I’m pretty sure if you drink that beer, it will be your new go-to fall beer! Delicious maple syrup and spiciness and warmth!

    Talk to you later. You can find the full review of that beer on my blog if you’re interested.

  3. Tom Bedell

    Amazing how many pumpkin ales there are now. It’s almost like the de rigueur holiday ale.

    Checked out your blog, Rob. Amazed that you can do a beer review a day. I can’t keep up on a once a week basis!

  4. Ilya Feynberg


    Great post with some great choices! I would be careful with anything from Rahr and Son’s even still as they still seem to be recovering from the winter storm we had earlier in the year. Sounds strange I know, but after their tanks got badly damaged all there beers have been off since. I’m here in Dallas so I can get anything from them easily. I would also add in Hop In The Dark which is a black IPA from Deschutes…something about it makes it feel very wintery to me.

    @Ryan – Agreed! No contest there from me! Especially on the DogFishHead and the Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale.

    @Rob – I don’t know how you deal with those type of seasons, I hate that. I live here in North Texas so we still have seasons…but nothing like further north. Even so, when we hit fall and winter the choice for beer seems to change along with it.

    @Tom – Yup! It seems that every year more and more pumpkin ales come out. Then again, there are more and more craft breweries that open up every year. Now that’s a good thing! :)


  5. Jim

    Some great choices; definitely down with all the pumpkin beers. Maybe it’s from raking and burning leaves as a kid, but I love smoked beers this time of year – Aecht Schlenkerla’s Urbock, or Stone Smoked Porter on the cooler days (or Alaskan Smoked Porter, which they unfortunately don’t distribute here in New York).

  6. Tom Bedell

    Thanks all and keep ’em coming. I actually wrote up another fall beer piece for another golf magazine, but I have to save that six-pack selection for a few weeks.

    I love smoked lagers and porters, too, Jim–was lucky enough to have the Alaskan Smoked at the brewery once–but probably not for awhile yet. Not to say I won’t have a stout or porter in warm weather now and again, but I tend to wait until it’s pretty chilly out before I really turn to the dark side.

    Although, I also had a tasty black IPA (Hoppy Feet) the other night, Ilya, from a fairly new Massachusetts brewery called Clown Shoes. Hoppy indeed, but with a nice lacing of roastiness.

  7. Steve S.

    Great post, Tom. You inspired me to search out some of these. I have to say that Southern Tier Pumpking and Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale are my fall favorites.

  8. Tom Bedell

    Thanks, Steve. I’ll look for the ST Pumpking. Haven’t seen Weyerbacher here in Vermont yet, but I’m heading to PA next month so will track some down.

  9. Acorn Wine Shop

    Hey! Love this round up, great choices! For me, I have to go with O’Fallons Smoked Porter. The minute I can start opening a nice, malty, smoky porter…I know fall/football/chili and soup season is here!

  10. Tom Bedell

    I’ll be on the lookout for the O’Fallons, but not too many beers from Missouri make it to Vermont. Except you know what.

  11. Andy Cook

    Wow! Didn’t realize I was such a neophyte on Fall beers even though it’s my favorite beer season. I need to head to the store now and pick up a new type of six pack

  12. Tom Bedell

    Heading to the store and picking up new brews is all the beer school you need, Andy. That and assiduous reading of this blog, of course!

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