Autumnal Beer

It’s finally autumn. This has always been my favorite season – crisp mornings, turning leaves, cool weather, all that crap.

But the autumnal beers are far and away my favorite part of the season. Here are some of the most popular styles of the season.

Oktoberfest – The party is so big that they named a beer after it. The Oktoberfest style beer is a brown lager that is light on hops with rich, roasted flavors. The style was developed in the late 1800s by a brewer at Spaten Brewery. The Oktoberfest was already a decades old festival by then and Spaten, a Munich based brewery, wanted to brew a beer specifically for it. The brewer was fond of a then popular Vienna style lager and tried to create a beer similar to it. What he wound up with was the brown lager that came to define the new style. Interestingly, the beer actually served in the tents in Munich is not the same as that sold in bottles under the Oktoberfest label. The festival beer is lighter and more comparable to Hellesbock.

Pumpkin – Is there a more natural choice for an autumn beer style than pumpkin? Pumpkin ales become more popular each year. You can find examples of the style from almost every brewery and no pumpkin ale is like another. Some breweries cram huge amounts of pumpkin pie spice into their brews creating beer with incredible aromas and flavors. Other avoid the spices altogether and stick with just pumpkin, malt and hops. When brewed correctly these brews can be incredibly complex and satisfying beers. Who makes the best pumpkin beer? It’s impossible to say but if you want to try the best available to you go local. Pumpkin beer is best when it’s freshest so rather than buying a 6 pack that was brewed and packaged 280 miles away three months ago, go to a brewpub and buy a pint that was brewed right there a couple of weeks ago.

Saison – This harvest-time ale isn’t for everyone. Originally brewed and sold at farmhouses in Northern France and Belgium, this style has been recently building a following in the US craft beer movement. Like many Belgium styles, saisons are big, complex beers. The combination of malts, hops, herbs, honey, candied sugar, and unique yeasts that go into the various interpretations of the style make it a spicy, hoppy, and somewhat acidic brew. If you like challenging beers, this is the brew for you.

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