There are many great changes that come with the autumn season, but perhaps the best change comes in a 12 ounce bottle. For many diehard craft beer drinkers, September means an exciting transition from the light and crisp summer ales, to the warmer, hearty fall beers. Check out this quick guide to the best styles of beer for the refreshing fall season:
You know that summer is over when the craft beer section of your favorite store is overrun by pumpkin beers. Whether brewers add fresh pumpkin to the grain before fermentation, or pumpkin just before bottling, pumpkin beers are one of the most common specialty brews for any brewery. Look for notes of cinnamon and nutmeg with a hearty and slightly sweet pumpkin flavor to come through.
Expert Pick: Punkin Ale by Dogfish Head Brewery, 89/100 BeerAdvocate
Technically, only a few German breweries in Munich can produce a true Oktoberfest beer and only for the Oktoberfest holiday in that city. However, hundreds of American craft brewers offer this crisp seasonal lager every fall. An Oktoberfest is a darker lager, and it should be reddish brown in color and taste fresh with a heavy malt taste and subtle hop presence.
Expert Pick: Samuel Adams Octoberfest, Boston Beer Company, 83/100 BeerAdvocate
Another German style, the dunkelweizen is a really just a dark wheat beer (dunkel= ‘dark’ in German). Whereas a hefeweizen is light and fruity, a dunkelweizen is dark and has deep malty flavors while maintaining the full body and refreshing mouthfeel of its lighter cousin.
Expert Pick: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel, Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, 95/100 BeerAdvocate
As the weather cools off, most beer drinkers begin the transition to the dark and heavy winter beers that warm up cold nights. The logical middle ground is the brown ale. Brown ales are deep brown, but still transparent and don’t have an overpowering alcohol content. Tastes of caramel, toffee, molasses, and spice should come through, with some styles exhibiting a nutty taste, and others a cleaner honey flavor.
Expert pick: Bell’s Best Brown Ale, Bell’s Brewing Company, 86/100 BeerAdvocate
A catchall style referring to beers brewed in the spring to be consumed in the fall, ‘harvest ales’ can incorporate several styles, but they usually have a strong hop presence balanced by solid malts. Notes of fruity, yeasty flavors can be detected as well.
Expert Pick: Northern Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing, 94/100 BeerAdvocate
Now that you’re equipped with the necessary understanding about what the fall season brings to the beer aisle, go forth and drink!
David Burruss is a veteran craft beer connoisseur and avid homebrewer with first-hand knowledge of hundreds of craft beers.