Bites + Brews is back and I’m soooo excited to be sharing one of my favorite things with you in this installment: beer!
Beer has been my go-to adult beverage since I’ve been of drinking age. I’ve never liked wine much and have always been a little intimidated by hard liquors (though I’m starting to appreciate those more), but the price of beer and the huge range of styles has always made it pretty accessible. I’m still a bit of a noob when it comes to beer, but in the last few years I’ve developed a nice little list of favorite styles and breweries. I started this blog series for two reasons: to encourage me to try more beers and to keep building my palate and beer vocabulary, and to share some of my favorites with you.
And as fall gets underway, what better way to kick it off than a post about some fantastic fall beers?
Who doesn’t love fall? The air is cooler, the leaves are more colorful, and your favorite cozy clothing is now “in” again. It’s also a time for breweries to release seasonal batches of beer that fans often wait all year for. Fall beers are super-drinkable without being too light, but hearty without being too heavy, making them perfect for game day or sitting outside to enjoy the fall weather. A few weeks ago I visited a local craft beer shop to pick up a few bottles/cans of whatever fall beers I could find; these are my favorites. Although all these beers are “craft” beers, I tried to select beers from bigger names in the craft beer world so they’re easier for you to find. I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to find all these brews in your area, though. Snag them while you still can–winter’s coming! (But that just means that so are winter beers–yay!)
Oktoberfest — Revolution Brewing (Chicago, IL)
I’ll start by saying this was only the second or third Oktoberfest that I’ve ever tried (I’ve had my share of Sam Adams Oktoberfests, and I think I’ve had Sierra Nevada’s in the past, too), and though it wasn’t as good as some of the Oktoberfests mentioned below, it was still a pretty solid beer. It’s a little lighter on the roasty flavor than, say, the Great Lakes Oktoberfest, but I tasted a little bit of spice in it, which was a pleasant and welcome surprise. I’m not normally big on spiced beers (such as Christmas brews or pumpkin beers), but it’s subtle enough in this brew that I didn’t mind it.
Oktoberfest — Great Lakes Brewing (Cleveland, OH)
I was introduced to Great Lakes a few years ago when I tried their Edmund Fitzgerald porter and I’ve been wanting to try more of their beers ever since. A friend recommended their Oktoberfest to me, saying that it was about as close to an authentic German Oktoberfest as you can get. I have yet to try a German Oktoberfest, so I really can’t compare, but the Great Lakes version is a mighty good beer. It has a deep, dark orange color, a mild roasty flavor, and a pleasantly creamy and full mouthfeel (I haaaate that word but if I’m going to write about beer I feel like I have to start using it. Ugh.) without being too rich or filling. Delicious!
Oktoberfest Marzen-Lager–Left Hand Brewing (Longmont, CO)
I went to Colorado last summer and one day while I was out there, I took a day to explore and sample breweries on the front range. I wound up sticking with breweries in Fort Collins, but I think Left Hand was on my list, had I made it down to Longmont. This is my first beer from Left Hand and it did not disappoint. It’s a little on the yeasty side, but that’s balanced out with a slight spice and an ever-so-subtle hoppiness.
Atom Smasher Oak Aged Oktoberfest Style Lager — Two Brothers Artisan Brewing (Warrenville, IL)
Two Brothers’ distribution isn’t that wide–their beers are only sold in parts of the eastern Midwest, northeast, Florida, and Arizona–but if you can find their beer, make sure to grab this seasonal brew while you still can. Hints of wood and grain, reminiscent of whiskey, combine with its toasty, lightly spiced flavor and aroma. Oak-aging beer is a very good idea. Way to go, Two Brothers.
Ichabod Pumpkin Ale — New Holland Brewing (Holland, MI)
This was only my second encounter with this much-maligned style. Pumpkin beers seem to be regarded with a heavy dose of hatred in the beer connoisseur world, at least in my experience. Maybe lots of beer drinkers are like me and aren’t a fan of spice in their beer. If that’s you, this beer probably isn’t going to win you over. Nevertheless, even though spices in beer aren’t my jam, I enjoyed this one a bit more than I thought I would. The spice is definitely there, but it’s not as over-powering as other spiced beers I’ve tried. I drank it on its own, but I can see pairing it with an autumn-y dish like roasted chicken or pork with root vegetables, or perhaps squash or sweet potatoes. I’m also a fan of the pumpkin and chocolate combo, so a small glass with a light chocolate dessert might be lovely, too.
Autumn Ale — Breckenridge Brewing (Littleton, CO)
If you like seasonal releases but want a break from the usual Oktoberfests and pumpkin beers, look no further than Breck Brew’s Autumn Ale. It’s about as dark in color as beers come; I was surprised to see that it had an almost porter-like appearance when I poured it. But it has a milder flavor than most dark beers. It’s neither super-roasty like a porter or creamy like a stout, and it’s not too heavy. Perfect for those chilly autumn days.
What about you? What are some fall beers you love that you think I should try? Holler at me in the comments!