Best Beers for FallAs the leaves change, so does the beer aisle. It's a good thing. Not only do seasonal brews offer new flavors from your regular beers, they also ensure you're getting the freshest beer possible. So crack open one, or a few, of our favorite fall beers and remember, don't buy pumpkin beer in March.
Great Lakes NosferatuLong before the hunky vampires of True Blood and Twilight, there lurched Nosferatu, the first cinematic Dracula (with names changed for lack of movie rights). Great Lakes' tribute beer is a bit of monster at 8% ABV, marrying bold roasty, caramel malts with grassy Cascade hops and fruity, floral Simcoes. It's certainly a beer for warming up as winter's chill creeps in. Some consider the beer an imperial red ale, or more vaguely, an American strong ale, as this devil is hard to nail down thanks to the wide ranging, yet balanced hop and malt notes. 8%
Three Floyds BrooDooHopheads rejoice every fall as the hop harvest produces the India Pale Ale substyle of wet hop ales. Normally, brewers use dry hops, which keep year-round. But come autumn, they can take hops straight from the vine to their kettle for a bigger, robust hops character. An exemplary wet hop ale, Three Floyds' BrooDoo takes a toasty, nutty malt backbone and piles on rich, palate-coating hops that throw off big hits of tropical fruit and pine sap. Breathe deep over the glass, while some big IPAs get stuck on a few hoppy notes, BrooDoo offers a deep aroma with ensuing complexities that will dazzle your tongue long after every sip. 7%
Founders' Breakfast StoutWhile Founders' stout lacks the nutritional value of a good breakfast, the combination of oats and coffee certainly taste like the day's most important meal. In addition to the Kona and Sumatra beans, brewers add dark chocolate for a smooth (thank the oats), massively roasty beer that makes other coffee stouts seem like uninspired gas station java. At 8.3% ABV, Breakfast Stout can warm you as we head into winter. And, thanks to the big, sweet flavors, it provides the perfect liquid dessert if you decide to stick with solids in the morning. For an even bigger kick, seek out Founders' rare, bourbon-barrel-aged version, the Kentucky Breakfast Stout. 8.3%
Dogfish Head PunkinSome laugh at pumpkin beers and their often overwhelming spice as the autumn equivalent of a sweet, stupid fruit beer. It's true, many offering taste like amber ale with a teaspoon of McCormick's. But Dogfish Head's Punkin is backed up by a big 7% ABV brown ale base, which the brewers then expertly balance with brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and thankfully, real pumpkin. It's a pumpkin beer with a kick as the toffee malts, mild hops, and spices blend to create a brew as richly satisfying as a big stout or IPA. 7%
AleSmith Evil Dead RedLook past the gimmicks: This beer is a claimed 6.66% ABV, a starting gravity (pre-fermentation density) of 1.066, and is named after one of the greatest camp horror movies of all time. What's more important is that Evil Dead Red is one of the finest red ales you'll find in any season. Unlike most red ales, which get boring with one-note caramel malts, Evil Dead brings a hop-forward aroma of grapefruit and pine over an array of sweet, toasted (and caramel) barley. 6.66%
Ayinger Oktober Fest-MärzenOktoberfest gets dominated by the six big Munich breweries that supply the festival, but there's no need to be myopic in your festing. This Bavarian-brewed Oktoberfest, made just outside Munich, beats them all. The trademark bready caramel foundation is complemented by subtle toffee and toast that finishes dry and slightly crisp. It's a complex beer to enjoy by its lonesome in a big dimpled stein, and it's versatile enough to spend an afternoon washing down wurst, sauerkraut, and pretzels. 5.8%
Rogue Pumpkin Patch AleRare is the pumpkin beer that's actually brewed with pumpkin. And not only does Rogue Ales roast and add the gourds, but the brewery grows their own next to its 42-acre hop yard. At harvest, the pumpkin are whisked away to the brewery and combined with cinnamon, vanilla bean, ginger, cloves, cardamom and Rogue's own hops. Many fall beers say "pumpkin" on their label, Rogue actually delivers that promise. 5.6%
Bell's Best BrownA sleeper among fall seasonal—no spice, no wet hops, no big alcohol—Bell's Best Brown simply meets the changing weather with a comforting, highly drinkable ale. The cocoa and toffee malt flavors draw on the smooth brown ales of southern England, but Bell's amps up the flavors with its clean (no extra fruit or spice flavors) American yeast. These beautiful malts are left to speak for themselves, with cocoa, toffee, and coffee tastes in a medium-bodied beer that's satisfying with being too filling. 5.8%
Surly SurlyFestBucking tradition, Surly Brewing created a fall lager like no other. Using malted rye and a heaping share of spicy, floral Sterling hops, SurlyFest bears little resemblance to the traditional, bready Festbiers of Munich. The masterful brewers at Surly, however, do use the customary Vienna-roast barley that combined with the rye, creates a subtle toasted caramel counterpoint to the big peppery, citrus hops. 6%
Sierra Nevada DevEstatetion AleSierra Nevada typically produces one of the world's finest wet-hop ales, the Estate Ale, thanks in no small part to hops and barley grown at the brewery. Nasty weather, however, laid waste to the barley crop. So in place of the Estate Ale, Sierra Nevada brewed a black IPA called DevEstatetion with organic barley and its own incredibly fresh hops. The cocoa and coffee malt backbone is reminiscent of a porter, but the Chinook, Cascade, and Citra hops still dominate the beer with a mix of juicy and spicy flavors. 6.7%
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