Hallelujah! The long, hot, sticky summer is behind us, and fall—with its cool night breezes—is upon us. And you know what that means. Time to pack up the bikinis and board shorts and work on getting a six-pack. Or maybe even a case.
Summer may be gone, but beer season is here. Here are a few of our seasonal faves that you need to try now. Because when summer comes back around, they’ll be gone.
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest. Sure, German brewers with unpronounceable names produce the most authentic—and arguably best tasting—Marzens. But there are brands here in the USA that do a good job producing tasty Marzen-style Oktoberfest beer that may actually appeal more to American taste buds. This is one of the best, and it’s easy to find. It offers plenty of infused, no-nonsense, German-style flavor, yet isn’t so heavy it couldn’t inspire a slam fest.
Lagunitas Brown Shugga. Brown Shugga, how come you taste so good? Hinting of spiciness and slightly mysterious with a tease of deep, dark, dried fruits, Lagunita’s Brown Shugga is just the right kind of sweet, ending with a whisper of bitters for balance. It’s exceptionally good with pairings of smoked meat or chicken, maybe even a Thanksgiving turkey. Drinking Brown Shugga on an empty stomach probably isn’t a good idea anyway, as it’s packing an ABV of almost 10 percent. If you really love it, you might want to stock up because it’s only around from October to December.
Rogue Pumpkin Patch. Always sticklers for details, Rogue actually grows their own pumpkins and waits for their harvest before whipping up this seasonal ale. It might hit the market later than other pumpkin ales, but it’s worth the wait. Oddly enough, despite all those fresh pumpkins, Rogue doesn’t overdo the pumpkin flavor or the pie-like spices. What it does deliver is plenty of flavor that often appeals to hopheads that wouldn’t so much as sniff another pumpkin ale. When you see it, grab it, because it’s only available in the cool months.
Russian River Brewing, Pliny the Younger. If the thought of short days and chilly winds gets you down, take heart. Winter is the only time of year Pliny the Younger, a hearty triple IPA, is distributed. Infused with full-bodied, almost bold flavor and an ABV of over 10 percent, it’s more of a sipper than a chugger. If you find it too intense, go for the double IPA, Pliny the Elder.
Anchor Steam Beer. Technically not a seasonal or even a brand new beer, but the steam beer trend has just begun to catch on locally. Also known as a California common, Anchor Brewing out of—where else?—California makes a tasty intro to steam beers that’s worth trying. Originally conceived as a hearty, working class beverage in the late 19th century, Anchor has stayed true to its early roots with plenty of hops, malt and a noseful of yummy yeast aroma. Likewise, it’s packing a classic ABV range at 4.9 percent.
Honorable Mention—Apple Ciders. Nothing says fall like apple cider, but let’s be real. A lot of diehard hopheads don’t much care for them. Sure, there are really good, hard-to-find, upscale hard ales that are hard not to like. But we’re talking about the good ol’ ordinary, affordable brands like Angry Orchards’ Cinnful and Green Apple, and Strongbow’s Golden Apple—all newish twists on the classics. They’re cheap, gluten-free, super-easy to find and fun to play with.
How so? We’ve recently discovered that when mixed with bourbon or vodka—and maybe a few other ingredients—they make a great boozy libation. You can find recipes on Angry Orchard’s website. Or get creative and whip up your own. You might find the cider you loathed makes for a cocktail you love.