FALL IS THE beer-drinker’s sweet spot. It lies directly between the too-light, too-fruity beers of the summertime and the too-heavy, too-hoppy beers of the deep winter. It’s all crisp, malty goodness in the fall. It’s also the best outdoor drinking season, with the changing leaves and perfect bonfire weather. So, we’ve put together a basic list of the three must-try beer styles of the autumn.
Märzen — Drink it in Munich
The German Märzen (literally: March beer) is autumn’s classic beer style because of its association with Bavaria’s Oktoberfest. They are amber lagers which have a malty or even slightly caramel taste to them.
It is worth noting that in Germany, the only beers that may be legally called Oktoberfestbiers are Märzens made by the six breweries that participate in Oktoberfest: Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu-München, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten. You can find most of these in the US at biergartens and Hofbräuhauses. But why not drink it in Munich during Oktoberfest?
In the United States, breweries can call regular Märzens Oktoberfests, and some of them are pretty solid. Sierra Nevada’s and Great Lakes’ are two of the best. Germany makes a number of other delicious beers that are perfect for the autumn — Dunkels, Helles, and Kölsch’s are all very tasty. Of those, only Kölsch’s have become more popular among American breweries.
Pumpkin — Drink it around a bonfire
There is a sizable section of the population that will disqualify this list solely because of its inclusion of pumpkin beers. And fair enough — we’ve reached Peak Pumpkin Spice. This year, deodorant company Native released a Pumpkin Spice Scented deodorant, which has to be the high-water mark of all-things pumpkin before those pungent floodwaters start receding. But there are good pumpkin beers, beers that don’t taste more like pies than beverages.
New Belgium — a brewery that has yet to produce a beer that isn’t delicious — has the solid Pumpkick, Blue Moon’s Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale is actually tastier than a regular Blue Moon, Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead is one of the better sweeter pumpkin beers, and Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale is really delicious (and, at 8% ABV, pretty boozy). Also — don’t knock it — Sam Adams’ Harvest Pumpkin Ale is really tasty.
Cask ales — Drink it in an English Pub
Germany isn’t the only place that nails fall beers — the UK has some delicious beers, too. For the real experience, go to any British pub and order one of the cask ales. There is nothing cozier than a British pub on a cool autumn day. If the sun comes out, you can stand outside with your pint resting on the window ledge, if it’s too windy or chilly, you can step inside and watch football.
Cask ales are the beers that are responsible for the British “warm, flat beer” myth. A cask ale is stored in a cask placed in a cool place like a cellar instead of an artificially refrigerated keg. Hence the “warmth” of the beer. It’s also served through a pump, and it is not pressurized with carbon dioxide or nitrogen. Hence the “flatness.” Not all beers for sale in Britain are cask ales, so if you don’t like “warm and flat,” then you’ve got plenty of alternatives — the cask ales are identifiable by the taps through which they are served: Cask ales have to be pumped out (it takes the barkeep a few pulls to fill the glass). If you want a “regular” beer, avoid the weird looking taps. But if you develop a taste for them, they are delicious and wonderful.
“Bitter” is a name for a style of British Pale Ales, and “Extra Special Bitters” are a bit higher than average in alcohol content. Fuller’s ESB and London Pride are classics that are available at most pubs, and Adnam’s beers are reliably good, but any cask ale will do.