The wind has picked up, degrees have dropped, and Fall’s distinct chill is now apparent. Time for Fall beer.
By now you’ve probably had many beers to celebrate the new season; they come out earlier and earlier each year.
And for good reason: seasonal beers make up more than 20 percent of the annual craft beer market, according to the Brewer’s Association. That’s one-fifth of $19.6 billion.
We’ve had dozens of “Fall” beers, from pumpkin beers, to those doing their best to transport you to Germany’s Oktoberfest, and more. These are the most memorable, tasty, and worthy of your money and taste buds. Not only have we ranked them with numbers, but we’ve given some of the beers special awards.
12. Surly Brewing Co.—Surly Fest
This Märzen revels in being different—like much of Surly’s lineup. Bready and biscuity, with a bit of a spicey hop bite to it, this is “not a German style Oktoberfest bier,” according to Surly—and that’s a good thing.
11. Door County Brewing Co.—L’automne—Best New Fall Seasonal
L’automne (french for Autumn) does away with pumpkin or Märzens. Instead, Door County founder John McMahon says it’s closer to a Biere de Garde, containing a powerful clove spiciness with some rye–and is best at room temperature. Don’t let this one slip away; the next time L’automne is made it will be with a different recipe.
10. Lakefront Brewery—Imperial Pumpkin Ale
After imbibing this Milwaukee brewery’s cousin, Pumpkin Lager, I decided I’d trust them enough to make yet another good pumpkin beer, and quickly purchased this the first time I saw it. I was rewarded for that trust. Lakefront makes the only two pumpkin beers I love enough to seek out, and this one is definitely for those who want something to warm them up on a chilly Fall evening. When sipping on this beer I imagine someone at Lakefront becoming mad with power, chucking jack-o-lanterns into brandy, drowning them until they soaked in the spicy sweetness. Just a hint of vanilla turns this into a true Halloween treat, making the jack-o-lantern sacrifice worth every taste.
9. Boulevard Brewing Co.—Funky Pumpkin
The most unexpected surprise on this list, Boulevard’s complex pumpkin beer is definitely different. There’s a hint of pumpkin, then tartness, then a little nutmeg. It’s a refreshingly tasty beer that keeps you on your toes. Don’t be afraid of the Brettanomyces; embrace the funkiness of the yeast strain.
8. Furthermore Beer—Fallen Apple
Ripening apples in an orchard scream Fall just as much as Oktoberfest beer does. This cream ale is about 40 percent cider—but 100 percent as delicious as biting into a freshly-picked apple. It doesn’t shy away from the apple flavor, invading your mouth with a tart flavor that is mellowed out by a hint of sweetness provided by milk sugar, keeping the cider from dominating. The dry apple cider vibe makes way for the cream ale portion of the beer, transforming the beer completely. Great apple flavor that leans sweet, but just a tiny bit.
7. Lakefront Brewery—Pumpkin Lager—Best Wisconsin Pumpkin Beer
I had tried dozens of pumpkin beers before visiting Lakefront’s taproom in Milwaukee–and I hated all of them. After a hilarious tour–centered mostly on beer ingredient sexuality–I tried Pumpkin Lager (along with the superb coffee stout). What I found was that there were indeed fantastic beers made with pumpkin, I just hadn’t found one until that fateful Fall. This beer features a light pumpkin profile that finishes with just a touch of spice, leaving the taste of pumpkin pie in your mouth.
6. Tin Whiskers Brewing Co.—Schottky Pumpkin Ale—Best Minnesota Pumpkin Beer
This beer is reminiscent of a latte made with pumpkin spice at your coffee shop of choice, but without the caffeine and sugar injection. Pumpkin doesn’t overwhelm your palate. Instead, a tasty malty base provides a solid foundation for the pumpkin pie spices to shine, with a finish that’s just a little sweet. A solid pumpkin beer, and the best one offered in Minnesota.
5. New Glarus Brewing Co.—Staghorn
Just like the mighty, imperious stag silhouetted in front of the harvest moon on the beer’s label, this beer stands above most Fall seasonals. Billed as “Wisconsin’s Real Red,” it combines Midwest barleys, fresh yeast from Germany, and clear, azure Wisconsin water to create a malty, berry-sweet treat that finishes crisply and cleanly with a bit of spice.
4. Forager Brewing Co.—Autumn Harvest
What makes Forager’s first-ever foray into the fall seasonal beer ocean of choices stand out is its reluctance to overpower with pumpkin or spice. That might seem odd, but the subtle combo allows the vanilla note to lead and stay present throughout.
3. New Glarus Brewing Co.—Pumpkin Pie Lust
This one is unique in that it’s a weisse style of beer, something of a rarity for Fall seasonals. It also doesn’t focus so much on pumpkin as it does the spices you’d associate with the pie made from the delectable squash. It’s delightful, complex, and easy to session.
2. Bauhaus Brew Labs—Schwantoberfest—Best Oktoberfest Beer
Delightfully bready and malty, with a slight tang from the hops–a citrus tang–that gives the beer a bit of complexity as it works through its different flavor stages. No crazy flavors; just good beer.
1. Indeed Brewing Co.—Yamma Jamma (Formerly Sweet Yamma Jamma)—Best Alternate Fall Beer
This is the first beer I tried from Indeed, driving my visiting mother and stepfather over to the Northeast taproom (still in its infancy) to pick up two bottles. Two other people were there imbibing what was on tap, a far cry from the brewery’s always-packed atmosphere these days (the brewery even opened a second taproom in the location of the old gift shop). All I knew of the beer back then is that it contained something I love to eat: sweet potatoes. This beer reminds me of the sweet potato dish at my uncle’s Thanksgiving dinner: a mashup of sweet potato flavor accentuated by a hint of eclectic spices. It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely one of the more unique Fall beers around.
Schell’s Brewing Co. Oktoberfest
Summit Brewing Co. Fest Bier
Sprecher Brewing Co. Oktoberfest
Summit Brewing Co. Oktoberfest
Big Wood Brewery Oktimberfest
Leinenkugel Brewing Co. Big Eddy Über-Oktoberfest
(First published on Sept. 25, 2015. Two beers–Autumn Harvest and Funky Pumpkin–added on Nov. 23, 2015).