There’s something about fall that stretches the meaning of the term ‘seasonal.’ Yes, winter has eggnog and gingerbread flavors, and summer gives us that sweet, citrus dew. But in autumn it becomes about the bounty of the season: apples, cranberries, and (especially) pumpkins—pumpkin spice waffles, and ice cream, and probably even toothpaste.
Fall is about flavors that are as hard to place and fleeting as the weather. So the question is, what makes a good fall beer? In summer, the best beers are often those that are served the coldest. In fall we sort of want to lie to ourselves: we want to forget that summer is gone, and to be only vaguely reminded it will be December soon.
In short, we want a beer that will get us buzzed, render us free of melancholy, or, hopefully, will taste just as pumpkin-y as a pie.
Below are ten brews that will, or won’t accomplish their autumnal missions, We’ve ranked from 1 to 10, reflecting how we’ll feel about their going out of season: with 1, representing indifference, and 10, great sadness.
Woodchuck Hard Cider Fall
Though this Woodchuck is not actually a beer,
it is sold alongside them and serves more or less the
same purpose. This seasonal cider was not particularly
interesting and felt a bit diluted. Cinnamon is
apparently the secret fall ingredient.
Magic Hat Séance
Even if this beer was horrible (which it wasn’t),
the label is a brilliant Scooby-Doo-meets-
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari-styled illustration using
appropriately seasonal colors. The beer itself is dark
and tastes sort of like drinking a properly-poured
Guinness and eating berries at the same time.
Blue Point Oktoberfest
New York, 5.5%
Very sweet and inferior to the famous
Blue Point Toasted. Not really sure what they were
thinking with the Microsoft Word clip art design,
but it wasn’t doing the beer any favors.
If drunk slowly, it starts to taste like
vanilla—great for a milkshake, less so for a beer.
Even though the bottle says the hop flavor
is “not overpowering but present,”
it, in fact, was very overpowering and very present.
The liquid looked like flat Coke. Worse, it tasted sour
but also managed to taste a lot like nothing, as though
Harpoon hired a scientist to brew the
world’s most inoffensively mediocre beer.
Sierra Nevada Flipside
Probably the best of the lot—a red IPA
that is dark, bitter but not sour, and still somehow sweet.
A lot of hops and citrus. The design of the bottle itself is
interesting, but sort of over the top. This is one worth buying
until it’s off the shelves. (Also worth noting that
the slightly higher ABV is…noticeable).
Harpoon UFO Pumpkin
What’s special about this one is that the pumpkin
in this beer is not the born-in-the-lab pumpkin taste we’ve
come to associate with fall flavors gone wrong,
but tasted like actual pumpkin. It wasn’t obnoxiously
flavored, and it wasn’t very hoppy.
Heavy, but worth it. It’s more than a novelty beer.
Samuel Adams Octoberfest
This beer is even a pleasure to pour—it comes out
a rich reddish brown hue that looks like something one
would drink in the fall. Maybe this was achieved
through dyes and crafts, but it’s charming nonetheless.
The beer is sweet and has a touch of caramel in it;
it is heavy, and very malty. Overall, a success and
very enjoyable to drink. Strongly recommended
as a beer to drink for the rest of fall,
but probably best enjoyed one at a time.
Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale
Much sweeter than the UFO, and has a very strong
pumpkin flavor. It is the candy corn of fall beers,
and leaves your throat tasting like synthesized
nutmeg and cinnamon. Do not be fooled: even if you are a
Blue Moon drinker, you still probably won’t like this one.
If Dunkin Donuts made a fall beer,
it would be the Harvest Pumpkin Ale.
(Blue Moon, please do not put this one out again)
Brooklyn Post Road
New York, 5%
The nice touch of a colonial-era typeface on a
beer bottle shouldn’t go unnoticed.
The beer itself has a really good pumpkin flavor,
suggesting—like the UFO—pumpkin was actually used.
Unlike the UFO, however, this one showcases
the pumpkin a bit less. Brooklyn seemed to have
set out to make a beer that tasted like a New England fall,
and it worked. This shouldn’t be one strictly reserved
for drinking alongside pie, which is what most
pumpkin beers are relegated to.
It is worth mentioning now that Leinenkugel
is probably one of the only Wisconsin beers available
outside of Wisconsin, and so Sprecher’s Oktoberfest
and New Glarus Staghorn will have to go unexamined
for this season. Sweet but not aggressively so. It is a very
well executed German beer. Ultimately, one of the
least seasonal, but still one of the best in this grouping.
Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. Pumpkin Ale
New York, 5%
Somewhere between the UFO and Post Road
in terms of flavor. Subtle, but lacks the sort of present
authentic pumpkin flavor that makes the aforementioned
beers so interesting. You can actually taste allspice,
but that’s more of an interesting fact than a reason
to run out to the store. Very much a dessert beer,
not one to sit back and drink on its own.