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The Best Fall Seasonal Beers Among 16 We Tasted

September 24, 2012  |  10:12am
The Best Fall Seasonal Beers Among 16 We Tasted

This past weekend marked the official beginning of both fall and Munich, Germany’s 16-day Oktoberfest or “die Wiesn” festival. That means it’s time to stock up on fall beers, whether your tastes lean towards Oktoberfest beers (German-style Märzens), ESBs (Extra Special Bitters) or red ales. We picked 16 promising fall seasonal ales from our local beer store (Ale Yeah in Decatur) to enjoy as the air grows colder.

Our panel of 13 judges spent an afternoon tasting all our fall beers and ranking our favorites. Please note, that pumpkins beers have their own list, which will be updated soon. Here they are, worst to best.

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16. Blue Point Oktoberfest
Brewery: Blue Point
City: Long Island, N.Y.
ABV (Alcohol By Volume): 5.5%
Style: Märzen/Oktoberfest
Perfect For: Putting out your backyard fire pit.
The Verdict: A boring, lager-like flavor with an off-putting aftertaste put this one at the bottom of our list.

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15. Witch Hunt Spiced Harvest Ale
Brewery: Bridgeport
City: Portland, Ore.
ABV: 5.8%
Style: American Brown Ale
Perfect For: Spiking the gingerbread.
The Verdict: Tastes and smells like someone randomly emptied their spice cabinet into the tank.

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14. Shiner Oktoberfest
Brewery: Shiner
City: Shiner, Texas
ABV: 5.8%
Style: Märzen/Oktoberfest
Perfect For: Helping your Bud-swilling relatives…with baby steps.
The Verdict: For a brewery known for it’s lagers, this was the slightly fuller flavored version.

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13. Pecan Harvest Ale
Brewery: Abita
City: Abita Springs, La.
ABV: 5.1%
Style: American Brown Ale
Perfect For: Harvesting the pecans.
The Verdict: The hop flavors come through much more than the pecans, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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12. Sam Adams Octoberfest
Brewery: Sam Adams
City: Boston
ABV: 5.3%
Style: Märzen/Oktoberfest
Perfect For: Appreciating the change in the foliage.
The Verdict: I think Sam Adams is an underrated brewery, but this beer, though easy to drink, isn’t among their greatest accomplishments.

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11. Pyramid Oktoberfest
Brewery: Pyramid
City: Seattle
ABV: 6.7%
Style: Märzen/Oktoberfest
Perfect For: Raking those leaves.
The Verdict: Puts the OK in Oktoberfest. A decent example of the style.

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10. Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale
Brewery: Sierra Nevada
City: Chico, Calif.
ABV: 5.5%
Style: American Brown Ale
Perfect For: Burning those leaves.
The Verdict: Whether the hops varietals or the yeast they use, Sierra Nevada beers always taste like Sierra Nevada beers. This one adds a smoky, toasty malt balance.

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9. Brooklyn Oktoberfest
Brewery: Brooklyn
City: Brooklyn, N.Y.
ABV: 5.5%
Style: Märzen/Oktoberfest
Perfect For: Listening to The Fall (or talking-uh like-uh Mark E. Smith-uh)
The Verdict: Several tasters agreed that this one tastes most fall-like. A great example of the style.

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8. Motor Boat Ale
Brewery: Sweetwater
City: Atlanta
ABV: 5.6%
Style: ESB (Extra Special Bitter)
Perfect For: Those Indian Summer days on the lake.
The Verdict: Leave it to an Atlanta brewery to make it’s fall seasonal good for unseasonably warm days with a lemony hop bite.

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7. Red Hoptober Ale
Brewery: New Belgium
City: Fort Collins, Colo.
ABV: 6%
Style: Red Ale
Perfect For: Flag football games
The Verdict: Another outlier, New Belgium decided that even hop heads enjoy the cooling temps. Their red ale drinks a little like an IPA.

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6. Left Hand Oktoberfest
Brewery: Left Hand Brewing Company
City: Longmont, Colo.
ABV: 6%
Style: Märzen/Oktoberfest
Perfect For: Strapping on those Lederhosen.
The Verdict: Left Hand gave their Märzen a nice hop bite, making it one of the most flavorful of the fall line-up.

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5. Scythe & Sickle
Brewery: Ommegang
City: Cooperstown, N.Y.
ABV: 5.8%
Style: Belgian Dark Ale
Perfect For: Watching the pennant races.
The Verdict: When everyone else is going German, Ommegang (as usual) went Belgian, and the result is a rich malty beer with fall spices like clove and cinnamon.

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4. Duck-Rabbit Dopplebock
Brewery: Duck-Rabbit
City: Farmville, N.C.
ABV: 8.5%
Style: Dopplebock
Perfect For: Dessert.
The Verdict: Fall may be the season of subtlety, but Duck-Rabbit went big with their seasonal offering. At once malty, chocolaty and spicy.

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3. Victory Festbier
Brewery: Victory Brewing Company
City: Dowington, Penn.
ABV: 5.6%
Style: Märzen/Oktoberfest
Perfect For: Throwing your own 16-day-long Oktoberfest party.
The Verdict: Complex for an Oktoberfest with hints of honey, hops and spice—but no one flavor overpowers the others. The best of the Märzens.

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2. Southern Tier Harvest
Brewery: Southern Tier Brewing Company
City: Lakewood, N.Y.
ABV: 6.7%
Style: ESB (Extra Special Bitter)
Perfect For: Sailing on a chilly day.
The Verdict: There’s a growing trend of hoppier fall seasonals, and this was the best one we tasted. An exceptional ESB.

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1. Weyerbacher Autumn Fest Ale
Brewery: Weyerbacher Brewing Co.
City: Easton, Penn.
ABV: 5.4%
Style: Red Ale
Perfect For: Aug. 21 to Dec. 21.
The Verdict: Outside of Dogfish Head, Weyerbacher may be the most creative American brewery at the moment, and their fall seasonal is one of the best amber/red ales we’ve tasted. Unique spices and a full, round flavor—especially for a 5.4% beer—make this a great choice for any fall day. Weyerbacher also won last year’s Pumpkin Ale tasting.

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