The 10 Best Fall Beers: Ales

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Last weekend, we looked at the best fall lagers. But autumn isn’t just a time for Oktoberfests and dopplebocks. There are plenty of seasonal ales released every year, and we thought it was our duty—our duty—to make sure you knew about the best ones. This is not a challenge we take lightly. Our judging panel tasted 16 different Fall Ales to create this seasonal beer guide. We’ll expand our search every October, so let us know what we missed. And if you’re wondering where all the pumpkin beers are, they’re right here.

First, the six that didn’t make the cut:
16. Bridgeport Witch Hunt Spiced Harvest Ale (Portland, Ore.)
15. Red Brick A-Town Brown Ale (Atlanta)
14. Abita Pecan Harvest (Abita Springs, La.)
13. Sierra Nevada Tumbler Harvest (Chico, Calif.)
12. Founder’s Red’s Rye IPA (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
11. Sierra Nevada Flipside Red IPA (Chico, Calif.)

The 10 Best Fall Ales

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10. Anchor BigLeaf Maple Autumn Red
Brewery: Anchor
City: San Francisco
ABV: 6%
Style: Amber Ale
Perfect For: Putting on your waffles
The Verdict: When Anchor says there’s a “hint of maple syrup,” they’re being modest. This strange amber ale from Anchor goes full bore on both the hops and the malty sweetness. It divided our judges between those who loved it and those who couldn’t handle the syrup. Personally, I wouldn’t imagine ever drinking more than one of these at a time.

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9. Southern Tier 2X Rye
Brewery: Southern Tier Brewing Company
City: Lakewood, N.Y.
ABV: 8.1%
Style: Rye Ale
Perfect For: Watching the leaves change
The Verdict: Not just for whiskey anymore, rye is replacing barley in a handful of American beers, though the practice originated in Bavaria. Unlike the hoppier “Rye-PAs,” the rye flavor comes through more than anything else on this very Autumnal beer.

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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. Bell’s Best Brown Ale
Brewery: Bell’s
City: Kalamazoo, Mich.
ABV: 5.8%
Style: Brown Ale
Perfect For: Camping
The Verdict: Brown ale isn’t always the most exciting style of beer—slightly hopped, relatively dry flavor—but Bells does it well, with a toastiness that fits the cooling months. Best Brown Ale is a fair enough name.

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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. Goose Island Harvest Ale
Brewery:   Goose Island  
City: Chicago
ABV: 5.7%
Style: ESB
Perfect For: Watching da Bears (or any NFL team)
The Verdict: This is as crisp and clean as they come. A hoppy, almost-Märzen-like ale with hints of floral and fruity bite. It’s the kind of beer you can guzzle down at the end of summer.

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3. 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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2. 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: Weyerbacher’s 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.

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1. Allagash Fluxus
Brewery: Allagash
City: Portland, Me.
ABV: 6.4%
Style: Porter
Perfect For: Sunshine on a chilly day.
The Verdict: The 2013 version of Fluxus is a citrus-y stout. Brewed with blood orange zest and pulp, the citrus flavors are subtle, but the smoky malty richness is not. This is a rich and dark beer that can stand up to the heaviest foods.

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