Okay, we’ve made it through Labor Day weekend and had our last dalliance with lime-infused lagers and light saisons, right? We’re done with summer beer and ready for the malt-heavy, barrel-aged, gourd-infused porter and stouts, right? Bring on the pumpkins and cinnamon and allspice, right? Hell no. I don’t care what the breweries and their distributors say, it’s not quite time to go full fall beer just yet. College football has barely begun and it’s still warm enough to hit a swimming pole in much of the country. So here are six shoulder season beers to ease you into the season.
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Here we go; an "autumn IPA," the perfect marriage of a malty Oktoberfest and a fruity, hoppy IPA. You'll find plenty of examples of these crossover beers that manage to screw up both style when they put them in the same bottle, but Deschutes knows what they're doing so you can relax. The Oktoberfest side of the equation holds its own, presenting a strong, toasted caramel argument at the front end of the sip, while the hops don't offer a counterargument until the back end. That's when they kick it and offer a dry finish with a bit of a zest bite.
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Avery Chai High
Boulder, Colorado's Avery Brewing partnered with Boulder's own Bhakti Chai, which is known for a killer chai concentrate. Put it together and you've got a Chai-infused brown ale which hits all of the fall beer notes without wandering into well-worn territory. The chai concentrate that Avery uses is full of fresh-pressed ginger, giving Chai High a kick of spice. It's the second time Avery has brewed this beer. Look for it in six packs of cans throughout the fall.
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Starr Hill Festie Oktoberfest Lager
If I could choose any lager, on any given day, it would be an Oktoberfest lager. Something from the Marzen family, all malty and soft, but still light and easy to drink. In my mind, this is the perfect shoulder season style, and Starr Hill nails it with their Festie, which has enough caramel goodness to get you one foot in the next season while still being light and crisp enough to knock back on a hot day. And it's just 4.8% to boot.
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Hi-Wire Sour Pumpkin Ale
A sour pumpkin ale? I haven't had the chance to try this one yet, but Hi-Wire does good stuff with their Sour and Wild Ale program, and the idea of a sour pumpkin is intriguing. All of the vegetables that went into this beer were sourced on a single farm outside of Asheville, and it's got a lot going on—pumpkins (of course), cinnamon basil and blue ginger. The brewery held the beer release this past weekend. Look for it in big, fancy 375-ml bottles.
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Good People Brewing Mumbai Rye
As we all know, every season is IPA season, so I'm full on board with this fall IPA from Alabama's Good People Brewing. According to the brewery, expect a bit of rustic, earthiness as well as spice and pepper and a wallop of hops from Columbus and Mt. Hood strains. Look for it throughout fall, starting next week, if you're lucky enough to be in Good People's distribution footprint.
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Great Divide Hoss Oktoberfest
Because it's fall, and because I love them, here's another Marzen lager that balances layers of malt with a crisp and dry finish. Look for notes of cherry and some spice from the addition of rye in the malt bill. It's 6.2% and available in cans and bottles. Grab it fast, Hoss is on the market through September and then disappears before fall truly sets in.