I’m going head first into fall. Pumpkin spice lattes, decorative gourds, a yard full of ghouls and goblins…I’m wallowing in all of the seasonal trappings and I’m not ashamed. I’m wearing full flannel right now. And I’m carrying that enthusiasm over to the beer I’m drinking. It was 86 degrees the other day but I simply had to have a brown ale and start a fire in the backyard. It just felt right. So, I’ve come up with the perfect mixed six pack to walk you through the full fall experience. Most of these beers are new, and all of them are seasonal, so you gotta act now. And there’s not a single pumpkin beer in the mix.
There’s nothing new about this beer at all—it shows up every year at the same time like clockwork and that’s one of the things that makes it the perfect first fall beer. It’s dependable. And more important, it softly hits the fall high notes without going full flannel. It’s like shoulder season in a glass: just the right amount of malty sweetness without being cloying and heavy. Basically, it tastes just a little bit like toasted marshmallows while still being super easy to drink. Gather the firewood. It’s 5.8% and comes in 16-ounce cans.
I like my ciders on the dry side of the spectrum—like Champagne dry, disappear on the tongue before you have a chance to swallow it dry. This new, seasonal cider from Austin Eastciders definitely doesn’t check that “dry” box. It has a sweet finish, but it’s not overtly sweet, and you shouldn’t be fooled into thinking you’re about to drink something pumpkin spicy. It’s not as heavy handed as that. Instead of pumpkin spice, think “mulling spices.” Rich and warm and just a hint of nutmeg for a kick on the far side of the sip.
New Belgium and Knob Creek getting together to make a beer? Hell yeah. New Belgium made a high ABV ale and aged it, not in barrels, but with bourbon-soaked oak spirals taken from 4,000 used Knob Creek bourbon barrels. Using these booze-soaked spirals is an innovative way to age the liquid faster and impart more barrel character to the end product. A few distilleries do it to speed up the aging process. And I can say, in this case, it works. Imagine a relatively light amber ale with heavy whiskey notes and lots of astringent oak. You get hints of toffee and marshmallow, but also straight up whiskey. Like your bartender spilled a shot of Knob Creek in your beer. And I like it. But be careful, it’s 9%.
I know, that name is a mouthful, and so is the beer. We’re in full-on fall territory here. This is an imperial porter (8.5% ABV) that’s dark and full of vanilla and cinnamon. That’s probably because it’s brewed with Madagascar Vanilla Beans and Cinnamon. And milk sugar. It’s smooth and silky, with plenty of roasted character. There’s some chocolate, but it’s more bitter than sweet, and the Chinook and Northern Brewer hops help bolster that bitterness. It all works to create an incredibly complex and balanced beer that I can only imagine drinking while wearing a sweater and contemplating the life cycle while watching dead leaves gather on my lawn.
Consider this the palate cleanser in the six pack; A beer to wipe the slate clean, get rid of all of those sugary malts and start fresh. Rec League is Hazy Pale Ale that falls squarely in the “session” category thanks to the 3.8% ABV and only 120 calories. So, consider this a diet beer, which is probably a smart thing to include within a six pack full of barrel-aged, spiced, brown ale goodness. It pours cloudy as hell with a huge head and has an incredibly dank, enticing nose. Like all session pales and IPAs, it has a thin mouthfeel, but the dry hopping brings out all kinds of hop bite before a very dry finish. It’s light and kind of refreshing. I could drink this during a water break at a ping pong tournament. It’s in 16-ounce cans, too.
Oh man. If ever there was a beer built for fall. Founders rolled out a half dozen different beers in their Barrel-Aged Series for 2018, including all-stars like KBS and Backwoods Bastard. But CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout) is the final beer in the series. The headliner, if you will. It’s an imperial coffee chocolate stout aged in maple bourbon barrels. Sweet Baby Jesus, that’s a lot to process in a single bottle. The result is something that beer fans look forward to, and this is the second year in a row that CBS is getting a release. It’s actually the same base beer as Kentucky Breakfast Stout, but the maple syrup barrels make the difference. This is the sort of beer you have to get tickets to buy, but man, it’s worth it. Ticket sales begin this weekend and the beer can be picked up starting November 1.