A Surprisingly Fruitful Harvest

I found myself with a some down time recently, and my co-editor mentioned a review of some fall beers may be in order. Little did he know I don’t generally enjoy seasonal beers and while fall is my favorite season, its beers elicit some pretty strong responses from me. First, I hate beers with fruit in them and for some reason, in America – just like a southwest salad becomes “southwest” when one puts a spicy mayo on it – fall isn’t fall in America without pumpkin in it. So, the inclusion of pumpkin in beer annoys me greatly, thusly writing off about half of the fall beer selection. The other half is some type of Oktoberfest, which is responsible for about 30% of my worst hangovers. Based on my initial bias I provided some sarcastic response, but the more I thought about it, I realized how ridiculous it was to turn down drinking a bunch of beer so I changed my mind and set off to a couple local beer stores1.

Quick Note: This review will not include terms like “malty finish,” “hints of coriander,” or “floral notes,” because I have no idea what any of that means.

Your local beer store will have a selection of fall beers that fit primarily into two categories, the most popular of which is an Oktoberfest (a pale lager known as Marzen). It is brewed for the German festival of Oktoberfest. There are six German breweries allowed by law to brew the beer under that name in Germany, but as you can imagine, with all the craft brewers in the US now, there is no shortage of Oktoberfest clones. I bought a collection of Oktoberfest beers from: Spaten (one of the Munich Six), Shiner, Samuel Adams, and Highland Brewing Company. I enjoy Oktoberfest beers and I knew it wasn’t going to take me much outside my comfort zone to partake of their amber goodness. There were two surprises from this little experiment; the first being that I enjoyed the two larger brewery entries (Samuel Adams and Shiner) more than the original Spaten offering (the second is on its way…). If I had to rank the beers, I would rank them as follows:

  1. Highland
  2. Shiner
  3. Samuel Adams
  4. Spaten

The Oktoberfest is a very “sessionable”2 beer and maybe my favorite seasonal entry into the market. Overall, I will always give them the benefit of the doubt when I am making my fall purchases and I encourage you to do the same.

As I get older I find that a lot of things I always proclaimed, “I do not like…” I do, in fact, like. It was with this newfound sense of adventure that I made my pumpkin beer selections. I made purchases from Dogfish Head (the King of Pumpkin Beers), Unita, Saranac, Foothills, and Big Boss. The second revelation of this experiment concerns the Dogfish Head Pumpkin, which turned out to be the best beer of the entire batch. Having spent some time in Delaware, the day the Dogfish Head Pumpkin comes out is an unofficial state holiday. Bars advertise and liquor stores proudly display signs. Given my aversion to pumpkin beers, I never paid it much mind, but I now understand the fuss. Honestly, I should have seen it coming. While I would claim Highland as my favorite craft brewery, Dogfish Head can’t be far behind. Brewers of the quintessential American IPA, the 60 Minute, they are purveyors of the highest quality American beers and are champions of the craft brew industry. Aside from the Big Boss Harvest Time, which was very good, the other pumpkin beers confirmed my dislike for this fall favorite and will probably curtail my pumpkin adventures in the future. That said, I do now have something to look forward to as the leaves change and we UNC fans begin prepping for basketball season (footnote: I know you were thinking football, but honestly look at our history, nothing). It really was a pleasant surprise and one that made this entire endeavor extremely fruitful.

  1. NW encourages you to Buy Local.
  2. It just means you can drink a lot of it.