Young and Hungry

Fall Is In the Air . . . and On the Shelves: The Lagerheads’ Picks for Autumn Beers

Fall BeerTemperatures are (slowly) dropping. The days are growing shorter. D.C. kids go back to school on Monday. And in case you haven't noticed, a flood of autumnal colors has begun filling the shelves of your favorite beer shop.

Fall beers are here, so it's time to prepare your palate for brews that have a little extra extra malt, sugar, and spice. Typical seasonals like malty Oktoberfests and Märzens and spicy Pumpkin Ales are easy to find, as the photo above (taken last week at DeVino's at 18th and Florida, NW) suggests. Their orange and rust-colored packaging is synonymous with falling leaves and gourd-filled cornucopias. Come September and October, these beers get all the attention, so we'd like to take a moment to highlight some less obvious fall seasonals: Dunkelweizens, Brown Ales, Maple Beers, and Fresh-Hopped Beers.

The dark, delicious cousin of the German Hefeweizen, the Dunkelweizen is something we look forward to each year. Creamy, nutty ,and filled with yeasty fruit and clove flavors, these beers are often associated with banana bread. You can count on German-centric beer halls like Biergarten Haus on H Street or The Saloon on U Street to pour Weihenstephaner or Ayinger versions of this dark wheat beer. The style is not as common among American craft brewers, but we recently spotted Weyerbacher Slam Dunkel at a couple shops around town. This week we also saw that ChurchKey has a couple versions of the style, a malty Doppelweizenbock and smoky Rauchweizen, on draft from Canadian brewery La Trou du Diable.

Maple Beers like the roasted, boozey Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout or The Bruery's Autumn Maple, brewed with tons of yams and spices, are another great choice for fall. The former is pretty hard to come by, but available this Sunday at Pizzeria Paradiso Dupont's rare beer brunch and next Friday at The Big Hunt's Michigan Beer Bash. Peak Organic's Maple Oat Ale is actually a spring release, but the subtly sweet brew is as naturally autumnal as wearing a scarf with no jacket.

And then there are the fresh-hopped beers like Great Divide Fresh Hop. A traditional Pale Ale may not seem like a common choice for cool autumn nights, but this beer is all about the fall. The crew at Great Divide in Denver brew with hop cones from September's harvest on the day they arrive from the farm to make this citrusy, floral beer, which is released in early October each year. Fresh-hopping began with Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale over a decade ago, and these beers are just as exciting to hopheads as big releases like Bell's Hopslam and Troegs Nugget Nectar, which usually happen in January.

We are also fond of Brown Ales when the weather begins to cool, but readers who watch our Super Lists can probably guess we don't go for the traditional ones. One of our favorites is Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale, a hybrid between a hoppy IPA, a caramely Scotch Ale, and a nutty American Brown. Indian Brown is sold all year, but something about it makes us think of autumn.

What are your picks for Fall beers, typical or not?

  • Chris

    I love the fall beer season! My favorites are usually:
    Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest (no luck finding that last year)
    Blue Point Oktoberfest (best US Oktoberfest I had last year)
    Victory Festbier
    Southern Tier Pumking
    Dogfish Head Punkin'

    Not in the mood to start stocking my fridge with fall beers right now, though. It's still too early and too hot out! (but almost broke down and bought some Great Lakes Octoberfest to try-- so glad we get their stuff here now)

  • Dave

    Another vote for Dogfish Head Punkin. I don't care if the style is a fall cliche, it's by far the best pumpkin beer I've ever had and the spices make it nice straight through Christmas.

  • Coffebreath

    Indeed, it's too early for fall beers right now, but I always like Sam Adams Oktoberfest and Smutty Pumpkin Ale. +1 for Pumking for a dessert beer.

    Also excited to try the new SN Tumbler