There is no better time than fall be a fan of American craft beers.
The thirst-quenching beers of summer are still hanging around but are joined on store shelves and on tap by the more flavorful offerings of fall and winter.
A recent trip to the beer department at the Boise Co-Op revealed a dizzying array of variety and set me back more than few ducats. The legacy of that trip is currently taking up a lot of the real estate in my fridge. That shouldn't be a problem for long, however.
Fresh hop harvest ales, Oktoberfests, pumpkin beers, coffee-infused porters and stouts, and the first emergence of winter warmers are among the seasonal offerings showing up alongside your favorite staple beers.
(As a side benefit, I’ve found sampling of few of these can salve the pain if your baseball team either didn’t make the playoffs —like my Cleveland Indians — or is in the middle of blowing their chance yet again. Yes, I am talking about you, Cubs fans. You guys may need more than one.)
For fans of the malty and rich Oktoberfest styles, there are several excellent examples of the style in both domestic and imported versions. Sixers range from about $9 to $7, for the most part.
American craft brewer’s Oktoberfests include tasty offerings from Samuel Adams, Mendocino Brewing, and Leinenkugel. German imports of the Oktoberfest style available at the Co-Op in single 500 ml bottles include marzens from Ayinger, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, and Spaten. Prices for those range between $2.50 to $3.50 a bottle.
American copper-colored ales with big malt profiles but maybe a little more hop presence than the traditional Marzen lager style, like Pyramid’s Broken Rake and Red Hook’s Late Harvest Autumn Ale, offer a more pacific-northwest take on the concept.
My personal favorite fall beers are those that celebrate the hop harvest, like Deschutes Hop Trip ale or Hale’s Ale’s O’Brien’s Harvest Ale. Both of those beers feature an infusion of freshly picked hop flowers to impart organic and grassy hop flavors and aroma to the brew.
Expect to pay a little more since hop prices are still through the roof. For instance, a double deuce (.22 ounce) bottle of the Hop Trip will cost $4.19.
The popular pumpkin-infused beer from Blue Moon sold out before Thanksgiving last year, so grab a sixer now if you want one for a reasonable $6.79.
You will even start to see winter warmers show up, like Deschutes’ strong and dark Jubelale, a syrupy beer brewed with dark crystal malts built more of a brandy snifter than pint glass. The Jubelale is available right now ($7.19 a sixer). Expect more holiday beers to show up in the next few weeks.