More Autumn Adventures

When it comes to the market selection of beer, the casual consumer, as Norman Miller has pointed out, can very easily be overwhelmed by the new varieties that appear on a weekly basis. But of course that is also the best part of being the beer doctor, and after 20 years of professional study, I am simply amazed by how the subject of beer has evolved, in all its myriad forms.
One thing is now obvious to me. Pumpkin beer, like Oktoberfest and Harvest Ale, has become a permanent part of the fall season portfolio, despite those beer tasters who loath it. A quick perusal of the selection available in grocery stores reveals, even to non-beer seekers, that there is an obvious market for this style of beer.

New Belgium Pumpkick Alepumpkick  is a good example of the Fort Collins brewery’s inventive originality. A bronze-gold coloured pour, with an unfamiliar nose to an unfamiliar palate, where the usual spices associated with pumpkin ale, are given a tart twist through the use of cranberry juice. A Halloween beer to be sure.

Oktoberfest season of course is in full swing and it was a pleasure to sample this year’s Abita OktoberfestlOctoberfestBottle The Louisiana brewery’s take on Marzen is an excellent example of the many variations possible. Here Munich and Crystal malts are given hop (and dry hop) support from Hallertau hops, providing a nut-like profile that has a touch of anise in the semi-dry finish.

From an early contributor of the North Carolina artisan brewing renaissance, there is Highland Brewing Clawhammer Oktoberfest Lagerclawhammer A thoroughly delicious take on the style. Roasted malts given full hop support make this an easy drinking beer. At 5%abv, this Clawhammer (named after the mountain found in western North Carolina) is enjoyable from start to finish.

After reviewing Schlafly Pumpkin Ale recently, I have now had a chance to sample Schlafly TIPAlTIPABottle a special release in time for fall. This is a golden rocky headed pour, with a very subtle nose.
The use of Galaxy and Topaz hops from Australia give this IPA a unique profile. A very mellow approach that does not reveal its 7.2% strength. In other words: there is nothing boozy about this, The two hops combined with a single pale malt, using an American ale yeast make this a rather nectar-like presentation.


Blessed Fest and other Autumn Adventures

Despite outbreaks of extreme hop insanity, the Marzen style also known as Fest beer, abides. For those who think the lupulin of hops is their main reason to consume beer, their aversion to the malty approach of Fest beer reveals a one dimensional outlook that remarkably almost denies the history of brewing. Face the fact that without malt, there is no beer.

Oktoberfest has many manifestations. This year, the Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, which I have already written about, with its use of traditional Steffi barley, caused me to celebrate Fest beers, with a newly found appreciation. Putting aside the judgmental frame-of-mind, I find these Oktoberfest beers to be wonderful variations on a timeless beautiful theme.

Take for example Left Hand Oktoberfestleft-hand-oktoberfest-e1346369480368-200x200 A dark copper-amber colored pour with plenty of malty depth. It is also superbly balanced with a biscuit profile complimented by precise hop support. An outstanding pleasurable drink.

For those who think only microbreweries are capable of making good marzen, it would be wise to check out Yuengling Oktoberfest1_118442126_3  A quite good example of Fest bier from America’s oldest brewery. A clean malty profile has nothing out of place. This year’s production is one of my favorites.

Here in Cincinnati, home of the largest Oktoberfest in the United States, we have several very good examples. Hudepohl Oktoberfest BierHUDEPOHL_OKT_6pk_renderIf you Google up Hudepohl Oktoberfest, you mostly see reviews of when the beer was contract brewed by the The Lion Brewery in Pennsylvania. But now it is brewed right here in Cincinnati and it is even better. This dark amber marzen style, is straight forward and unpretentious.
This also of course is where Samuel Adams Octoberfestoctoberfest is produced (please note the earlier label), the world’s best-selling Fest beer, and quite understandably. As I noted in 2009: “this big bright malty recipe is so in tune with the end of summer that I can not think of autumn without it. This is one of my favorite beers, period.”
Locally there is the great Christian Moerlein Fifth & Vine Oktoberfest38285 Hudepohl’s big brother, emphasizing the location of the world’s largest chicken dance.
Then there is the can of Franz, from Rhinegeist Brewery, another fine example of why this blessed recipe style is in the soul of Cincinnati. The exclusive use of of Munich and Vienna malts give this recipe character, with an inviting aromatic nose.

Moving north in the state of Ohio, there is the mighty Great Lakes Oktoberfestgreat-lakes-updates-oktoberfest-packaging-L-l0OeuZ A time-honored take on marzen-style lager that quite simply, speaks for itself. In Akron,the same can be said of Brew Kettle Oktofestbrewkettleok where the malts, by the very nature of this recipe style, do all the talking.

This year, I thought I was not going to sample pumpkin beers. This was due to the fact that I was disappointed when my beloved Saranac Pumpkin Ale seemed compromised last year. How do I know this? Well the abv of this beer was 5.1%, while in previous years it was 5.4%. I asked about this on line, but I never got an answer from F.X. Matt Brewery. Perhaps the change in alcohol strength meant a slight reduction in the use of Maris Otter malt? Anyway, I was surprisingly disappointed, and what made it worse, my friend Sam at Winner’s Market had gone to the trouble of getting it in stock for me.
Thankfully, I overcame my pumpkin beer aversion, in order to experience Samuel Adams Pumpkin Batch. A lovely golden pour. A saison style take on pumpkin ale that uses its Belgian yeast strain quite effectively. A marvelously complex palate presentation that reveals that artisan thought went into this recipe’s creation, and not just slamming spices into an ordinary ale. With its long dry finish, it reveals itself to be a pleasurable, sophisticated drink.
Then there is Schlafly Pumpkin Aleschlafly  from The Saint Louis Brewery. This ale has literally, a pumpkin pie nose! This big time pumpkin ale is a bit of a departure from Southern Tier’s Pumking, with its candy corn profile. Here, this autumn wassail goes deep with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, making this a bit of a shocker, but nonetheless a very interesting recipe. Unless you do not like the taste of pumpkin pie. In that case, don’t even think about it.