As the weather turns cooler, the call for roasty and/or maltier beer heats up.
Instead of your basic pumpkin brew — good in its own right — why not try an Oktoberfest, Festbier or even a hoppy harvest ale?
Some styles will still have the darker color that a pumpkin beer tends to lean toward, the spice (though typically from the brewing process as opposed to added pie or baking spices) and the harkening of harvest (because that is what we want in a autumnal ale, right?).
Others will evoke spice, grass and earth. Ranging from red-amber to caramel, these brews are the harbingers of fall in Europe. Think of them as a quintessential accompaniment to your smoked meat Sunday (and football!) or Taco Tuesday. No sports or food on your plate? A cool wind will do the trick (or treat).
Staring down the barrel of new releases at your local package store can be a daunting task if you are wary of trying a new beer style or moving away from that familiar pumpkin spice. Fear not, your Virginia breweries have you covered with great unadulterated examples of multiple styles available locally.
Here are some to try:
Hardywood Benny & the Fest — Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s version of the traditional Märzen lager, a beer that was originally brewed in March to be ready to serve in the fall months. This beer has all the malt but finishes sweet and smooth. Try this if you like sweeter Oktoberfest beers, such as Ayinger Fest-Märzen.
Center of the Universe Oktoberfest — COTU’s interpretation of a German festbier, a beer that is intended to be less filling but keep all the toasty flavors that are present in an Oktoberfest — supposedly allowing imbibers to enjoy a few more. COTU uses German malts to bring out a roasted quality and German hops to create a solid balance. Try this if you like Paulaner Oktoberfest.
Devils Backbone O’fest — A traditional Oktoberfest beer (technically, authentic Oktoberfestbier is brewed only by the breweries within the city limits of Munich) with caramel and breadlike malts with a slight nuttiness. A good dose of spicy, earthy hops leads to a crisp finish. Try this if you like Spaten Oktoberfest.
Brothers Lil’ Hellion — This Munich helles lager-style beer from Brothers Craft Brewing is a bright and clean German pale lager. Expect a softer flavor with notes of honey and biscuit. The German word hell can be translated as “bright,” “light” or “pale.” Try this if you are into Weihenstephaner Original.
Starr Hill Last Leaf Maple Brown Ale — An English brown ale, rich in malt flavor with added oats and Virginia maple syrup for aroma. This beer is all syrup and pancakes (bread and sugar). Try this beer if you like a sweet breakfast.
Ardent Sweet Potato and Sage Saison — A Belgian farmhouse-style ale made with local sage and a whole bunch of sweet potatoes. This beer is spicy, earthy and comforting. Try this if you are looking for a savory take on your usual pumpkin brew.