Summer is commonly considered the peak season for beer sales. Warmer weather leads to outdoor activities that call for a light-bodied, refreshing lager. Grilling, lawnmowing, golf or even just lounging by the pool all call for something crisp and approachable.
As summer slowly wanes, fall brings new activities, changing weather and holiday celebrations - all of which provide the opportunity to expand on the more neutral flavor of summer beers. In the world of craft beer, where brews are typically produced from all malt recipes or with natural added ingredients, fall is when breweries produce the bulk of their special seasonal offerings. The craft brewer's focus on varied and daring flavor combinations result in beers that stand up to cooler weather and rich holiday foods. Craft brewers produce styles as unique as spiced pumpkin beer alongside traditional German styles like the lightly sweet, full bodied and malty Oktoberfest/Maerzen.
Oktoberfest beers, also called Maerzen, have a long tradition in the Bavarian region of Germany. Maerzen was originally brewed in March, the last month of the brewing season in Southern Germany. The beers brewed in March were made stronger and hoppier to survive their summer storage in caves. Come fall they would be rescued from their summer hibernation for the annual Oktoberfest event in September/October. The Maerzen style is very popular throughout the world, especially in America.
Pumpkin beers have exploded in popularity in recent years. Some breweries even chart them among their best sellers, despite only being brewed for part of the year. There are many approaches to the style. Some are lighter-bodied amber ales; others utilize a darker base beer like brown ale. Not all beers billed as pumpkin beers even have pumpkin in them.
Pumpkin beer is largely an American phenomenon. George Washington brewed a pumpkin ale, as did many early American colonists. Though pumpkin was first used more out of necessity (barley was scarce), knowledge of brewing with pumpkins was passed down to home brewers and craft brewers who began experimenting with pumpkin beers in the '80s.
- Joey Redner is a beer enthusiast and the owner of Cigar City Brewing in Tampa.
Fall beer list
Some examples of quality seasonal beers:
Flying Dog Dogtoberfest
Samuel Adam's Octoberfest
Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen
Avery The Kaiser Imperial Octoberfest
Jack's Pumpkin Spice
Dogfish Head Punkin' Ale
Post Road Pumpkin Ale
Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale
Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale
Saranac Pumpkin Ale
Bison Organic Pumpkin Ale