Fall beers. Not something really mentioned much in August, but with the market and seasonal creep for beers being in full effect, I felt it would be a good time to provide a little guide for anyone looking for some suggestions or what to get for the Fall. I will be highlighting some Fall beer styles to look for, talk a little bit about each one, and finish with an Irish Red Ale review of a brewery from my home state, Maryland. Grab a drink of your choice, sit back, and follow me into the Fall Beer Guide #BeerswithBorrie edition.
Let’s begin with arguably the most popular Fall beer style or seasonal beer around and that is the Pumpkin Ale. Pumpkin beers have a mixed bag of fans, in my opinion. From my group of friends, I’d say 50% love them, and the other 50% hate them. I personally love them, and are my favorite seasonal release. What I do hate is the seasonal creep in the beer industry simply due to the demand consumers placed on distributors which in turn have forced breweries to release pumpkin beers as early as July, but I digress.
Pumpkin Ales can come in a few different ways. The majority will be in the Amber Ale style. A very light red to amber or orange in color but packing big pumpkin pie like flavors. Most well made Pumpkin Ales are made with genuine pumpkins, usually in the puree form. Smaller breweries that can’t afford to buy thousands of pounds of puree, will make puree from scratch. They will either roast small pie pumpkins in the oven or over an open fire grill. Once the pulp gets nice and dark and soft, they will scoop it all out and puree them for the beer. Very labor intensive but will deliver the biggest punch of true pumpkin flavor. The rest of the recipe includes the traditional pumpkin pie spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger but ginger isn’t always present in a lot of beers.
Another style or styles pumpkin beers can show up as are Porters or Stouts. Pretty similar in color and flavors but with just the change or addition of 1 or 2 roasted malts, will separate the two styles. Usually if it’s a Porter, it’s a smoother beer to drink. Mostly due to the omission of roasted barley or black patent malts. Those malts impart really big roasted and bitterring flavors that porters don’t have. Porter can be made with malts like chocolate which, along with other darker roasted malts, plays really well with the pumpkin pie spices. For the Stout, you would get the bigger flavors with the addition of those malts I mentioned before. Hence the name “stout”. A great brewer would know that and balance those flavors with additional ingredients. I’ve seen brown sugar used to add just a tad bit more sweetness to balance the big stout malts. As a final curveball to both of these styles, some will even take it a step further and age them in bourbon barrels for a few weeks just to add some of that nice vanilla and woody aromas and flavor from the barrel. Those are the real treat for the late fall and early winter nights.
The next style I’d recommend is a Brown Ale. The names will vary at your local store. Some are labeled “nut brown” or “English brown” or “American brown”. Most are the same thing. The exceptions are any with additional flavors like coffee, actual hazelnuts, even chocolate. I would hope that those, at the minimum, would put that on the label. Brown ales are exactly as the name sounds. Brown in color, can be as dark black coffee or as light as an Irish Red. The coffee dark ones are very very rare. Usually the additional malt used to make them so dark is to differentiate themselves from other Brown Ales but sometimes can get a little off style. That’s basically a weak “stout” in my opinion. I would recommend finding the “nut brown” style of brown ales. Those are usually more readily available and tend to be the best tasting to me. A very nice and lovely flavor of caramel, toffee, nuttiness, yet smooth enough to drink like an Amber Ale. Minimal bitterness is found in brown ales. Just enough to balance out the malts. That’s it. Lovely style. Very underrated.
Porter & Stouts
If you are looking to buy some beers that you want to save for the colder days of the fall or early winter, Porters and Stouts are the ones you want. Porters like mentioned earlier, will be the smoother of the two. Very dark in color to the lightest being near what a Brown Ale would look like. Porters don’t get the limelight like Stouts do but don’t discredit them. They can be incredible and more approachable than stouts. Nice dark, rich chocolate flavors, some coffee can be present, all balanced in a smooth way.
With Stouts, you get more additional flavors though, which has helped in their popularity. You will find milk stouts, chocolate stouts, oatmeal stouts, peanut butter stouts, and that’s just off the top of my head. Of the aforementioned styles, “milk” stouts are the only ones NOT actually made with what’s on the label. When you read “milk”, it means it was made with Lactose, the sugar found in milk. Lactose doesn’t ferment out during the beer making process so it sticks around as residual sugars which provides a silky smooth and sometimes sweet flavor to the rich, dark, heavy stouts. The rest of those styles above are made with what’s on their labels. Oatmeal or oats, chocolate or cocoa nibs, and peanut butter(usually in the dry form). You do have other varieties as well, one of which is the “nitro” stout or making any one of those above in the “nitro” way. It means the brewery was able to package the beers in bottles or cans with the aid of some nitrogen, think how Guinness is poured from the draft, to include the cascading effect when poured right. If these nitro stouts are from a can, there will be a “widget” inside the can exactly the same thing found in Guinness in a can, that contains the “liquid nitrogen”. As that can gets opened, the liquid nitrogen escapes and dissolves into the beer so as you pour the beer, it begins to incorporate the nitrogen to allow that cascading effect. It is all for the mouthfeel. Nitrogen has no flavor so what you perceive is not the flavor of the gas but just the mouthfeel. I wish I could tell you how it is done with bottled beers but it is an industry secret kept with Left Hand Brewing as they were the first to do it. I’m going to guess and say that during the carbonation process of their nitro beers, a small amount of Nitrogen is added in and goes into the bottles but they get capped almost immediately to prevent any loss to the atmosphere. If you haven’t checked out how to pour a Left Hand brewing Nitro Milk stout out of their bottles, check their Instagram account or their website. It looks scary but it’s actually pretty cool.
Irish Red Ale
The last style I’m going to mention for this article or guide is the Irish Red ale style. One of my all time favorite styles. Period. This one is as underrated as the Brown Ale, in my opinion. Very few American breweries make them nowadays. The import market tends to have a hold on the style and rightfully so, with Smithwicks being the most well known and popular of those imports. As amazing as Smithwicks is, I would highly recommend seeking anything local to you for your Irish Red Ale. I am a big advocate of #drinklocal and #supportyourlocalbrewery. With that being said, this brings us to my review of an Irish Red found locally to where my parents will soon move to, Hagerstown Maryland and only 30 mins west of where I wrote this week’s version of #BeerswithBorrie, Frederick Maryland. Antietam Brewing makes a variety of beers but what I have is their 1605 Red Ale.
1605 Red Ale Review
1605 Red is made in the Irish Red Ale style. From the brewery, “brewed with British malts and hops perfectly balanced and smooth, with subtle notes of caramel and a creamy, robust body”. Definitely caramel on the flavor. Smidge sweeter than I would prefer though. It does have a really well made medium body to it. Very, very smooth Irish Red. This would be the perfect Irish Red if it were a smidge less sweet and a smidge more bitter. Using like 1 more ounce of roasted barley and 1 less ounce of caramel malt would do it. I would drink this every fall if I lived around this brewery. Really great beer overall.
I’ve added some pictures from the years of having so many various Brown Ales, Pumpkin Ales, Porters, Stouts, and Irish Red to go along with these words to showcase the various interpretations of the beer styles. Use them as a guide to seek out your own this Fall or over the next couple of weeks before the Summer is over. I wish you all the best in finding some delicious beers for the Fall. Cheers!
The next #BeerswithBorrie episode on my Twitch channel is tentatively scheduled for the September 4th at 730pm PST. Head over to https://www.twitch.tv/borrietheblade and make sure to follow me there to get the notification of my next episode. I will also send out a tweet about it over at https://twitter.com/Borrietheblade so make sure to follow me there.
Thanks again for joining me on this beer journey everyone.
Cheers! Prost! Salud!