Ahh, the beers of Autumn. The weather breaks its summer swelter, it’s time to move to something a bit darker to accompany the hearty and rustic meals on menu. With butternut squash and wild mushrooms, pumpkin pie and apple tarts, the aromas of sage and ginger, cinnamon and cloves, food friendly beers are becoming increasingly popular with traditional holiday meals.
It seems that every brewery these days are making some sort of pumpkin or fall spiced brew. Rightly so, as autumn beers are the most popular of all the seasonals. From Late Harvest to Autumn Maple, Apple and Pear Cider, Oktoberfest Marzens and Pumpkin Spice, there is a beer for ever fall meal. But where to start, and how to pair?
If you are sticking with traditional turkey, stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, you will find that the variety of flavors that can be found in this meal are at all ends of the spectrum. From savory to citrus, sweet and spicy, many find it a difficult task to pair an appropriate wine for the occasion. Luckily, beer is here to save the day. An Oktoberfest Marzen pairs wonderfully with the diverse flavors that come along with this meal. Try Paulaner Oktoberfest, light in body, full in malty flavors, it won’t overpower anything, but is still big enough to hold its own – $10.80 for a 6 pack. If you are looking for a beer that will pack some bigger flavors, try Dogfish Head Pangaea. It has a warming ginger tone, but a light crisp finish that will cleanse your palate – $10.50 for a 750 ml bottle. For those of you that prefer a lighter, Champagne-y style beer, go for a cider. Ace Joker Cider $4.50 for a 22 oz bottle, pairs fabulously with a pork roast slow cooked with Granny Smith apples and rosemary. Serve it in a Champagne flute and impress your guests.
If you have ham with orange glaze on the menu, try a Weizen such as Franziskaner Hefeweizen, spicy and light with notes of citrus, coriander and clove – $10.80 for a 6 pack. If you prefer a bolder ham with perhaps a mustard glaze, try a darker styled weizenbock or dunkel weiss such as Julius Echter Dunkelweiss, – $3.50 for a 22 oz bottle. The smooth malts will cut the acidity in the mustard, and with the low hop content it won’t leave you with a bitter aftertaste in your mouth.
For the prime rib, roast tenderloin and brisket lover, try a Scotch ale, a Porter or a heavy German Dopplebock. Spaten Optimator is one of those big, scary dark beers (my favorite!), and be careful of the alcohol content at 7.2%. Certainly not a slugging beer. Perfect for beef with a good amount of peppery flavors or whole peppercorns – $10.80 for a 6 pack. If you choose a rich, dense gravy, Rogue Mocha Porter will do the trick – $13.50 for a 6 pack.
And on to dessert – pumpkin pie, pecan pie and gingerbread cookies go famously with a pumpkin spiced beer. Try Dogfish Head Punkin – $9.90 for a 4 pack. If you simply want beer for dessert, try Southern Tier Creme Brulee (tastes just like burnt cream) $9.25 for a 22 oz and Southern Tier Pumking (tastes like biting into pumpkin pie crust) $7.50 for a 22 oz - a side of vanilla bean ice cream will suffice.
Most of these beers are seasonal and they do sell out. The next time you can get your hands on these fall specialties won’t be until next year, so grab them while you can and enjoy the holidays!