by Kiara Helgesen, Denton Texas Craft Beer Enthusiast
Fall is my favorite season and when it comes time for breweries to release their fall beer, it feels like Christmas to me. Every year, I look forward to fall beers because: A.) It’s the perfect time to switch over from refreshing summer brews to something with a little more body, and B.) PUMPKIN.
Often released as a fall seasonal, pumpkin beers can be quite varied. Some brewers opt to add hand-cut pumpkins and drop them into the mash, while others use puree or pumpkin flavoring. These beers also tend to be spiced with pumpkin pie spices: ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Pumpkin Ales are typically mild with little to no bitterness, a malty backbone, and some spice often taking the lead. Many will contain a starchy, slightly thick mouthfeel too. It’s still a little early in the season for some fall beers to make their debut (I’m counting down the days until October 15, Saint Arnold), but there are some pretty stellar Oktoberfests and lagers already available. And the best part? You don’t even need to look past our bountiful home state to find some great bottles (or cans)!
So here are my Top 5 Fall Beers:
5. This is what I would consider a reliable and highly drinkable beer, which is exactly what you want when downing pint after pint with your lederhosen-clad brethren. Though it’s made in Blanco, Texas, the Oktoberfest is brewed with German malt, hops, and yeast to keep it as authentic as possible. It’s a lovely shade of orangey amber that’s slightly sweet, slightly malty, and with just a hint of caramel. The actual Oktoberfest in Munich would be proud.
4. Rahr & Sons Oktoberfest: This is a malty, amber lager. This Oktoberfest is brewed out of Fort Worth. All in all, a great session beer that I am happy to drink on any given day. It’s toasty and smooth with just a hint of sweetness that makes it the perfect partner to schnitzel and pretzels. If you’re going to drink a traditional Oktoberfest beer, make it this one.
3. Karbach Krunkin Pumpkin: It’s a dark, almost ruby beer that smells like spicy pumpkin pie and tastes like bitter gingerbread combined with some legit pumpkin flavor. It would be great for sipping in front of an open fire (at least I imagine it is as I’ve only enjoyed it straight from the keg). It definitely feels like fall in a glass. After sipping, you’re left with a delicate cinnamon and nutmeg flavor lingering in your mouth and visions of jack-o-lanterns and Thanksgiving dinner dancing in your head.
2. Southern Tier Pumking: I always seek out Southern Tier’s Pumking. Why? Simple. I typically describe it as tasting like pumpkin pie with the whipped cream topping. Pumking is the one that really gives the full pumpkin experience. From the first whiff to the very last sip, this beer tastes like freshly baked pumpkin pie. Pumking gives off some pleasant and warming scents of nutmeg, cinnamon, and a freshly opened package of graham crackers. Take a sip and you get…pumpkin pie. And you can taste each layer: the creamy pumpkin filling, the graham cracker crust, and the dollop of whipped cream on top. There are some hops in the finish too that stop this from being too sweet and cloying. This beer has everything you would expect in a pumpkin ale: the cinnamon, nutmeg, graham cracker, brown sugar, allspice and – of course – pumpkin. It seems to take everything up a notch: bolder, stronger, and in this case “bigger is better”.
1. Saint Arnold Pumpkinator: Holy imperial pumpkin stout, Batman! Saint Arnold’s website states the beer is brewed “with the amount of pumpkin used to make Pumpkinator, we could have baked 437 pumpkin pies,” and I believe it. This dark beer is wonderfully spicy and pumpkiny, like pumpkin pie in a bottle drizzled with a malty, molasses-flavored beer. Saint Arnold releases only a single batch every year, sometime around October 15, which means this isn’t available just yet. But if you’ve never had it, I suggest you write that down on your calendar and camp outside of your neighborhood beer emporium starting on October 10 just to be safe. Trust me, it’s worth it.