Thursday, September 29, 2011

5 Simple Rules to Choose the Right Fall Beer

It’s that time of the year again. Rite Aid has had their Halloween decorations on sale since June (and will be putting out the Christmas decorations by next week,) Target is completely sold out of warm hats and winter jackets, and people have a serious taste for squash in their muffins, bread, donuts, and beer. While I can’t do much about the first two problems, I can certainly help with the last.
There’s a lot of interesting seasonal beer for autumn, but how do you know what to pick? Using these 5 simple rules of course!

Rule #5: Know your style preferences.

When you enter your favorite beer emporium, odds are they will have a huge mountain of seasonal six packs pretty close to the entrance. Since this fermenting heap is based around the season instead of the style, it’s more or less a grab bag of different beer types. Making this even more difficult is that they nearly all have a picture of a pumpkin, maple leaves, and an orange label.

What do you do with this veritable messy sock drawer of beverages? Read the descriptions of course, and pay attention to the byline. If it says Oktoberfest it’s probably a Vienna lager brewed for Oktoberfest. Pumpkin Ales are usually spicy and contain pumpkin (duh) but more on that later. If it has some other silly fall sounding name, discriminate by the brewery. If you like their other stuff, give it a shot otherwise: back to the heap!

Rule #4: To pumpkin or not to pumpkin?

People can be pretty picky about their pumpkin. There’re a few things to consider when purchasing pumpkin ale. Do you generally like sweet beer or beer with a cinnamon spice? If not, pumpkin is not for you. The pumpkin flavor ranks 3rd in this list in pretty much all of them I’ve ever tried.

Also, there’s nothing more disgusting than warm pumpkin ale.

Rule #3: Spot seasonal invaders.

Seasonal beer is a big moneymaker. As such, everybody wants to get in on it. Anything that says “Oktoberfest” or “Marzen” on it is almost guaranteed to sell, regardless of the fact that it might be the keystone light of the Czech Republic. You won’t be able to compare based on price necessarily, so pay attention to where it’s from. If it looks cheap, comes in a can, and has a soviet flag on it try something domestic.

Rule #2: Read the label.

Lots of breweries are jumping on the pumpkin carriage including the big boys from Milwaukee. Unfortunately this has the effect of contaminating the supply with lots of artificial pumpkin additives (probably from the same truck as your pumpkin flavor shot in a Dunkachino.) The jury is still out on the term “Malt Beverage Brewed with Spices” but that sounds a lot worse than “Ale Brewed with Pumpkin.” Since they don’t need to print ingredients on hard beverages , if you really want to be sure it’s legit read the label or ask the store manager.

Department of Alcohol, Tobacco AND Firearms? That’s the federal department of epic right there.

Rule #1: Check the date.

Some beer is meant to be aged and some isn’t. If something was a slow seller last year, it likely spent the last 9 months in a rat filled cellar. If it’s on the low end of ABV (assuming it didn’t spoil outright,) you can be pretty sure it’s not going to taste like it’s supposed to. Most beer has a date printed on it somewhere and it’s especially important to check on seasonal varieties.

That said, the best seasonal beer sells out really quickly. If you have any interest in getting your hands on the best pumpkin ale this year, now’s the time.

It may sound like common sense, because it is. Have you started celebrating the fall beer selection? Let me know in the comments below!

Post a Comment