Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fall Beers

I've come to realize that my favorite time of the year in the beer brewing season is definitely around the start of Autumn, but not just because of the beer. Growing up close to and currently living in New England, it's hard not to love the fall season: the leaves changing colors, the air becoming cool and crisp and the Halloween season lending way toward Thanksgiving. With the football season well underway too, what better time for flavorful, Autumn-infused beer?

Early on this season, Hilary and I got our hands on a case of what I've found to be the Crème de la crème of Pumpkin ales: Southern Tier's Imperial Pumpkin Ale: Pumking. I owe my father a lot for discovering this last year at what most would consider the Mecca of the Lehigh Valley for beer menus: The Farmhouse. After trying a large handful of pumpkin ales over the past couple of years, I've found that this one is just spot on with its combination of spices and flavors - it's like liquid pumpkin pie...with the whipped cream. At 9% abv and 22 oz bottles though, you should probably only savor one at a time (if you have the will power). We put our case in a corner once we bought it, and I don't plan on taking any out for atleast another week. We're also going to try to save a couple of them for next year's season and see how they age. Even though I think this one trumps the rest, there are plenty that I have not tried so of course I'm always looking to try a new one. We have a few in store, including a "Halloween Ale" from Gritty's.

I've also found that although some of the other pumpkin ales are only average on their own, they can pair very well with the right meal. For instance, Hilary made us a butternut squash pasta which was excellent with a Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. And if you're not really a beer fan but you are a fan of pumpkin flavors, I recommend using some Bols Pumpkin Smash liqueur with some dark rum and milk/cream for a Pumpkin Martini: great for Halloween parties.

Even though it's called "Oktoberfest" in Munich, Germany, most of the festival is actually at the end of September. We even got a postcard from a friend who attended. It does still have a few days left though...and even when it's over, that should not stop us from enjoying Oktoberfest beers. I've only had a couple US versions this year so far: Blue Point's and Weyerbacher's (Autumnfest) - both pretty good. I'm definitely going to try a few more though, especially after reading NY Times' article about them. According to the article, after sampling 24 Oktoberfest beers (17 US, 7 German), they found the #1 brew to be from Thomas Hooker Brewery, in my home state of CT. In fact, 7 of the top 10 were from the US.

And of course I can't forget the other beer that will be available soon: my own. My first attempt at beer brewing, a clone of Orange Brewery's SW1 Pale Ale, is currently bottled and will be ready for consumption in less than 2 weeks. I'm hoping for drinkable...anything more will be great, but either way, I'm definitely going to continue this hobby. I'll probably try out a pumpkin ale next year!

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