by Brian Cullen
Quick, what’s the best season? No. Shut up. Wrong. It’s not summer. You were conditioned to think summer was awesome after 12 years of school. But summer is a hot and sweaty and everyone wants you to take your shirt off and go swimming, which only serves to give you (me) flashbacks of my own personal Vietnam. But, “My Top 5 Personal Vietnams” is another article altogether, so…
The best season is fall. Football has just started, we’re on the doorstep of playoff baseball, the weather is nice and cool, and we’re right around the corner from Halloween, or “Skanks Wearing Uniforms” night, as the funslayers call it.
Most of all, fall is my favorite season because the beers are incredible. So read on, thirsty scholar, and learn about what you can do to brace your system for the cold, hopeless winter that’s looming on the horizon like the depression monster from “Never Ending Story.”
Southern Tier Pumking
Y’ever try to get drunk off of dessert but mom keeps hoarding the vanilla extract for herself? Total horse hockey. Luckily, you can get your hands on Southern Tier’s Pumking, an 8.6% ABV pumpkin ale that tastes like pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, dreams, pumpkins, grandma’s house, and an age before you knew what taxes were, and pumpkins. By the way, I didn’t tell you guys this but I decided to take a shot of pumpkin schnapps every time I wrote the word “pumpkin.” My feelings are melting and I wanna jam out to some “Desperado.”
There are many things I truly, genuinely love about the authentic German Oktoberfests. Not only do they favor subtlety (some American breweries have the tendency to wayyy overspice this style) but you can legitimately get away with double-fisting liters of Oktoberfests and, for once, nobody’s like “you’re making a scene, sir.” But it’s Oktoberfest, officer! I’m just trying to party!
Now, of all the legitimately great German Oktoberfests, Paulaner’s might be the most “textbook.” It’s subtle, crisp, clean, creamy, a little zesty and offers a nice balance of toasted flavors. So drink up, and remember the traditional German Oktoberfest cheer – “We’re none of us sober / til after October! Prost! Prost! Prost! ” (I made that up. I’ll take my payment in euros or deutschmarks, whatever’s easier).
Sierra Nevada Tumbler
I love me some Sierra Nevada. Since its founding in 1974, it has been one of the most consistently reliable, drinkable breweries on the market. This basically makes them the beer equivalent of Law and Order, but only the regular one and Special Victims Unit. Criminal Intent is like the Fredo Corleone of the Law and Order world. So, if you’re keeping score at home, these beers are like a TV show, except for that one TV show, which is like a character in a movie franchise that was based on a book.
Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale is similar to a standard nut brown ale, but with a little autumn kick. It tastes like toasted pecans, tea leaves, and some non-sweet chocolate among other flavors. Very easy to knock back a bunch of these in a brisk day. “Mmmm,” your dad would probably say, “That really hits the spot.”
Great Lakes Oktoberfest
People in Cleveland are awesome at drinking beer. It’s Cleveland, for God’s sake. You’re not going to be like, “Oh, let’s take in a show and then maybe talk about those books that we read.” You’re going to drink and wonder what on earth you did and what mistakes you made to find you hanging out in Cleveland, Ohio. BUT! Some stalwart souls make the best of things. Like the folks at Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewery, for example. They like drinkin’ beer. They’re even better at brewing it. And while they put out a ton of awesome, awesome beers, their Oktoberfest is especially good.
This brew has it all – it’s sweet, spicy, malty, balanced, bitter, has hints of orange and caramel. It’s all over the place – in the best of ways. It’s a complex beer with character, and, admittedly, a damn good reason to visit the Midwest see if they’ll ship beers to your home state.
Here’s where I’d normally write something like – “until winter, drink up!” or some other mildly pleasant sendoff. But instead (take THAT fourth wall!), I have to bemoan the loss of a brewery that recently closed, and therefore I cannot write about/recommend, since selling you on a beer that you can’t get would be too cruel.
There was a beer called “Bavarian Barbarian Grumpy Pumpkin.” You guys. They put together my four favorite words to say and made it a thing. And if you’re not imagining Üter from The Simpsons dancing around saying this right now, then you’ve never experienced…this oddly specific visual reference.
So, lesson learned? Drink early and often. Not only are these awesome fall beers not long for this year, but sometimes, they go away for good. Cheers!
Brian Cullen really, really enjoys robots but doesn’t understand how they work. He also enjoys drinking beers, and has a pretty solid understanding of how that works. You can read about his musings about both on Twitter @BucketCullen.
Might as well get a headstart on next year with Brian’s Favorite Spring Beers and Favorite Summer Beers. Or if you’d like to know the downside of the brew business, read his Things Your Chain Restaurant Bartender Wants You to Know.