As basketball fans, we have more than just the return of the season to look forward to in the fall. The cornucopia that is the harvest also brings with it the biggest beers of the year: warming libations with heavy emphasis on big flavours such as spices, hops and fruit that pair extremely well with gamey meats and Thanksgiving feasts.
Spaten Oktoberfestbier Ur-Märzen
Ironically enough, Oktoberfest—Germany’s annual 16-day, beer-soaked fair—begins in September. One the only beers allowed to be served during the festival is this Märzen-style beer from Spaten: brewed in March and tapped specifically when the fall fair begins, its amber malt eschews hops as the front-running flavour, with plenty of sweetness floating in that coppery brew and only a small bite of citrus. Not too much carbonation and a dry finish thanks to a 5.9 per cent ABV makes this a sessionable beer to be enjoyed, quite literally, by the litre.
Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch
Nothing traditional about this pumpkin beer. Separating itself from the pack of artificially-flavoured pumpkin brews that crop up every fall, Rogue (of Dead Guy Ale fame) is trying something different: the new Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch Ale. Following a grow-your-own ethic, these guys pitch their home-grown, farm-fresh roasted pumpkins into the brewing kettle. With no chemicals or additives added, Rebel Hops battle (or rather, balance) the pumpkin flavours for supremacy, creating a zesty foundation for notes of ginger, clove and vanilla that is uncommon for beers trying their best to taste like your momma’s pie.
Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, Apple Brandy Barrel Aged
While pumpkin may dominate cooler weather brews, apple shows it’s a contender in this world-class imperial stout. The full flavour of apple brandy is evident in this barrel-aged brew, as are peppery notes of chocolate and coconut, making for a balanced fruitiness that yields to a dry finish. At 11 per cent ABV, the smokey stout packs a wallop, too, perfect for warming up on a cold night. However, due to rave reviews, this bottle has become so rare the brewers started a voucher system. If you’re lucky enough to come upon one, grab two.
Bell’s Brewery Best Brown Ale
Speaking of feeling toasty, this nutty ale is one of the lightest heavy drinks we’ve tasted, and pairs especially well with some gamey meat. Far from stone-heavy like some ales get this time of year, light hops and a generous 5.8 per cent ABV round out subtle notes of chocolate, hazelnut and even a bit of marshmallow. Because it’s not overbearing and not overly complex, it’s quite sessionable if you’re having a few brews with the guys but want to keep things appropriate for this time of year.
Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
It’s a beer that often gets added to these lists, but there’s a good reason for it. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout pours like chocolate syrup, but all the ingredients of a great stout are present, especially if poured at cellar temperature—just a few degrees warmer than your fridge. Chocolate, coffee and roasted malts create a sticky sweetness that leads into a metallic finish. If you already complain about how thick Guinness is, however, we suggest you stick to a single bottle, preferably for dessert after a heavy meal.
Ommegang Wild at Heart Ale