Now that October is here I can finally wrap my mind around fall even though @themidsis has been freaking out about it since August. The good thing about fall, besides football and better movies and TV shows, is that there are a shit-ton of new beers that hit the shelves. Now more than ever U.S. breweries are riding the wave of fall beers. There are a lot of Oktoberfests out there, which are also known as Marzen style (an age-old Bavarian term). And let’s not forget the invasion of pumpkin beers and autumn ales. I’ve been doing some heavy research knocking them back at home on your behalf and will help you navigate these amber-colored waters as this stuff can be confusing. I also hit up a Fall Beer Tasting at Binny’s in Lincoln Park, which was actually pretty awesome. For Binny’s members it was $10 for 2 hours of beer tasting and some meats/cheeses/pretzels to stuff your face with. Not bad at all. I suggest checking out their events as that store in particular has a lot going on, and their new tasting room is pretty legit. Anyway, onto some beers….
Autumn Ale – Breckenridge Brewery – 6.0% ABV
A very dark ale that has a nice toasted aroma to it. It’s malty, nutty and pretty smooth without being too heavy or sweet. It won’t blow you away, but it’s still good and easy to drink.
Goose Island Oktoberfest – Goose Island Beer Co. – 6.4% ABV
Chicago’s own Goose Island offers this bright and clean Oktoberfest that has a good drinkability. I heard toffee and dried fruits a lot while the Binny’s folks were explaining it, and I guess it makes sense. But it has good flavor with nothing overpowering about it which is why I liked it. It also seems to fly off the shelves there and they only had a little left. Jump on it while you can. They also make an Autumn Ale that’s pretty good also. No I don’t work for Goose Island.
Brooklyn Oktoberfest – Brooklyn Brewery – 5.5% ABV
This was probably the most underwhelming of the bunch. Didn’t taste too different than any ordinary lager. There wasn’t much going on in terms of flavor or depth. Maybe that was the point, but if you want an Oktoberfest not sure why you would go this route.
Oktoberfest – Great Lakes Brewing Co. – 6.5% ABV
I had this one at home and wasn’t really a fan. I had it again at the tasting and again – not a fan. I’m not sure if it’s my palate but it seemed to have a mineral quality to it and a bite to the aftertaste that I just didn’t like. But then again others seem to enjoy it. I suggest you find out for yourself, and let me know if I missed something.
Pumpkick – New Belgium Brewing – 6.0% ABV
I’m leaving out a lot of the pumpkin beers on purpose as this craze is kind of polarizing – people either love pumpkin in their beer or they would rather smash a pumpkin over their head. Themidsis loved this one. I had a sip and to me it tasted like I was literally drinking a pumpkin pie. If that sounds pleasant then go get you some.
Oktoberfest – Sierra Nevada – 6.0% ABV
Another good take on the Oktoberfest, this one is rich and malty as expected, but still finishes with a nice crisp. Some describe it as “bready”, but I didn’t find it that heavy. It’s spicy and refreshing and I think if you’re looking for a richer beer that is still pretty accessible, this one would do just fine.
BigLeaf Maple Autumn Red – Anchor Brewing – 6.0% ABV
Anchor does a good job balancing this medium-bodied red ale that is inspired by the big Californian maples. There’s really only a hint of maple to it which seems like a good thing. It has a malty caramel flavor with a touch of citrus and some pine notes. I liked it more than I thought I would.
Revolution Oktoberfest – Revolution Brewing – 5.7% ABV
This one seems like a logical addition to the growing arsenal of canned beers offered by Revolution, another Chicago-based brewery. It’s pretty easy drinking and smooth and doesn’t have the bite you expect from some other German-style Oktoberfests. If anything, it’s a little sweet but still solid.
Vida y Muerte – 5 Rabbit Cerveceria – 6.3% ABV
This one kind of surprised me. You hear dulce de leche and you think this is going to be an overly sweet dessert in a bottle. But it’s actually really well-balanced and not as heavy or sweet as I thought. It’s their loose take on a traditional Marzen (they call it Muerzen) that’s strangely refreshing with the right amount of spiciness. Good stuff. The brewery is also in the Chicagoland area and focuses on Latin-inspired culture and flavors. Now I will definitely make a trip out there to see what else they have to offer.
That’s it for now. I will continue to do such necessary research for the greater good. And please send me some feedback. I suggest building 6 packs first for $9.99 at your local Jewel, Mariano’s or Binny’s, this way you can sample some of these for yourself. And this Sunday, whether you’re watching football by day or Carrie Matheson’s latest bi-polar explosion on the Homeland premiere by night, remember to have a good fall beer to spice things up or drown your pizzas in. Brother-in-laws Ben and Ryan, that means you don’t necessarily have to drink 30 Miller Lites – try some of these and you’ll be just fine.
Dig it? Share it. Cheers.