What is Seasonal Beer?
The majority of modern beer lovers aren’t interested in basic, mass-produced brews. Craft beer drinkers—who make up a large portion of devoted beer connoisseurs—like to explore new, unique beers that are more distinctive and intriguing than the staple beers that line the shelves of the local grocery stores.
Seasonal beers give craft beer lovers the opportunity to try new beers year-round. These beers are curated specifically for their season based on the weather—summer beer styles tend to be lighter and more refreshing for warm weather while winter beer styles are heavier to match the gloomy weather outside—and flavors that are commonly associated with the season—like eggnog for winter and fruit for summer. Seasonal beers are primarily produced by craft breweries and microbreweries. They are unique, special, and exciting because they are only available for a few months out of the year. Many dedicated beer lovers eagerly await the chance to try the new line-up of seasonal beers that constantly revolves as the seasons change.
What Defines Autumn Beer Styles?
There are specific beers that pair best with every season, but autumn beer styles are some of the most popular seasonal beers. Autumn kicks off the holiday season with Halloween and Thanksgiving, and many beer lovers are eager to celebrate with special beers that are designed specifically to match the festive mood of the season. There are many different autumn beer styles, offering craft beer lovers an expansive range of options for the brews they explore in September through November. However, autumn beers do share some traits that define them as seasonal favorites for fall.
Common characteristics of classic autumn beer styles are a full body—heavier than the light beers that are popular during the summer but not as dark as winter beer styles— and a spicy finish. Specific flavors—like pumpkin and maple—that are traditionally associated with fall are also popular in many autumn beer styles.
The Best Autumn Beer Styles
These four beers are some of the most popular autumn beer styles that devoted craft beer lovers look forward to all year long.
Although Oktoberfest is the name of a beer style, it’s also the title of a beer-focused festival. This festival originated in Germany but is now celebrated internationally in mid- to late September and sometimes into early October. Thousands of beer drinkers around the world unite to celebrate Oktoberfest every year. As you might expect, Oktoberfest beer is the beer style that is served at Oktoberfest celebrations.
Oktoberfest is arguably the most popular autumn beer style of them all. Thousands of craft beer lovers wait all year for Oktoberfest to become available as autumn approaches. Oktoberfest beers tend to be well-aged lagers that are heavy and dark. However, these beers can be difficult to classify because German-style and American- style Oktoberfest beers are quite distinctive. German-style Oktoberfest beers are golden and are low in hop aroma, sweet malt aroma, and noticeable fruity flavors. American- style Oktoberfest beers are reddish brown and feature distinguishable sweet maltiness, but they are low in hop aroma and fruity flavors like their German-style counterparts.
Pumpkin beers are very popular in autumn, but they are hit or miss among devoted beer drinkers. Many people love their sweet, festive flavor, but others maintain that pumpkin is already overdone on the food and drink market in autumn—pumpkin spice Oreos, anyone?—and doesn’t need to infiltrate the beer industry, too.
Either way, pumpkin is a unique flavor that is strongly associated with autumn and is not available in many beers during any other season. If you want to try pumpkin beer, you’ve got to take the opportunity in autumn. Pumpkin beer is sweet, and it often has a spicy finish with recognizable notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
Harvest ales are lighter than most autumn beer styles and are the perfect brews to drink during the transition from summer to fall. Nutty and fruity flavors are common in harvest ales.
Pecan and berries are especially prevalent among these beers. Harvest ales pair well with red meats, chocolate, and many cheeses.
Maple is another flavor that is very common in autumn beer styles. Although it is less popular than pumpkin, maple is a flavor that many craft beer drinkers look forward to enjoying as autumn approaches.
Maple beers are sweet with warm notes of caramel and—of course—maple syrup. These beers are usually brown ales that are fairly light.