It’s fall, y’all (almost), and gone are the days when this time of year was a real bummer because it meant once again saying farewell to leisurely days and vacation fun to return to early wake-up calls, studying, and homework. Sure, we love summer--we’re not shy about our enthusiasm for beach days, road trips, poolside lounging, barbecues, and long friend hangs made even better by late sunsets, all enhanced by tasty and refreshing summer-perfect beverages--but fall is absolutely electrified with the charge of exciting events, occasions, and things to do. From Halloween thrills to sweater-weather coziness to apple-picking memories to football-cheering-on fun, this season is packed with things we look forward to all year long, and there’s so much to look forward to sipping on, too. It’s like fall knows how good it is, and doubles down with next-level beers and beverages exclusive to the season on top of all the other drinks that are good all year round. It’s like, leave some delightfulness for the other seasons, autumn!
To break it all down, so you can make your plans, mark your calendars, and order all the best beverages accordingly, let’s look at some of the biggest highlights of this coming season and what to drink in every scenario!
The Start of “Sweater Weather”
The actual start of sweater weather depends, of course, on how cool it has to get before you’ll put on a layer of cozy knit, but fall lovers look forward to that magical time when the evenings come with a little chill--just enough to snuggle up into something soft. This transitional period is when you’re still reaching for drinks that are somewhat light and refreshing--it might still be warm during the day, after all--but have a little extra oomph to them in the form of complexity and richness, something that feels a little comforting, and like it’s embracing fall flavors.
Try the Paradise Now from TrimTab Brewing. It’s a Berline weisse that’s crisp, bready, and refreshing, but with this bright and jammy punch of raspberry and cherry reminiscent of freshly baked fruit tarts. Or the Perfect Day from Litherman’s Limited, a Sangria-inspired sour ale that balances sweet and tart fruit notes with the depth of merlot grapes.
In LA, where we swear you can happily wear a sweater sometimes, the move is Crowns & Hops Brewing Co.’s HBCU West Coast IPA, where the classic blend of piney, citrusy, resiny bitterness, a hint of graham, and a clean finish will refresh, warm, and intrigue. In Minneapolis, where…are y’all wearing sweaters already, actually? Try Blake’s Hard Cider Co.’s Caramel Apple cider--its green-apple tartness is crisp and thirst-quenching but its caramel sweetness is a true treat that will get even the most die-hard summer lover jumping for autumnal joy.
The NFL season officially starts ::checks notes:: this week, baby! A whole new season of cramming together on a comfy couch with your besties, getting a prime viewing spot at your favorite bar, tailgating, catching games live, thriving on your fantasy football league, losing your voice screaming over victories, perfecting your own touchdown dance, indulging on all the nachos and wings--whew, if that isn’t enough to cure any summer’s-end blues, we don’t know what is. And all of it calls for good drinks. There are a couple good routes to take for guaranteed delight: crushable beers and seltzers made for session drinking so you can enjoy them all game (and pregame, and post-game) long, and/or, unique beers like the hoppiest IPAs that match the excitement of gametime and contend for MVP status in your fridge.
Gay Beer Golden Lager is so light, refreshing, easy-drinking, and sessionable, but without missing a step when it comes to full flavor--it’s a surefire crowd pleaser, and pairs well with truly any game snack you can think of. The TRIP Blackberry Cucumber Juniper hard seltzer from SingleCut Beersmiths will never weigh you down but will stop you in your tracks as you experience the dreamy flavor combo of sweet, tart, bright, herbal, and spicy. The Supersonic Whirlpool DDH DIPA from Fegley’s Brew Works is an explosion of hop flavor and aroma; meanwhile, Athletic’s Run Wild IPA delivers all that IPA flavor sans booze. If you’re cheering on the Saints in New Orleans, try the latest craze from Lagunitas, the Hazy Wonder IPA, or if you’re a Falcons fan in Atlanta, opt for classic, crushable craft in the form of Mama’s Little Yella Pils from Oskar Blues Brewery.
Many beer drinkers wait all year for the hoppy, malty joy that September brings with Oktoberfest. It’s time to really celebrate beer and give it the spotlight it deserves. September is about coming together with friends and making new ones, hunkering down at long communal tables to clink steins, singing songs, feasting on pretzely carbs, dancing to oompah music, maybe donning a lederhosen situation, and generally having a good time with refreshing beer at the center of it all. It doesn’t matter if you can’t get to Munich, either--the fun can be had at your local brewery, beer garden, bar, backyard, or living room! Start with the beer, and let the festivities bubble up from there. Of course, any beer you love will do the trick, but Oktoberfest, märzen, and festbier renditions, plus German lagers and Oktoberfest-y amber lagers in all their toasty graham-y-ness feel especially celebratory.
For example, Shipping Out of Boston is a malty-sweet yet lightly hoppy amber lager from Jack’s Abby. Or there’s the perfectly malt- and hop-balanced amber ale Angry Elk from Lariat Lodge. If you’re in Denver, more amber classics abound, from New Belgium’s iconic Fat Tire to Breckenridge Brewery’s Avalanche. If you’re in Miami and want to say, “Prost!” but need something light for the hot weather, reach for the German Helles-style lager, Copper Kettle, from Copper Kettle Brewing Company. In more straightforward Oktoberfest territory, keep your eyes peeled and your dirndls ready for KCBC’s beloved Zoktoberfest, and Broken Bat Brewing’s Mr. Oktoberfest.
Look, we don’t care how cliche it seems, or how many Instagram reels have already been done, or how many people make fun of it on Twitter: an apple- or pumpkin-picking trip with some of your nearest and dearest is quintessential fall fun. It’s something different, that gets you into nature. It really embraces this fleeting season and all its flavors and coziness and crispness. You walk away with delicious apples or pumpkins to eat and bake with and enjoy. And yeah, you know what, you do get some good Instagram content, we’ll just say it! This activity is so festive, you need a drink to match, whether you can sip it walking down a lane of trees or relax with it afterward. The right drink captures all the same magic that the orchard does, meaning ciders are a foolproof recipe for success--but don’t sleep on uniquely flavored teas and kombuchas, either.
Romilly Cidre’s crisp, dry, beautiful Cidre Extra Brut has a hint of smoke and a bit of caramel to its fruitiness, and is a special and elevated choice for orchard picnics (it pairs well with everything, by the way, but think of the cheese plates!). The Original Hard Cider from Jack’s Hard Cider is indeed the refreshing adult beverage form of biting into a fresh apple you just plucked from a tree. And Blossom is a hard cider from Right Bee Cider that’s semi-dry and thirst-quenching yet complex with cherry blossom and lemon myrtle. Made with raspberry blossom and aged on oak for some fall-perfect depth, Honeybee is a mead from Slate Point Meadery that’s right on track for a good orchard day. Owl’s Brew makes a Spiced Chai Cranberry hard tea that packs all the spice, tartness, sweetness, and warmth of fall and its bounty into a refreshing can. If you’re in Cambridge, MA, and want to really drink in the wonder of a New England fall, go for the Standard Farmstand Cider from Hudson North Cider Co.
The true culmination of fall is ~spooky season.~ Admit it, you don’t even care that your local Walgreen’s started putting out Halloween candy in August. You need at least a month to cover your apartment in creepy decor--the tackier the better--and to eat the candy you promised you’d leave for the trick-or-treaters, and to binge horror movies, and to pretend you’re still going to make that elaborate costume when you know you’re going to end up at your local Spirit store on October 30, which is fine, because what is it about the chaos of that place that’s actually kind of fun? Spooky season is Halloween parties and cheesy haunted houses and leaves crunching under foot and yes, pumpkin beer, plus all kinds of dark and delicious beers that both nail the season in goth color and in indulgent warmth, roastiness, richness, and more. The good news is that even when Halloween is over, these beers will carry you right into the holiday season.
We’ve got stouts that run the gamut from nutty to chocolatey to just plain decadent (think: cannolis and baklava!), so stock up on Elbow Patches Oatmeal Stout from The Virginia Beer Company, the Brux Royale Belgian Chocolate Stout from Ross Brewing Co., the Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli Milk Stout from 902 Brewing Company, and the Enfant Terrible from My Favorite Thing. If roasty, bitter-balanced, and complex yet easy-drinking is your vibe, opt for the elegant Porter from Port City Brewing Company. Should you be in Colorado Springs, the options are just as heavenly, from the Peanut Butter Milk Stout from Belching Beaver Brewing Company to the Graham Cracker Porter from Denver Beer Co.And we had to save the best for last, as it is the Pum-KING. This is the beer to rule all your festive Halloween imbibing, the beer that reigns over spooky season, the beer you can’t wait to get your hands on as soon as the temperatures drop below 80, the beer that all other pumpkin beers aspire to be, the beer that made you fall in love with pumpkin beers in the first place, the beer you compare all other pumpkin beers to--okay, get the picture? Stock up on Southern Tier’s Pumking Imperial Ale. You’re going to want it to give to friends, to bring to Halloween parties, to make October dinners special, and just to sip on quiet evenings in.