The 10 Best Beers to Drink This Fall
Back away from the pumpkin ale and try these fall seasonals.
Always looking for an excuse to party, the astronomically inclined people of Earth recently celebrated another equinox. In the aftermath, many folks anticipate the changing hue of the falling leaves. Others toil under the rapidly diminishing daylight, raking away said leaves. But if the only seasonally affected vegetation concerning you is the particular combination of malt and hops in your pint glass, this is the most relevant list you'll read, ever. Until winter. If you're expecting an avalanche of pumpkin-spiced suds here, shatter those expectations. You and I have been through that. It's boring, yeah? Here's what's new and next in New York's autumn craft scene...
10. Golden Delicious, Captain Lawrence Brewing Company (Tripel, 11 percent ABV)
Westchester's own Captain Lawrence Brewing does some serious business here in the city, and it means serious business when it comes to this 11 percent Tripel aged in apple brandy barrels. A flawlessly executed melding of styles, its flavor is neither overly boozy -- as many barrel-aged beers tend to be -- nor overly sweet, as you'd expect from a beer with a high level of residual sugars. It's the ideal combination of both, which makes it dangerously drinkable and, in 750-milliliter bottles, a force to be reckoned with. Mercifully, it is now available in four-packs of 12-ounce containers.
9. Barista, La Birreria (Coffee Stout, 5 percent ABV)
Fans of Eataly's rooftop beer garden should be on the lookout for the return of Barista, a late-fall seasonal. The aptly named coffee stout uses cold-brewed java to achieve an unmistakable bitterness -- not to mention a welcome jolt of caffeine. This year's rendition clocks in at the sessionable mark of 5 percent ABV, like most of the cask ales brewed and sold here. While it might not be the style of beer to ceaselessly sip on over an entire afternoon, the first pint (or three) is a worthy way to whet the palate and rev the engine for more committed nighttime drinking.
8. Harvest, Southern Tier Brewing Company (Extra Special Bitter, 6.7 percent ABV)
In addition to a terrific taste -- caramelized malts and vibrant pine -- this seasonal specialty actually looks like autumn. With its shimmering mahogany hue, Harvest is best enjoyed out of a pint glass, where you can stare deep into its body to imagine the rolling hills of the Hudson Valley glowing under a setting October sun. Or, you know, you could just drink the stuff.
7. Scythe and Sickle, Brewery Ommegang (Bière de Garde, 5.8 percent ABV)
Cooperstown isn't just home to legends in pinstripes -- it's also where you'll find one of the best Belgian-inspired breweries outside of Northern Europe. And although Brewery Ommegang produces award-winning beers throughout the calendar year, its seasonal harvest ale is a real home run. As an homage to the traditional grains of upstate farmland, Scythe and Sickle relies on rye and oat flakes for its deep amber color and sophisticated finish. It's available in bottle and on draft.
6. Cinnamon Strong, Big Alice Brewing (Belgian Strong Ale, ~8.5% percent ABV)
By the end of October, Queens' Big Alice Brewing will unload its latest one-off. Cinnamon Strong is a dark and strong Belgian-style ale, brewed with actual cinnamon sticks, which are added to the liquid post-fermentation and marinate in the tanks for several weeks, imparting into each bottle an autumn-laced spice of warmth. The only catch: The limited bottles are only available from the Long Island City-based brewery. Manhattanites...It's not nearly as far away as you think.
5. Dark Pumpkin Sour, Almanac Beer Company (American Wild Ale, 7 percent ABV)
Here's a significant outlier to our theme: Not only does Almanac contract its beer production on the opposite side of the country, I also swore not to succumb to the siren call of the fall-time pumpkin release. But in honor of the fact that one of the West Coast's most exciting newer beer companies just launched distribution within the five boroughs, it would be unconscionable of me to omit this masterful stylistic tweaker. This ain't your father's pumpkin-flavored autumn beer. Aged for a year in red-wine barrels, this wild ale imparts more in the way of oak and vanilla than it does seasonal squash. Bottle-conditioned, it will continue to evolve for many months prior to opening, much like a fine wine. So perhaps it's best enjoyed around the Thanksgiving dinner table...in 2015. (Yeah, I know it won't last that long.)
4. Bronx Brewery, Autumn Pale Ale (American Pale Ale, 6.5 percent ABV)
New York is the second-biggest apple-producing state in the union, so it's only logical to incorporate the fruit into a local autumn ale. The folks at Bronx Brewery have done just that, without tipping the seasonal offering into the domain of tart cider. This was accomplished by using New York State apples as a basis for only a fourth of the fermentable sugars. These subdued flavors are rounded out by West Coast hops for a complex synthesis of bitter and sweet. It's available on tap on either side of the Harlem River.
3. Sensi Harvest, Sixpoint Brewery (American Pale Ale, 4.7 percent ABV)
Proving that heavy hops are never out of season, Sixpoint has canned this sessionable pale ale to considerable fanfare. It has a significant degree of refreshing effervescence, tingling the tongue without overwhelming the palate in a barrage of bitterness. Billed as a "farm-to-table" beer, Sensi flaunts the aromatic wonder of a wet-hopped beer in one dramatic last stand before the merciless onslaught of winter.
2. Rav, Carton Brewing Company (Fruit/Vegetable Beer, 8.6 percent ABV)
Leave it to the Garden State to produce one of the most notable vegetable beers in recent memory. Short for ravioli, this mouth-watering mockup reimagines a brown butter- and sage-topped butternut squash pasta as a beer. Actual sage and locally baked anise cookies are added to the mash, creating a uniquely aromatic harvest ale begging to be paired with savory autumn fare. Rav can now be found on taps around the city, but if you head to the brewery in Atlantic Highlands, you'll find special wax-sealed 32-ounce half-growlers.
1. Falsa Noctis, Other Half Brewing (Black Saison, 6 percent ABV)
You'll hear me say this repeatedly: Other Half is currently making some of the best beer in the Northeast, hands down. Across a range of eclectic styles, the small operation just south of Carroll Gardens continues to impress, batch after batch. Its newest offering, a black saison, continues the winning streak. Mashing styles, Falsa Noctis packages clove-like spice within the overall delivery of a traditional porter. In limited release, it's worth a trip to the no-frills tasting room -- easily mistaken for a car repair shop under the BQE overpass. An afternoon of top-notch tipples is just a four-block walk from the Smith and 9th F/G stop.
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