Autumn is a great time to be a beer lover. After a summer full of light lagers and apologetic ales, great seasonal beers packed with character and flavor start hitting the store shelves.
Craft brewers are skilled at making solid beers based on traditional style guidelines. But their real love lies in pushing the envelope, playing with new ingredients and coming up with brand new beers. The seasonal beers of autumn and winter are often the result of these experiments. Sometimes these unusual beer that began as seemingly wild experiments wind up as yearly staples.
Pumpkin ales are a great example. Although many craft and regional breweries make pumpkin beers as part of their fall lineup today, when the first squash-based beer hit store shelves it was probably greeted with curiosity and skepticism. Now they are a regular seasonal on the beer calendar and many beer lovers, including this one, cheerfully anticipate their arrival.
Most pumpkin ales these days are brewed with pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon, cloves and ginger. The spices and pumpkin nestle into the rich, malty beer like filling in a pie crust for a delicious, sweet beer. A well brewed pumpkin ale can taste like a slice of pie in a bottle.
These ales are perfectly balanced, delicate and best drunk fresh. Most good beer shops will have a good selection of these brews around this time of year, and, don't forget to check with your local brewpub.
One brewery has been making a great pumpkin ale annually for years now. If there is a national standard for this style, it is Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale. They were one of the first craft brewers to start brewing with pumpkins. Their sweet, tasty ale is perfectly balanced for a delicious autumn treat that I look forward to every year. It is difficult to resist the temptation to put a dollop of whipped cream on top of a pint of this liquid pumpkin pie!
But autumn ales are not all about pumpkin. Plenty of other rich and tasty ales show up as brewers shrug off the light beers of summer and replace them with flavorful ales. Harvest ales celebrating the year's hops crop, saisons brewed in the best Belgian tradition and plenty of porters and other dark ales show up all over the nation as seasonal beers. I will say it again, autumn is a great time to be a beer lover!
One beer I look forward to is the Pecan Harvest Ale from Abita. If you are not familiar with Abita Beer this is definitely a brewer you should get to know. Abita has been brewing great craft beer like the famous Turbodog or Purple Haze in the New Orleans area for over twenty years. It was one of the few breweries down there to survive Katrina and is still brewing strong today.
Abita brews several seasonal beers all year long. These are always popular and sell out quickly. Even though I just live a few hundred miles up the Mississippi from Abita, I often find it difficult or even impossible to find their seasonal offerings. But, as the brewery grows their distribution seems to be improving.
This tasty ale features roasted Louisiana pecans. Beers are often described as having a nutty aroma or flavor but rarely do they actually contain nuts. The nuttiness in this harvest ale will come from real pecans. Brewing with pecans or any other nut can be a tricky process. Clearly, the skilled brewers at Abita are up to the task. This is a special beer so be sure to go grab a six pack or three before they sell out.
However you enjoy them, do not miss your chance to try these great seasonal beers. They are only available for two or three months so be sure to grab them before them before they disappear for the year.