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The Best Craft Beer To Chase Down This September

With summer 2020 pretty much wrapped, it’s time to look into one of my favorite beer seasons. The fall brings about two distinct and very good beers. One, it’s officially Oktoberfest season. Even with the main event in Munich canceled this year, you can still enjoy the beers. And, trust us, there are plenty of great German lagers to enjoy right now.

The other big beer you’re going to be seeing on every tap list — especially in the U.S. — are pumpkin ales. Yes, some of these fruited ales are a bit sugary or too spiced. But with the advent of every other brewery in the country making a pumpkin ale this season, that old view of the style is more the exception than the rule in 2020.

Hopefully, the eight beers we’re calling out this month will pique your interest and inspire you to explore exciting expressions made near you or sold at your closest bottle shop. The picks below are regional craft beer releases from breweries that we vouch for (we weren’t able to taste them all this month because of the continued pandemic, so we’re offering tasting notes from the brewers where necessary).

PACIFIC NORTHWEST DROP: Elysian Night Owl

Style: Pumpkin Beer
ABV: 6.7%
Brewery: Elysian Brewing Company, Seattle, WA

The Beer:

This is a quality pumpkin ale. The brew is fruited with over seven pounds of pumpkin puree and pumpkin seeds per barrel of beer. Next, the suds are spiked with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. That pumpkin and seeds are layered into the beer, giving a real textural nuance of a well-crafted ale.

Tasting Notes:

It’s really surprising who dialed in this beer is. It sounds like the pumpkin should overpower everything, but it’s more of a whiff of savory fruit next to a mild spice matrix. There’s a lightness to the body of the beer that helps keep this feeling like a mild and malty, making it more of a spicy pumpkin cookie than an overly sweet pumpkin pie.

SOUTHWEST DROP: Bow & Arrow Oktoberfest

Style: Märzen
ABV: 5.4%
Brewery: Bow & Arrow Brewing, Albuquerque, NM

The Beer:

Bow & Arrow is the country’s only craft brewery run by Indigenous women. Their beer output continues to be some of the most interesting out of the entire Southwest region and their Oktoberfest is sure to be another winner to help ring in the autumn.

Tasting Notes (from the brewer):

“Malty and copper in color, balanced with a bready aroma with a hint of spice and toast, finishing with light raisin and caramel notes.”

ROCKY MOUNTAIN DROP: Upslope Pumpkin Ale

Style: Pumpkin Beer
ABV: 7.7%
Brewery: Upslope Brewing Company, Boulder, CO

The Beer:

This is another great example of how subtle (and tasty) a well-crafted pumpkin ale can be. The beer is a combination of local organic baby pumpkins, hops, malts, and a blend of six spices. The end result is a very crushable can of ale with a high ABV, so drink carefully.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a bit more body to this pour. The beer has a fresh pumpkin aroma supported by mild, bready malts. The sip leans into the spices more than fruit with a slightly sweet creaminess underneath. The feel of this one leans a little more into pumpkin pie territory with a subtle sweetness.

SOUTHERN DROP: Jester King & Mikkeller Drink’in the Sunbelt

Style: Wheat
ABV: 3.9%
Brewery: Jester King Brewery, Austin, TX (with Mikkeller)

The Beer:

If you’re still trying to hold onto summer, then this hopped wheat beer is the play. The brew is mashed with two malts and both oats and wheat with Kviek yeast before a kettle hopping and then a dry hopping. The result is a crushable and distinct wheat beer that feels like it holds a little bit of sunshine in every sip.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a marrying of mild pine resin next to bright tropical and stone fruits with an orange citrus edge. The funk of the yeast provides a nice foundation and the pepperiness of the wheat is a solid counterbalance to all the juicy fruits. The beer edges into dry territory as the mildly floral, piney, grassy, and fruity hops fade into the background.

MIDWEST DROP: Revolution Oktoberfest

Style: Märzen
ABV: 5.7%
Brewery: Revolution Brewing, Chicago, IL

The Beer:

This Chicago beer is German ingredients filtered through American craft brewing. Bavarian malts meet Bavarian hops and Bavarian lager yeast to create this one. The beer is then properly lagered at low temps for four weeks, and then it’s party time (this beer is very quaffable).

Tasting Notes:

The malts are the star of the show with a toasted crusty bread presence. The malts edge a bit sweet with a touch of orange rind and grass when the subtle hops kick in. A slight spicy edge arrives late as the almost floral grassy edge cuts out.

NORTHEAST DROP: Finback Black is Beautiful

Style: American Imperial Stout
ABV: 9%
Brewery: Finback Brewery, Queens, NY

The Beer:

This coffee spiked stout was brewed specifically to raise awareness of the social and racial injustices plaguing the United States. Proceeds from this brew will be donated to the Audre Lorde Project (an LGBT people of color non-violent community activist group) and the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund.

Tasting Notes (from the brewer):

“This 9 percent imperial stout with Ecuador Santa Gertrudis coffee is bold and unctuous.”

WILD CARD DROP: Odd Breed Dotted Eighth Notes

Style: Wild Ale
ABV: 6.5%
Brewery: Odd Breed Wild Ales, Pompano Beach, FL

The Beer:

Odd Breed consistently puts out some of the most interesting wild ales in the U.S. This brew was mashed with a mix of Pilsner, spelt, and rye malts and then hopped with Styrian Golding and fresh Saaz hops. The beer then goes into French wine barrels for a year. The beer is then refermented with rhubarb and wild honey before being bottle conditioned with Madagascar vanilla.

Tasting Notes (from the brewer):

“Aromatics of sweet honey transition to notes of earthy and tangy rhubarb, vanilla, and our signature Odd Breed funk with moderate acidity.”

INT’L PICK OF THE MONTH: Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier

Style: Märzen
ABV: 6.3%
Brewery: Hofbräuhaus München

The Beer:

In most other years, we’d be about two weeks out from the start of Oktoberfest. But 2020’s not like most other years and we’ll have to celebrate the world’s biggest beer fest at home this September. This isn’t exactly my favorite Munich Oktoberfest beer, but it’s the one you’re going to be able to find very easily in the U.S. (mostly). Also, it’s a supremely crushable brew in case you need to get your drink on this month.

Tasting Notes:

Grainy malts and slightly sweet and grassy hops greet you. There’s an almost corn sweetness to the bready malts. The beer remains light but not without a velvet body. A final flourish of ever-so-slightly earthy hops counterpunches the malts on the end and draws you back for another glug every time.

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