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Craft Beer Experts Name The Absolute Best Fall Beers On The Market

The return of autumn brings many things. The leaves change to bright hues of red, orange, and yellow before silently falling to the ground. A light jacket or sweater soon becomes part of the dress code. Days are shorter, nights colder. It’s a season of transition.

For beer drinkers, that shift means maltier, richer, more robust beers hitting shelves.

“Ah, the lovely days of autumn,” says Stephen Hale, founding brewer at Schlafly Beer in St. Louis. “They bring not only a blessed change in the weather, but also an exciting shift in the offerings of beers from summer’s lighter lagers and fruitier styles.”

Tim Matthews, VP of brewing at CANarchy in Longmont, Colorado sees both his food and beer choices change this time of year.

“I tend to change my eating habits and then my beer choice follows,” he says. “The perfect example is when rich soup and herb-seasoned, roasted poultry start showing up on our table in late October and early November. That’s when the Porters and Schwarzbiers start to accumulate in the fridge, since their roasted grain character pairs great with all the fatty, savory flavors going on.”

To mark the changing seasons, we asked some of our favorite brewers for their favorite beers this time of year. Check their answers below!

Bale Breaker Topcutter

Bale Breaker

John Trogner, brewmaster and founding brother of Tröegs Independent Brewing in Hershey, Pennsylvania

ABV: 6.8%

Average Price: $11 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

As fall rolls around, one of the beers I most look forward to is a fresh pour of Topcutter IPA. If I have a Topcutter in front of me, that means I’m at Bale Breaker, a little family-owned brewery in Washington’s Yakima Valley. Yakima is one of the hop-growing capitals of the world, and Bale Breaker is surrounded on three sides by acres and acres of hops. Every September, we send two teams of brewers out to Yakima for hop selection. To me, it’s the most important ingredient selection we do, and I just love walking the fields, talking to farmers, and watching the harvesters do their thing.

When we get into town, the first stop is always Bale Breaker. Even before we go to the hotel. It’s a perfect place to grab a beer, maybe run into some fellow brewers, and get into that hoppy state of mind.

La Chouffe

LA Chouffe

Patrick Chavanelle, R&D brewer at Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine

ABV: 8%

Average Price: $13 for a four-pack

Why This Beer?

I like to drink beers that are a bit stronger as the weather gets colder. Something with a slight warming character to it. I find myself buying La Chouffe, a blonde Belgian ale, frequently in the fall. It’s a beer that’s both extremely complex and approachable. Especially since I love baking during this time of year, the spicy phenols and fruity aromas pair perfectly with some homemade bread.

Odell Oktoberfest

Odell

Max Shafer, brewmaster at Roadhouse Brewing Co. in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

ABV: 6.1%

Average Price: $12 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Marzen lagers are synonymous with fall for me, and while most people brew and serve this seasonal brew, Odell Brewing’ Oktoberfest is the one I always look forward to. The fall is a time for me to slow down, and take in the last warm days before winter sets in. Odell’s Oktoberfest has a brilliantly clear, almost dark orange or light amber hue which perfectly matches the colors of changing leaves on Aspens and Cottonwoods throughout the Tetons. The rich and malty base for this beer is inviting and balanced by subtle hop flavors and aromas. The aroma and flavor remind me of crisp fall mornings and the smell of dew in the air.

The flavors are perfect to pair with autumnal fare like soup, chili, or slow-roasted meat. It is a beer I sip and savor each and every year and for me is the perfect companion to welcome the fall in the intermountain west.

Spaten Oktoberfest

Spaten

Jason Salas, director of brewing operations at New Holland Brewing in Holland, Michigan

ABV: 5.9%

Average Price: $11 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Spaten Oktoberfest is light, soft texture, malty, and highly crushable. I was born in September and therefore I came of age when this beer was released for Oktoberfest every year. Drinking this beer reminds me of old friends, places we’d gather, and the unforgettable moments we made.

Augustiner Oktoberfest Bier

Augustiner

Matt Brynildson, brewmaster at Firestone Walker Brewing in Paso Robles, California

ABV: 6.3%

Average Price: $13 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

The first beer I think of when fall settles and if I’m in Germany around that time is fresh Augustiner Oktoberfest Bier, preferably served from traditional wooden barrels. Here in the United States, there are many brewers who replicate this style well, and most brew a more full-bodied Märzen, a bit of a throwback to how it was made in Germany decades ago.

These beers are copper to amber in color, malt forward with low and harmonious hop bitterness. Rich flavors of toasted malt, light caramel lifted by the sparkle of fresh lager yeast creates a perfect pairing for cool fall weather in the beer garden. They are full of flavor yet incredibly drinkable.

The Bruery Or Xata

The Bruery

Luke Yardley, founder at Yardley Brothers Craft Brewery in Hong Kong

ABV: 7.2%

Average Price: $15 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

I’d go with The Bruery Or Xata. I’m a big fan of The Bruery’s Or Xata with its warming notes of cinnamon and spice, which is ideal for fall temperatures and shorter days.

Rockwell Foeder Fest

Rockwell

Stephen Hale, founding brewer at Schlafly Beer in St. Louis

ABV: 5.7%

Average Price: $10 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

Narrowing this down to one beer is always a challenge, but since I often lean towards malty beers, and this is one of my favorite styles, it’s one I’ll try everywhere I go. Although you really can’t go wrong with your favorite, Rockwell Brewing Foeder Fest is a fine example of what makes this season so great. The solid, clean, harmony of the style is what captivates me. Although it’s not a big hoppy beer, hops are used perfectly to complement the toasted bread, biscuity, and medium-sweet maltiness, with a gorgeous clear amber reddish-brown color — all very much like a perfect autumn day. Prosit!

Flying Fish Abbey Dubbel

Flying Fish

Barry Hansen, homebrewer and COO of Brewvana.com

ABV: 7.2%

Average Price: $10 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

A beer you could actually drink most of the year, but really hits the mark for the fall as temperatures start to drop and leaves change color is Flying Fish’s Abbey Dubbel which Brewvana featured in their holiday box last year. Flavors of dark fruit, like dates, and sweet caramel are complemented by a slightly higher alcohol percentage, sometimes as high as 8 percent. The most important feature of this beer is the higher carbonation level in it which pushes those rich complex flavors off your palate after every sip so that you don’t find it too rich and can enjoy the whole thing.

It’s hard to brew a beer like this and get the right balance of those flavors with high alcohol and high carbonation so that it could stand side by side with the gold standard, which has been brewed by the Trappist Abbey of Westmalle since 1856.

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale

J.W. Lees

Todd DiMatteo, owner and head brewer of Good Word Brewing in Duluth, Georgia

ABV: 11.5%

Average Price: $8 for a 275ml bottle

Why This Beer?

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale beer is a time machine for me. It evokes where we have been, but I can also confidently say that it’s also where we are headed to. It holds a special place in my memory — as I was cutting my teeth in craft beer at Brick Store Pub in 2005, we had so many different years of the barleywine — it was like having a personal arsenal of flavors that lived within a single beer over different vintages at the ready. It was fun to share with lucky guests and friends. Sometimes these wooden pin casks would come in that had been aged for longer than I had been legally drinking. Some were aged in Scotch or calvados barrels. The Harvest Ale, in particular, is brewed only once a year and it is a special barleywine with a hefty and respectable 11.5% abv. reminiscent of a Werther’s Original candy in liquified form — a warm, caramel flavor.

This is a beer to sip slowly while my kids cut into pumpkins, and we enjoy a flickering fire. It begs for that rolled cigar smell, followed by a pour of a nice round whisky to follow it down.

Great Divide Hoss

Great Divide

Todd Bellmyer, head brewer at Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado

ABV: 6.2%

Average Price: $11 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Hoss Oktoberfest Lager by Great Divide Brewing Company is easily my favorite fall beer. I always loved it when it was a year-round beer, but a few years back they made it a fall release which really makes it fit the time of year perfectly. It’s got a deep malty aroma that is accentuated by the addition of rye into the mash, a beautiful malt-red color, and the ABV is in the traditional Oktoberfest range at 6.2 percent. It’s a great beer for cool nights around a campfire.

Paulaner Oktoberfest Bier

Paulaner

Michael Mathis, head brewer Cascade Brewing Co. in Portland, Oregon

ABV: 6%

Average Price: $11 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

A German Märzen is a perfect beer to transition with the seasons, as the days are still warm but cool off in the evening. It features more of a toasted malt character and a small number of caramel flavors, with a medium body so you can have more than one without feeling full. Not too sweet, not too malty, nor too watery! When the color of the beer matches the leaves on the trees as they change you can’t go wrong.

Paulaner, Ayinger, and Hacker-Pschorr are my go-to choices.

Andechs Spezial Hell

Andechs

Jeff Joslin, director of brewing operations at Left Hand Brewing in Longmont, Colorado

ABV: 5.8%

Average Price: $5 for a 16.9-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

The specific beer for fall for me would be Andechs Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest beers are so seasonal specific and each one is so different. Andechs is clean and well-made, lighter than a lot of American Oktoberfests, and I have fond memories of visiting the brewery.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Sierra Nevada

Christian Ettinger, founder, and brewmaster at Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland, Oregon

ABV: 6.8%

Average Price: $13 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Easy. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale is a fantastic IPA with classic piney C Hop character, a nice medium malt body, and a long, bitter finish. It is complex, strong, and hearty, and quite possibly the perfect reward for a big effort in the woods or on the mountain.

This beer was an inspiration to me as a young brewer and continues to impress year after year.

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier

Aecht Schlenkerla

Chris Takeuchi, R&D brewer at Ballast Point Little Italy in San Diego

ABV: 6.5%

Average Price: $5 for a 16.9-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

Bamberg Rauchbier — particularly of the bock style, or, as the weather gets colder, doppelbock — is my pick. We make them occasionally at the R&D scale, but never frequently enough for my tastes, and none of them compare to the archetypes from Schlenkerla. For me, the style evokes thoughts of drinking in a tavern, with blustery cold snow flurries outside, and a crackling fire keeping things warm inside. The malty-sweet/toasty/smoky balance of a good bock-style rauchbier is perfect when the weather starts to cool, and while deliciously malty and rich on its own. It makes for an incredible pairing with many of the more robust dishes that one might expect from a fall menu.

Wiley Roots Pumpkin Spice County Fair Cobbler

Wiley Roots

James Walker, head brewer at Breckenridge Brewery in Breckenridge, Colorado

ABV: 6.8%

Average Price: $18 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

Wiley Roots Brewing in Greeley is hitting on all cylinders. Their Pumpkin Spice Country Fair Cobbler captures all of what I like about fall in a most pleasant and drinkable format. Pumpkin beers are often too sweet and cloying. The bright blonde color is refreshing in comparison to the many darker pumpkin beers on the market. Pumpkin puree brings body and mouthfeel, which sour beers often lack, as well as authenticity. Cinnamon, vanilla, and graham cracker are the roots of any good cobbler, and the not too overpowering­ acidity keeps it all in check.

Bright, whimsical, and screaming of everything I like about fall.


As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.

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