Here we are again, the time of year where the weather is mild and it’s time to dust off those winter sweaters and hoodies. While science says that consuming alcohol makes you cooler and not warmer, it sure takes the edge off cool autumn air. You might do that at a campfire, as a number of our selections below would hope, or in the comfort of your own home, but there is definitely something about the fall selection that brings out the darker, more robust tones in beer. All of our research points to an amber hue and a proclivity towards malt flavoring, manifested in a variety of interesting ways — it’s always a treat to hear how each brewery identifies their most representative fall drink, and a happy challenge to pick the best from some of our top tastemakers in town. But we are always up to the challenge. Cheers!
Against the Grain – Gimme S’More
You have to hand it to Against the Grain for having some serious style to their beers. With an often rotating tap selection on hand, they have a lot of options to pull from, for better or worse. Worse only in the context that they might have an exemplary beer on tap one month that disappears again into the ether for a while, before perhaps showing back up one day, seemingly apropos of nothing. Gimme S’More is a beer that proposes to combine the energy of Busta Rhymes (hence the name) with that feeling you get of sitting at a campfire. It’s hard to reconcile those two otherwise disparate ideas, but it works all the same, for a beer with a bit of a smoky, earthy taste that certainly invokes cooler weather and campfires.
Akasha – Peppered Porter
Certainly the darkest brew on this list, the peppered porter is a spicy beverage with the most remarkable aftertaste. You can feel the burn only in the slightest possible sense, as it is clear that the brewers took care to emphasize a marginal burn versus anything more direct to the senses. As such, this is an especially sensory brew that touches on more than one aspect of taste, without ever coming off like an assault. What makes this a truly enjoyable experience — and make no mistake, this is an experience — is that, even as a porter, this is an easy beer to drink, an idea that flies in the face of what is otherwise such a heavy base, let alone the fact that it comes with some heat. The quality perfectly exemplifies the strength of this brewery in general, and we should all look forward to what comes next.
Apocalypse Brew Works – Kentucky Hop Brown
While the name would imply a hop-heavy flavor profile, the beer is an especially hearty brown ale with a rye aftertaste. You can envision this as the sort of thing that farmers or travelers would gravitate toward in pre-industrial times, the kind of thing that gives you some much needed calories without having too heavy of an ABV. This is a bit of a dark horse in terms of any kind of traditional fall beer, but it does work well with their selections for something a bit outside the norm to keep you company on those cool autumn evenings.
Bluegrass Brewing Company – Pumpkin Ale
More than any other brewery in town, the Bluegrass Brewing Company is an institution. It’s not that their output is anything less than solid, but that, at this point, they seem to be relatively predictable with their selection. That said, while a pumpkin ale is by no means a curveball in terms of seasonal brews, it is a step in the right direction for them, and a damned tasty libation. Where other pumpkin-flavored drinks skew sweet, BBC has crafted a drink that sublimates what can be a cloying taste into something with a lot of subtlety and gravitas. It’s an easy beer to drink, with a luscious burnt orange hue and light body.
Cumberland – Pumpkin Ale
The second pumpkin ale on the list, and no less remarkable. Cumberland has definitely stepped up their game with new brews in the last year. Having consumed my fair share, Cumberland’s pumpkin ale is all killer and no filler, with a flavor that tastes a bit more authentic and less like that sort of chemically-induced flavor that seems attached to so many pumpkin ales. It’s sweet, but not to the extent that it feels like you’re drinking an alcoholic pumpkin pie, and not quite so blunt as to pummel you with it’s meme-handy pumpkin-ness. All said, it’s an excellent representation of how wonderful a pumpkin ale can be.
Goodwood – Rum Barrel Octoberfest
With their Rum Barrel Octoberfest, Goodwood offers just what their name would imply, a great beer aged inside good wood. In this case, Goodwood has taken a traditional Marzen-style Octoberfest and subverted that natural pop that comes with the taste by cutting it with the sublime flavor of rum. It’s as if the ghost of sweetness haunts this beer, in a way that is neither beholden to fruits or any other traditional sweeteners. It isn’t too heavy, with a lightness to the texture that is not reflective of the gorgeous burnt auburn of the beer itself, and goes down with a smoothness identifiably relative to hint of rum.
Great Flood – Smoked Harvest Ale
The Smoked Harvest Ale from Great Flood delivers on the promise that the name implies. You’ll get that burnt auburn color and mild sweetness, cut by the hoppy bitterness connected with the Marzen style. What makes this particular brew shine is the smoky flavor, which, as with the Against the Grain Gimme S’More, evokes that sense of companionship you get from a nice campfire, telling tales and sharing your drink. Great Flood hit the nail on the head here with a beer that isn’t quite as hardy as the other smoked ale on this list, trading that heaviness for something a bit more inviting, but it still takes the nip out of the air all the same.
Red Yeti – Horseman’s Head
The third pumpkin ale on our list — ’tis the season — Red Yeti’s Horseman’s Head is a solid entry into the field. Located in Jeffersonville, Red Yeti is one of the area’s finest. The Horseman’s Head has a smooth body and, like the other pumpkin ales on this list, manages to have a taste that is never overbearing or saccharine. The flavoring here never tastes chemical, like some nationally-produced brews, instead providing delicate balance between what seems to be a Marzen-style base and the additive agents employed — a crisp aftertaste that just says happy Halloween.