I don’t think of New Englanders as an optimistic people overall, but I do admire how we have collectively chosen to fetishize autumn around here. Despite our general grumpiness, we all band together and pretend to love nothing more than finally getting summer behind us—who needs sunny 80-degree days and borderline tolerable MBTA service!—so we can get down to the serious pleasures of paying to do farm labor and watching trees die in colorful fashion. But even if you’re not into picking apples and Instagramming leaves, there some legitimate reasons to love autumn in New England, such as the arrival of fall seasonal beers. Here are a half-dozen of the best available.
Jack’s Abby Copper Legend
It stands to reason that the Framingham-based lager savants would excel at märzen, the traditional Bavarian Oktoberfest style. Copper Legend is simultaneously bold and smooth, with rich caramel flavor supported by subtle biscuit, pine and pepper notes.
Harpoon Flannel Friday
Boston’s biggest brewery intends to offer this beauty year-round, but it just made its debut and there are falling leaves on the label, so let’s pretend it’s a fall beer. Flannel Friday is an amber ale gussied up with citrus and tropical fruit notes from a high hop dosage.
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
Sierra Nevada is arguably the most important brewery in modern American beer history, which is to say the most important thing of any kind at any time or place. But that doesn’t prevent them from consulting with German experts when it comes to the annual crafting of this fall seasonal. Every year Sierra Nevada selects a different German brewery to partner with to produce Oktoberfest; this year’s winners are Mahrs Braü and the American drinking public. The rare Record hop breed lends a spicy edge to this caramel-forward wonder.
Allagash Hugh Malone
Most fall seasonal beer releases are of the pumpkin, fake-pumpkin, or Oktoberfest variety. This Belgian-style India pale ale from Portland is an exception, and it makes the list both for novelty’s sake and because it happens to be one of my all-time favorite foods. Clove and banana aromas from the yeast combine with floral, pine, and citrus hop notes to create a complex, multi-dimensional beer that pairs perfectly with any food or occasion. (It’s particularly nice with pancakes.)
Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest
This Californian import’s name is a playful nod to its hometown of Paso Robles, which means “pass of the oaks” in Spanish. It’s a rich, sweet, malty märzen full of caramel and honey, with just enough German noble hop character for balance. In other good news, this year Firestone Walker had the good sense to package Oaktoberfest in 16-ounce cans.
Cambridge Brewing Company Great Pumpkin
New England’s first modern pumpkin beer debuted in 1990, and it’s still the best fermented gourd juice around, with fresh local pumpkins adding depth and sweetness to the customary nutmeg and cinnamon.