The cold has approached quite abruptly and with this seasonal change the right beer is needed to provide both warmth and refreshment. I would love to go on to claim that a well crafted Oktoberfest Lager would fit the season perfectly, but since the wonderful world of beer seems to wish it was like fashionable clothing O-fest brews are already in short supply and winter beers are not long from the shelves. Something like Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest is delightful when coming in from the coolness of fall to warm up also goes hand in hand with the need for refreshment. Although there is still some available I will completely shift styles and focus on what might be attainable for more than the rest of this week – Harvest Ales. Unlike many trends in beer which I find ridiculous, the growing popularity of the harvest style I am thrilled with. I hope that more breweries will become excited about these brews and that consumers will reward their efforts with repeated consumption. To be clear I am addressing the beer that is derived from the fresh harvest of the necessary ingredients. The most prominent of these ingredients is hops and usually that is the driving flavor of a harvest ale. Many breweries take this opportunity to make a ‘wet hop’ IPA, where the newly harvested hops are added in immediately with no drying in between. Being one who remains obsessed with the delicious flavor of hops I find harvest time quickly becoming my favorite beer season. Sadly my passion digresses from O-fest brews as breweries consistently push them back into the summer when the beer and the season just do not match up as well. I find IPAs to be more of a summer style than a winter style, but harvest ales are generally coming out as IPAs with a heartier malt balance and many pour a more rich amber than their lighter IPA counterparts. Sierra Nevada likely has the most recognizable harvest ale and it is indeed deserving of recognition. Founder’s makes one of the best harvest ales I have had, but MA is far enough from their operation that supplies are still pretty sparse. Back to the balance of warming and refreshment though… The boldness of many of these harvest ales brings a certain warmth to you on a crisp fall day but I am often also thirsty on a day like that. After mingling with the unholy rain of leaves that will only hide itself after hours of encouragement from me I find that some refreshment is called for. Hop driven beers are mouth watering and, as such, refreshing. The full bodied, full flavored, quenching freshness makes harvest ales a perfect compliment to the fall.
About Tim Bush
Tim has been at Colonial Spirits for over 15 years, starting out as the store’s beer expert. A love for all things made from barley helped him become the store’s whisk(e)y expert and spirits buyer, although he maintains a passion for beer. If you like scotch, bourbon or beer stop by and introduce yourself!