Seasonal Brews – The Right Beer, Right Now

As Barney, from the Simpson’s so elegantly said,

Hey, Homer, I’m worried about the beer supply. After this case, and the other case, there’s only one case left.

All beer use to be seasonal but now seems to be the domain of the craft, micro-brewing world. The Brewers Association, who’s goal is to promote and protect the U.S. craft brewing community’s interests, put it best,

These beers are to be appreciated, and they represent the best in creativity and passion that a brewer can deliver. Seasonal beers focus on seasonal ingredients and highlight flavors that harmonize with the fare of the moment.

Since the weather has turned nippy let’s talk about warming up with a cold one – a hearty winter brew.

Here are some of my favorite Fall and Winter seasonal beers and what to pair with them.

According to the brewers, the origins of Dogtoberfest are shrouded in mystery, but scholars think it has everything to do with an insane German king and a crazed Oompah band. Dogtoberfest is traditionally-styled Marzen/Octoberfest lager that is deep mahogany in color with a modest malty bitterness, clean aroma and an intriguing caramel-honey finish. Despite being brewed with 100% imported German ingredients, it’s still won the 2005 Bronze Medal at the Great American Beer Festival. Drink it with Fall picnic food – think lots of sausage.

Hair of the Dog is known for ales in the boldly-hopped West Coast style, and their holiday-themed Doggie Claws is no exception. This cherry red barleywine is slightly pale but with a rich burnt orange color bursting with intense golden tree fruit flavor. Marnie Old from Novus Vinum said, “Smells like ginger, pineapple upside-down cake and layered with notes of yeasty bread-pudding. Doggie Claws is nonetheless a better candidate for snifter sipping in front of the fire than pint draining at happy hour.” Or would that be Yappy Hour.  Drink it with onion rings, pork and fruit chutney or a dried fruit and winter greens salad.

Named after the 1922 German Expressionist film by F. W. Murnau, starring Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orlok. Another strong red ale brewed with North American hops. A big full-bodied beer that begins sweet with caramel, malt and a slight hint of date and a pinch of cinnamon. A well balanced finish with citrus and piney hops. As one taster said, “[The hops] are running ramped in the streets! Thick, chewy and assertive and not for Bud Light crowd.”  Drink it with salt and vinegar potato chips, strong game dishes or just use it as a meal in itself.

A medium bodied beer that bursts with buttery, nutty essences and nuances of honey, caramel, and vanilla. It finishes with a spicy maltiness and a light smokiness. As founders Phineas DeMink and Allen (“Skip”) Yahn say, “Because of its high alcohol content, Old Man is a heady brew that encourages sipping and pondering its essential richness. Drink it fresh now, or cellar a few bottles to see how this old man becomes wiser with age.”  Drink it with split pea soup with a smoked ham hock.

Dogfish head is the pride of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. This ale is spicy and malty with a Halloween colored hue and a pinch of caramel and brown sugar. The pumpkin is there – a tap on the shoulder saying “Hi”.  Drink it with roasted root vegetables and winter squash, braised lamb or anything and everything served on Thanksgiving.

A Russian Imperial Stout with the distinctive coffee-like flavors from the blackened barley malt. Tastes of mocha, coffee, malt, strong, big and rich. Reminiscent of  the blackcurrant-flavor in Crème de Cassis. Careful, this brew misleading. Looks and acts like the Terminator but goes down like a “girly beer”.  Drink it with blue cheese, mole sauce or even a dense chocolate cake with ice cream.

On a side note, the “doggy” references are simply a coincidece. Nothing to do with my four legged  “daughter” Cori and everything to do with my love of craft beers.

Additional articles on sustainable wine, beer and spirits:
Eco Vodka: Organic and Sustainable Spirits
Cooperative Winemaking Goes Green
Saké To Me
The Green Fairy – la Fee Verte
Guilt-Free Beer Guzzling: Top Five Sustainable Suds

3 Comments

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  1. D’oh!

    A post about seasonal winter ales and no mention of Jubelale from Deschutes Brewery?

    If you’ve not tried it, I highly, highly recommend doing so. Easily my favorite brew ever.

  2. Ack! Can’t help but be picky! As a native Delawarean and a big fan of Dogfish Head beer, it’s DelAware, not DelEware. 🙂 But I’m glad to see it in the list regardless!

  3. THANK YOU for the pointing out the mistake. I corrected it. Not picky at all. As a current Oregonian, I get the pleasure of correcting the incorrect pronunciation of Or-e-Gone with the correct Ore-e-gin.

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