Each fall the world of beer appears to come down with a serious case of seasonal allergies. I’m referring to the abundance of autumnal ales vying for more and more cooler space in our local package stores. While I’m digging around fall seasonals, it would be downright insensitive of me to ignore the popular kid of the seasonal beer world, pumpkin ales which seem to multiply exponentially each year.
Rather than allow my novice palate lead us through the promised land of malted grain, I visited Mitch Ancona of Ancona’s Wines & Liquors in Ridgefield to guide me on this year’s best seasonal beer offerings. His walk-in beer cooler is one of the best kept secrets for beer lovers.
Hex Magic Hat
Hex by Magic Hat Described by Magic hat as “a malty amber ale with hints of toffee and caramel and a slightly smoky finish,” this beer pleasantly surprised Mitch who is not normally a Magic Hat guy. It’s pours slightly orange in color, this beer is more amber ale than Oktoberfest style which is a nice break from its heavier seasonal offerings. Info: Magichat.net.
“Narragansett is one of those nostalgic beers that is also surprisingly good,” Mitch assured me as we sidled up to the bright orange cans. A local pick, the seasonal Fest is crafted in small batches at Cottrell Brewery in Pawcatuck, CT and at their High Falls Brewery in Rochester, NY. Rich malts and crisp hops, this traditional amber-brown German Oktoberfest style beer and comes in a (gasp) can! A trend many brewers seem to be embracing these days. Info: Narragansettbeer.com.
Sierra Nevada Tumbler
“I really enjoyed the Tumbler, it has an excellent roasted flavor,” said Mitch of the Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale. This darkest brew of the bunch boasts lots of “deep roasted flavor, and notes of toffee, molasses and coffee.” Info: SierraNevada.com.
Mitch’s Pumpkin Picks
“I could easily fill several shelved with pumpkin beers but I narrowed it down to these,” said Mitch as he walked me around to his various favorite pumpkin beers offerings, Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale, Dogfish Head Punkin, Blue Moon's Harvest Moon Pumpkin ale, Southhampton Pumpkin Ale, Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale and Weyerbacher's Imperial Pumpkin Ale.
Of this lovely bunch he pointed to one of my favorites, “my pick for a pumpkin would be Dogfish Head Punkin. It has a good balance between spice and pumpkin.”
While there are so many different styles to explore, it's almost impossible to try the all without making a job of it. So this novice's advice would be to grab a few different styles, invite some friends over and sample some of this season's most flavorful beer offerings.