Many small brewing companies love any excuse to come out with a special beer to stir up excitement among fans. The idea is that if it's available for only a short period of time each year people will want it that much more. In my case, it totally works.
Every year I look forward to fall beers because: A. It's the perfect time to switch over from refreshing summer brews to something with a little more body, and B. PUMPKIN. If ever there were a perfect pairing, I'm convinced it's hoppy wheat and pumpkin.
It's still a little early in the season for some fall beers to make their debut (I'm counting down the days until October 15, Saint Arnold), but there are some pretty stellar Oktoberfests and lagers available already.
And the best part? You don't even need to look past our bountiful home state to find some great bottles (or cans). We've got some of the best made right here in Texas, baby.
8. Buffalo Bayou Figaro Buffalo Bayou's fall seasonal is a Belgian-style quadrupel. Thick, dark and malty, the Figaro is much sweeter than I was expecting for a beer with such a high ABV (11 percent). It's got a strong flavor of raisins and figs, which can be a little cloying if you're not accustomed to sweet beers. It doesn't taste like something packed with alcohol, so beware!
7. Real Ale Oktoberfest This is a safe beer, but a highly drinkable one, which is exactly what you want when downing pint after pint with your lederhosen-clad brethren. Though it's made in Blanco, Texas, the Oktoberfest is brewed with German malt, hops and yeast to keep it as authentic as possible. It's a lovely shade of orangey amber that's slightly sweet and slightly malty, with just a hint of caramel. The actual Oktoberfest in Munich would be proud.
6. Southern Star Le Mort Vivant Southern Star's fall offering is a French-style bier de garde whose name translates to "the living dead." It's an awesome shade of bright orange with a subtle fruitiness. It's not the most complex beer and, like an Oktoberfest, you can put back quite a bit of it without feeling like you just drank a fruitcake (coughFigarocough). Slight flavors of apples and anise come through after a few good sips.
5. Fort Bend Brewing Co. Oktoberfest Fort Bend, a newish brewery out of Missouri City, describes this beer as bready and biscuity, and it does indeed have a slight baked-goods flavor. It's a little more complex than some other Oktoberfests, with a touch of malt and the tiniest bit of bitterness. Right now, it's mainly available at Fort Bend Brewing Co., but I snagged some from one of the Fort Bend Brewing crew members at Hay Merchant, who may start tapping it soon. Shhhh!
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4. No Label Black Wit-O The label notes, "Be careful, it'll bite," and indeed it does, but only just a little. No Label's fall offering is a dark beer with hints of licorice, thanks to brewing with some star anise at the end of the boil. I got hints of tobacco from it, but a buddy of mine tasted chocolate. Either way, it's a rich, mysterious dark beer that's not too heavy to drink all night long.
3. Rahr & Sons Oktoberfest This is a malty, amber lager that's not quite as light and easy as some other Oktoberfests in the lineup -- which I like. This ain't no boring Oktoberfest brew out of Fort Worth. It's toasty and smooth with just a hint of sweetness that makes it the perfect partner to schnitzel and pretzels. If you're going to drink a traditional Oktoberfest beer, make it this one.
2. Karbach Krunkin Pumpkin It's a dark, almost ruby beer that smells like spicy pumpkin pie and tastes like bitter gingerbread combined with some legit pumpkin flavor. It's great for sipping in front of an open fire (I mean, I imagine it is, as KarbachI've only enjoyed it straight from the keg), and it definitely feels like fall in a glass. After sipping, you're left with a delicate cinnamon and nutmeg flavor lingering in your mouth and visions of jack-o-lanterns and Thanksgiving dinner dancing in your head.
1. Saint Arnold Pumpkinator Holy imperial stout pumpkin ale, Batman! Saint Arnold's website states, "With the amount of pumpkin used to make Pumpkinator, we could have baked 437 pumpkin pies," and I believe it. This dark beer is wonderfully spicy and pumpkin-y, like pumpkin pie in a bottle drizzled with malty, molasses-flavored beer. Saint Arnold releases only a single batch every year, sometime around October 15, which means this isn't available just yet. But if you've never had it, I suggest you write that down on your calendar and camp outside of your neighborhood beer emporium starting on October 10. Just to be safe. Trust me, it's worth it.