You know fall is almost here when Starbucks starts selling Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Oktoberfest beers start popping up all over the place. Too bad it's still hot as ever outside. We're almost halfway through September and the grocery store beer aisles are already filled with a multitude of fall brews. So, which ones should you buy?
We scoured the beer aisle at the H-E-B on the corner of West Alabama and Dunlavy, and found seven seasonal brews you are sure to love. Plus, we've got the scoop on the next wave of seasonal beverages coming from these breweries.
Saint Arnold's Oktoberfest This Oktoberfest will be available through October, and it's definitely one you ought to buy. With nice foam lacing on top of each pour, it yields a light beer with a slight pumpkin after-taste, which adds a nice sweetness to the overall malty, rich brew. Compared to other Oktoberfests, Saint Arnold's has a bit more hops to it, and that's thanks to the addition of two central European noble hops: Czech Saaz and Hallertauer. You'll definitely enjoy the touches of fall spice.
What's coming next: Pumpkinator will be rolling into stores around the middle of October (roughly October 15). The Christmas Ale should arrive in October, too -- it's never too early to celebrate Christmas.
Karbach's Karbachtoberfest The Karbachtoberfest is available by the can (six in each pack). It's much lighter in color than most fall brews, almost golden. Each sip is crisp and refreshing, which is nice for Houstonians to enjoy while it's still quite warm outside. The slight hint of malts and hops keeps it light and easy to drink. There's not much fall spice, but it's definitely got some caramel flavors.
What's coming next: Krunkin Pumpkin should be hitting the shelves next week.
Alaskan Pumpkin Porter It's not a local brew, but it's definitely one of the best fall craft brews available now. As you pour this very dark beer into a glass, you're instantly hit with the sensational smells of the season -- cinnamon and nutmeg being the most prominent. In all seriousness, it smells like a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks. For being a porter, it isn't as heavy as you would expect; the lightness comes from the pumpkin -- 11 pounds is added to each barrel. It's sweet from the brown sugar, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves), as well as six different types of malts. If you only purchase one pumpkin beer this year, make it the Alaskan Pumpkin Porter.
What's coming next: The Alaskan Winter Ale will be released in October.
Real Ale Oktoberfest If you're more into the hoppy pumpkin brews, try the Real Ale Oktoberfest. Initially, you taste a hint of pumpkin, but you're left with a bitter aftertaste from the German malts, hops and yeast. Real Ale uses a traditional Bavarian brewing method to make this fall seasonal brew. The slight taste of pumpkin makes this Oktoberfest easy to drink on a hot Houston "fall" day, but also puts you in the spirit of the season.
What's coming next: Look for the Shade Grown Coffee Porter featuring Katz Coffee soon. The Phoenixx Double Extra Special Bitter will be released in the winter months.
Spaten Oktoberfest For the traditionalists, you can't go wrong with a crisp, classic German Oktoberfest beer. Spaten doesn't have the sweet flavors of fall spice and everything nice; it's a clean, refreshing, slightly hoppy beer that's super easy to drink -- no wonder it's at all of the Oktoberfest celebrations. It's a simple, plain beer, but that doesn't make it bad by any means. If you don't care for the added notes of cinnamon, apple or pumpkin found in American fall brews, then this is an Oktoberfest beer for you.
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New Belgium Pumpkick The New Belgium Pumpkick definitely has the strongest pumpkin flavor -- hence the name; it's got a kick of pumpkin. Act on this right away because it won't be available after October. The combination of pumpkin juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice are prominent, but there's a little something extra that makes it quite unique. New Belgium incorporates cranberries and lemongrass that add a hint of tartness and bitterness you probably aren't expecting upon the first sip.
What's coming next: The Tour de Fall Pale Ale will be in stores across the country throughout the fall season.
Brooklyn Oktoberfest Get this brew from Brooklyn Brewery through October. It's a dark, amber-colored beer brewed from German malts and hops. It smells of fall spices, but has a bitter after-taste thanks to the hops. The full-bodied brew leans more towards the ginger spices than sweet cinnamon and nutmeg, but it is balanced by a hint of caramel sweetness.
What's coming next: The Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout will hit the shelves in October, followed by the Winter Ale in November.