With Georgia graciously raising the alcohol limit of beer from a hindering six percent alcohol by volume to 14 percent in 2004, the gate to the South’s beer heaven has been opened. Now there are more than 40 breweries statewide, some of the most revered beer bars in nation, and retailers dramatically expanding their shelf space to supply the booming demand of ales and lagers. With this sea of craft beer comes special varieties brewed for certain times of the year called “seasonals.”
Check out two popular styles created specifically for the fall which embrace hearty dishes and often boast higher alcohol levels to warm up chilly nights. Meet Oktoberfest and Pumpkin beers.
Traditionally, beers were brewed during the month of March aka Märzen in Germany. They were often stored underground to keep them cool prior to the days of refrigeration, leading to October being the right time for consuming them. They are typically malty, slightly sweet, and full-bodied averaging about six percent in alcohol. Look for them in stores, bars and colossal steins near you.
Examples to look for:
- Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen
- Wild Heaven Autumn Defense
- Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
- Weihenstephaner Festbier
- Great Divide Hoss Oktoberfest Lager
Although Halloween and Thanksgiving occur in late fall, ales brewed with nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and real pumpkin have become so popular, this style is hitting store shelves as early as mid-August. Medium-bodied, sweet, and complex, this style is great to pair with roasted poultry, spicy vegetables, and numerous desserts including chocolate cake! Usually between five and seven percent alcohol by volume, look for the imperial and barrel-aged versions, as well as those that are more boozy, thick, and sweeter beginning around eight percent to double-digit levels.
Examples to look for:
- Dogfish Head Punkin
- Terrapin Cranberry Pumpkinest
- Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
- Brooklyn Brewery Post Road Pumpkin Ale
- Southern Tier Pumking
Local Tips for Beer Connoiseurs (or Those Who Want to Look Like Them)
Brewery Hopping: Visit local breweries to get the freshest version of their interpretations of these beers when available, including Burnt Hickory, SweetWater, Three Taverns, and Jekyll to name a few.
Pub Love: On the beer pub side, Wrecking Bar, Max Lager’s, 5 Seasons, Twain’s and others make phenomenal beers.
Beer and Food Pairing: Yes, that’s a thing. Definitely consider the Brick Store, The Porter, Taco Mac locations, World Of Beer and others. And don’t shy away from asking for tastes before committing. They should be happy to give you a ‘sneak sip’!
Bring the Beer Home: To pick up some great brews in Atlanta, head to Hop City, Green’s, Tower, Sprayberry Bottle Shop, Ale Yeah!, Whole Foods, Lincoln Station, and Savi Provisions. They do a tremendous job stocking their shelves with the newest beers out.
Follow Ale Sharpton on his award-winning beer blog (AleSharpton.com), Twitter (@alesharpton), and Instagram (@realalesharpton) for anything beer, food and fun related!