Seasonal Beer Thoughts

September 5, 2011

It’s the unofficial end of Summer here in upstate New York, as the Labor Day weekend slowly comes to a close. The temperature has been fairly cool last night and today, while dark clouds and periods of rain have helped make it feel like Autumn is finally rolling in. Along with the patterns of changing weather and nature’s slow retreat into hibernation, we get to turn our minds to the seasonal beers that finally get interesting.

Summer seasonal beers tend to be focused on lighter beers for warmer days, such as wheat beers and citrus spiced white beers that are refreshing. Those are great for the weather, but the beers start to get really interesting for me when we start seeing the darker, stronger, and more flavorful and robust beers like oktoberfests, various types of brown ales, rich bock beers, harvest ales using the beginning of the new hop harvest for wonderful fresh hop character, and so on. I look forward to this all year.

On this nice, cool, overcast, rainy day waiting for the holiday weekend to finish and getting ready to get back to the grind, I have the pleasure of starting my Autumn seasonal beer drinking with a Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale. The beginning of September is the earliest I’ll go searching for these types of beers, as most of the historically seasonal beers were never available before early-mid September (i.e. when last season’s heavier beers were pulled out of storage for the harvest).

[I would insert a rant in here on why I’m bothered to have seen Fall seasonal beers as early as the beginning of August this year, but it’s not hurting anyone other than silly traditionalists like me who obsess over that crap]

The point of all of this is that it’s time to start thinking about brewing up some seasonal beers for later in Autumn and Winter (November-December time period). Last year I had a chocolate porter and a coffee porter on tap as Winter rolled in. I don’t know how many of you got to taste either of these beers, but I thought the chocolate porter turned out pretty awesome and the coffee porter needed to have the coffee toned back a bit. To cut the overbearing coffee bitterness, I started pouring them as a 50-50 mix of the two beers in a pint glass and it turned out wonderful. My current thought is that I’d like to experiment with making a recipe that comes as close to recreating that mix without needing to make both individual beers and blend them.

I’m gonna think about this and post a first design of a recipe soon.

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