California craft beer: Not your father’s fall seasonals

From maple beers to hearty tripels, these autumnal brews will warm your spirits this fall.

Now that autumn has arrived, it’s time to put away the summer’s light lagers and golden ales. Cooler weather necessitates more robust beer. While many people reach for Märzens (or Oktoberfest beers), brown ales, red ales, amber ales, porters, or stouts, there are many others that will quench your thirst just as well as, if not better than, those traditional fall beers.

A quick note on pumpkin beers: If you enjoy the plethora of pumpkin beverages that appear each fall, you’ll be pleased to know that you’ll have no trouble getting your fill this October. And if that’s your passion, I won’t stand in your way. But here are a few more intriguing ideas.

Maple-flavored beers

Brewing with maple syrup is not a new concept, but it is not as common as many other ingredients. It imparts a distinct sweetness and texture to the beer, making it ideal for the fall season, whether or not you’re also eating pancakes.

Original Pattern Brewing Co. in Oakland makes Banshee, a maple brown ale brewed with Vermont maple syrup. Also, Founder Brewing Co.’s famous Kentucky Breakfast Stout has a cousin called Canadian Breakfast Stout, which is an imperial chocolate coffee stout flavored with maple syrup. Sierra Nevada also produces a Trip in the Woods Maple Scotch, which is only available on draft.

Ales with fresh hops

Fall is also harvest season for many crops, including hops. Sierra Nevada pioneered the concept of wet hop beers, now more commonly known as fresh hops, in the 1990s when they released Harvest Ale for the first time in 1996. These are beers made with fresh, unkilned hops that are taken directly from the field to the brew kettle, with no drying or heating in between. The goal is to start brewing them as soon as possible after they’ve been harvested.

This method produces beer with incredible hop aromas. Because many brewers make these in small batches and only a few bottle or can them, your best bet is to look for them at your local bar. Act quickly if you see one, because they don’t last long. The freshness imparted by wet hops fades quickly, and they’re generally only good for a few weeks.


Dubbels originated in Belgian Trappist breweries, where they were created in part to help the monks get through the annual Lenten fasts. The monks drank table beer most of the year, a low-alcohol, everyday beer that was essentially a “single.” The Trappist Westmalle monastery created the first Dubbel in 1922, and many other monasteries now produce dubbels. The name simply refers to the doubling of ingredients.


If double is good, surely triple is better? That was probably the thinking in 1934, when Westmalle introduced its 9% ABV Tripel. Tripels, as opposed to dark dubbels, are bright golden in color and have a complex nose of fruit and spices. They also have a sweet and spicy flavor, and despite their strength, they are surprisingly easy to drink. They also tend to be clean, crisp, and dry at the end.

There are many good ones, both from Belgium and made by American brewers, such as Chimay Tripel (White), Allagash Tripel, Laughing Monk’s Third Circle, and Sante Adairius Rustic Ales’ Meh…, a tripel made with Prairie Artisan Ales.

In general, a fall beer should have a fuller body and slightly stronger flavors and/or alcohol, which, as the saying goes, helps to warm the cockles of one’s heart.

Other beers to look for include nut brown ales (beers brewed with nuts) and mushroom beers. Both are becoming increasingly scarce, but are ideal for this time of year.

The British Strong Bitter (sometimes referred to as an ESB) is another style that has largely died out on our shores, but East Brother Beer Co.’s fall seasonal is called English-Style Pub Ale and is a heady example of this style. Its 7.5% ABV will keep you warm on a cool fall evening by the fire.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply