I had the idea for this article back in July, when the first pumpkin beer hit the market for the season. I discussed pumpkin beers in this column last October, so if that is your thing, the recommendations there are still the same. For those of you wondering what else is out there for fall, read on. All of these recommendations are readily available in Central Massachusetts.
Sam Adams Octoberfest (5.30% ABV)
This is one of my favorite seasonal offerings from Sam Adams. It pours a one-finger, billowy head over a beer that is red-hued. There is a sweet smell of toffee and slight hops. It has a slightly sweet taste and a superclean finish with little-to-no hop presence. This is ridiculously drinkable and goes well with just about any food. If there was such a thing as an all-purpose craft beer for the fall, this would be it. This is one of the few beers on the planet that you can have at a gathering that will please just about everyone. If I see this at the top of a cooler, I am not going to venture any deeper.
Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen (5.80% ABV)
Looking for an Octoberfest beer that you can either enjoy in your home in Massachusetts or on a trip to Germany? This beer is available on both sides of the Atlantic. It pours a golden-brown color, with a huge, heavy head on top that is stubborn and does not want to go away. It smells of sweet, bready malts and just enough hops to let you know it is, in fact, a beer. It is smooth and easy to drink. There is a crisp, clean aftertaste that lets you know that this is not an average beer. A quick German lesson for you: Marzen is March in German. Octoberfest beers are usually brewed in March and lagered and then bottled just in time for Octoberfest.
Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project Babayaga (7.00% ABV)
Babayaga is a fine example of an Export Stout brewed right here in Massachusetts. It pours a deep, dark brown, with a two-finger, tan-colored head. To say the smell was complex would be an understatement. Scents of vanilla, toasted wood and dark caramel are some of what I picked up. There was a surprise on the tasting. Chocolate was nowhere to be found on the nose but appears on my taste buds. The finish was dry and crisp, with no aftertaste. This would make a nice sipper next to the fire or over conversation with close friends. On a side note, if you happen to see a bottle of their Barbapapa stout, grab it. It is an experience on its own that’s not to be missed.
Jacks Abbey Fire in the Ham (5.40% ABV)
Vegetarian bacon beer or ham beer. That is exactly how two of my close friends described this offering from Framingham’s own Jacks Abbey. This is a Rachbier, which is a traditional German beer that utilizes wood-smoked malts as an ingredient. It pours a golden-brown color, with a smallish head that disappears over time. It smells like a pork product being smoked over an open campfire, hence the name. It is not hoppy at all, either in aroma or taste. The theme here is smoke, and it is prevalent everywhere up to the finish. The finish is clean, leaving no hint as to what you just experienced. This beer would be excellent at a barbecue or a traditional German Octoberfest meal. No meat was used in its production, so it is, in fact, vegetarian.
Tree House Brewing That’s What She Said (5.6% ABV)
This is a fine local example of a milk stout brewed in Monson. A milk stout has no milk in it but actually has lactose, otherwise known as milk sugar, to help round out the roastiness and slight bitterness of the stout and make it sweeter and more palatable to drink. Careful with this one; I found it to be the most drinkable of the bunch. It pours black as night, with a chocolatey two-finger head that does not want to go away and has excellent lacing. It is simply beautiful to look at. It smells of coffee, chocolate, anise, molasses and roasted malt. The aroma is quite complex for a beer with such a low ABV. It tasted like a fudgy, coffee, chocolate brownie. It is a smooth, well-balanced beer. This is one of the best milk stouts that I have ever had, bar none. You can only buy this beer from the brewery in Monson. If by some chance it is not available, don’t fret. Every beer from this brewery is world class, in my opinion. There are usually two to four varieties available. Get one of each to take home and take in the beautiful fall scenery during the trip.
By Kerry Cyganiewicz