RICHMOND, Va. — Fall is a fine time to sample a wide variety of craft beers, because no matter what your autumnal activity there is likely to be a seasonal beer to make it better.
Whether you're having a Halloween gathering, hosting a Thanksgiving feast, enjoying the fall foliage or taking the family apple picking, there are plenty of brews to help celebrate. Thankfully, they pair well with the foods we tend to crave as the temperatures drop and the leaves get their color.
By nature, craft beers can be hard to come by due to limited production and an often smaller distribution footprint. So to help you usher in fall, we've gathered a list of some favorite autumn-friendly craft brews that are more widely available, then we clustered according to the festivities they pair best with.
— PUMPKIN ALE (from Schlafly Beer in St. Louis, Mo.)
Style: Pumpkin ale
Alcohol: 8 percent
Notes: Pounds of pumpkin are combined with clove, cinnamon and nutmeg to create what Schlafly says has been referred to as "liquid pumpkin pie." This full-bodied, deep amber ale is ideal for a Halloween party, pumpkin carving and other autumn celebrations. Goes particularly well with apple pie and smoked meats.
— PUNKIN ALE (from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Del.)
Style: Spiced brown ale
Alcohol: 7 percent
Notes: Named after the annual Punkin Chunkin Festival held near Lewes, Del., the weekend after Halloween, Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale is a go-to fall beer. While other pumpkin beers can be overpowering with their spices, Punkin Ale is first and foremost a brown ale, but is complemented with more subtle flavors of pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. It loves roast meats and sharp cheddar.
— TEN FIDY (from Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont, Colo.)
Style: Imperial stout
Alcohol: 10.5 percent
Notes: With a perfect 100 score on RateBeer.com, Ten FIDY is coveted by many craft beer drinkers for its combination of roasted coffee, chocolate and caramel flavors. And as the weather gets cooler, an imperial stout is often suggested as a delicious way to warm up. Perfect for a long day of playing and watching football with family, entertaining friends and enjoying a bountiful Thanksgiving meal.
— THE KAISER (from Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, Colo.)
Style: Imperial Oktoberfest
Alcohol: 10.2 percent
Notes: Avery Brewing Co. took a traditional Oktoberfest beer that balances malty sweetness and the spiciness of hops, but intensified it to highlight more toffee and caramel flavors. It's crisp and clean, but certainly packs a punch. It's one that craft beer drinkers call a "sipper." It wants to accompany roast turkey, smoked short ribs and traditional Oktoberfest foods like bratwurst, sauerkraut and potato salad.
— LEVITATION ALE (from Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, Calif.)
Style: Amber ale
Alcohol: 4.4 percent
Notes: This amber ale has a lower alcohol content, which makes it just right for a hike through the woods or other outing to enjoy the fall colors. But Stone's Levitation Ale still packs a lot of flavor, blending malty sweetness with pine and citrus flavors from the hops. And when you're done with your hike, pair it with chicken wings, pork, apple pie and cheesecake.
— BOB'S '47 OKTOBERFEST (from Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City, Mo.)
Alcohol: 5.8 percent
Notes: Like other fall lagers, Boulevard has brewed a beer to celebrate Oktoberfest, an annual German beer festival that takes place in the fall. Bob's '47 is an amber beer with toasted malt, nutty, caramel flavors with hints of hops to balance it out. It really wants pretzels with mustard, but also is content with burgers, pizza, smoked cheese and roasted chicken or pork.
— GREEN BULLET (from Green Flash Brewing Co. in San Diego, Calif.)
Style: Triple IPA
Alcohol: 10.1 percent
Notes: The beginning of fall usually ushers in mostly malt-heavy beers for Oktoberfest and other autumn festivities, but there are still IPAs out there for those who enjoy hoppy beers. Green Flash's Green Bullet is a combination of New Zealand-grown Pacific Gem and Green Bullet hops that yields a concoction that starts out sweet with the tastes of pine, citrus, mango and pineapple, but finishes on the bitter side. It likes big flavors, so try some wedges of those apples you just picked along with some charcuterie, such as prosciutto or serrano ham. If you save some apples for a classic pie, try it with some caramel sauce.
— BEST BROWN ALE (from Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo, Mich.)
Style: Brown ale
Alcohol: 5.8 percent
Notes: Brown ales walk the line between medium-bodied malty-heavy beers and stronger beers like porters or stouts. Bell's version of this traditional style is highlighted by toasted malts impart subtle sweet cocoa flavors that are balanced with mild, floral hop flavors and a nutty finish. Match it up with roasted pork, grilled salmon, meatloaf and aged Gouda.
Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum