Yep. It’s here. Officially. We are in Autumn (in fact, Winter’s around the corner) and incidentally, my favourite season for beer. This might sound strange coming from a self-confessed Pale freak, but Autumn – and Autumnal Beers – are so varied, from Strong Pales to Porters and Stouts, that I really look forward to October. Plus, as a cooling, slightly chilled Pale is to Summer, a full-bodied, warming Strong Mild or Stout is to Autumn. However, you don’t have to default to the more obvious darker beers – so here’s a pick of what I’ve been enjoying at home for the past month or so.
First up is Brooklyn’s Winter Ale (6.0abv). I guess it’s Brooklyn’s take on a Scottish Ale, and I like it. True, it’s not quite as full-bodied as we are used to in the UK, but there’s plenty to recommend; a biscuity, satisfying blend of malts in the body, and a restrained hoppiness that makes a nice change for Brooklyn; a touch of spice at the end rather than a full-on hop assault. One I’d like to try on draught; preferably on a chilly Autumnal, New York afternoon. I’d had this in the cellar since Spring, and it held up perfectly well.
Sierra Nevada’s Tumbler (5.5%abv) is a relatively new addition to their stable. The label and legend on the neck is Sierra Nevada at their idyllic best; talk of long afternoons and falling leaves. The beer itself is an odd one; the nose is all cola, black pepper and cloves, but this doesn’t really translate into the taste of the beer. There’s a savoury, almost vegetal note which fades to a sweet, maple-led finish – along with more restrained hopping. I’m not saying I didn’t like it; far from it – it’s an interesting beer, although I’d like to drink some more before I can fully get my head around it’s taste.
My final American beer is Dogfish Head’s Raison D’etre (8.0% abv). I love Raisin in beer – it’s a flavour we don’t do enough over here but I can always rely on DFH to produce something flavourful and rich. Crystal-clear Mahogany in colour, the nose is herbal at first before that rich, sweet vine fruit note pops up. On the sip, however, things are a little less sweet than you’d expect – there’s Demerara/Burnt sugar there, and little drying coffee on the edges. It’s much less cereal-led than Cain’s Raisin, for example – much more in the ballpark as, say, Chimay Red. My bottle was a little short in the way of head, although carbonated fine – again, another beer I’d like to sample on Cask (if such a thing exists!).
Ok, onto beers from our fine shores. Rodham’s beers are micro in the truest sense – produced by Michael Rodham in his house, and sold through a very limited selection of outlets, mostly in Yorkshire. I picked this up in the Temple Newsam farm shop, where I understand Rodham works in the grounds. Old Albion Porter (5.5%abv) is probably his best beer in my opinion; a porter which ticks all the boxes – slightly smoky, sweet, satisfying and rich with a firm, biscuity malt spine. You might not be able to find this one easily, but if you’re going to seek one out, seek out Old Albion. It occasionally finds it’s way into beer festivals – one assumes when Rodham finds time to brew it!
Autumn doesn’t have to mean dark – Orkney’s Orkney Blast is a perfect example of a warming, satisfying beer. An Award-winner (and rightly so), it’s one of the most complex golden ales you’re likely to find in the UK. Juicy malt, with a herbal (Thyme or Rosemary?) note running right through the taste, your tastebuds try to process that lot when a massive tart hop profile hits you right on the end of the sip. One of my friends actually thinks it’s more along the lines of an IPA than a ‘Strong Golden Ale’, and I can see where he’s coming from. It’s an aggressive beer, but one that begs to be enjoyed slowly, as the nights draw in and that heating gets turned up.
It’s not all bottled fun – BrewDog Edge remains my stand-out beer of the season so far, and Wetherspoon’s Autumn Beer Festival (on now) will see the beer popping up at a ‘Spoons near you. Saltaire’s Harvest Moon is one of the best beers they’ve produced for a while in my opinion, and York’s excellent Centurion’s Ghost should be doing the rounds a little more often now. Rooster’s Mocha Stout is also filtering through to handpumps near you right about now – speaking of Rooster’s, their peppery, gingery Pumpkin Ale pretty much sold out in a couple of days in Leeds from what I understand. I liked it; but obviously it divided opinion. Personally I thought it was one of the better Ginger and spice -led pales I’ve tried. Good work, lads.