Autumn is the time of changing leaves, cooling temperatures and the enjoyment of seasonal beers. The 179th annual Oktoberfest celebration is currently raging in Munich, Germany, but the 16-day festival of beer will be winding to a close this weekend. If, like me, you have missed out on this year’s festival, fear not. There are plenty of seasonal fall beers to enjoy throughout the month of October, but get them soon. They’re going fast.
Craft and microbreweries often produce seasonal beers to correspond with supplies available during certain times of year. In autumn, the most common kinds of seasonal beers produced are Oktoberfest, a Marzen-style beer in honor of the festival beverage of choice in Germany. Pumpkin ales are also popular choices, but other flavors can infiltrate brews of the season, such as hazelnut and spices. Autumn beers tend to be darker, maltier and full of bold flavors.
If you are not familiar with seasonal beer, it can be daunting to buy an entire six pack of something you’re not sure you’re going to like. One thing you can do is find a store that offers singles or the option to build your own six pack. This will allow you to try one or two of several different beers to find the kind you like the best.
Many stores in town offer these, but one of the best selections of single bottle seasonals I found was at The Fridge Wholesale and Discount Liquor Store at 1150 Westport Drive. Recently, I found that they carry nine different seasonal beers available in singles, including Free State Octoberfest, Breckenridge Autumn Ale and Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat.
Kevin Neitzel, owner of The Fridge, said they try to offer every seasonal they have in six packs and in singles.
“O’Fallon Pumpkin is my personal fall favorite,” Neitzel said. “It’s like a liquid pumpkin pie.”
Johnny Evans, manager of The Farm Discount Liquor Store at 612 Fort Riley Blvd., said their store was already in the process of transitioning to the winter seasonal beers. (Indeed, among the Oktoberfests and pumpkin ales, I found a supply of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine.) But they had a good selection of sampler packs.
Sampler Packs are usually packs of 12 beers in multiple flavors, which Evans said is another good way to try out different beers if you’re not familiar with seasonals. They also frequently contain a limited edition flavor that can only be found in the sampler pack. Among the options at The Farm, I found Sam Adams Folly Packs that contained the hard-to-find Red Hoptober Ale and Blue Moon Brewmaster’s Autumn Sampler Packs containing their Harvest Pumpkin Ale and Carmel Apple Spiced Ale.
Evans said people shouldn’t be afraid to ask the clerk for help if they want to know more about a type of beer.
“If I go into a store and I want to know something, I’m going to ask questions,” Evans said. “Any store that’s worth their salt is going to have someone knowledgable about beer.”
Meanwhile, in Aggieville, a mighty collection of six pack seasonals has congregated at The Library Discount Liquor Store on 521 North 12th St. Among the beers there that I had not seen at other stores were Bridgeport Witch Hunt (a spiced harvest ale), Newcastle Werewolf (a blood red ale) and Coney Island Freaktoberfest.
“Oktoberfest beers tend to drive fall sales,” said Mike Towne, manager at The Library. “Fall seasonal beers tend to be some of the better selling seasonals.”
Towne said a good way to learn more about a particular beer or style, is to visit websites where “beer geeks” post their tasting notes, such as ratebeer.com. Many stores are even starting to post notes from sites like these in their stores to help people choose the right beer for them, as many already do with wine tasting.
Another way people can get better acquainted with new beer is to ask their local liquor store if they offer tastings, Towne said. When the Kansas liquor laws changed over the summer, giving us back our happy hour specials, they also gave liquor stores the ability to host tasting events. Some of the larger stores have already begun to do this, including The Library. Towne said he expected more and more to begin offering this service in the future. He said that local breweries also offer tastings and tours.
Towne said he did not wish to promote drinking to excess, but the best way to find out if you like a new beer or not is simply to try it.
“Craft beer is about quality, not quantity,” he said.
And so, for those of you who claim to be content with your domestic swill, I challenge you to broaden your horizons. Put the good advice of these men to use: go forth and find a real beer with real flavor. Prost.
Karen Sarita Ingram is a senior in English. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.