Autumn is a season of unmistakable change, as the days grow shorter and the sun moves south. It’s time to set aside the refreshing, playful beers of summer and explore more contemplative beers with greater character and substance. Our local brewers provide plenty of options to help you prepare for the longer nights and colder days; you can ease your way into the season with a crisp, traditional German-style Oktoberfest beer, or jump in with both feet and grab a bold, bodacious stout or rich and luscious brown ale. More and more brewers are experimenting with fresh pumpkin, discovering ways to infuse their beer with the meat of the gourd along with a variety of spices. This is also hops harvest season, so do not be afraid of beers with intense hop character. Here, we offer some beer recommendations for the fall of 2012.
Night Owl Pumpkin Ale
Elysian Brewing Company
Dick Cantwell, the brewmaster at Elysian Brewing Company, is obsessed with pumpkins. Each fall, Cantwell’s brew crew creates as many as 12 different pumpkin beers for Elysian’s annual Great Pumpkin Beer Festival (see page 49). The festival features dozens of locally produced pumpkin beers, along with beers from as far away as Norway. This style of beer is usually brewed using pumpkin meat along with the grains and hops normally used for brewing. Pumpkin beers frequently include spices that conjure visions of pumpkin pie, such as clove, cinnamon and nutmeg; tinges of ginger and allspice taste right for the season. Of all of Cantwell’s gourd-inspired creations, some of which border on the bizarre, Night Owl Pumpkin Ale is the most approachable. The beer pours in a beautiful shade of deep reddish orange and weighs in at 5.9 percent alcohol by volume. Night Owl Pumpkin Ale is widely available from August through October, so look for it now at most grocery stores or bottle shops in 12- and 22-ounce bottles. You can get it on tap at any of Elysian’s three Seattle brewpubs, but I recommend visiting the company’s flagship location on Capitol Hill (Seattle, 1221 E Pike St.; 206.860.1920; elysianbrewing.com)
Brave American Brown Ale
American Brewing Company
This beloved beer has just been rereleased after a discouraging dry spell. In the summer of 2011, American Brewing created an original brown ale to serve at the Brave Horse Tavern: Brave American Brown Ale. Those who enjoyed it at the tavern were not surprised when the beer brought home a coveted bronze medal from the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado, in September 2011. Soon thereafter, American Brewing Company suspended production of the beer. (Always leave them wanting more!) To commemorate the first anniversary of the victory, the brewery released a special version of the award-winning beer. This interpretation of traditional English brown ale with hop influences from the Northwest weighs in at 6.5 percent alcohol by volume and features rich, toasty caramel overtones balanced perfectly with a subtle hint of citrus as the beer finishes dry on the palate. The best place to enjoy Brave American Brown Ale on tap is at the Brave Horse Tavern, where it will be pouring through the end of October, or enjoy it straight from the source at the American Brewing taproom (Edmonds, 180 W Dayton St.; 425.774.1717; americanbrewing.com).