Sometimes, two individually good things can unite to make for an even more impressive experience. Peanut butter and jelly. Coffee and donuts. Lennon and McCartney.
New York State’s fall season and its accompanying beers are another dynamic union, with the former’s crisp temperatures and vibrant colors perfectly complemented by the latter’s now seemingly infinite supply of malty ales, lagers and concoctions scooped from smashed Jack-o-lanterns.
Over the past few years, Buffalo has thankfully been able to team its typically pristine autumn weather with inventive seasonal selections, providing Western New Yorkers with more than enough Oktoberfest-ready options on tap. Enduring orders like Flying Bison’s Bisonfest are now joined by the likes of Resurgence’s Vanilla Cappuccino Pumpkin Ale and others to provide plenty of locally brewed products amid the falling leaves.
But stretch past the boundaries of Erie County and into the aisles of such bottled ale outlets as Aurora Brew Works, Village Beer Merchant and Wegmans and you’ll find more than enough different tastes across the state. From easy drinking to spice-heavy to a nationally renowned imperial named after an Irish goblin, the state has plenty of fall choices. Here are five to consider as October winds to a close.
Brewed in: Long Island
ABV: 5.5 percent
Bartender pitch: Looking for a hint of pumpkin flavor, but not an overwhelming amount? Fall offers its fair share of beers heavy on the season’s most visible gourd, but Blue Point Brewery’s October favorite isn’t one of them. For those searching for a beer that teams a manageable ABV with requisite spices, orange hue and, yes, a hint of pumpkin, one could do worse than this downstate bottle.
Brewed in: Brooklyn
ABV: 5.5 percent
Bartender pitch: Brand loyalty can lead consumers to feel comfortable with varied offerings from a name they’re familiar. This plays particularly well with a brewery like Brooklyn, whose Lager, Brown Ale and Summer Ale are enduring fan favorites. Its Marzen Oktoberfest-style lager adheres to the quality put forth by those selections, albeit in a full-bodied and malty state that’s perfect for outdoor rounds amid fall foliage.
Brewed in: Ithaca
ABV: 6.3 percent
Bartender pitch: The first sip of Ithaca Beer Co.’s seasonal offering may not seem like anything too spectacular. Hints of nutmeg and cinnamon join traces of pumpkin, and not so much that the beer can double as dessert. But as drinkers work their way through this mildly potent choice, these flavors all become more prominent, making for an easy-drinking autumn ale.
Brewed in: Cooperstown
ABV: 5.8 percent
Bartender pitch: Not every fall selection needs to taste like Halloween. Some - like Ommegang’s harvest season-inspired entry - delight in delivering a complex option brewed with the autumn’s ethos in mind. Truth’s barley, oats and mixed malts create an amber-colored ale that demands to be enjoyed outdoors, whether with Lake Erie winds kicking or within view of farmers making such elite products possible.
Brewed in: Lakewood
ABV: 8.6 percent
Bartender pitch: Finally, if you’re looking for the equivalent of an ginger-tinted Kool-Aid Man smashing through the walls of your taste buds while wielding pitchers of alcoholic pumpkin pie (in a good way), pick up a 22-ounce bottle of Southern Tier’s seasonal king. Yes, the imperial ale is heavy on vanilla, real pumpkin and alcohol-by-volume, but its intricate mix of malts and hops make it more impressive than simply a nutmeg-accented novelty.