By Andrew Johnson, ColumbiaFoodieNews.com contributor
Let’s be honest. It’s never a BAD time to have a beer, but one of my favorite times of year to enjoy a few is when the leaves start to fall and the nights become much cooler. My beer taste buds seem to evolve in those autumn months from a desire to drink hop-forward beers and wheat beers to craving more malty and darker beers. It all begins in the middle weeks of September with the emergence of Oktoberfests and Marzens and continues through the Holidays with Stouts and Porters. If you’re out and about, be sure to try some darker offerings from some of our local bars and restaurants. Below are few of my favorites for some smooth cool-weather sipping.
Highland Clawhammer Oktoberfest, 5% – Asheville: This is one of my favorite Oktoberfest styles because of its drinkability. Even if Oktoberfest is officially done, this beer can hold its own in the cooler months thanks to a malty backbone packed with a rich caramel flavor and a smooth, biscuit-like finish. Enjoy this beer as it was meant to be: in sessionable quantities. Thanks to the low ABV, it’s easy to down a few and not be over-served.
Swamp Cabbage Dunkelweizen, 4.8% – Columbia: Not many breweries brew a dark wheat beer that’s as good as this one. This beer has the banana and clove profiles of a traditional German-style hefeweizen, but there’s a significant boost in the malt character with the addition of caramel malts. It almost tastes like semi-sweet banana bread. Enjoy by itself or with roast chicken or pork.
Westbrook Dark Helmet Schwarzbier, 5.5% – Mt. Pleasant: Schwarzbiers are dark lagers (schwarz is German for “black”) that drink dark due to the specific malts used in the brewing process but also finish light because they’re lagers – this simply means they’ve fermented at lower temperatures. Westbrook does a fantastic job of striking this balance with some coffee and dark chocolate notes that finish crisp and clean with flavors that don’t linger. This one pairs well with hearty red meats fresh off the grill.
Founders Backwoods Bastard Barrel-aged Scotch Ale, 11.2% – Grand Rapids, MI: Founders puts their “Dirty Bastard” scotch ale in bourbon barrels to obtain the complex and non-traditional flavor profiles, but to also add a subtle hint of bourbon found in the finish. Notes of sweet caramel and roasted malts come through from the scotch ale and blend with the sharpness of oak barrel bourbon, and at 11.2% ABV, it is certainly a sipper.
Stone Xocoveza Stout, ;8.1% – Richmond, VA: This is the heaviest beer on this list, but also the most flavorful. Inspired by Mexican chocolate, which is created with a spice addition (usually a smoked pepper), Xocoveza boasts a complex flavor profile full of chocolate, coffee, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and spicy pepper. This is the perfect post-dinner dessert beer, but it also makes a sitting by a campfire even more enjoyable.
You can find most of these beers throughout the season in a variety of establishments, but you’re more than welcome to stop by Craft And Draft to enjoy even more varieties of seasonal offerings! (Shameless plug, we know). We hope you enjoy the Holidays better with BEER!
Andrew Johnson is co-owner of Craft And Draft craft beer store and growler shop here in Columbia.