A quick guide to autumn’s best beers, from amber ales to soul-warming stouts.
Now that summer’s oppressive heat has lifted (it seems to hurt less when you say it like that) and the days are filled with crisp, clean air it’s time to turn from light ales and thirst-quenching lagers to ones that have a little more heft—beer that’ll put hair on your chest. Or, at least ones that will stand up to the hearty stews and heavier dishes that become customary this time of year.
As the weather changes so do our palates (white wine in summer, red wine in winter anyone?) and suddenly you might find yourself craving a fuller-flavoured beer when just a couple weeks ago it would have been a bucket of Coronas or bust. Luckily we live in a country of devote beer drinkers that’s helped create a flourishing market for micro-brews—many of them crafting exceptional fall-friendly beers—as well as helping to keep demand high for full-bodied European ales, stouts and Abbey beers.
Broken down into three main categories (with some overlap) here’s a quick guide to choosing a beer that’ll both quench your autumnal thirst and compliment your meal.
Ales represent a diverse range of beer, from pale to dark, bitter to sweet, hopsy to malty and can be categorized by region, style, colour or flavour. Ale’s tend to pack more of a punch than lagers, with pronounced elements that showcase fruit notes, spice, hops or malt. Much like the world of wine, the colour of the ale is generally a good indicator of flavour. On the light end are Belgian white beers with notes of citrus rind and coriander seed. On the dark end of the spectrum are the rich malty-caramel flavours found in darks, stouts and porters.
One to try
Wellington Arkell Best Bitter, Ontario
A light beer with real flavour. The result of careful malt selection and the use of several varieties of fresh hops. Light in alcohol, but big in flavour, try it with roast pork, lamb or beef stew.
Wedged between the blonde and the stout ales lie the amber and reds. The name refers primarily to the copper-coloured tones that signify light sweetness, spice or nuts, hints of caramel and a balance between malt and hops. Ambers and reds tend to be easy drinking, flavourful, but not overpowering and are generally brewed to be a session beers—ones that you can drink all night. Is there a better kind?
One to try
Sam Adams Octoberfest Ale, Boston USA
Deep amber colour with a full-body and toasted-caramel flavour. Well balanced between sweetness, malt and hops. Great for pairing with fall soups, roasted vegetables and braised meats.
Stouts and Porters
These beers are rich, dark and full-bodied and can range from sweet to dry but are usually bitter with intense malt flavours and caramel aromas. There are several different types of stout including dry or Irish (think Guinness) and Imperial (a high alcohol stout first shipped to the Czars of Russia). Then there are others that use a wide range of foodstuffs in the brewing process such as milk, oatmeal, chocolate, coffee and even oysters.
Irish stew, venison, pheasant or other hearty dishes compliment stouts and porters exceptionally well, but you might also want to try one with raw oysters or other shellfish for a truly unique flavour pairing.
Did ya know?
Despite their heavy feel stouts can be surprisingly low in alcohol and calories. A pint of Guinness weighs in at 210 calories (pint of orange juice has 220) and just 4.2% alcohol.
One to try
McAuslan St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, Quebec
Serve this dark, chocolate and coffee flavoured stout with steak frites, kidney pie or a hearty stew.
First published at CanadianLiving.com