DRAFT PICKS: Autumn, a great time for beer

Autumn is a great time for tasting some of the more creative offerings worked up at breweries around the country.

Almost every brewer aims at some form of special autumn beverage — resplendent with the pumpkin and sweet spicy tastes of the season.

There are a lot of them.

The style guidelines manual of the Beer Judge Certification Program classifies many autumn beers infused with pumpkin flavors as “Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer.”

The guidelines suggests “The character of the particular spices, herbs and/or vegetables should be noticeable in the aroma; however, note that some (e.g., ginger, cinnamon) have stronger aromas and are more distinctive than others (e.g., some vegetables) — allow for a range of character and intensity from subtle to aggressive.”

The guidelines go on to suggest “Some malt aroma is preferable, especially in dark styles.

“Hop aroma may be absent or balanced, depending on the style. The spice, herb, or vegetable should add an extra complexity to the beer, but not be so prominent as to unbalance the resulting presentation.”

And as for taste ...

“As with aroma, the distinctive flavor character ... should be noticeable, and may range in intensity from subtle to aggressive.”

So, the style door is basically left wide open.

I would suggest there is a simple recipe for quality when brewing these types of flavorful beers.

There are those who use carefully selected raw materials — spice, herb and vegetable. Then there are those who use flavored syrups.

I think the difference is noticeable.

One generally is more subtle, the other is more “in your face.”

I love the wonderful beer offerings which are released at this time of year. I think it creates a tone and mood for the holidays to come.

There is so much brewers can do with beer. Autumn simply offers an entire season to get really, REALLY expressive.

Autumn also is a great time for some cool things going on around the extended neighborhood.

On Thursday, Oct. 2, there will be a Oktoberfest Craft Beer Tasting out at St. Ives from 6 - 8 p.m.

Those attending can enjoy samplings of Sam Adams Fat Jack, New Holland Ichabod, Hofbräu Oktoberfest, Tri City Brewing Oktoberfest and Sierra Nevada Flipside.

Each will be paired with small plates of goodies designed to bring out the flavors of the craft beers.

For more information or reservations call (231) 972-4837 ext. 231

This event is open to the public.

Chimay Première (Red) Bières de Chimay S.A. Belgium

At a recent beer tasting, Chimay Premiere (Red) was by far and away the most widely popular around the table.

Brewed in Belgium, Chimay Red —or Premiere — is a Dubbel weighing in at 7 percent ABV — a touch less than the other Chimay offerings.

This wonderful monastic ale pours a beautiful dark amber red color, with a very substantial head.

It smells like Belgian yeast, caramel, prunes and raisins.

Chimay has a full-bodied tastes of caramel, toffee, dark fruits, honey and toasted bread. Some of the tones are well hidden, so this brew is worthy of dedication to purpose and meditation on the meaning of good beer!

Chimay Red is definitely one of my favorites, although many would say it has already become “common place.”

This one has a fairly thin body, with a small amount of carbonation and a fairly creamy mouthfeel.

Just a note — This is a true monastic beer and carries the appropriate label as such.

To be a true monastic beer the following qualifications must be met:

  • The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision;
  • The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life;
  • The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need; and
  • Trappist breweries are constantly monitored to assure the irreproachable quality of their beers.

Fuego Del Otono, Autumn Fire Jolly Pumpkin Dexter

This was the least favorite brew at a beer tasting recently. No one at the table liked this Jolly Pumpkin offering — I did.

BUT, truth be known, it is ...um ...er ... different.

Autumn Fire pours orange, almost clear, with just a touch of head.

It has a distinctly sour-esque smell with tones of spice kicking around throughout.

I think the sourness scent is less evident on tasting, but it certainly does express a medium level sourness. (The “medium level” is my opinion. Others at the table said it was just plain vinegery!)

I think there is a refreshing spiciness in the tasting.

Like most “sour” beers, those bottle aged, you have to be careful on opening since this is highly carbonated.

It is quite a dry beer — it is sour, but what my grandson would call “pleasantly sour.”

Jolly Pumpkin is a brewery that practices open fermentation, oak barrel aging and bottle conditioning.

The brewers employ open fermentation vessels, a very traditional type of vessel that allows for the fullest flavor development of the ales. Special brewing yeast work their wonders, creating alcohol, carbon dioxide and a whole host of complex flavors in the process. At the end of fermentation the yeast is harvested off the top of the fermentation vessel and stored for re-pitching into subsequent beers.