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Your guide to seasonal beers

By Staff | Sep 30, 2010

It’s the time of year when many people are out picking pumpkins, but for the beer lovers of the world it’s the time to be drinking them.

With the weather cooling down, it’s time for heartier pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers to be lining the shelves and filling the glasses of beer drinkers.

“A lot of people think there are more beer sales in the summertime but they’re wrong,” said Erlan Wheeler, owner of House of Wines on Ohio 60 in Marietta, Ohio. “People like to drink beer all year long. They just change what they drink with the season.”

For Justin Miracle, 31, of Marietta, the promise of some of his favorite stouts and ales helps with the adjustment to cool weather.

“It can make a chilly day a lot better if you can sit down with a good beer,” he said. “I like the heavier ones when it gets cold out and I try to have something new every year. I’m a huge Dogfish Head fan, too.”

The Delaware-based brewer is one of dozens that now distribute a pumpkin-inspired beer each fall.

Among the most popular at his store are Southern Tier, Weyerbacher Imperial, with a higher alcohol content, and Buffalo Bills pumpkin ale.

“That’s a very good one,” said Wheeler. “Their claim to fame is that they use the original recipe of George Washington.”

There’s only one new pumpkin flavor there this year, from the Akron brewery Hopping Frog, but Wheeler said he’s noticed a new trend in the fall beers.

Rather than being called Oktoberfest beers, they’re being labeled as Autumn fest, he said.

“They’re the same style but they’re marketing them differently,” Wheeler said. “They don’t want people thinking about having them just in September or October.”

The fall beer season typically lasts until Christmas, when a new crop of holiday beers come out, Wheeler said.

“There’s a beer for every season,” he said. “At Christmas, they have a little more spice. In the summertime, you want something light and refreshing and maybe a fruity flavor and in the fall people turn to the heavier beers.”

Steve Kennedy, 43, of Reno, said he’s already made the seasonal shift.

“I like to go to the (Marietta Brewing Company) and see what they have,” he said. “It’s always something good.”

Kennedy said he’s also a fan of Oktoberfest beers.

“I stick with the traditional German ones,” he said. “If you buy something like Beck’s, you pretty much know what you’re getting.”

There are a number of domestic breweries now in the Oktoberfest beer game as well, said Wheeler, and some companies are simply doing autumn beers with less of a theme that are still perfect for the season.

“We have an oatmeal-based breakfast stout,” he said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with Oktoberfest but it’s something you wouldn’t want on a hot day.”

In the past, beer was seasonal due to the climate and the availability of fermentable items.

Before refrigeration it was difficult to brew in the summer and in the winter not much was available to ferment and yeast could die in the cold temperatures, so spring and fall were peak times.

Today, seasonal beers are simply based on taste preference–although there is still room for plenty of different brands.

“When it gets to this time of year, people start thinking about this kind of beer,” said Wheeler. “But when it comes to what you buy, it all comes down to individual taste. It’s the same reason they make Coke and Pepsi.”

Contact Kate at letters@graffitiwv.com