Some people contend that fall is the best time of the year, with the weather cooling, fall sports starting and the leaves changing colors. However, I contend it’s because Oktoberfest and autumn beers are hitting shelves and taps.
The Oktoberfest or Marzen style of beer originated in Bavaria, and it is typically an amber or darker lager that tastes more malty than hoppy. The Oktoberfest brews you find in Cincinnati might run a bigger gamut than the strictly regulated German ones.
Oktoberfests aren’t the only style that proliferate this time of year, though. Pumpkin beers are traditionally fall releases, too, and have a long tradition in the United States. Spicing these ales with cinnamon, nutmeg and other flavors is a newer trend, but pumpkins are traditionally cheap and easy to grow, making them a readily available beer additive.
Enough history – let’s talk about today. Here’s a selection of fall beers brewed in the Cincinnati area.
Fibonacci, Pepo Pumpkin Porter: This won't be available until later in September, but it will be worth the wait. In keeping with Fibonacci’s scientific background and theme, the beer’s name comes from the scientific name for pumpkins, which is cucurbita pepo, also known as summer squash. The beer is a dark brown porter brewed with pumpkin and spices.
Rivertown Pumpkin Ale: Sugar and spice and pumpkin so nice, that’s what fall beers are made of. This one has been around for a while, and it has been consistently popular with the addition of molasses sweetening the spices.
Christian Moerlein, Das Uber Lager/ Fifth & Vine: Moerlein gives fans a double dose of Oktoberfest. Das Uber is newer, and this year’s version is closer to a traditional Oktoberfest. Fifth & Vine has the copper color and malty flavor one would expect in an Oktoberfest. Das Uber is canned while Fifth & Vine is bottled, so if you have a preference in container, you win either way.
Mt. Carmel Harvest Ale: A bit different in style, this one is a fall-inspired ESB, or extra special bitter. The style aims for balance between maltiness and hops, and this Mt. Carmel offering does just that, adding a crisp finish.
Rhinegeist, Franz: This was the first German beer produced by the Over-the-Rhine brewery, and it returns again this season. It is a good sessionable beer (that is, good for more than one beer in a sitting) that finishes malty and sweet.
Taft’s Ale House, Masskrug Oktoberfest Märzen: This beer is brewed with authentic German malts and hops, giving it an Old World feel.
Blank Slate, Turn for the Wurst: Blank Slate applies a different spin to a traditional style with a sausage-spiced Oktoberfest. Why not get the best of both worlds in the same glass?
Braxton, Oktober Fuel: This is so smooth. What makes this beer really stand out is how it both stays faithful to the marzen style while avoiding the overly sweet tastes that can sometimes be found in Oktoberfest beers. This one is a personal favorite from the Covington brewery.
MadTree, Bourbon Barrel Aged Ye Olde Battering Ram: Described on MadTree’s website as “dark as night but scarier,” this is a potent barleywine, coming in at 11.9 percent ABV. It also has some serious hoppiness to it as well. No wonder it's called Battering Ram – this will instantly assault your taste buds with flavor.