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AleSmith's Nut Brown Ale. Photo by Jeffrey Spanier
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’Tis the seasonal beer

One of the delights of traveling afar and visiting breweries at different times of the year is the opportunity to enjoy seasonal beers crafted to match the sights, smells and weather of what are called “The Seasons.” Rumor has it that these Seasons offer not only changes in temperature, but require complete wardrobe adjustments as well as socks and shoes.

Personally, I believe the phenomenon may be overrated. However, as a beer lover it offers something that our sunshine and warm temperatures often do not: seasonal beers.

And while our warm climes are perfect for the ubiquitous IPAs and refreshing lagers found at every stop along the way in our town, sometimes I pine for a change. And a crafty craft beer lover can find a few of these seasonal style beers all throughout San Diego, if you know where to look.

Duck Foot Golden Honey Ale and a Belgian Tripel. Photo by Jeffrey Spanier

When it comes to the styles that harvest a nostalgia for autumn, I look to the colors of falling leaves. Or at least to pictures I’ve seen of falling leaves. The brown, red and amber ales offer a flavor that leans toward maltiness and subtle sweetness versus the hop-forward IPAs or crisp, dry lagers. Depending on the beer, they can offer caramel notes, robust roastiness or even nuttiness and range in color from copper-tinged golden to dark brown.

Here are a few of my favorite beers that bring to mind autumn, and most are available all year long. I’ll list them by fall colors, lightest to darkest.

Duck Foot Brewing‘s Drink This or the Bees Die Golden Honey Ale. This 6.5% abv ale hails from Duck Foot’s homebrewing days and is a gluten-reduced option. This medium bodied slightly sweet nectar never disappoints and comes off as refreshing on warm days and warming on cool ones.

Pizza Port Brewing Co.’s Chronic Amber Ale. A darker copper-colored ale that is lighter than it may appear when first poured. It offers some hop bitterness from the Mount Hood hops, but the English malts smooth it out. At 4.9% abv, this is a perfect beer for long weekends playing armchair quarterback.

The author at Karl Strauss Outpost with a Red Trolley Ale. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Spanier

Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale. This Irish Red ale was originally brewed as the Karl Strauss holiday ale, but has become its most awarded beer. It is brewed with caramelized malts that give the beer a deep copper coloring and offers subtle flavor notes of currant and raisins to give it both a pile of leaves bouquet and a slightly roasty flavor. This is one of my favorite beers to find on tap at a restaurant because it pairs so well with food.

Aztec Brewing Company takes us into the darker ales with Macaroon Nut Brown, a rich, slightly heavier bodied ale. The biscuit and nut character is augmented by bourbon-aged Tahitian vanilla and organic coconut. While this may sound like a sticky-sweet and decadent drink, it is so well made that it is neither of those things. Instead, it’s the dessert version of the classic English brown ale, yet still very much a proper pint of ale. I have made many an evening trip to the Vista taproom and brewery to finish the night with a pint of this amazing “dessert” beer.

AleSmith’s Nut Brown Ale. Truth be told, this is my favorite daily drinker. Ever since I had my first pint, at the insistence of a beertender at Stone Brewing, I’ve been hooked. Not only does this beer transport me to late autumn, but late autumn in an English pub to boot. The rich, earthy, malt-forward ale offers notes of cocoa and nutty, biscuity goodness.

Eppig’s Moment of Weakness Dark Sour. Photo by Jeffrey Spanier

Eppig Brewing’s Moment of Weakness. This beer can be tricky for a first-time enjoyer. It’s very dark, but the depth of color is deceiving. It is a dark sour and plum, black cherry and chocolate come across on the nose as well as in the flavor. It is both slightly roasty and slightly tart, which doesn’t translate immediately as something this beer should offer. But once the mind accepts the magic in the glass, Moment of Weakness is simply amazing. I am not sure, but my propensity to order a second glass of this 7% beer may connect to its name.

If you’re on the Hazy IPA Train or a lager lover, take an opportunity this autumn to try something new or revisit one of these styles. Time, place and people always affect the way I enjoy a beer, and with these favorites I can turn any 83-degree day into a crisp or blustery fall evening. And, since this is San Diego, when I’m ready to return to the sunshine and an IPA, they will be there waiting for me.

Jeff Spanier is the co-host of I Like Beer the Podcast. Take a listen wherever you get podcasts. Follow Spanier’s adventures on Instagram @ilikebeerthepodcast.

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