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Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012

Seasonal Brews Enhance Autumn in Milwaukee

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The days are getting shorter. Cooler temperatures are sneaking in. School has started. Colors are changing. Halloween costumes are being considered. As much as some of us try to deny it, this can only mean one thing: Put on a sweater, because fall is here.

On the bright side, chilly weather might mark the best time of year for the beer aficionado. Since we’re no longer sitting in the hot sun, we leave behind the berry and wheat flavors with low alcohol content. Instead, we embrace the full-flavored harvest ales that mime the tastes and aromas of the fall. We turn to heavier brews in colors of the turning leaves, enriching the seasonal spirit. We leave the lighter and go hoppier. Just like the wine connoisseur, we want something that goes with what we eat. We want to wash down the rich, tasty soups and stews that make up fall’s bounty with a toastier beer.

Seasonal beers have marked holidays and seasons since ancient times. Before refrigeration, some brews were seasonal based on what was available and wouldn’t spoil at the time. Nowadays, we enjoy the character of each season based on celebrations and harvest vegetables. Naturally, all the large breweries cater to the fall theme. But most Wisconsin breweries have also come out with rich, luscious autumn brews.

Milwaukee, with its large German population, loves to celebrate with Oktoberfest/Marzen beer. Marzen (“March,” in German) is when the beer was originally brewed. It was then stored all summer and served in fall, for the festival. Breweries offering their own version of this traditional lager include Lakefront Brewery, Sprecher Brewing, Water Street Brewery, the Milwaukee Ale House (Hoptoberfest), Hinterland, Stonefly, New Glarus and Horny Goat.

Fall is pumpkin time, and pumpkin ain’t just for pie anymore. Colonial settlers brewed pumpkin beer, though the recipe was largely forgotten until the 1980s. Lakefront Brewery has a pumpkin lager with notes of clove, nutmeg and caramel. Water Street Brewery carries a spiced lager that comes out around Halloween. Horny Goat will serve its HornyCopia Pumpkin Ale with 5.6% alcohol by volume.

Seasonal beers aren’t solely relegated to Oktoberfest and pumpkin, though. Sprecher will carry its award-winning Dopple Bock. Milwaukee Ale House has O-Gii Imperial Wit, which used to be called “Godzilla,” with its 9.2% alcohol content. New Glarus is carrying the clove- and cinnamon-flavored Laughing Fox, and the dark Back 40. Horny Goat will serve El Hefe hefeweizen, with its notes of banana and clove, and Water Street Brewery will feature an Irish Stout.

Many fall brews are made in small quantities and are only served for a short period of time. So get out and enjoy these treats while you can!

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