I’ve recently noticed an interesting trend in seasonal beer production: autumn brews seem to be issued earlier and earlier each year. Although summer remains in full swing, the light and fruity summer varietals are already fighting against the encroachment of next season’s choices.
In the normal course of events , cool weather beer – traditionally Märzen or Oktoberfest varieties – is issued in early September, a few weeks prior to the annual event held in Munich, Germany. Then, once Oktoberfest has officially ended in early October, we still have until at least mid to late November to enjoy the fall flavors until the weather turns truly cold and wintry.
Yet I found myself standing in the grocery last weekend (on the last day of July, no less), holding a bottle of New Belgium Brewing’s Red Hoptober in my hand – a fall seasonal beer in July! Thus, not only is this new trend of early issuance interesting, it’s also most certainly welcomed – at least by me. (I’ve previously confessed, on several occasions, my love of fall brews. They are my favorite beers during my favorite time of year.)
But let’s get back to Red Hoptober, a new release from the Fort Collins, Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing. From its name, I presumed it to be a cross between a hoppy and spicy India Pale Ale (IPA) and a traditional, hearty Oktoberfest-style ale. And my presumption wasn’t too far off once I cracked open a bottle. The brewery poetically describes Red Hoptober as “shining like autumn leaves in a globe glass, this beer pours a dark and lovely garnet as it builds a bright, inviting head.”
Red Hoptober is certainly not a summer beer, but nonetheless I find it to be enjoyable on warm summer evenings or over a spicy dinner. I am not particularly a fan of IPAs, finding them too overpoweringly hoppy to enjoy – scotch should be spicy, not beer, I say. But Red Hoptober’s balance between the IPA and Oktoberfest tempers its spiciness to reasonable and smoothly mysterious proportions.
Summer hasn’t ended yet – not by a longshot - but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start drinking fall beer. However, you might consider waiting until the sun sets and the air cools. And then, if you try hard enough, you can almost smell autumn’s arrival.