Besides all the hay-riding, corn-mazing, football-watching and apple-fritter-chomping that goes on during the autumn season, fall signifies a blissful time for craft beer aficionados — Oktoberfest lagers, pumpkin ales, chocolate malts, and spicy hops. Small and large(r) breweries across CT have been getting their barrels ready for this chilly time of year, infusing their beers with a variety of autumn spices and earthy tones that would be perfect for an afternoon on the porch with the family after a spell of leaf-raking.
Oktoberfest beers trace back to the 1810 wedding of crown prince Ludwig of Bavaria and princess Therese of Saxon-Hildburghausen, in which the townsmen and women of Munich were invited to take part in the royal festivities on the fields in front of the city gates. The celebration must have been a quite the success among the locals, because two hundred years later, the 16-day beer extravaganza still carries on, and not only in its birthplace of Munich, Bavaria, Germany. Other countries have been joining in on the beer-guzzling fun, establishing their own meccas of malty goodness.
A packed crowd of large-bellied men dressed in lederhosen and women in their dirndl with braided-pigtails, boisterously singing and lifting and swaying their brim-filled glasses from side to side while streams of foam trapeze and stickify everything in its path. At least, that's what I imagine the legendary Bavarian Oktoberfest to be like. I'm sure it's wildly epic. If you can't head over to Munich this season, don't worry your fall-beer-pining bellies. Home to CT are several craft micro-breweries that are partaking in the German beer-making tradition, but, of course, with their own northeastern flair. A lot of the beers are only sold at the brewery itself. As they are mostly small operations, limited quantities are available. So let the fall beer drinking begin (if it hasn't already).
Two Roads Brewing Co.
1700 Stratford Ave., Stratford. (203) 355-2010, tworoadsbrewing.com.
Eine, 5.8% ABV.
Available starting Sept. 21.
A classic amber-tinted marzenbier (German for March beer). Due to the lack of refrigeration, summers during the middle ages posed a threat to beer-making. As a solution, they brewed a surplus of beer and left it to mature in the cool Alpine caves into the late summer and drew stock from it in the fall to produce what's now known as the Oktoberfest beer.
Zwei, 5.8% ABV.
Available starting Sept. 21.
A Kellerfest beer similar to the one you'd get in Munich.
Back East Brewing Co.
1296A Blue Hills Ave., Bloomfield. (860) 242-1793, backeastbrewing.com.
Bachtoberfest, 4.9% ABV.
Available through mid. Oct.
Back East has teamed up with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra to release this traditional Bavarian-style beer, consisting of Munich malts and noble German hops. Tony Karlowicz, co-founder of Back East Brewing, said that "it's not overly sweet like a lot of Oktoberfest beers." Instead, this deep amber-colored beer offers a lot of malt up front and a somewhat spicy kick at the end (known as spalter). On tap at a number of restaurants in the Hartford and New Haven area. Can also be purchased at the Hartford Symphony's 70th Anniversary Opening Night performances at The Bushnell Oct. 11 and 12.
Thomas Hooker Brewing Co.
16 Tobey Road, Bloomfield. (860) 242-3111, hookerbeer.com.
Octoberfest, 5.7% ABV.
Available through Aug.26-Oct. 31.
This true-to-style, multi-award-winning lager boasts a smooth full body with a strong malty bite.
Olde Burnside Brewing Co.
Stone of Destiny, 12 % ABV.
Aged with in Thomas Tew rum barrels, this Imperial Black and Tan style beer has nuances of coffee, rum and chocolate.
Cottrell Brewing Co.
100 Mechanic St., Pawcatuck. (860) 599 – 8213, cottrellbrewing.com.
Oktoberfest, 5 % ABV.
Available on draft only Sept.-Nov.
Malty on the tongue and nose with a side of sweet toastiness.
City Steam Brewery Café
942 Main St., Hartford. (860) 525-1600, citysteam.biz.
Marktoberfest, 6.5% ABV.
Available through early Nov.
Named in honor of Mark Ely, one of their bartenders who has been working with them for 30 years. A classic German-style lager served in a heavy mug. It's got a velvety and malty body with a sunset tint. For sale at brewpub only.
Norwegian Wood, 6% ABV.
Available around Thanksgiving.
A dark-bodied lager with elements of cinnamon and cocoa.
43 Homestead Ave., Stamford. (203) 658-3631, halffullbrewery.com.
Half-full Pumpkin Ale, 6.1% ABV
Available through Thanksgiving.
Spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg tea.
Charter Oak Porter Brewing Co.
New Canaan. (203) 972-9058, charteroakbrewing.com.
Charter Oak Porter, 5% ABV.
The roasted chocolate malts added to this beer make it nice and dark. Enjoy roasted grain and caramel malted flavors. Not too sweet and not too hoppy bitter.
Shebeen Brewing Co.
1 Wolcott Road, Wolcott. (203) 514-2336
Double-rye Porter, 7.5 % ABV.
Available starting in Oct.
This is not your typical porter. Strongly forward on the rye. There are also noticeable bourbon notes as that's what they aged the barrels with. Only available at brewery.
Bacon-Kona Stout, 4.5% ABV.
Contains a blend of oatmeal, Kona coffee and bacon. Don't worry, you're eyes aren't fooling you. Yep, there's bacon.
95B Whiting St., Plainville. (860) 255-4252, relicbeer.com.
Fool's Gold, 6.5 % ABV.
Back again for another year. The malty-meter shoots to the roof on this German-style alt beer. Made with lots of Munich malts and incorporates a special kind of yeast called alt yeast, which draws out those deep malty flavors. You might also be able to detect a dash of grapiness. On draft only.
Duality, 6.5% ABV.
This classic Belgian-style dubbel makes its debut. Malty and roasty with a caramel-raisin zest. Pairs well with grilled or roasted meats.
Darkness Falls, 7.5% ABV.
Available starting late Sept. or early Oct.
A new dark saison brewed with the yeast brettanomyces, combining notes of tartness and the classic spiciness that characterizes a saison. Mark Sigman, owner of Relic Brewing, said, "It's not overly anything. Very balanced. It's like a malty roasty, but also very yeast forward." On draft, but only on hand at the brewery.
Pumpkin Ale, 7.5-8% ABV.
Available beg. mid Oct.
Made with real pumpkins! These dudes actually go out to a pumpkin farm, select their pumpkins and add them to their barrels. Contains hints of raisin, vanilla, banana and chocolate. Only served at the brewery.
Thimble Island Brewing Co.
53 Industrial Rd., Branford. (203) 433-1890, thimbleislandbrewery.com.
Russian Imperial Stout, 10.5% ABV.
Available starting mid to late Oct.
Filled with traditional British hop varieties. To offset the high alcohol content, they age the stout with oak chips, giving it an earthy and smoked character. You'll get some sweetness from the roasted malt flavors. Not to be guzzled down but treated like a fine liquor. Best served in an 8 oz. brandy snifter to open up its aromas of molasses and caramel. Only sold out of brewery.
Coffee Stout, 6% ABV.
Whole coffee beans from a local coffee roaster go into this hearty craft-brewed stout.