I have to be honest with you guys. I could use a beer.
Every week there seems to be some new, bizarre frontier in America. A contentious presidential debate, a COVID outbreak at the White House, wildfires scorching the west coast and yet another hurricane in the Gulf.
The election is just weeks away, and that’s shaping up to promise a lengthy vote count, lawsuits … I don’t even want to get into the fight over the Supreme Court.
So, again, I could use a beer.
I think we all could.
And let’s be clear. There’s still plenty to celebrate. It’s fall in New York. Beautiful foliage, cool weather, and, yes, it’s the best time in the world for beer. And I’ve got a few really good fall beers to help you either enjoy the crisp fall weather and the strangeness of COVID-era baseball playoffs, or cope with whatever disasters lie ahead.
I’ll start with the best beer I’ve had in this early fall — and maybe the best beer I’ve had all year — Costumes and Karaoke (8 percent, 30 IBU), the latest home run by Dogfish Head Brewery out of Milton, Del.
An imperial cream ale with a great name and a great, spicy flavor. Brewed with a blend of ginger, turmeric, anise, cardamom, cinnamon and vanilla, Costumes and Karaoke is a rich, bold ale that tastes like a rush of cool fall air and a playoff game at Yankee Stadium (missing those). A rich, boozy delight that’s still smooth enough to keep you coasting.
Sticking with the harder stuff, everybody knows I love a good pumpkin beer. And I’ve been effusive in my praise for Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Pumking pumpkin ale, and don’t worry, I’ll be enjoying plenty of them on lazy Sundays trying to pretend the Giants aren’t terrible. And Southern Tier, out of Lakewood, added a good wrinkle this year with Pumking Nitro (8.6 percent). Pumpkin pie, cinnamon, vanilla, buttery crust, roasted pecans … and that smoother, creamier mouthfeel from the nitro. It’s a delight, and as the temperature drops, you’re going to want to put on a sweater, but you’re also going to want to dial up that ABV to keep warm.
Another great pumpkin, this time out of Stratford, Conn., is Two Roads Brewing Co.’s Roadsmary’s Baby (6.8 percent). Aged in rum barrels, this is a bigger bolder flavor that comes on hard with boozy, oaky notes. And it’s October. It’s Halloween!
I know it’s going to be different this year. My kids, John, 6 (happy birthday, pal!), and Ben, 3, aren’t likely to be thrilled without trick or treating. But they’re still going to have candy and fun decorations, and you and I can still sample this boozy delight, maybe even while watching its famous namesake as part of a horror movie marathon.
But it’s not just scary season. It’s Oktoberfest.
Fine, it’s canceled. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a few good, malty Märzen from home.
And there are plenty of standards. Sam Adams’ Oktoberfest (5.3 percent, 16 IBU) is a staple in bars around the country, and there are worthy entries from every brewery from Sierra Nevada (6 percent, 28 IBU) to Saranac’s Märzen Fest (6 percent, 22 IBU) all across the country from some of the standard bearers.
But don’t overlook the boozier kick of Left Hand Brewing Co.’s Oktoberfest (6.6 percent, 24 IBU) out of Longmont, Colo., to something a bit more traditional from across the atlantic in Ayinger’s Oktober Fest-Märzen out of Aying, Bavaria, which is probably my favorite German imports.
And this year, I’ve already been especially fond of Rolling Storm (5.5 percent, 18 IBU) from War Horse out of Geneva. I know, I’ve been all over War Horse lately, but I can’t help myself. Rolling Storm is a little lighter and a little more easy drinking than some of these other Oktober offerings, and one of these tall boy cans on a cool day is about as good as it gets.
I’m not saying a beer is going to solve anything. Trump’s health questions, global warming, the Yankees’ pitching staff … I don’t even think two or three beers will solve any of those things.
But as America’s scary season and baseball seasons give way to the end of a political silly season like no other, a good, strong kick from a cold fall beer is at least something we can count on.
Follow Dennis O’Brien on Instagram at @beernerddennis and on Untappd at StanleyCup94.