It’s easy to mock the advertising industry, particularly as it pertains to beer, what with the decades of mountain streams and horny pit bulls, but I like advertisers more than I like regular people because advertisers respect how much I contribute to society. When a regular person might be inclined to ask, “Hey blogger, is there any good reason you’re on your third beer while the breakfast dishes are still in the sink covered in two kinds of pork fat, three cheeses, four mustards, and zero shame?”, advertisers are more inclined to remind me of all the things I’ve earned through my various hard workings.
If a confident, handsome person on television announces that I deserve a product or service, I will buy it. Why, exactly, does footage of rugged men raising a barn in a hurricane make me eligible for a cold lager or a new pair of jeans? Because I earned it! Or a gang of strangers with whom I share 99 percent of my DNA did, which is very much close enough.
In summary: some people work very hard, and the good folks at Anheuser-Busch recognize that this entitles me to a beer. But I don’t want to give the impression that I just sit back and let others earn my beer for me. I sometimes engage in bona fide activities myself, particularly in the fall. Presented below are ideal beer pairings for 10 different autumnal toilings.
Apple Picking: Captain Lawrence Golden Delicious; 10% ABV; Elmsford, NY
Yes, it’s nuts to pay a farmer a premium for the privilege of working his field. Apple picking is not a cost-effective way to get your pectin. But it’s kinda fun! Or at least it can be if you smuggle in a bottle of this tripel ale dry-hopped with Amarillo and then finished in apple brandy barrels. Golden Delicious is pretty much a straight-ahead showcase for apples and oak, with some vanilla and orange poking around the edges, and it doesn’t taste nearly as boozy as expected.
Raking Leaves: Harpoon Flannel Friday; 5.7% ABV; Boston, MA
Leaf gathering is among the planet’s least gratifying chores, but this hoppy new amber ale will make it suck at least a little bit less. After a long stretch where it seemed to focus mainly on cramming new fruits into its UFO wheat beer, Harpoon’s been on a real hot streak the past year or two. Sweet caramel and earthy pine resin make this a multidimensional take on a typically understated style.
Watching Football: AleSmith Old Numbskull; 11% ABV; San Diego, MA
I was almost certain this would be the season I rode my high horse to Sunday afternoons spent blissfully —and better yet, smugly! —unconcerned with professional football, but it turns out that the NFL is not, in fact, human cockfighting staged for the enjoyment of the crass masses who demand this barbaric theater regardless of the havoc it wreaks on the poor brains smashed in its production. No, football is still a noble pursuit that molds young men into bold, productive pillars of their communities through the virtues of hard work and shared sacrifice; which is to say, the team I follow is still good. So I will watch them into mid-winter with AleSmith Old Numbskull, a rich but relatively balanced barleywine enlivened by a properly San Diegan dose of hops.
Shivering in a T-Shirt: Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout; 6% ABV; Kalamazoo, MI
My wife’s favorite fall activity is pondering what to wear, whereas I prefer to pretend it doesn’t matter. This means I’m almost never comfortable from mid-September to mid-December, but at least I don’t waste three precious minutes every day considering my outerwear options. When caught underdressed, I find comfort in mid-strength American stouts. This coffee-forward beauty from Bell’s has a nice hop kick on the back end, with pine and lemon notes joining the traditional roasty stout flavors.
Sweating in a Down Parka: Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine; 8% ABV; Stratford, CT
Then on the other 45 days of autumn I like to cool down with a bright, vibrant beer with a big ol’ sun on the label, such as this modern New England classic IPA. In keeping with my curious myopia concerning Vermont beers, this one’s in fact brewed in Two Roads’s Connecticut facility despite being a product of Lawson’s Finest Liquids of Warren, Vermont. Sip of Sunshine might be my favorite of Vermont’s celebrity IPAs, brimming with all the juicy, overripe tropical fruit flavor that has made its peers and imitators famous.
Bag Watching: Dogfish Head Namaste; 4.8% ABV; Milton, DE
My city has banned plastic grocery bags, which is mildly inconvenient, largely good, and way too damn late to matter, because it does nothing to address the insanity-provoking plastic flag that’s been flying in the tree directly outside my bedroom window for the past 18 months. It’s hidden in the summer, but I know it’s going to be there mocking me when the leaves start dropping, at which point I’ll turn to this soothing witbier with heavy citrus backed up by lighter clove and coriander notes.
Harvest Festival: Deschutes Chasin’ Freshies; 7.4% ABV; Bend, OR
Unlike other parts of the country, we don’t get buried in fresh-hop IPAs here in New England, but I was lucky enough to get my mitts on Deschutes’s rendition, which is featuring Centennial hops this year. I was quite optimistic for this one, because Deschutes is a top-tier operation and Centennial is the dominant hop in Bell’s Two Hearted, perhaps my favorite widely available IPA. And yup, 2016 Chasin’ Freshies rules, with bracing grapefruit, pine, floral, and lemon flavors and just the right amount of bitterness.
Setting Clocks Back: Lamplighter Lucid Nonsense; 7.1% ABV; Cambridge, MA
Some fool once told me that a certain beer has “just the right amount of bitterness,” which is utterly worthless information without context. The right amount compared to what, and as determined by whom? I would never insult you with such a meaningless observation, but I will tell you that this juiced-up IPA from the week-old brewery 232 steps from my front door has the exact amount of bitterness that all reasonable people desire in a beer. It’s the ideal clock-adjusting beer because it harkens back to the highpoint of East Coast IPA, sometime around the third week of March in 2013. Since then things have gotten a little fruity — and a lot muddy-looking — for my tastes, and while Lucid Nonsense is indeed bursting with the tropical and citrus flavors that now dominate New England pale ale, it’s also got the ever-so-slightly old-school pine bitterness lacking in too many of the hazy new fakers.
Eating Fistfulls of Mini Candy Bars: Stone Smoked Porter; 5.9% ABV; Escondido, CA
I can’t wait to sit on my front steps eating all the candy I allegedly buy for the non-existent trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood. The best mini candy bars are, in order: Kit Kat, 100 Grand, Skor, Nestle Crunch, Snickers, and Almond Joy. The best beer to drink with all of the above, let’s say, is Stone Smoked Porter, because the chocolate and coffee complement the candy while the smoky component adds a bit of mystery and gravity to the proceedings.
Pumpkin Carving: Tröegs Master of Pumpkins; 7.5% ABV; Hershey, PA
This dark saison has plenty of the usual pumpkin-juice spices, sure, but it also features real gourd meat and assertive black-pepper depth from the yeast, making it not only the most metal but also among the best and most serious of the annual pumpkin crop.