Thursday, September 3, 2009

Seasonal Beers this Fall

The month of September marks the end of the hop harvest and the introduction of seasonal releases, including Harvest ales and lagers. These unique beers are created by adding fresh hops, pumpkin and other recently harvested ingredients to a brewer's beer recipe. These field ingredient additions impart rewarding flavors and aromas including citrus, earth, pine and spice from the practice of adding freshly picked whole hops, known as "fresh" hopping.

"The Harvest Ale is the brewery's celebration of the amazing variety of ingredients available," said Julia Herz, spokesperson for the Brewers Association. "When beer lovers think fall, they think Harvest Ales. Fortunately, many restaurants and better beer stores have prioritized stocking these limited releases from small and independent craft brewers."

The popularity of Harvest Ales is so strong that 'Fresh Hop' beer, 'Field Beer', and 'Pumpkin Beer' are all sub-categories in the Great American Beer Festival SM, North America's most prestigious commercial beer competition.

According to Information Resources Inc, fall seasonal craft beers generated the highest case and dollar sales last year. Seasonal beers as a category reached new limits in 2008, with sales up 15.7% over 2007 in U.S. supermarkets.

Through the Web site, the Brewers Association is able to provide information on seasonal releases straight from the brewers who brew them. This site allows consumers to access current and future lists of special release beers in their state complete with detailed descriptions and food pairing suggestions.

Suggested Food Pairings with Fresh Hop Craft Beer:

Smoked meats and foods with strong and spicy ingredients complement the intense hop flavors.
Blue cheese or a sharp and rich American cheese.
Sweet decadent desserts like carrot cake, caramel cheesecake or créme brulée are able to match the intensity of many Fresh Hop craft beers.
Other Fall Seasonal Craft Beers Include:

Oktoberfest- Originally referred to as Marzen meaning March, these are brewed in the spring and aged, and then tapped in the fall. This is an amber lager, classically malt based with good body and complexity with an average of 5% alcohol by volume ratio. In Germany, they are known for being fermented in caves in March and intended for tapping at the end of summer. Food Pairings: Marzen matches the flavors in meat dishes like roasted pork tenderloin and pot roast.

Pumpkin Beers- This style features the best of a very versatile ingredient of the season, pumpkin. Pumpkin beers come in all styles, flavors and strengths and can be ales or lagers. Enjoying your local brewer's interpretation is definitely a worthy way of ringing in the fall. Food Pairings: Depending on the brand it may go well with pork chop, roasted corn and chicken chowder and pumpkin pie.

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