In the fall, craft brewers release their seasonal sips to partner with the childlike joy of crunching orange and red leaves beneath our boots and the comforting aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin spice.
It’s a time of transition from the bright summer beers that cooled us down with their fruity, hydrating, thin-bodied nature and their lower alcohol content. When fall rolls around, we start to crave heavier beers we can sink our teeth into.
“All beers throughout history have been made for a purpose,” says Sam Townsend, head brewer at Funkwerks in Fort Collins. “Fall beers have higher alcohol by volume, more substance and a higher calorie content because the beer was brewed to keep harvest workers warm. Brewers also benefited from ingredients they could get at the time they made the beer.”
Now’s the time to indulge in rich-bodied, malt-centric brews that fill our glasses with the tastes of fall. Here are some local favorites to sip as we savor the colorful sights and mild weather before winter arrives.
“I’m an Autumn”
ABV range 6-6.5%
Jessup Farm Barrel House
1921 Jessup Drive, Fort Collins
In a nod to the seasonal color schemes at the cosmetics counter, “I’m an Autumn” is a golden sour aged in neutral oak barrels for 12 months to create vinous complexity. Lactobacillus, wild yeast, Belgian ale yeast and others work on the beer during primary fermentation and get carried over to the barrel as it ages. Then the beer is treated with persimmon and spice in a fermenter.
Jessup Farm Barrel House co-founder and head brewer, Jeff Albarella, says the concept commemorates his wife’s aunt’s Thanksgiving persimmon pudding. Aromatics such as cinnamon and freshly juiced ginger round out the persimmon’s mild apricot character. Enjoy “I’m an Autumn” with roasted poultry, apple pie or any richly spiced foods at a fall feast. It’s available Oct. 13 and through the winter.
The Farmer’s Daughter
Grimm Brothers Brewhouse
623 N. Denver Ave., Loveland
Since 2011, Grimm Brothers has brewed its Märzen-style Oktoberfest lager to coincide with Munich’s Oktoberfest. Märzens were traditionally brewed in March (“März” means “March” in German and “Märzen” means “March beer”), but because there was no refrigeration, the beer was cellared to ferment until it was released for the festival.
Inspired by German fairy tale writers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Farmer’s Daughter uses mostly German malts from the over 140-year-old Weyermann Malting Company, including their Vienna, Pilsner, Munich 1 and Carafoam malts. The one exception, the Cara Ruby malt from Loveland’s Root Shoot Malting, gives the beer its copper color, bright clarity and light caramel flavor. This beer also contains German hops—Hallertauer Mittelfrüh and Saaz—and Grimm brews it following German purity rules, using only barley, hops, water and yeast. It’s about as traditional a German beer as you can get in Northern Colorado.
Brewery event coordinator Guy McConnell says The Farmer’s Daughter has an initial sweetness and a “dry, toasty finish.” Pair it with turkey, bratwurst or pumpkin pie for a quintessential fall treat.
Whistle Blast Honey Brown Ale
Horse & Dragon Brewing Company
124 Racquette Drive, Fort Collins
A welcoming ale with warm, mahogany tones enhanced by a thin head of creamy foam, Whistle Blast Honey Brown Ale echoes the historic English pubs where the style originated, says Tatum Cochran, general manager at Horse & Dragon Brewing Company.
Ballad malt from Troubadour Maltings in Fort Collins, Honey malt and Chocolate malt mix with with Chinook, Willamette and Nugget hops to create a sweet and slightly bitter roasted flavor that’s medium-bodied and balanced. Cochran suggests getting it nitro style for a smoother, creamier texture.
The ale stands alone or pairs with salty snacks, roasted or grilled meats, nutty cheeses, salads featuring fall produce and chocolate desserts. Fun fact: the honey notes come from the honey malt, not actual honey.
WeldWerks Brewing Co.
508 8th Ave., Greeley
Peaches and fall go hand in hand in Colorado, says Skip Schwartz, head brewer at WeldWerks in Greeley. The brewery’s Peach Pie sour debuted in May 2018 as part of its sour smoothie line of beers.
“Peach Pie’s release date was moved back to the fall because the blend of tartness from the base beer, the sweetness of the peaches and the comforting warmth of pie spices and crust evoke nostalgic memories of fall evenings and family gatherings,” Schwartz says.
The beer is perfect for a harvest festival or to sip by the fireplace on a chilly night, featuring elements of graham cracker, cinnamon and vanilla to go with peaches, of course.
New Belgium Brewing Company
500 Linden St., Fort Collins
“Terroir” is French for “of the earth,” referencing the natural and environmental conditions that impact beer. You’ve probably heard it when people talk about wine, too. Le Terroir, a sour ale crafted in oak foeders—a Dutch term for large oak barrels used to age or ferment sour beer—ages at varying temperatures, humidity and vibrations. First crafted in 2003 with only fruity Amarillo hops, the sour ale has since evolved to use Amarillo as the primary hop while introducing a new accent hop annually. This year’s batch adds Nugget hops for bittering and Strata hops for a grapefruit and cannabis funk, according to Beer Maverick.
“When we first introduced Le Terroir, we’d never heard of anyone hopping a sour beer, and it might have been the first dry-hopped sour ale ever,” says wood cellar director and blender Lauren Limbach. Each year’s addition of experimental hops creates a beer that rewards you a little differently every time you experience it, she says.
Make a meal of Le Terroir with tangy cheeses, such as blue or goat cheese, fresh fruit and salty cured pork meats.
Leafer Amber Autumn Lager
Wiley Roots Brewing Company
625 3rd St., Unit D, Greeley
Wiley Roots teamed up with Wyoming Malting Company to use their locally grown Dark Munich malt for the seasonal Leafer Amber Autumn Lager. Light-bodied yet bold, the lager’s amber color has elements of palate-warming toasted bread and biscuits while retaining its crisp and refreshing character.
“As a dry and crisp amber lager, it pairs especially well with smoked pork shoulder and other barbecued meats, cutting the sweetness and fattiness,” says Wiley brewer Dave Frediani. “Leafer also complements grilled fall vegetables enhanced by the Maillard caramelization on your grill top.”
1900 E. Lincoln Ave., Unit B, Fort Collins
Funkwerks brews several traditional, German-style beers for fall, including a dunkel lager. “Dunkel” means “dark” in German, and “lager” refers to the process of storing beer to age it, which was historically done in caves and cellars. Dunkel lagers have a balanced bitterness of 18 IBU (or International Bitterness Units, a measure ranging from five to 120 units or higher). Funkwerks’ version has a sweet, dry flavor with spicy, roasted, malty notes and hints of caramel, toffee, bread and chocolate. The beer becomes a Punkel by infusing pumpkin spice into the batch.
Funkwerks describes their beers as having a playful snark, pairing each with a personality trait, action or activity (for example, Deceit, a Belgian-style golden strong ale is paired with half-hearted apologies). Punkel pairs with being a “basic witch” because of the pumpkin spice, and it has “a bit of bitterness to balance the alcohol’s crispness,” Townsend says. Along with basic witches, Punkel pairs well with savory foods, roasted root vegetables and all things Halloween.
Zwei Brewing Co.
4612 S. Mason St., Suite 120, Fort Collins
Zwei Brewing Co. rolls out the Zwei Märzen each year for their Oktoberfest celebration, which is typically held in mid-September. Brewer Kirk Lombardi compares his version to Märzenbier, the beer served at Munich’s Oktoberfest until the early 70s.
“That’s when they switched it to a paler, somewhat more quaffable style called ‘Festbier’ or ‘Wiesnbier’—‘Wiesn’ translates to ‘meadow,’ named for the meadow where the Oktoberfest is held,” he says.
Märzen, so called because it was brewed in March and cellared until fall, is a copper-colored lager with simple ingredients: Munich and Vienna malts, Noble hops, water and yeast.
“The flavor profile is reminiscent of toasted bread crust with subdued floral hops and a clean, balanced finish,” Lombardi says.
A little slice of fall in every glass, Märzen pairs best with pork and beef dishes, like bratwurst, sauerbraten, Schweinshaxe and goulash.
Others in Darkness Imperial Stout
ABV RANGE 14.6-15.5%
Verboten Brewing & Barrel Project
127 E. 5th St., Loveland
Known for their big stouts with off-the-chart octane levels, Verboten Brewing won gold at the 2023 World Beer Cup and U.S. Open Beer Championships for Others in Darkness in the British-style imperial stout category.
Released with four variants on Sept. 22, Others in Darkness (14.6% ABV) is a rich, chewy imperial stout. Others in Darkness Midnight Chocolate (14.6% ABV) pairs Ghana cocoa husks with Tahitian vanilla beans for a rich, chocolatey flavor. At 15% ABV is Others in Darkness Aged in Cognac, a process that gives it notes of stone fruit, vanilla, red grape and berries. Two variants are aged for a year in small batch bourbon barrels: Others in Darkness Irish Coffee (with a dollop of coffee and milk sugar) and Barrel-Aged Others in Darkness (with notes of chocolate, vanilla, dark fruits, oak and licorice). Both of these variants have an ABV of 15.5%.