Pints, not pies
A pumpkin-flavored ale and more fall brews
By Mark Andel
This year's fall brews run the gamut of flavors, from toasty marshmallows and pumpkin pie to gingerbread houses and butterscotch caramels. Here's a hodgepodge of spicy, enticing choices worth looking into.
Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale, $5.25
For many, Autumn is nut brown ale time, and Ravenswood's Fireside Restaurant and Lounge is stocking this rich, malty English brew with a smoky, caramel flavor and a massive tan head whose appearance is as brief and gorgeous as the fall season itself. Hints of chocolate can be detected at the finish. Try it with the Fireside's generous-cut pork chops with apple chutney.
Ichabod Pumpkin Ale, $3.50
The name "Ichabod" got some cachet when Johnny Depp played Ichabod Crane in "Sleepy Hollow." This New Holland ale at Mike's American Ale House is bound to bring the name more notoriety. It's a flavorful blend of Caravienne malt and cascade hops, with real pumpkin and a dash of spice for a tasty gingerbread finish. Amiable owner Mike Hirsch says his Kung Pao chili spicy wings ($5) are the perfect complement to Ichabod's, which, by the way, does actually arrive with a head.
Founder's Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale, $4.50
For those who like their brews dark and muddy, but without the pour-on-your-pancakes sluggishness of stout, Darwin's offers up this sweet-and-bitter balanced reddish amber ale with a rich, earthy flavor of brown sugar. To go with the FDB, co-owner and chief bottle washer Matt Miller recommends the Darwin hand-formed bacon and brie burger, which has crisp bacon strips inserted in the middle of the generous patty, with a thick wedge of brie and fried leeks on top.
Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale, $3.50
Leave it to Quenchers to come up with an excellent, moderately priced pumpkin ale that's rich and creamy enough to substitute for a slice of pie, with only the slightest hint of nutmeg, ginger and molasses. Best of all, the "pumpkin-ness" of this mellow Portland Brewing Company ale is not overwhelming; you're always aware that you're drinking a full-bodied ale and not some namby-pamby "flavored" drink. On the downside (or upside, depending on how you view these things) it could never be labeled "less filling."
Bride of Frankenstein, $4
Piece brewmaster Jonathon Cutler brewed this eminently drinkable autumn lager with a little help from his sister and her bridesmaids as part of an old Munich tradition of a "bridal brew." It has a deep gold color and a malty flavor, but it's not heavy. As Dr. Frankenstein's monosyllabic monster might say, "Drink ... GOOD!" Cutler recommends a traditional "red sauce" pizza, loaded with meat and vegetables, as the perfect partner for this Bride.
Bell's Amber Ale, $4.50
With its toasted marshmallow and chocolate overtones, this ale at the Mystic Celt will make you long for campfire s'mores and a good ghost story. Although it's a bit cloudier than typical amber ales, this Kalamazoo, Mich., brew is big on flavor, with hints of butterscotch and an earthy finish that some describe as "grassy."
Mark Andel is a metromix special contributor.