Fall where the weather turns colder and the beer gets darker… Who am I kidding I live in Texas! We are in that weird in-between season where it’s 100 degrees in September and everyone is talking Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Fall is only weeks away and for many that means soon, oh so soon, the tropical IPAs will be replaced with big, thick as motor oil stouts. So, what do you brew when you’re ready to replace hoppy for malt forward but just can’t bring yourself to sip a stout while lounging by the pool? I’ve put together a list of styles that are easy to brew, malt forward, low ABV, and a quicker turn then that stout you have aging on chips in the back closet.
There are three beers that fall into this category. They are basically the same beer in differing strength. They are often named after the price of a barrel in shillings (60/-, 70/-, or 80/-). Scottish Light (60/-) ranges from 2.5 – 3.2% ABV, Scottish Heavy (70/-) 3.2% – 3.9% ABV, and Scottish Export (80/-) 3.9% – 5.0% ABV. All strengths range in color from very light amber to deep copper in color. They are malt forward with flavors of bread, toast, caramel, and toffee. Hop bitterness is enough to keep the beer from being overly sweet but should be perceived as very low to none. Finally, a clean neutral ale yeast will result in a beer with low esters and allow the malt to really shine.
Kit Suggestion: McGregor’s 70 Shilling (3.5% ABV, IBU 20)
A Mild clocks in at 2.8 – 4.5% ABV with most of its flavor coming from malt and yeast. This may be the lowest ABV, but it doesn’t fall short in the flavor department. Flavors of caramel, toffee, chocolate, coffee, licorice, raison, and other dark fruit prevail throughout. Keys to the style are using an English Ale yeast that provides a decent amount of character, simple hops that provide only bittering, and restrained carbonation.
British Brown Ale
A British Brown Ale is stronger than a Dark Mild but is without the roast character of a Porter. Malt flavors of nut, toast, biscuit, toffee, and light chocolate. Gentle malt sweetness and a medium to dry finish. If you are a fan of adjunct stouts this is also style you can really play with. I’ve experimented with adding a little bit of everything to this style and it provides a solid base you can play with to make a variety of beers.
Kit Suggestion: Nutty Brown Cow (5.5% ABV, IBU 25)
This style has the same banana and clove yeast character as a Hefeweizen but with an added malt driven toasted bread and caramel flavor. Fermentation temperature control is required to brew this style as a key component is the yeast derived flavors. Brewing Classic Styles recommend maintaining a temperature of 62 but temperatures really depend on the character you are wanting to coax out of the yeast (warmer for more banana, cooler for more clove)
Suggested Kit: Big D Dunkelweiss (5% ABV, 15 IBU)
By far my favorite fall beer is an Oktoberfest/Marzen. Slightly stronger coming in at 5.8 – 6.3% ABV. While traditionally a Lager we have a kit in the store brewed with an Ale yeast that allows for a quick turn around. Comprised of complex rich German malt flavors, bready, and light toast notes. Traditional German hops provide balance against a malt profile does not seem sweet.
Suggested Kit: Quicktoberfest (5.8 ABV, 17 IBU)
Pumpkin Beer (Spice, Herb, Vegetable)
Finally, I couldn’t talk about fall beer without throwing a pumpkin beer in here somewhere. Nothing says fall to me more then pumpkin. Pumpkin itself doesn’t have a lot of flavor so these beers are commonly brewed with an ample addition of spices leaning more towards pumpkin pie then the flavor of the gourd. The key to this Spice, Herb, and Vegetable style is balance. Finding a harmony between the pumpkin and spice and the backbone of malt and hop is most important. Caramelizing the pumpkin either by spreading the puree on a cookie sheet and slightly browning it or roasting pumpkin before adding it can add a nice depth of flavor.
Suggested Kit: Gourdian Angel (5% ABV, 15 IBU)
Just like fall is often skipped here in Texas, these styles are often overlooked in a mad dash to Barrel Aged Stout Season. While I’ve touched on just a few of my favorites there are so many malt forward styles that should be incorporated into your brewing schedule. If you are a hop head don’t feel left out, many of the American versions of these tend to fall on the hoppier side but don’t forget to allow the malt to shine through.
Cicerone Certified Beer Server, Homebrewer, and Tireless Recipe Researcher