West Coast Fall Beer
No longer limited to tailgate parties, keggers and backyard barbeques, beer has undergone a renaissance of late with craft breweries, specialty stores and bars devoted to celebrating the beverage in its myriad forms seemingly popping up everywhere. With tasting notes, limited edition releases and extensive discussions devoted to IBU (international bitterness units) preferences, craft breweries are elevating beer appreciation to heights typically reserved for wine or scotch. The West Coast is a region devoted to all things craft and indie—be it music, farm-to-table cuisine or DIY fashion – so it’s no surprise that some of the best and most innovative craft beers being produced in North America originate in the Pacific North West and California. While beer may seem like a beverage better suited for summer consumption, with the diverse range of options currently available it is now just as enticing when you’re sitting in front of a toasty fire as it is on a hot sunny day. As it’s time to replace the fruity wheat beers and refreshing pale lagers with heartier, more intense stouts and ales, here are a few of our favourite West Coast beers for fall:
Victoria’s Phillips Brewing Company offers one of the largest range of beers among the British Columbia-based craft breweries; with an arsenal running the gamut from IPAs to Ginger Beer to ESBs, Phillips offers something that will appeal to every palette by imbuing classic flavours with a contemporary twist. There’s nothing better than a chocolate porter on a cold fall evening, and Phillips’ version of this increasingly popular beer is one of the best we’ve had. For us, a good chocolate porter is the ideal after-dinner sipping drink; its deep colour, minimal head and intense flavours make it best enjoyed slowly in order to appreciate the beer’s complexity. With more malt than hops, this is a smooth, almost buttery beverage with notes of coffee and chocolate that linger long after you’ve had a sip. While a chocolate porter is definitely more saccharine than your average beer, the Longboat doesn’t overpower and achieves the perfect balance between bitter and sweet. Next time you’re hankering for a late-night drink, the Longboat Chocolate Porter is truly a delicious treat.
Our fridge is permanently stocked with at least one of the Seattle-based Pyramid Breweries’ offerings; their Apricot Wheat Ale was our drink of the summer and we’re now enjoying their winter release – Snow Cap. Not for the faint of heart, this is an intense, full-bodied beer inspired by traditional British winter ales. With its nutty, toasted caramel and coffee flavours, and smooth, hoppy finish, the Snow Cap is an infinitely drinkable if slightly bitter beer. Rich and heavy, it’s an excellent drink to consume to combat the cooler temperatures.
Oregon has emerged as the epicenter of the craft beer revolution on the West Coast with Portland becoming a Mecca for beer enthusiasts. Of the Oregon-based breweries we’re big fans of Newport’s Rogue, which produces consistently full-flavoured and inventive beers that distinguish the brewery from its slew of competitors. While not a seasonal release, we crave Rogue’s Chipotle Ale far more in the cooler months than in the summer. With its intense, smoky flavour and appealing amber colour, this beer, while not for everyone, is a truly singular taste experience. With Rogue’s Oregon Golden Ale as its base, the malt and hops used to produce the beer are infused with chipotle peppers making this a spice-lovers dream. The carbonation is moderate so as not to overwhelm the chipotle, and the slightly sweet undertones offset the smokiness to create a well balanced and subtle beer. The minimal use of hops allows the pepper flavour to be the focal point, creating a quite novel take on an otherwise fairly standard ale.
Bend Oregon has become a mini-Portland of sorts with its hipster friendly hotels, organic, locally sourced restaurants and craft breweries. Deschutes consistently produces some of the best brews in the State and we look forward to the annual release of their Jubelale, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. This medium-bodied winter ale is one of our favourites among the seasonal offerings; with a complex flavour profile comprised of earthy, spicy undertones and a powerful bitterness, the Jubelale is a memorable, extremely tasty beer. The hoppy bitterness kicks in at the end and produces a quite dry finish with minimal aftertaste, making the Jubelale a smoother drinking experience than your average winter ale.
An early pioneer of the craft beer movement and one of the most popular breweries in the United States, Sierra Nevada has no shortage of delectable offerings well worth a sample. The Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale is an excellent starter beer for those unfamiliar with the world of full-bodied seasonal ales. It’s a lighter variety with a hint of nutty caramel and fruity citrus up front and a kick of hoppy bitterness as it goes down. With a rich mocha scent and a robust malt flavour, the Tumbler is less sweet than many other brown ales while still retaining a subtle smoky caramel essence. This is a crisp, refreshing beer that is almost too easy to drink; it’s hard to stop once you crack open your first bottle.
Based in Fort Bragg California, North Coast Brewing Company produces a range of high quality beers that consistently place well at international competitions. We love their rich and boozy Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout; at 9% alcohol it’s practically a wine. The Stout’s strong coffee flavour and almost creamy consistency belies its considerable alcohol content making this dangerously drinkable. While this beverage should undoubtedly be sipped, the appealing licorice, chocolate and coffee flavours make it difficult to put down, and the hoppy, bitter finish produces an extremely complex and intense drinking experience.