Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall Beers

Fahr Brewer Jochen Fahr PHOTO: BRENT CALVER

As much as we all hate to face up to it, the simple fact is that summer is over. Now, I know … I get it — nobody wants to give up on chasing down the last rays of summer sunshine, and I, for one, don›t have any plans to give my BBQ or patio furniture a rest until the fluffy white stuff is here to stay. (Who am I kidding, I›ll definitely be running my smoker all winter…) But despite the inevitability of cooler temperatures and shorter days, the coming of autumn notably represents something to be truly celebrated: fall beers!  

Now, with fall beers, we›re not talking the rich, roasty and often somewhat boozy “winter warmers” that typically appear toward the holiday season as the mercury continues to drop. Those will show up later in the year and will help us feel warm and cozy throughout the coldest days of winter. Instead, fall brewery releases could perhaps be expressed as representing a shift in priority, suggesting less of a focus on light and crushable patio beers, and an introduction of brews with a bit more structure, flavour, and complexity. Don’t get me wrong, fall beers are typically still very drinkable and refreshing, though they are almost always at least somewhat amplified compared to their summer counterparts. 

One example of a much-anticipated style of beer that begins to show up as the end of summer nears, is Oktoberfest-style lager. This is a style that closely resembles Bavarian Helles (blonde) lager, though it is typically brewed to a slightly higher strength and often has a bit more of a robust bready malt character. It is possible to find some imported German examples of this beer style here, but perhaps more exciting for us Albertans is when local breweries release their own versions of the beer.

You simply can’t speak of locally brewed German beer styles without mentioning Diamond Valley’s Fahr Beer. Brewer Jochen Fahr has been re-producing classic German beer styles (and indeed adding his own unique touch) since 2015. In fact, Fahr’s beer has been judged alongside some of the best classic German examples at major international competitions and has often come out on top – as evidenced during the 2020 World Beer Awards where Fahr’s Hefe was crowned best Bavarian-Style Hefeweizen in the world! Each fall, Fahr releases his popular Oktober Golden Lager, which is his take on the Festbier style. It is incredibly refreshing and still light enough to enjoy on any late season patios (I’m sure you can still find a patio if you look hard enough). True to style, at 5.9%, it is a bit stronger than a standard German lager, and its malt character is somewhat more pronounced and complex. Truly a beer suited for celebrating any fall festivals (of the “Oktober” variety or otherwise), Fahr’s Oktober will be available for a limited time in cans.

Staying with the Festbier style for a moment, Calgary brewery Annex Ales has also decided to brew up their own iteration of the style. For this beer, Annex collaborated with 17th Ave. staple watering hole, The Ship and Anchor, to come up with a beer to coincide with their Oktoberfest event that took place back on Sept. 22. The beer that resulted is also a slightly amped-up example that is true to style, and suitably named Fresh Hell – a play on the word Hell or Helles, again meaning blonde, and perhaps a nod to the punk and rock roots of The Ship.  If you missed the party back in September, not to worry, Fresh Hell will also be available in cans for the fall season.

Another notable fall release that is returning for this season is Tailgunner Brewing Company’s Ajax Bomb Girls Czech Dark Lager. This beer takes a step away from the previously mentioned German traditions and instead represents the comparatively similar practices of Czech lager brewers. The beer possesses all the creamy and smooth characteristics that any expertly made lager should, but in this case, you also get a deep, roasty and rich flavour from the addition of dark bohemian malt. This is perhaps a perfect example of the transition from summer to winter, in that it hints at the deeper, richer flavours that we are to expect as the temperature drops, though at 4.7% it still possesses the lighter character that we enjoyed all summer long. Ajax Bomb Girls will be available in the taproom at Tailgunner and in cans for the fall.

Although summer is quite clearly in our rear-view at this point, there is still reason to celebrate the coming of autumn, and of course beer goes perfectly with any good celebration. So, embrace the fall — get out there (put on a sweater if you must), and enjoy some local seasonal beers.