10 Local Beers You Need to Drink This Fall

A guide to Long Island’s fall beers, as told by the brewers who make them.

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According to the autumnal equinox, fall doesn’t begin until September 22. Personally, it’s sayonara to the Dog Days once my highly demanding, seasonally driven VCR spits out “Wet Hot American Summer” and barks for Snoopy’s lovable antics in “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Whatever marks the official start of fall is unimportant now, though, because it’s time to learn about ten local beers made to reflect the season’s character. And whether it’s an Oktoberfest, a chocolate cupcake-inspired porter or a “session” IPA brewed with locally grown raspberries, one thing is apparent about this diverse Long Island-only list: There are many great options to pair with videotapes.

So, without further delay (see: Niko): our guide to Long Island’s fall beers, as told by the brewers who make them.

Fresh Hop Ale, 5.6% ABV
Port Jeff Brewing, Port Jefferson

This is one of our most unique beers in that it’s our only recipe using hops that haven’t been dried out. Instead the hops are used within an hour of being harvested, and they’re grown locally at Condzella’s Farm in Wading River. This is our fourth year making Fresh Hop and every year we wait until John Condzella decides that the hops are in their prime condition to be harvested. We designed the beer with a minimal amount of specialty malts so the drinker can truly taste his hops, which here is the Cascade variety. We put 150 pounds of them into our mash tun—normally a beer will have about five pounds of hops per batch—and let the wort steep for about an hour or so before sending it into the fermenter. The final product is a beer that has a light copper color and aromas of citrus and pine. The light bitterness upfront leads to an intense hoppiness in the finish that lingers long on the palate. The hop flavors are very delicate, so it’s really important to drink this beer while it’s at its freshest as these flavors and aromas will fade quickly over time. — Michael Philbrick, owner and brewmaster

All Hallows’ Eve Imperial Pumpkin Ale, 10.0% ABV
Spider Bite Beer Co., Holbrook

You know you want one. #mugclub #goingfast

A photo posted by Larry Goldstein (@spider_bite_beer) on

I was asked to make a pumpkin beer for a local charity event last year and we also put some kegs in the tasting room. We ran out so quickly of those that this year we made two batches of the beer, one we’ll be bottling. Since I like bigger beers I went with an imperial pumpkin ale. Being lazy I decided roasting pumpkins at home was not for me. So I get pre-cooked pumpkins for the mash. Then for spices I get a blend of seasoning that you would use in a pumpkin pie from my brother who is a commercial baker. The beer smells and tastes like pumpkin pie and even has an orange hue to it. But my goal as always is to make sure the base beer, even without the pumpkin and spices, could stand on its own merit. And I think it does. — Larry Goldstein, co-owner and brewmaster

Montauk X Amber Waves Farm Raspberry Session Ale, 4.7% ABV
Montauk Brewing, Montauk

We have a great relationship with Katie Baldwin and Amanda Merrow, the owners and farmers at Amber Waves in Amagansett, and we’ve been talking about collaborating for a while now. Their apprentice Katie Rose Leonard took the lead on this one and their fresh raspberries were harvested a few weeks ago and immediately frozen for us. I wanted to brew a beer that would highlight the raspberry characteristics, so we went with a similar recipe to our Montauk Session IPA—primarily 2-row barley, with Magnum and Cascade hops. But rather than dry-hopping the beer, I introduced the raspberries post fermentation. We’ve never brewed this beer, so it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out! We’re expecting the raspberry to be subtle but present, and the beer crisp and refreshing overall. Using local ingredients makes this all the more fun. All of our spent grain actually goes to Amber Waves as compost and chicken feed, so it’s exciting to take this process full-circle. — Eric Moss, co-owner and brewmaster

Octoberfest, 5.5% ABV
Long Ireland Beer Co., Riverhead

We make four seasonal beers throughout the fall but I think my favorite of them is our Octoberfest lager, which keeps to German tradition. It’s dark copper in color, full-bodied, malty and brisk in hop bitterness. Our tasting-room regulars can put quite a few of these down without even thinking about it and I never mind joining them. — Greg Martin, co-owner and brewmaster

Pomme, 8.0% ABV
Saint James Brewery, Holbrook

@riverheadfarmersmarket until 3PM #appleale #pomme #nofo #northfork #DrinkLocal #northforker #longislandcraftbeer #riverhead

A photo posted by Saint James Brewery (@saintjamesbrew) on

This is the second year we’ve made our apple ale with Richters Orchard, to my knowledge the last working farm in Northport. We also work with this family operation to make our peach ale, Peche. Pomme is brewed exclusively with New York State-grown barley, hops, apples and our proprietary yeast strain. The apples are added in the secondary fermentation. The result is a golden-colored, medium-bodied ale with a wonderful aroma and subtle tartness showcasing the orchard’s local apples. Our proprietary yeast strain gives a finish that is smooth and clean. — Jamie Adams, owner and brewmaster

Watermill Imperial Holiday Ale, 8.3% ABV
Lithology Brewing, Farmingdale

#drinklithology

A photo posted by Rita Lutz (@bluritz) on

We’ve sourced a lot of ingredients from Crossroads Farm at Grossman’s; pumpkins, honey, chamomile and several of their grains have been incorporated into our recipes. Both the Malverne farm’s pumpkin and butternut squash go into this particular one, which we came up with to break the homogeny of all the pumpkin-driven seasonal beers out there. Although pumpkin is used here, it takes a backseat to the butternut squash. The squash contributes more sweetness and body than traditional pumpkin flavoring, making this a rich and flavorful amber beer that’s a perfect compliment to the Thanksgiving table and beyond. — Marc Jackson, co-owner and brewer

Feelings of Fall, 5.5% ABV
Moustache Brewing, Riverhead

We wanted to make a beer inspired by fall but that feeling when it starts to get crisp out and you’re already sick of pumpkin-spiced everything because it’s been everywhere since June. This is going to be a malty amber ale brewed then combined with local cider and a touch of cinnamon and fermented as one. We haven’t brewed it yet but it should have a medium mouthfeel, not as dry as some ciders can be, and hints of cinnamon present throughout the aroma and flavor. It should be reminiscent of apple pie but not cloyingly sweet. It’s based off a homebrew recipe we did the fall before we opened, for the Pour the Core cider festival. It went over well but we haven’t brewed it since. We’re hoping to source cider from the East End; we’re just waiting for the prime apple harvest. If we can’t get it on Long Island then we’ll use another orchard in New York. The base malt and hops will also be 100 percent state grown. — Matthew Spitz, co-owner and brewmaster

Oktoberfest, 5.2% ABV
Greenport Harbor Brewing, Greenport

STOP. Leaf Pile Ale is officially out and about. #newyork #craftbeer #fall #northfork #nofilter

A photo posted by Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. (@greenportbrew) on

Us brewers wanted to make something for the fall season in addition to our well-known Leaf Pile Ale. And being that we have a house lager strain now, Oktoberfest seemed like a natural fit. From that grew the idea of an Oktoberfest weekend at our Peconic location to be held on October 1 and 2, when we’ll have our food truck offering some German menu items to accompany three new German beers: Oktoberfest, a schwarzbier and a kellerbier. Oktoberfest’s malt bill is heavy on Munich, Vienna and pilsen malts. After fermentation we lagered it for a few weeks. It drinks very true to style. Big bready flavors, some caramel sweetness and a nose of mostly toasted bread with a hint of roast. Mouthfeel is moderate and alcohol is low, the intention is to session! — Pat Alfred, head brewer

Lethal Cupcake Imperial Chocolate Porter, 9.0% ABV
Great South Bay Brewery, Bay Shore

Lethal Cupcake was actually a nickname I gave my daughter around three years ago, at age nine. She was this sweet little blue-eyed blond girl who practiced and competed in instructional karate. With her angel-like looks and feminine frame, her opponents would underestimate her before she beat them with quick and powerful rabbit punches and vicious roundhouse kicks. So this beer is dedicated to her, my little lethal cupcake. A blend of dark malts, brewing cocoas and chocolate gives it an appearance like a malty milkshake with a thick brown foamy head. The aroma is strong bitter cocoa with a hint of sweet chocolate. As you take a sip of this frothy malted beer, you feel the sensation of what swallowing a cocoa bomb would taste like. But just as it’s about to explode, the fuse is extinguished by a wave of smooth Swiss chocolate. The beer is obviously made to taste like a cupcake but delivers quite a punch—almost as hard as one delivered by my daughter. — Rick Sobotka, owner and brewmaster

Rye Weisse, 7.5% ABV
Blue Point Brewing, Patchogue

summer ain't over till it's over ? #bluepoint

A photo posted by lil g ?? (@ginadesio) on

This beer is the brainchild of Jim Richards, one of our long time brewers who heads up our cask program. He formulated it in hopes of creating the perfect fall beer. It’s essentially a big hefeweizen that almost borders on a weizenbock. The addition of toasted rye flakes adds another dimension of spiciness that compliments the banana and clove notes from the weisse yeast strain. The first thing I notice about it is a pleasant aroma with banana upfront and a touch of clove in the background. The rye comes through in the flavor for me with a little bit of spice bite in the middle. And since it’s unfiltered, the yeast notes give it a full mouthfeel and an almost bready character. It’s great for sharing around a fall bonfire. — Dan Jansen, head brewer

 

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Niko Krommydas has written for Tasting Table, BeerAdvocate, Munchies, and First We Feast. He is editor of Craft Beer New York, an app for the iPhone, and a columnist for Yankee Brew News. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.