So, quick change of plans. Originally I was going to write an article about 10 tailgating beers for fall (which I still am). BUT. It got me thinking — what differentiates a tailgate beer from a non-tailgate beer? And while there’s no scientific definition, let me offer this up: cans.
This isn’t to say that you can’t bring bottles of beer to your tailgate. But consider the convenience of cans: they’re lighter weight — especially after you finish drinking them — they can’t shatter, and you can crush ‘em against your head when you’re done! (I mean I guess you could do this with glass too…)
Some beer enthusiasts think that canning imparts metallic flavors into the beer. But bottling isn’t without its demerits either. Point is, I’d argue that the conveniences of canned beers far outweigh any potential flavor impact. One final note before we get started: even though we’re favoring cans today, you’ll note an absence of American light lagers. This is just because, if there was a style appropriate for every calendar day, it’s that. Here, we’re just talking about fall. OK LET’S GO.
10. Star Hill Festie
Once a seasonal favorite, the brewers at Star Hill decided to give the people what they want. So now, Festie is available year-round. This easy drinkin’, straightforward Oktoberfest is one of the less complex, lower alcohol (4.8%) entries on our list. Meaning it might be a perfect “bridge” for those making their first foray into the craft beer world. Or, it might be the perfect craft beer to shotgun, if that’s your thing.
I want you all to know that I’m tempted to make a joke about “What does the Sly Fox say?” but that won’t go well for anyone. Anyhoot, this beer is uncomplicated and tasty. But it gets definite history points for being the first American canned (…Americanned…) Oktoberfest. So why not have a marathon history lesson and drink 18?
Photo Credit: Narragansett Beer Co.
8. Narragansett Fest Lager
Growing up in New England, I’m used to hearing about/thinking about Narragansett as a low-cost “session” beer (that is, if your “session” enters the 20s). However, they’ve put together quite the respectable line of different styles of beer. The Narragansett Fest Lager is a lovely Oktoberfest that’ll satisfy even the most autumnal of beer drinkers. Even better: reports suggest you should be able to score a 6-pack of 16-ouncers for about $8. That’s a steal for a solid beer.
7. Wild Onion Pumpkin Ale
Notable for being the first American canned pumpkin ale (not the first ever pumpkin ale, but the first American), Wild Onion puts on a hell of a show. With big pumpkin flavor — and a delightfully designed can, to boot — this brew is perfect for your fall tailgate. Drinking pro tip: let this warm up as you drink it. A little heat will really open up the full profile this beer has to offer.
6. Santa Fe Oktoberfest
A bready, crisp, Oktoberfest that can stand with the best of them, Sante Fe’s fall offering is one of the tastiest brews on this list. So why isn’t it ranked higher? Because of label copy shenanigans! The content on the side of the can hints that you might want to drink this beer out of a, quote, “mug that is larger than your head.” Only one problem. This comes in a 12 ounce can! If you wanted to promise a stein-sized experience, you should have made a stein-sized can. You’re telling me you wouldn’t tailgate with a few of those bad boys?
A quick note on the temperature of your beers: some beers will play much better at colder temperatures than at warmer ones (generally speaking, ales perform better at lower temperatures. Generally.) This actually behooves your tailgate, because you can pack in some ice-cold ales in the morning, and let the flavors develop all day. Well, Point is an early morning beer, then. Because unlike some of its maltier Oktoberfest relatives, Point’s flavors are crisp, and invite a quick quaffing. So if you’re enjoying these all day, just make sure to keep plenty of ice handy.
Photo Credit: Stevens Point Brewery
4. Great Crescent Dark Lager
Let’s break from the “Pumpkin/Oktoberfest” pattern here and see where else we can warm up our bones on a crisp autumn day. Great Crescent Dark Lager throws many beer drinkers a curve ball. VERY generally speaking, lagers tend to be a little more like white wine (crisp, dry) and ales tend to be like red wine (warm, broad, fruity). However, this dark lager doesn’t play like your typical lager. As it warms up, you’ll get hints of bitter chocolate and coffee. And you’ll want to come back for more. Interestingly enough, this beer is based upon a recipe that was once promised to make people think it was a porter. Go figure.
Great River is a fine brewery, and their Oktoberfest does not disappoint. While this beer is crisp and spicy, where it really shines is the malt profile. If you’re a fan of big, chewy brown flavors, Great River’s Oktoberfest will hit the bulls-eye. Plus, these gentlemen have done us the favor of putting their beers in 16-ounce cans, instead of the typical 12-ouncers. Good on them!
2. Paulaner Oktoberfest
So I’m going to cheat a little here, but I think I have to. Remember when I busted Santa Fe’s chops for not offering a stein-sized can? Well. Someone did. And that someone is Paulaner. LOOK AT IT. The heartbreaking thing, however, is that it sounds like this may have been a limited edition run. But this still garners our #2 spot because if you can track these down and bring these to your next tailgate then YOU WILL BE AN AMERICAN HERO.
Confession: I live in New York, and I’m a sucker for local beers. And Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery releasese some of my favorite creations out there. Autumnation — their annual pumpkin ale — is one of their best selections. These guys solicit fan opinions to pick the annual “wet hop” that they use for Autumnation (this year, it’s “Mosaic”). All in all, this isn’t your typical “brown ale with pumpkin spice.” This is something new. Give it a try for yourself!
So there you have it, folks. Now, as per usual, whenever I write a beer article, I’ve gotta go drink a bunch of beers. Bye!