Autumn very well might be my favorite drinking season. Not only do I love fall in general, but there’s nothing better than sipping a delightful Oktoberfest or schwarzbier on a crisp evening. The atmosphere, the slightly cooler temperature, and, of course, the fall-friendly beer styles coincide for the best drinking experience.
But what makes a great fall beer? Certain styles lend themselves naturally to the season — those darker in color, light enough to pound through a tailgate or porch party, and boozy enough to offer just a touch of warmth. But there’s nothing wrong with a tart sour or vibrant hazy IPA on a fall afternoon. After all, the best beer you can drink is the one in your glass.
So, for our purposes, we put together a list of the styles that are best suited to fall. But, we wouldn’t dare turn our noses up at your favorite style of beer. We’ve listed three styles of beer (and one bonus option) that we think are perfect for fall along with a few excellent examples of each. Can’t find them in your area? Ask your favorite local brewery if they make any beers in that style, order them, and enjoy!
The Best Fall Beers for 2021
The tried and true classic. Although Oktoberfest technically happens in September, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying this fall staple throughout the months of Autumn.
While there are slight historical and stylistic differences between Oktoberfests, Festbiers, and Märzens, many American breweries use them interchangeably. In Germany, an Oktoberfest beer was any beer brewed intentionally for the Oktoberfest event in Munich. That meant that only beers from the city’s breweries (Hofbräu, Augustiner, Paulaner, etc.) counted. Festbier is just a general term applied to the light, easy-drinking beer served at Oktoberfest. In drinking terms, they’re close to a Helles lager with a bit more malt characteristics. Märzens are German amber lagers that are darker in color than their historic Oktoberfest counterparts but still smooth, bready, and delicious.
The Best Oktoberfest to Drink Right Now
Traditional: Oktoberfest Bier – Paulaner Brewery
When it comes to traditional German beers, it’s best to trust the Germans. Paulaner brews one of our favorite versions of the classic Oktoberfest and it’s usually pretty easy to find on bottle shop shelves. Buy
Modern: Copper Legend – Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers
Call it a New England bias but Jack’s Abby makes some of the best beers on the East Coast. The all-lager brewery nails the German Oktoberfest style with Copper Legend. While it’s not available across the country, it’s available regionally throughout the Eastern U.S. Buy
Under the Radar: Oaktoberfest – Live Oak Brewing
In the world of craft beer, Live Oak is a lager lover’s dream. The wider beer-drinking community might not be super familiar with the Austin brewery. But it should be. Live Oak’s Oaktoberfest is a great entry into the brewery’s lineup with a velvety smooth rendition of the classic Oktoberfest. Buy
The roasty, toasty schwarzbier looks much more menacing than it really is. Folks hear dark/black lager and see a stout lookalike and think they won’t be able to handle this beast. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. A good schwarzbier is smooth, light, and exceedingly refreshing. It’s a classic German style but many modern breweries have been popularizing this beer, particularly in the cooler months of fall. And scharzbiers, with their balance of light and dark, perfectly fit the changing of the seasons.
The Best Schwarzbier to Drink Right Now
Traditional: Kostritzer Schwarzbier Lager – Köstritzer Schwarzbierbrauerei
The grandaddy of all schwarzbier. If you had to drink one example of this style, we’d suggest trying Köstritzer. It’s perfectly balanced with plenty of warm coffee roast flavors for the fall. And it delivers a rich, smooth drinking experience that never feels too weighty. Buy
Modern: 1554 – New Belgium Brewing
While 1554 isn’t technically a schwarzbier (it’s a “zwert”), it does check all those toasty, cozy boxes that a black lager would. This black ale from New Belgium gives off strong coffee and chocolate notes with some zesty spice undertones and a refreshing finish. If you can find it, give it a try. Buy
Under the Radar: Bones Shirt – Suarez Family Brewery
Suarez Family Brewery is hands down one of the best breweries in the country. Producing simple yet elegant lagers and farmhouse ales, Suarez is among the crown jewels of New York’s Hudson Valley breweries. Bones Shirt is a traditional German-style schwarzbier made with absolute precision. It’s cleaner than most of the classics (no overpowering coffee roast notes) but still offers some of that crisp malt character. Learn More
If you need some of that warming, boozy quality in your fall beers, turn to the dark side and pick up a solid stout. While I tend to prefer mine in the winter, stouts make a great option for those cold Autumn nights.
The Best Stout to Drink Right Now
Traditional: Old Rasputin – North Coast Brewing Co.
At 9%, Old Rasputin is certainly a hefty option for the fall. But, its ubiquity and unassailable quality make it a great option for your fall drinking list. This Russian imperial stout offers bold flavors with a mix of caramel, dark chocolate, and coffee. Buy
Modern: Dragon’s Milk – New Holland Brewing Co.
This bourbon barrel-aged stout from Michigan’s New Holland Brewing Co. certainly packs a bunch. But, the beloved beer offers some great oak, vanilla, and roasty stout flavors perfect for the fall season. And, the beer has been riffed upon countless times by the brewery so keep an eye out for limited-edition releases like Salted Caramel, Vanilla & Chai, and more. Buy
Under the Radar: Gingerbread Stout – Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Sure it sounds like you should save this beer for the winter holidays. But honestly, that combination of sweet spices of cinnamon ginger with chocolate, honey, and vanilla make for a delectable fall beer. Enjoy with a plate of pumpkin pie for an unbeatable dessert. Buy
Obviously, hard apple cider is not the same thing as beer. But, as everyone knows by this point, it makes a great fall beverage. Whether you’re enjoying a crisp, cold can or bottle from your favorite local cidery or sipping on a mug of hot apple cider, there’s really no way to go wrong.
The Best Cider to Drink Right Now
Traditional: 2020 Northern Spy – Eve’s Cidery
Located in Van Etten, NY, Eve’s Cidery makes some of the best modern expressions of traditional cider. And the 2020 Northern Spy is as classic as it gets. Dry, fresh, and lively, this is an ideal fall sipper. Buy
Modern: The Vermonter – Shacksbury Cider
Burlington, VT’s Shacksbury produces some stellar cider. Some of my favorite in the country! If you’re looking for a unique, fall-friendy cider, go for The Vermonter. Made with juniper berries, this cider takes on serious gin vibes. Buy
Under the Radar: 2020 Sagardo – Son of Man
It’s shocking to me that Son of Man isn’t a bigger deal yet. This Oregon cidery is making next-level Basque-style cider right here in the US. The artwork is amazing, the product is fantastic, and you can order it right to your door. Buy