We live in a state with weather that is certainly never boring (and rarely comfortable). With the ever-changing weather comes an ever-changing perfect beer style to pair with the climate. The start of football season is my official start of Autumn, so I figured now would be a good time to write about the beer styles I believe pair perfectly with each season. Note: these are MY personal suggestions, nothing more.
I know that this is nowhere near a comprehensive list, but hopefully it will introduce you to some new styles to try as the seasons change. Also, this is not meant to discourage you from drinking what you what to drink when you want to drink it!
This is Cincinnati, so if I didn’t say Oktoberfest here, I might get shot. Luckily, I love the style and think the maltiness (and accompanying drunken celebrations) pairs perfectly with autumn. If you are looking for a malt-forward beer this fall and want to try something different, try an English Bitter (on cask!) or American Amber.
Fresh autumn crops also pave the way for another type of beer; harvest ales. To be fair, this is not an official style, but refers to a group of beers that utilize freshly picked “wet” hops instead of traditional dried hops. These fresh hops contribute complex grassy, earthy, and somewhat spicy tones to the beer.
I like my winter beers to be warming and complex. This means they need to be big bodied, higher alcohol, and generally darker. In the winter, there is nothing better than a Stout or Porter. Except for when you add Imperial to their names and age them in bourbon barrels. These beers bring huge levels of complexity, with notes of chocolate, coffee, and roastiness that perfectly complement the vanilla, oak, and spicy bourbon flavors.
When you are looking for something different than a Stout/Porter in the winter, look no further than a Belgian Dubbel. These beers have a bigger body and dark fruity esters that do well in the winter and provide quite a bit of alcohol warmth for the cold nights.
Spring means one thing for my beer consumption: bring on the hops, and bring them on heavily. The citrusy and piney hop flavors of an American IPA (or Double IPA) lend themselves perfectly to the spring weather. These beers still have the body to stand up to the cold, but their thirst quenching abilities show that summer is just around the corner.
If you have not completely burned your tongue off from all the IPA’s in the spring, then try a German Bock. These beers bring the malt backbone more typical of a winter beer, but still have the thirst quenching characteristics of a lager. Bockfest in Cincinnati is one of the better places to enjoy one.
Summer brings refreshing, lighter bodied, and lower alcohol beers. There are two beer styles that are by far my favorite during the summertime: Pilsners and Saisons. Pilsners are beers that never quite get a fair shake with most craft beer drinkers and (I believe) this is mostly due to their connotation with American macro beers. Maybe it’s the Czech in me, but I’m convinced these beers are destined to grow here, especially during summer. When done correctly, they are balanced, clean and refreshing, yet have an assertive hop bite that works perfectly in the heat.
Saisons are a style that may not be your favorite upon first try, but keep coming back to them and they’ll become a staple in your fridge. They are perfect for when you want some strong punches of flavor in a summer beer without the accompanying big body and high alcohol. The style can range from subtle and subdued to outright funky, and rarely do two breweries’ renditions taste the same.
Like I said, this list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather highlight a few of my favorites in each season. Many will disagree (as everyone has different tastes), so please give your suggestions in the comments below!
This post has not been revised since publication.