Hints of fall are emerging. Mornings are brisker. Football dominates the weekends. School buses fill the mid-afternoon roadways. Another welcome harbinger of the changing calendar are seasonal beers at local taprooms and bottle shops. Some are available now, some will be soon, and all have us excited.Big Boss Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale
Among humanity's many ills, a particularly egregious one flaunts itself as pumpkin spice, showing up in everything from doughnuts to lattes. Giving the people what they want, brewers have a difficult time resisting the temptation. I avoid the trendy flavoring, but I make an exception for Big Boss's Harvest Time. It's an easy-to-drink 5.5 percent ABV medium-bodied ale, delivering pumpkin with restraint. As a Big Boss bartender summed it up one time, "It tastes like beer, not just pumpkin." (Another Big Boss fixture of autumn arrives October 5: the annual Casktoberfest, featuring more than forty cask ales.)
One of Brüeprint's strengths is its consistency. It produces winners regardless of style. This small-batch variation on a traditional Oktoberfest lager upholds that reputation. A chocolate rye malt with a roasted flavor feeds off rye's natural spice profile. (Brüeprint is having its own Oktoberfest party September 15 from four to eleven p.m. with live music, food trucks, and, of course, lots of beer.)
Carolina Brewing Oktoberfest Lager
This amber lager, available in September and October, is in the Marzen style and blends caramel and toffee malt flavors. More bite than you might expect, with 5.6 percent ABV.
Dingo Dog Brewing Li'l Nubs American Wheat Ale
Don't feel bad if you get confused while drinking this and forget that you're having a beer instead of a bloody Mary. It is "finished" with heirloom tomatoes, celery seed, and black peppercorns. Actually, you should feel good: Dingo uses its profits to fund no-kill animal rescue groups in North Carolina.
Lynnwood Brewing Concern Big Papi Porter
My No. 1 favorite of local fall seasonals. Clocking in at only 6 percent ABV, this porter has less kick than many in the style, meaning you can drink more of it—and hints of caramel with a creamy mouthfeel will tempt you to do just that.
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Fall also brings a plethora of beer-related events. In addition to Big Boss's Casktoberfest and Brüeprint's Oktobrüefest mentioned above, here are a handful of other festivities:
Crank Arm Fourth Anniversary Party
September 16, with food trucks and a half dozen bands
Lonerider Specialty Keg Night September 20. It happens every two weeks, but this iteration features Hoppy Ki Yay IPA brewed with jalapenos, an especially tasty concoction.
Bombshell Brewing Oktoberfest, September 23.
Bull City Burger and Brewing Oktoberfest VII street party September 23.
Oak & Dagger First Anniversary September 24, featuring the debut of Foedre Aged Anniversary Ale.
White Street Oktoberfest October 7, featuring White Street Brewing's gold-medal-winning kolsch plus five German style beers brewed especially for the event.
Raleigh Beer Week September 17-24, with events at more than thirty venues.