Movable Feast: Fall brews

Each autumn in Germany, millions of people from around the world gather to celebrate the joys of beer. It’s called Oktoberfest, and this year’s party saw 6 million people drink 6.1 million beers.

The point? The fall months and good beer go hand-in-hand.

Philadelphia may not have a beer celebration quite like Oktoberfest, but local beer lovers know the Delaware Valley is blessed with several top-flight microbreweries that produce some of the best beers in the country. And, even better, they save some of their best work for the fall.

The Current staff has long been a fan of Downingtown-based Victory Brewing Co.’s super-hoppy Hop Devil IPA (available at several local bars and restaurants), which we consider perfect for autumn sipping. But in the interests of expanding our horizons, we set out recently to try some new beers—some local, some not—and found a few that fit the unique profile of a great fall beer.

Sam Adams Octoberfest (La Terrasse) and Stoudt’s Oktoberfest (White Dog Café)

Because we tried two beers with the same name, we figured it made sense to compare them side-by-side. And as we expected, the locally brewed Stoudt’s product outshone that from the much larger Sam Adams brewery.
The Sam Adams beer seemed like an attempt to market an “autumnal” beer—amber in color, stronger in taste—without the risk of alienating less adventurous drinkers. The result, then, is a good beer that hints at something even better.
The Stoudt’s beer, by contrast, goes for the gusto: This Adamstown-produced beer combined just enough sweetness with just enough hoppiness, creating a highly drinkable, very enjoyable brew. Consider it a win for local brewers.

Sly Fox O’Reilly’s Stout (White Dog Café)

Phoenixville-based Sly Fox has been around for a decade now, but still doesn’t enjoy the same high profile as other local breweries. This beer left us wondering why. O’Reilly’s Irish-style stout was dark and flavorful, full and refreshing. The beer would be a great choice for the patient beer drinker—someone who could appreciate the full stout experience, one sip at a time, without feeling the need to rush.

Troegs Nut Brown Ale (White Dog Café)

True to its name, this beer had a nutty taste reminding some of us of the popular northern English beer Newcastle Brown Ale. The Nut Brown Ale from Harrisburg-based Troegs, however, boasted a darker color and more prominent flavors than its Geordie companion, and also a much darker color. The beer reminded us in some ways—strangely—of Guinness, though less heavy and easily quaffable. A fine beer for fireside drinking.

Originally published on November 3, 2005