With the arrival of autumn, BC breweries are releasing a variety of fall-themed beers.
Here is a sampling of some autumnal beer styles to look for from your local brewery or to seek out on a fall getaway.
How Fresh Can You Get?
Each autumn, beer lovers await the arrival of a very special style of beer. Fresh hop (or wet hop) beers are highly anticipated because they can only be produced once a year during the hop harvest. Brewers work with nearby farms or hop distributors to get hops fresh from the harvest and into their brew kettles within 24 hours of picking them. The resulting fresh hop beers showcase bright, grassy flavours and a distinctly fresh quality that isn’t present in dried hops. However, the volatile flavour compounds in these beers break down quickly, so fresh hop beers should be refrigerated and consumed immediately.
The first fresh hop beer produced commercially in British Columbia was Driftwood Brewery’s Sartori Harvest IPA, which dates back to 2009. In fact, Driftwood brewed its first batch of Sartori before it ever brewed Fat Tug IPA, the beer it is now best known for. Driftwood always uses Centennial hops from the Sartori Cedar Ranch in Chilliwack.
While the Sartori Harvest IPA is undeniably the most sought-after fresh hop beer in BC each fall, many other breweries make fresh hop beers, too.
Here are some more fresh hop beers to look for in the coming weeks:
- Bright Eye Brewing (Kamloops) Fresh Prince Cold IPA brewed with BC Comet hops and fermented with clean lager yeast.
- Cannery Brewing (Penticton) Fresh Hop Extra Pale Ale brewed with Cascade hops from Northwest Hop Farms in Chilliwack, as well as frozen fresh cryo hops from Yakima Chief Hops, and Golden Promise malts.
- Dageraad Brewing (Burnaby) Wet-hopped Blonde Blonde Ale brewed with locally harvested Centennial hops from Sartori Hop Farms.
- Hoyne Brewing (Victoria) Wolf Vine Fresh Hop Pale Ale brewed with copious quantities of local, fresh, hand-picked Centennial and Cascade hops straight out of the field.
- Jackknife Brewing (Kelowna) Death Wish IPA showcasing a blend of kveik cultures selected to enhance the tropical notes of frozen fresh hops from Yakima Chief.
- Locality Brewing (Langley) Local Kicks Fresh Hop West Coast Hazy Pale Ale collaboration with Sidekick Brewing that is packed with local hop aroma.
- Longwood Brewery (Nanaimo) Wet Hop Smash IPA brewed with Island-grown hops from Maple Bay Hop Farm and Island craft-malted barley.
- Nelson Brewing (Nelson) Dank Trip North West IPA using fresh Cascade and Tahoma hops from a small new hop farm in Argenta, BC, dry hopped with some Rakau hops.
- Phillips Brewing (Victoria) Green Reaper Fresh Hop IPA.
- Spinnakers Brewpub (Victoria) Fresh Hop ESB features a blend of fresh hops grown at Spinnakers’ own hop farm in Sooke.
Many other breweries will also be releasing fresh hop beers at this time of year so ask for one at your local.
The annual Oktoberfest celebration in Munich is famously the world’s biggest beer event with more than six million people attending the event every year. Typically, it runs for nearly three weeks, beginning in mid-September until early October. It was first held in 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese, and has been an annual event ever since. For more than 200 years, it has only been cancelled because of wars, economic disruption in the 1920s, and now, sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic.
For now, we can only fantasize about being part of a crowd of happy people in one of the giant tents, hefting enormous one-litre steins of beer and singing along to the oompah band. However, many BC craft breweries produce German-style beers, including their own versions of the traditional Festbiers or Märzens served at Oktoberfest each autumn. These are delicious lagers that are brewed to be slightly stronger and darker (more amber than yellow) than the typical Helles (light) lagers that German breweries make year-round.
Several BC breweries have produced Festbiers that you can sample as part of your very own Oktoberfest celebration at home.
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Vancouver’s Parallel 49 Brewing is throwing a massive Oktoberfest party from September 16 to October 8.
It features a 120-seat Biergarten with tasty German food, live entertainment, and, of course, some special beers brewed for the occasion. If you can’t make it to Vancouver you can also look for P49’s special Bierfest Mixer pack, which includes two cans each of these four special beers:
- German Pilsner – Refreshing and citrusy with a rich yet light malty finish.
- Hefeweizen – A hazy wheat ale that’s slightly bready and leaves you with a creamy mouthfeel.
- Schwarzbier – A dry, dark lager with dark chocolate notes and a delicate roasty flavour.
- Festbier – A slightly malt-forward pale lager with floral and spicy hop notes/
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Moody Ales & Co in Port Moody has released a special Oktoberfest Pack that features four beers designed to celebrate the season:
- Oktoberfest (5.9% ABV) Brewed with German Pilsner and Dark Munich malts, along with Hallertau hops. Pairs perfectly with bratwursts and soft pretzels.
- German IPA (6.5% ABV) Showcasing a suite of German hop varieties, this bold IPA features complex notes of bitter pine, fresh raspberries, and crisp white grape.
- Schwarzbier (4.8% ABV) A dark lager with a light side, this brew features warm notes of roasted malt, coffee, and bittersweet dark chocolate.
- Helles Lager (4.7% ABV) This German-style lager is smooth with a crisp, clean finish.
For Glory Festbier – Container Brewing (5.8% ABV | 22 IBU)
An Oktoberfest lager brewed with a blend of Magnum and Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops, imparting a balanced bitterness and a delightful floral aroma. This beer and others from the Container line-up will be featured at Oktainerfest, two days of Oktoberfest beers and German food taking place at the Vancouver brewery on October 6th and 7th.
Look for more Oktoberfest-style beers at BC breweries.
Enjoy A Taste of the Harvest
Craft breweries also love to celebrate the arrival of autumn with special beers featuring the agricultural bounty of the harvest season, including fruits, grains, and even squash.
Spruce Tip Saison – 33 Acres Brewing in Vancouver (4.9% ABV)
Foraged Sitka Spruce tips contribute fragrant red fruit and bubblegum aromas nestled among a bed of fresh pine needles. Brewed with Field Five Farm barley and straw, then bottle-conditioned with Brettanomyces, this Saison is an expression of the Cascadian bioregion.
Schrute Farms Beet Farmhouse Ale – Bridge Brewing in North Vancouver (5.8% ABV | 22 IBU)
Beets. Beer. Battlestar Galactica. This Farmhouse Ale was brewed with 100lbs of beets, resulting in a beer with a vibrant pink colour, an earthy aroma, and a dry finish.
Look for more harvest-themed beers from BC breweries this fall.
Last but not least, many breweries make pumpkin beers, incorporating the popular fall flavours of pumpkin pie spice in a wide variety of beer styles. Here are a few to try:
Squash Gourdon – Red Collar Brewing (6.5% ABV | 20 IBU)
Squash Gourdon is a pumpkin beer made exclusively with sugar pumpkins grown at Thistle Farm in Kamloops and lightly spiced with allspice, nutmeg, and ginger.
Full Patch Pumpkin Saison – Longwood Brewery (9% ABV | 30 IBU)
A Belgian-style saison brewed with pumpkins and spices.
PumpkinEater Imperial Pumpkin Ale – Howe Sound Brewing (8.0% ABV)
Howe Sound has been brewing this deliciously dark and rich pumpkin beer for a long time, and this year it will be packaged in cans as well as the usual 1-litre bottles.
Can’t get enough Pumpkin??
Here are a few more BC pumpkin beers to look for:
- Fernie Brewing (Fernie) Ghostrider Pumpkin Brown Ale
- Parallel 49 Brewing (Vancouver) Lost Souls Chocolate Pumpkin Porter and Schadenfreude Pumpkin Oktoberfest Lager
- Phillips Brewing & Malting (Victoria) Crookeder Tooth Barrel-Aged Pumpkin Ale