October is a great time to enjoy the beautiful oranges and deep browns that signal fall. We're not talking about changing leaves, of course. No, we're talking beer packaging. Fall brings a variety of new colors, styles and flavors to beer aisles, but with so many Oktoberfests and spicy pumpkin ales to choose from, things can get overwhelming. That's why we did the work for you. Here are 10, must-try fall brews you can get in the Tampa area right now.
Hofbrau Oktoberfestbier, Hofbrau Munhchen – It doesn't get any more real deal than Hofbrau. The brewery, founded in 1589, is one of only six authorized to make beer for Oktoberfest in Munich and must conform to the strict beer purity law known as Reinheitsgebot. It's full-bodied and deliciously bitter. Available on draft at Mr. Dunderbak's, or in bottles at Whole Foods or Total Wine.
Vampire Slayer, Clown Shoes – Keep the evil creatures of the night away with this imperial stout that's allegedly made with actual holy water, plus malt smoked with hickory, ash and “vampire killing stakes,” according to the Ipswitch, Mass. brewery. It's perfect for Halloween, and it packs a punch with a 10 percent ABV. Available at Total Wine.
Good Gourd, Cigar City Brewery — Cigar City is hands down the crown jewel of Tampa-area breweries, but make no mistake, the nationally-acclaimed, local brewer isn't getting any preferential treatment here. Good Gourd is exceptional. The challenge in making pumpkin ale is avoiding tasting like a once-a-year novelty, and they've done that by keeping the pumpkin flavor muted, yet ever-present. They also use ceylon cinnamon, Jamaican all-spice, Zanzibar cloves and nutmeg. Available in bottles at Leuken's Liquors, and ABC Fine Wines on Kennedy Boulevard. It's also on tap at Cigar City's tasting room.
Midnight Crossing, Tampa Bay Brewing Co. – The Ybor City restaurant/microbrewery introduced this seasonal black IPA in 2012. It pours dark brown, with a very thick head and a heavy roasted malt taste with notes of caramel. It goes great with one of the brewpub's wild mushroom pizzas with goat cheese. Available at Tampa Bay Brewing Co. in Tampa and Coral Springs.
J.K.'s Northern Neighbour Farmhouse Cider – OK, it's not a beer, but it's practically mandatory to at least drink one cider in the fall, and this tasty, natural and unfiltered cider should be the one. It's made from Michigan apples and a unique Canadian berry called the Saskatoon, which is similar to a blueberry but a bit more rustic and twiggy. Available at Whole Foods.
Autumnation, Sixpoint – Sixpoint's first seasonal brew is a copper ale made using fresh-harvested green, aka “wet” hops. It's nicely balanced between hoppy, citrusy and spicy. Available on draft at World of Beer on South Howard Avenue.
Autumnal Fire, Capital Brewery – This limited release doppelbock from Wisconsin is so rich that it's slightly syrupy, with a hint of fruit sweetness and zero taste of alcohol, despite being 8.5 ABV. It's won multiple awards, including being named Grand Champion at the U.S. Beer Tasting Championship. Available at Total Wine.
Oktoberfest, Brooklyn Brewery — It's a traditional Märzen beer, brewed in the traditional Bavarian style with malts and hops imported from Germany. The relatively low alcohol content (5.5 percent) and toasty malt flavor makes the beautifully-bronze-colored Oktoberfest extremely drinkable. It pairs perfectly with bratwursts or burgers. Available at Total Wine.
Octoberfest, Samuel Adams — One of several seasonal beers from this Boston-owned brewing company, the Octoberfest is not just for beer snobs. You often can find it at your local convenience store. The amber-hued brew is a blend of five roasts of malt, including caramel and toffee. Next up: the heartier Winter Lager. It's available at 7-Eleven (if you're lucky)
Pumpkin Ale, Dunedin Brewery — Florida's oldest craft brewery has three house-made seasonals on tap for fall, including an Oktoberfest red lager and the American Classic IPA, but the most unique is this pumpkin brew that incorporates pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla into a Scottish-style red ale. It's only available on draft in the Dunedin Brewery's brewpub.