The 'tis the season buzz around the beer world this time of year is all about dark and malty cold weather brews — Hibernation ales, Santa's Butt Porters and an infinite number of chocolate stouts. That fall beer thing can be hard to wrap your head around in L.A. when the sunshine still calls for an IPA. But we all like to pretend we're vacationing at a Swiss ski resort every once in a while, so we asked local beer gurus their favorite “pretend it's fall in L.A.” beers. Many of which, we're pleased to report, are from local breweries.
As Jon Porter, Brewmaster at Tustin Brewing Company says, “Now all we need is a little snow.” Turn the page for your imaginary winter wonderland in beverage form.
Honestly, it would have to be Velvet Merlin, formerly known as Velvet Merkin, from Firestone Walker. The name change is rumored to have happened due to some distress expressed by an elderly woman who was offended by the mention of a Merkin [or at least the Federal government]. It's a straight forward oatmeal stout that is perfect for these cool, blustery evenings. It's something about the changing weather that makes me crave dark beer… creamy, rich and heady, but with a light side that begs you to come back for more; this beer mimics chocolate cake with a double shot of espresso on the side.
2. Jon Porter, Brewmaster, Tustin Brewing Company:
When I'm pretending it's fall, I go straight to the holiday beer releases every year. I absolutely love Anchor brewery's Merry Christmas Happy New Year ale. Otherwise known as Anchor Xmas, it's a dark brown, heavily spiced ale that reminds me of my mother's delicious confections. That wonderful aroma…[like] what always floated through the air in our home in north Jersey from Thanksgiving until Christmas. I always buy a case of the magnums for the holidays and bring them to dinners and parties.
3. Katie Bell, General Manager and Beer Buyer at Ford's Filling Station:
I think my internal clock has been dictating my tastes as well. I've definitely been on a darker beers in dark, cozy bars kick lately. Bootlegger's Black Pheonix chipotle coffee stout makes me wish I had cause for a scarf, and I've been cozying up with Old Rasputin [Imperial stout] again after a summer break. Moving forward, I'm itching to open a bottle of Santa's Private Reserve from Rogue Brewery up in Oregon (where they do fall right). Fall also makes me think (and love) sour beers more than ever, and I've been drinking a lot of Telegraph's Gypsy Ale, which will be on my Thanksgiving table.
4. Mike Simms, Owner, Simmzy's:
Your timing is impeccable. Yesterday for lunch I sipped on Craftsman's Edgar's Ale, a Russian Imperial Stout style, and I thought about the short, dark nights to come. [The Pasadena brewery named this malty bourbon barrel-aged beer after Edgar Allen Poe]. I could easily see myself nuzzling up with any of the Belgians as well, especially the St. Bernardus ABT 12, a Dark Quadruple, and watching some football while munching on homemade chili nachos.
5. Ian Fraser, Homebrewer and Pacific Gravity's Club Meeting Chef:
As fall sets in and the nights get cool, my taste in beers seems to transform from the hoppy beers I enjoy all summer to more malty and roasty fall seasonals. This year is no different, starting with Anchor's Christmas Ale [the Merry Christmas Happy New Year ale Jon Porter also prefers], which was a bitter-sweet purchase this year since the company has been sold and the future is unknown. I also picked up Avery's Old Jubilation Ale, their holiday release that is well balanced but filled with malty sweetness that reminds me of brown sugar. And last week when it got really windy, I cooked up a pot of split-pea with ham soup and served it with some crusty bread and the Old Jubilation ale and I was in heaven! Let it blow, I've got beer!