Union Foxy IPA
Foxy is the most perfectly autumnal beer. The copper-colored can is covered with cheerful drawings of falling orange and gold leaves. The copper-red beer inside is redolent with heady notes of resinous pine and a crisp, grapefruit-hop bitterness, but balanced by toffee, bready and earthy malts.
It’s a perfect combination that pairs well with hearty tailgating foods, but it has enough character that you can knock back a few around a firepit or while raking leaves. It’s a visitor that you’ll be happy to welcome back year after year.
Port City Tmave Pivo
Pilsener is the beer style most associated with the Czech Republic. After all, the town of Plzen was the birthplace of the golden lager in the 1840s, and the first example, Pilsner Urquell, is still sold around the world. But when you visit pubs in Prague, you’ll probably find yourself drinking glass after glass of “Tmave Pivo,” which means “dark beer.’
Washingtonians have a rare chance to try Tmave this fall, thanks to brewer Jonathan Reeves at Port City Brewing. In his quest for authenticity, Reeves uses only Czech ingredients, then lagers the beer for six weeks and serves it unfiltered, leading to a smooth, roasty beer with a caramel maltiness and some zing from the hops. While not available in bottle or can, it’s on draft in Port City’s tap room and around the city through the end of November.
Hardywood Farmhouse Pumpkin
Pumpkin beers aren’t as popular as they were in the first half of the decade, when bar taps and beer shelves were filled with potent “pumpkin stouts” packed with flavors of graham crackers and pumpkin pie. (They never taste like actual pumpkin, just nutmeg and clove and spices.) Over time, brewers, too, seem to have gotten bored with indistinguishable Pumpkin Spice Stouts, and have begun making pumpkin beers with actual character.
Hardywood’s Farmhouse Pumpkin Ale looks the part of a beer you’d bring to a friend’s fall gathering: It’s sold in 500-milliliter bottles with a monochrome orange print of pumpkins. The label proudly announces that the pumpkins, ginger and baking spices are sourced from farms in the Richmond region.
Once in your glass, the beer itself is a gorgeous rusty orange that matches turning leaves. That’s your first clue that this isn’t a PSL monster that will overwhelm your palate: Ginger and allspice dance on the tongue, while a Belgian saison yeast adds a fruity, slightly funky character. The malty finish invites another sip, making Farmhouse Pumpkin a solid choice for craft beer fans who argue that they don’t like overly sweet pumpkin ales. (And if you do want something more traditional, Hardywood makes Rum Barrel Pumpkin, a similar farmhouse ale that picks up sweet molasses flavors after aging in rum barrels.)
Favio Garcia knows his way around German-style beers. He’s been a well-respected fixture in Northern Virginia brewing circles since the 2000s, when he was a brewer at Old Dominion Brewing Company, and then the co-founder and brewer at Lost Rhino. Along the way, those breweries’ Oktoberfest-style Marzens earned national and international awards.
Now at the helm at Dynasty, it comes as no surprise that the Ashburn brewery’s Marzen is one of the best in the area this fall: a wonderfully balanced amber lager that’s perfect for Oktoberfest, with spicy, floral hops and well-rounded malts. Smooth and not too sweet, it’s a beer with maximum appeal.
Pale Fire RorschachDark Saison
When a group of reporters opened a can of this beer, no one seemed quite sure what to make of it. Rorschach pours a near-black color, but the body is light and easy drinking. The flavor is smoky, with coffee and chocolate, but not roasty. We caught pepper, plum and stone fruit — typical of a Belgian saison — and more chocolate cream, and a bitter, almost coffee-like ending.
Maybe this beer, from Harrisonburg’s Pale Fire brewery, is its own kind of fall Rorschach test: What do you taste, and how seasonal does it make you feel?