It's that time of year again. Trees are changing color, the air has the crisp hint of the cold to come, and the smell of fireplaces being lit wafts through the air — all in places far away from Florida. Here, it's still in the 90s every day with nearly daily rainfall and a seemingly endless parade of would-be hurricanes coming in off the coast of Africa. Autumn in Florida is really just an extension of summer that eventually gets around to being winter.
But no matter what the status of autumn, it doesn't affect the release of the fall seasonal craft beers. Most prominent are the Oktoberfest beers and pumpkin ales, but there are many other styles as well.
The Magic Hat Brewing Company in South Burlington, Vermont, releases variety packs every season, showcasing their limited release beers. The autumn selection is called the "Night of the Living Dead" variety pack and features four different brews: their flagship #9, which is available year round (so it mostly serves as a filler to the 12-pack sampler); Hex Ourtoberfest Ale; hI.P.A.; and Humble Patience Irish-style red. The labels on the first three bear the trademark "freak show" artwork and cryptic messages on the label that Magic Hat is known for. Humble Patience sports a very different label, evoking a 1970s feel.
The first of the seasonals from Magic Hat is the Hex Ourtoberfest Ale. This beer pours a light orange color with a nice lingering head and a faint aroma. There is some maltiness to it, but not nearly what I would expect from a beer touting "five malts including Cherry Wood Smoked Malt." The taste is moderately malty, as one might expect, but with little discernible hops and weak body. By the label alone, one might assume this to be an Oktoberfest or Marzen, but it really is just an average amber ale.
The second of the seasonals is the hI.P.A. (pronounced "High-P.A."), part of Magic Hat's "I.P.A. on Tour" series of season India Pale Ales. Described as a "breathtaking and bitter I.P.A.," this was an eye-opening surprise. From the get-go, hI.P.A. is all about the hops. A wonderful, piney aroma and fluffy white head accompany a surprisingly light hazy golden color. The flavor is big hop balanced with nice sticky malts throughout and in the finish. I have to say, this is by far my favorite beer from Magic Hat and really conjured that "autumn feel," with a crisp and light bitterness that lingered on my tongue. Fortunately, this limited-run I.P.A. is also available in 6-packs.
Humble Patience, the final offering in this year's variety pack, is the first of the "Flavor Flashback" series from Magic Hat, a re-release of the very first beer ever from the brewery. Pouring a dark red, almost brown color, the aroma of roasted malt and caramel is pure autumn, immediately suggesting Tootsie Rolls and trick-or-treating. The flavor is sweet malt, with a subtle, smooth mouthfeel and a gentle carbonation. A very sessionable 4.6-percent ABV, this is perfect for an evening with friends and family bobbing for apples, trick or treating or stealing your children's candy.
I was once again happy with the fall selections from Magic Hat. The hI.P.A. is always fantastic, and I will definitely be picking up some more soon. I loved the Humble Patience and am hoping to find more of it around town. There are many fall seasonals out there, and I encourage you to try them all to find the ones you like.