A Toast to the Harvest

As the year’s first snows blanket Bozeman, it’s time to pause for a minute and toast a special time of year: the harvest. While the end of the summer growing season has historically been important in brewing various beverages, today the dropping temperatures signal a new round of seasonal beers and a shift in many people’s drinking preferences.

Crisp, lighter beers cool us off during the hot summer months, but many folks want a different kind of drink to warm their bellies and ward off the nip of cool fall nights. Here are a few options to consider.

PUMPKIN BEER
Some people love ‘em; others can’t stand ‘em. If you’ve never tried pumpkin-flavored beers, grab a pint this harvest season. Historical records indicate that these beers have been around since the time of early American colonists, but much of their taste actually comes from added spices — in addition to real pumpkins.

Bozeman Brewing has a seasonal Pumpkin Ale on tap right now. Brewed with 240 pounds of organic pumpkins and eight different malts, this dry ale has a smooth mouth feel and a light body. It’s a pale pumpkin orange in color with just the right hint of pumpkin taste. The brewers also incorporated ginger, cinnamon, allspice and black pepper into the wort.

Helena’s Lewis and Clark Brewing also has their seasonal Pumpkin Ale on tap right now, in addition to the fascinating combination of flavors in their Pumpkin IPA. Fill a growler if you pass through Helena.

HARD CIDER
For those who want something different than beer, try a bottle of hard cider. It’s still hard to find a Montana brewery that makes hard cider, but the national Woodchuck and Angry Orchard brands both make good ciders. If you’ve got an apple tree, homebrewing your own cider is an easy process and a fun way to spend a fall afternoon. Most hard ciders are made from apples (and thus are gluten-free). They should have a sweet — but not too sweet — taste and a light, crisp finish.

FALL SEASONALS
Darker, warmer beers tend to pair well with the cooler temperatures of late fall. Try a Scotch ale — like Lewis and Clark’s Backcountry Scottish Ale. Or as the snow keeps falling, crack a Powder Hound Winter Ale from Big Sky Brewing. A porter or stout can also warm bellies this winter.

BEER BULLETIN
Missoula’s Bayern Brewing has a great seasonal on tap right now. Their Bakken Bock, a dark doppelbock lager, is a tribute to the industrious men and women working in the oil fields of eastern Montana and North Dakota. This lager is smooth, with a sweet, raisin-like malt flavor and hints of brown sugar and other dark fruits. Stop by the brewery if you’re in Missoula, or pick up a six-pack at select grocery and convenience stores. But be warned: Don’t try operating heavy machinery after a pint or two of this 8.4% ABV brew.