Best Fall Beers of 2023

Published on September 27th 2023 by SNBC

Fall arrives at different times. Our brewery team in Mills River, NC is throwing on hoodies while we’re still blasting the A/C in Chico, CA. Eventually we all find ourselves noting the crisp breeze, changing leaves, and cravings for food and drink that anchor us against the elements. Summer salads turn to hearty soups, and your go-to beers might make a shift.

The Best Beers For Fall

Some say autumn is all about dark, malty ales — which we love; our very first beer was Stout — but there are other styles and flavors that fit nicely with the season. Maybe the piney aroma of Pale Ale transports you to a cozy campground. Or does lederhosen (and a stein of lager) make it official for you? And if it’s just about some extra oomph, an Imperial beer could be the ticket.

There’s always a lot to choose from, so we’ve rounded up our best fall beers to help you narrow it down. Cheers! Or better yet, Prost, given the first one on the list.

  1. Oktoberfest Lager
  2. Northern Hemisphere Wet Hop IPA
  3. Narwhal Imperial Stout
  4. Torpedo Extra IPA
  5. Big Little Thing Imperial IPA

Oktoberfest

Raise a stein of this German fall favorite.

Our Oktoberfest beer is available nationwide July–September

Pouring Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest beer into a stein mug

Beer’s biggest party lands every fall: huge tents, cheerful polka, rowdy singalongs. Each year we brew an Oktoberfest lager that channels those festive feelings.

What is a Festbier?

You’ll usually see Oktoberfest beers that are either Märzens or Festbiers. Very simply, a Märzen tends to feature a malty richness alongside a dry finish that draws you back. Festbier tones down the malt dominance, allows some hop expression, and drinks “lighter” all around. (Märzen was the longtime staple of the Munich festival until Festbier started filling steins in the ’90s.)

This year we teamed up with Kehrwieder Brewery, a craft beer trailblazer in Germany, to rethink the Festbier. Its malt flavor is clean and biscuity, yet hops share the spotlight; a blend of German and American varieties bring notes of fruit, spice, and pine. Above all, though, expect drinkability. “Balance is the goal,” says our innovation brewmaster Scott Jennings.

And if you’re hungry, pour a half cup of Oktoberfest toward our Pretzel Skillet with Beer Cheese.

Find Oktoberfest

 

Northern Hemisphere Wet Hop IPA

Hops from field to kettle within 24 hours.

Available exclusively online starting in October. Shipping to select states, while supplies last.

A can and six-pack of Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere West Hop IPA

Fall is extra special to craft brewers for one delicious reason: the annual hop harvest. That’s when we travel to the Pacific Northwest for “hop selection,” which includes rubbing hops — literally smashing the cones in our palms to tease out the aromatic properties.

And some hops are so magical, we just can’t wait; we skip the drying and packaging steps entirely.

Northern Hemisphere IPA, at 6.7% ABV, exclusively features Centennial hops that we pick and rush to our brew kettles the very same day. This earns it the “wet hop IPA” designation, and its vibrant notes of citrus blossom, rose, and pine are like your personal stroll through a hop field.

Shop Northern Hemisphere

 

Narwhal Imperial Stout

From the depths, our autumn imperial stout.

Available September–December

Pouring a bottle of Narwhal Imperial Stout into a glass

At 10.2% ABV and dark like the Arctic floor, Narwhal Imperial Stout doubles as a comfy sweater — almost. It brims with all the warming malt character for a cold night, including notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke. Narwhal manages to be aggressive yet refined, smooth with its velvety body and decadent finish. Pour it into a snifter glass and settle in for a slow-sipping delight.

And when it came to expanding our barrel-aging program, Narwhal was the perfect beer for our first-ever nationwide release. Barrel-Aged Narwhal spends nearly a year in bourbon barrels, emerging with rich notes of oak, vanilla, and coconut layered onto the Stout’s malt flavors of dark chocolate and espresso.

Find Narwhal

 

Torpedo Extra IPA

A direct hit of hops, every time.

Available year-round

Torpedo Extra IPA being poured into glass

Turn on the game, make some wings, and taste explosive hops with Torpedo’s intense notes of citrus, tropical fruit and pine, all cranked to max flavor through the custom Hop Torpedo dry-hopping device. You win, even if your team doesn’t.

Find Torpedo

 

Big Little Thing Imperial IPA

Dialed up to 9%, yet drinks like a dream.

Available year-round

A can and full pint glass of Big Little Thing Imperial IPA

When the wind reaches your bones, sometimes it’s as simple as, “Give me anything big.” But make it count: Big Little Thing Imperial IPA defies brewing logic with its monster 9% ABV and booming hop character, yet the sweetness is tame and the finish is clean.

We dry-hop Big Little Thing during active fermentation to spark biotransformation — yeast cells alter the chemical compounds in hops to unlock entirely new aromas, like Big’s wave of mango, grapefruit and tangerine. After all, a little taste of tropical paradise could be the warmth you need this fall.

Find Big Little Thing

 


Beer Styles for Fall

Not ready for the list above? Then let’s zoom out and explore styles that embody the comfort of fall. From deep, dark flavors that wrap you like a blanket to easy-drinkers for holiday hangouts, these are some go-to styles for the cool months ahead.

Hops growing at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Fresh Hop IPA

Hop harvest happens once a year, right as fall approaches, and hop flavor is most intense right when they’re picked. Fresh Hop IPAs like Celebration IPA capture the full power of citrus, pine, and floral notes from just-picked hops. Some brewers use the phrases “fresh hop” and “wet hop” interchangeably, but we break ‘em out. Wet hops, like we use toward Northern Hemisphere IPA, are picked, not dried, and race to the brew kettle within 1–2 days. Fresh hops meanwhile go through the standard process — they’re kiln dried and packed into 200-pound bales — but they’re also rushed into brewing, within one week. Either way, you’re getting peak hop flavor with a Fresh Hop IPA or a Wet Hop IPA.

Stout

The American stout is as dark as it gets, the abundance of roasted malts lending that midnight color, while also boosting the body and evoking flavors of chocolate and coffee. But here come the hops, in true American craft beer fashion, to dial up the bitterness units and weave in citrusy or earthy notes, depending on the hop varieties. Sierra Nevada Stout was the first beer we ever made, and now the malty monster Narwhal Imperial Stout is a favorite in our lineup. Get the fireplace rolling this fall, sit down with a stout, and breathe a happy sigh.

Amber Ale

Amber ales are “less hoppy and perhaps slightly darker than Pale Ales,” says brewing scientist Charlie Bamforth. Indeed, with their artful balance of malt and hops, amber ales are a crowdpleaser — have been since the ’80s. Crystal and caramel malts, kilned at high temperatures, provide the style’s namesake amber color, hints of toffee, and extra body. Citrusy and piney hops ensure amber ales don’t veer too sweet and stay in harmony. Watching the game with friends? Can’t go wrong with an amber ale.

Oktoberfest

Beer’s biggest party comes around every fall, and the official Oktoberfest in Munich features the Festbier style, which is a bright golden lager with malty flavors — but not heavy because drinkability is key with those jumbo 1-liter steins. The other Oktoberfest style is Märzen, which is darker and richer than Festbier, leaning into bready and toasty malt flavor.

Each fall we like to brew a German-American collaboration Oktoberfest, and this year’s release with Kehrwieder Brewery takes a Festbier and ratchets up the hops. Grab a pack and turn your backyard into a beer garden.

Pumpkin Beer

It’s not just a coffee infatuation; the pumpkin flavors hit beer shelves come fall too. Pumpkin beers tend to be malt-forward and feature the same spices that define holiday baked goods — think nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, clove. And the pumpkin? Sometimes the real deal, sometimes pumpkin pie spice. Your next pumpkin beer will likely be complex, full of flavor, and possibly a candidate for dessert. We don’t currently have a pumpkin beer, but watch our online shop for rare drops like Spiced Barrel-Aged Bigfoot, a winter sipper infused with orange peel and mulling spices.

Smoked Beer

Smoked beers owe their distinct character to (surprise!) smoked malts, which are dried either directly or indirectly over an open flame that’s burning a hardwood such as beechwood. The smoke dances through the grain bed and imparts flavors that conjure scenes of campfires and BBQs. It can be subtle, like in our Narwhal Imperial Stout, or the smoky flavor can headline beers like the German-style rauchbier. Ale or lager, light or dark, most any style can be smoked if a craft brewer imagines it that way.

Find Beers Nearby

More
Fresh From THE BREWERS CUT

This is a carousel. Use Next and Previous buttons to navigate.

Loading …
More Stories