In our September/October 2010 cover story, we offer our picks for favorite seasonal beers—those whose timely flavors perfectly match up to the season of their release. And while most of those specialty brews are bottled for widespread distribution, we also came across a number of beers that only exist on draught and rarely make it out of their home state. With that in mind, we put together a list of seasonal pints that are solely designed for draught drinking. The kegs are as fleeting as the ever-changing seasons, and like those passing times of year, savored until they’re gone.
Schlafly Hop Harvest Ale
St. Louis, MO, 6% ABV
This wet-hopped beer is truly at the whim of the elements—the hop profile changes each year depending on what growers have available when Schlafly is ready to brew. Still, fruity characteristics and lower-than-you’d-expect IBUs (this one comes in at 4.5) makes this a fresh-hop brew that even those weary of heavy-handed hoppiness will enjoy.
Austin, TX, 7.6% ABV
Austin climate may be rather temperate, but that didn’t stop up-and-comer (512) Brewing Company from crafting this striking fall seasonal rich with four kinds of malts, domestically grown hops and notes of molasses, brown sugar and rich cocoa.
Adnams Tally Ho
Suffolk, England, 7.5% ABV
This barleywine from England’s champion of real ales, Adnams, is only imported in casks and offers flavors of rum-soaked fruit and dark chocolate. Based on a recipe from the 1800s, it’s a winter warmer will have you feeling cozy right into the New Year.
Elysian Bete Noel
Seattle, WA, 8.5% ABV
Flavors of raisins and figs mingle with sweet molasses, gingerbread spice and just a hint of smoke in this Belgian-style strong dark ale from Seattle’s Elysian Brewery. Brewed with five different hops, black malts and turbinado sugar, this holiday brew is available on taps throughout Seattle.
Brewer’s Art Charm City Sour Cherry
Baltimore, MD, TK ABV
Each spring, just as the East Coast finds itself blanketed in cherry-blossom white, Baltimore brewpub, The Brewer’s Art, releases this cherry-laden, Belgian-style sour. True to its name, this burgundy-hued brown ale captivates even the biggest sour skeptics with fresh cherry flavors, a hint of sweet brown sugar and a touch of tang on the finish. And with more than 250 pounds of Montmorency cherries from the Lake Erie region of New York and Michigan going into each 10-hectoliter batch, this juicy, fluffy-headed beer is the literal cherry on top of a night out at Brewer’s Art.
Captain Lawrence Kaptain Kölsch
Pleasantville, NY, 5.5% ABV
Brewer Scott Vacarro welcomes warmer weather with this quaffable German-style brew. Approachable and light, this beer is just the thing to sip through spring and into the first days of summer, provided the kegs last that long.
Great Lakes Brewing Co. Independence Ale
Cleveland, OH, 6% ABV
The 4th of July is synonymous with backyard barbeques and firework displays, and while refreshing summer seasonals run aplenty, this American red ale from Great Lake’s Brewing Company creates its own lasting flavor show. Piney hop aromas meet with fresh orange zest flavors and biscuit-y malts on the finish making it an all-around crowd pleaser, not to mention the perfect match to anything off the grill.
Koningshoeven Trappist Witte
5.5% ABV, Tilburg, Netherlands
A classic while ale from the only Trappist brewery in the Netherlands, and one of only seven certified in the world, this unfiltered wheat beer is cool for solo summertime sipping with notes of orange peel, cloves and white pepper, yet has enough oomph to stand up to cold charcuterie plates.
Check out our September/October 2010 issue for a list of our 50 favorite bottled seasonals.