I spent a few hours yesterday roasting in the sun on a rooftop deck at one of my favorite breweries. Sweat pouring down my beard, I could barely drink fast enough to replenish the liquids I was losing. It was dangerous work, and it made me realize I’m ready for fall. I mean it. I love summer (beaches, bikinis, swimming holes, bikinis…), but I’m done with 200 degree days. I’m over drinking my entire Camelbak reservoir before I even leave the trailhead. I want to be chilly when I go camping. I want to feel the crunch of fresh fallen leaves under my feet during a trail run. I want to put on a flannel and get giddy when the temperature drops to the point where there’s potential snow in the forecast.
I know I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s just Labor Day, and this is the South. September is usually pretty damn hot. There are more sweaty days ahead of me. But if I can’t bask in the glory of a chilly fall day right now, at least I can drink a fall beer. Even though it’s still hotter than a boiled peanut, breweries are stocking the shelves with pumpkin beers and malty porters and Marzen-style lagers. Hops take a back seat during the fall (for the most part) and the malt bill steps forward letting you know that it’s time to add a layer of fat for winter.
Starr Hill has a new variety 12 pack out just in time for the change in seasons that features two new fall beers, a lager and this tasty brown ale pictured here, called Last Leaf, that’s brewed with a bit of local maple syrup. Last Leaf is replacing Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter (sorry pumpkin beer fans). Replacing pumpkin beers with more subtle fall flavors like maple is a move I’d like to see more breweries replicate.
The maple comes through on the nose, and is there on the sip, but it’s subtle, and you get as much vanilla as maple, so it’s not like you’re drinking a stack of pancakes here. More than adding a hint of sweetness, the addition of maple syrup adds a rich, almost silky mouthfeel to the beer that keeps you coming back for more.
And the beer just feels like fall. It makes me want to chop wood and grow my beard out.