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Amber Waves of Grain (A deeper look into Amber Ales)

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As leaves begin to turn brown and crunch beneath our feet, our beer tastes begin to shift from the crisp, light beverages of hot summer days to the deeper, darker drinks that offer more comfort. When the sun sets too soon and the evenings turn chilly; the rich, malty embrace and glorious color of our fall beers warm us like an old sweatshirt. Autumn is the perfect time for amber ales.

The amber ale’s rich, malt-forward profile calls forth descriptors of caramel, toffee, biscuit, and occasional sweetness. If you find yourself more of a fan of hops worry not, as hoppy beers can be found in this autumnal style as well.

I’ll be covering a number of amber-style ales in this article to enlighten you on a few that perhaps you may have overlooked and hope to encourage you to revisit ones you have forgotten.

American Amber Ale 

This incarnation of the style is known for its gorgeous amber hue. It can manifest a nice hop character, as well as decent alcohol strength with notes of malt and caramel. There are many different examples of this beer available commercially, everything from the classic Fat Tire from New Belgium to a nice local option with Mad Tree’s Happy Amber.

Altbier

A German beer style, the altbier is another malt forward beer that will treat you well in the coming fall months. This particular style is actually close to another style of beer known as Old Ale. Manifesting cherry-like flavors as well as a nice malt backbone, altbier is a welcome change up to your drinking portfolio if you’ve never tried one before. I recommend Amber by Alaskan Brewing.

Scotch Ales

These beers are perhaps some of my favorites. It is rare to see Scotch ales in more than one style, though,  The category is broken down into Scottish Light, Scottish Export, and Scottish Wee Heavy. Most of what you find in the commercial market will be of the Heavy persuasion. My personal favorites fall more into the light and export category.  With flavors ranging from general caramel, smoke, and malt; all the way to deep toffee notes, dark fruits, and peat. The scotch ale is not a beer style to be taken lightly. I recommend trying Belhaven Scotch ale, or if you want a local option to try Fifth Street Brewpub’s 75 Schilling. Notes from a wee heavy aficionado – “The deep, chewy, malty sweetness of a good wee heavy will keep you warm on cold nights. Though not as heavy as the name would indicate, these beers are very drinkable and a perfect accompaniment for anything from favorite fall foods to a crackling fire. Excellent examples would be Founder’s – Backwoods Bastard & McEwan’s – Scotch Ale. Local examples would be Triple Digit – Aftermath or Ei8ht Ball – Word.”

India Red/Amber Ale

As I’d said at the start of this article, fans of the hop need not worry about the autumn months not offering something for their tooth enamel ripping desires.  This beer style manifests the aforementioned malt flavors but it is completely wrapped in lupulin goodness. I would recommend trying our friends at Blank Slate’s  Fork in the Road or Fat Head’s Bone Head Red. Both showcase some beautiful hop characteristics.

I hope I’ve brought some new beer options to your attention for the coming colder months. Cheers!

Johnathon A. Campbell
Beer Czar Middletown Fine Wine, and Spirits


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