That’s right. They are cancelled.
When you’re as opinionated as I am, sometimes my rants and hot takes suffer from “cry wolf” disorder – meaning, they happen so frequently that people do not pay any attention to them.
However, my contempt for the inevitable fall invasion of pumpkin spiced beers is always met with real opposition. The boooos rain down upon me in a choir of negativity, with notes like “who do you think you are?” and “I love pumpkin beers!”, cementing the popular opinion that I am blind to the spicy gifts of gourd-centric brews.
But my anti-pumpkin sentiments actually come from two different places. While it’s true, that I have never tasted a pumpkin beer that I have liked (nor one that I find well-made or different enough to quantify exception), my real offense is that these poorly-made beers serve as a distraction to what I believe to be one of the best beer styles not only of the season, but year-round: the German festbier, Märzen.
A quick history on Märzen: A 1553 Bavarian law prohibited the production of beer between the end of April and the end of September. Märzen, which is (generally) amber-coloured with slight bitterness and a dry finish, was brewed in March (or in German Marz, hence its name), cellared through summer, and opened in early fall, often for the Oktoberfest celebrations. People have been drinking Märzen in time with welcoming the fall season for hundreds of years, and its impact is felt all along the Rhine, with traditional Märzens being brewed all along Austria, Germany, and even the Czech Republic. It truly is a beer for the season – typically higher in alcohol, with hints of sweetness and noble hop aroma reminiscent of wet leaves and grass.
I’m a born problem-solver, to my own detriment. Trust me, I’m working on it. But as always, I’m here to solve your problem. So what should I drink, you ask righteously, instead of pumpkin-spiced beer, jerkface? I’ve got several honest and high-quality options for you here, and they are all available at the LCBO, for both your convenience and enjoyment. In no particular order:
- Brewery: Beau’s
- Beer: Farm Table Märzen
This beer is the one that kicked it all off for me, many years ago. Released originally as Night Märzen in 2008, it joined the Farm Table series of beers soon after. Dry and slightly bitter, this is one of the best examples of this style I have ever had.
- Brewery: Anderson
- Beer: Autumn
This came to me about a month ago and is now available in sweet orange sick-packs at your local LCBO (more out towards their home in London but a fair amount in TO). It is really, really, really good – which is frankly to be expected from Anderson.
- Brewery: Waterloo
- Beer: Festbier
A pretty solid effort from Waterloo here. In case you didn’t know, the Kitchener-Waterloo region is home to the world’s second largest Oktoberfest event (second only to the one in Munich)! Definitely a better choice than the rest of the beers available at this festival, which included Molson Canadian and Creemore (don’t ask).
- Brewery: Brock Street
- Beer: Brocktoberfest
A Marzen indeed, but not a good one. Don’t bother. This is a PSA.
- Brewery: Hofbrau
- Beer: Oktoberfestbier
One of the OG Marzens! A true German classic. Bready malt forwardness with awesome hop aroma. If you can get it, get some, and experience what Ontario brewers are trying to emulate.
- Brewery: Muskoka
- Beer: Harvest Ale
SIKE! Not technically a Märzen. However, the profile suits being on this list – significantly more hop presence, and also an ale, but this is a classic darker fall beer that is aligned with the tastes on this list, IMO.
- Brewery: Rainhard
- Beer: Smarch Weather
The name of this beer is a Simpsons reference, meaning that this it was truly made for me (it wasn’t, but it feels that way). Absolutely awesome, and I think a limited run, so get on up to the Aleyards and pick some up from my friends there.
So yeah, I’m bitter that Märzen, in all its tradition and glory, is overshadowed by some poorly-made adjunct ale. Gimmickry has always had a place in beer, but this particular occurrence does nothing for beer in general. It’s niche nature means that those who like it, love it; those who don’t like it don’t care. Also, unlike other trendy beer styles (kettle sours, milkshakes, etc), pumpkin beers won’t serve to onboard new drinkers to craft, because they don’t have a relatability to them – wine fans may be into sours due to retention of tannins from barrels and dark fruit flavour depth, whereas cocktail drinkers may onboard to fruit/milkshake beers – so that means, pumpkin beers may appeal to… I don’t know, those who want to lick my kitchen floor after I make stuffing?