The Best Cozy Beer Flavors To Turn To This Fall, According To An Expert

If you thought the comforting, seasonal flavors of fall were limited to pumpkin spice lattes, think again. The cool weather brings an abundance of in-season produce that usher in a new season of flavor for all foods and beverages, including beer. While some might consider beer to be more of a summertime drink, there are actually plenty of ways to introduce the essence of fall into a craft brew, and plenty of ways to enjoy seasonal beers that fully embrace the best flavors of autumn. 

For more on the best of sweater weather beers, we turned to Jeff Tyler, head brewer and co-owner of Spice Trade Brewery + Kitchen in Greenwood Village, Colorado, who says the fall season is an exciting time to introduce unique, cozy brews. "For me, the fall is all about embracing the changing of the seasons," Tyler tells Tasting Table. "The weather is starting to cool off, there are a lot of great fruits and vegetables ready for harvest."

The abundance of ingredients that autumn represents make for all kinds of great beer flavors to try. Plus, so many fall-forward beers pair excellently with all the other delicious fall foods that we get so excited about this time of year. While pumpkin beer is pretty popular and may be the first thing that comes to mind, Tyler recommends leaning into interesting plays on this go-to flavor. He also suggests trying beers inspired by notes of chai and other warm spices that we find in recipes throughout the season. Citrus IPA's that highlight the best of winter fruits are another great option, along with malted beers that channel the cozy vibes of the colder weather. 

Pumpkin Spice Beer

Not surprisingly, Tyler's best seasonal selling beer is his #PSL – Pumpkin Spice Latte beer. "Folks love pumpkin beers and that's where their minds typically go to first," says Tyler. Pumpkin-based beers come in a wide variety of fall flavor profiles. They can be more or less sweet, depending on what you are looking for, and typically use pumpkin as part of the brew. Pumpkin brings a delicately sweet, earthy flavor to beers that give a whisper of autumn in every sip.

Spice Trade's version takes things up a notch, modeled after the famous, seasonal coffee drink we all know and love. It's made with "a toasted blonde ale brewed with pumpkin, brown sugar, a blend of spices, vanilla, lactose and freshly roasted Novo Coffee." If you want an elevated pumpkin beer, look for brews that reference flavor notes complementary to pumpkin, such as spices, brown sugar, coffee, vanilla, and lactose. These are the main flavor notes in Tyler's beer and highlight all the best parts of fall food and drinks.

Chai inspired beer

Spice Trade also brews a Chai Milk Stout, inspired by a chai latte, another flavor note Tyler says is perfect for embracing the seasonal spices of fall season. Chai blends typically contain cardamom, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon, but can also feature more unique add-ins such as black peppercorn or fennel, making this a special flavor profile to enjoy in beer form. You can elect to look for specific elements of the chai flavor if you can't find a chai beer near you.

Spice Trade's Chai Milk Stout is a rich, chocolatey stout that mimics a chai latte you'd find at your local coffee shop. The added richness of cocoa notes tones down the intensity of the chai spices. If you aren't a fan of chocolate stouts you can look for less rich options that would allow for more of the spices to pop through. A chai-inspired beer is a great choice to enjoy on those colder fall days as the spices add a nice kick that warms you up from the inside out with every sip. 

Black Citrus IPAs

Pumpkins and warm spices aren't the only seasonal flavors during fall. Fall produce brings the beginnings of citrus season towards the end of October. To lean into these flavors, Tyler suggests beers with notes of  orange, grapefruit, lime, blood orange, and even winter berries. A great example of this is Spice Trade's Moon Temple: Eclipse IPA which features notes of cocoa, citrus, and berries. "It drinks with notes of bitter dark chocolate, citrus & berries and is reminiscent of some flavor notes you'd get from a high end pour over coffee."

The seasonal fruits of fall tend to be less sweet and more tart, offering a brighter-tasting IPA. For even more fall flavor, go for Black IPA's which use darker malts in the brewing process. The result is a smooth, toasty IPA that has tasting notes similar to coffee. The slightly more bitter beer matches the waning sweetness of other seasonal flavors and pairs well with the rich dishes enjoyed at events like Thanksgiving — not to mention the darker color matches the vibe of Halloween to a tee.

Malt forward beers

Finally, Tyler says he leans into malt-forward beers as the the weather starts to cool down. Beers like amber ales, dark lagers, winter warmers, Oktoberfestbiers, and dark ales are all examples of malt-forward brews. These beers have a richness to them, as well as a sweet, nutty taste that is often compared to caramel or coffee. 

Technically, malt can be found as an ingredient in all beers, but the level of malt prominence is based on how much kilning the grains receive. Kilning is the process of heating barley, and this is where that sweeter, toasty flavor comes from. Malt-forward also makes the beers darker, giving them a rich autumnal color theme. Malty beers have a similar vibe to caramel apples and pecan pies, making them an excellent fall brew choice.