Weyerbacher's far better known around this time of year for its imperial pumpkin ale, but its interpretation of an Oktoberfest style also warrants some attention.
Closer to an American amber or red than a Vienna lager, the copper Autumn Fest blends Vienna and Munich malts in a stab at Bavarian authenticity. It doesn't quite get there, but the roasted malt flavor, carmel finish and light feel are much softer than its 5.4% ABV potency would let on. It's not a heavy-hitting fall beer, but it's not offensive, either. Just a mild sipper that's a good transition to winter porters and stouts.
Great Lakes Brewing
Perhaps better known for its year-round Edmund Fitzgerald Porter and winter seasonal Blackout Stout, Cleveland's own Great Lakes gives folks all the hop bitterness of a fresh hop beer in this sneaky red ale.While red ales usually drift into milder territory, the vampire-themed Nosferatu was built around a "beer with bite" gimmick that demanded a hop-heavy, blood-red brew. While still containing some of the sweet, biscuity notes of a milder, maltier fall beer, Nosferatu's better known for a powerful hop aroma and flavor and hefty 8% ABV that restricts it to four-packs. Unlike certain sparkly Northwest vampires we can name, Nosferatu clearly means you some less-than-chaste harm. Imperial Oat Stout
Southern Tier Brewing
Lakewood, N.Y. At a brewery that already packs its fall lineup with 22-ounce bottles of Pumpking imperial pumpkin ale and Harvest English-style extra special bitter, it takes a lot to stand out. Fortunately for the Imperial Oat Stout, Southern Tier's Blackwater line of seasonal stouts doesn't require a whole lot to grab folks' attention. After a year of mocha, java, chocolate and creme brulee stouts, Southern Tier unleashed its Imperial Oatmeal Stout in September and let the big beer speak for itself. Smelling of roasted malt as any good stout should, Imperial Oat finishes with flavor that bends toffee, oatmeal and nut into a dark and powerful 10.8% ABV brew. While such potent stouts are often reserved for later months, Southern Tier isn't a firm believer in transitional beers. If you have a great stout ready now, why not pour it? Fuego del Otono
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
Dexter, Mich. Yes, it's a brewery with pumpkin in its name and, yes, they have a great pumpkin ale in Oro de Calabaza, but its other fall brew is as great, if not better. Fuego del Otono falls along the lines of some of the other caramel-tinged amber beers on this list, but its time aging in an oak barrel and its subtle hints of spice set it apart from its seasonal competitors. There are no half measures with this 6.1% ABV malted beauty. Either you pick up a 750-milliliter wine-style bottle and settle in for the evening or take it walking. If you take one home, however, consider it a fine introduction to Michigan's broad array of fall brews.