Fall in Michigan means crisp mornings, spiced cider, warm donuts, and of course — fall-inspired Michigan beer. Michigan brewers are known around the country for crafting delicious and complex beer for every season, but this year’s pick of Michigan fall beers are especially spectacular. From Pumpkin Spice Latte to Oktoberfest and S’mores flavored concoctions, read through our favorite Michigan fall beers and sample them under the leaves stop falling!
It happens every year around this time: the days get shorter, leaves begin to change color, and breweries start putting pumpkin in all their beers. For some, this is a somber reminder that a Michigan winter isn’t too far away, but, for others, the thought of cardigans, corn mazes, and pumpkin spice lattes has been in the back of their minds since the first 90-degree day. No matter which camp you find yourself in, fall beers are a welcome reprieve from the citrus-heavy offerings of summer.
Whether you like a brew reminiscent of biting into a pumpkin pie or you prefer a harvest ale brewed with freshly picked Michigan hops, the thriving Michigan beer scene has something for everyone this season.
Best Michigan Fall Beers
The most popular fall beers these days seem to be the ones that are infused with fall flavors such as pumpkin, cinnamon, and/or nutmeg. While these are certainly not the only options for your autumn drinking pleasure, I would be remiss if I didn’t start our discussion there.
Ichabod | New Holland Brewing Co.
For many, this is the quintessential fall beer. Brewed with malted barley, real pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, Ichabod takes a straightforward ale and infuses it with some of the best flavors of the season.
Screamin’ Pumpkin | Griffin Claw Brewing Co.
The addition of a little molasses to go along with the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves adds a nice touch of sweetness to the Screamin’ Pumpkin. A light, crisp, and drinkable ale that gets more fragrant as it warms, this pairs well with a meal or is perfect for tailgating (it even comes in a can!)
Jaw-Jacker | Arcadia Ales
Unlike most pumpkin-inspired brews, Arcadia doesn’t actually put any of the orange stuff in their fall beer. Instead, they add all the typical spices – cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg – to their wheat amber ale. The wheat adds a little sweetness and mouth-feel to ensure the pumpkin isn’t missed.
Pumpkin Chai | Saugatuck Brewing Co.
Instead of adding the usual suspects (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc) to add spiciness to their pumpkin ale, Saugatuck decided to add herbal chai tea to impart those aromatic flavors. The result is a slightly drier and spicier take on a pumpkin beer. Though certainly not a dark beer, it does feel a little heavier than some of the other pumpkin ales.
Hooligan Hoppy Pumpkin Ale | North Peak Brewing Co.
If you’re not quite ready to get rid of the hoppiness of the IPAs that you’ve spent all summer enjoying, but you still want to join in on the pumpkin fun, this is the brew for you. Brewed with real pumpkin and the usual spices, but also teaming with Citra, Centennial, and Chinook hops, Hooligan is a hybrid beer that is truly the best of both worlds.
Pumpkin Spice Latte | Atwater Brewing Co.
With custom-designed and locally sourced pumpkin spice and coffee extracts, Atwater’s PSL is the perfect beer equivalent of this coffee-shop hit. This is a Munich Dark malt, which brings a walnut flavor that pairs with the Honey malt and Melanoidin malt, combining honey and bright sweetness. All that is to say — it’s a pumpkin spice latte, but in beer form!
Dragon’s Milk Reserve S’mores Bourbon Barrel Stout | New Holland Brewing Company
New Holland has made a name for itself through Dragon’s Milk. The iconic Bourbon barrel stout is famous across the country, and this fall, we’re enjoying a it’s s’mores reserve. Made for crisp evening campfires, the stout has hints of graham crackers and marshmallow behind the chocolatey notes of all Dragon’s Milk. Pop one open this autumn (just one, as it’s 11% ABV) and see how it compares to other Dragon’s Milk reserves.
Fuego del Otoño | Jolly Pumpkin
An “autumn fire,” Jolly Pumpkin has crafted a beer that captures the light and radiance of fall sun and leaves. It’s a sour Saison with gentle amber malt blends with smooth caramel notes and a hint of chestnuts. Sip this beer at one of Jolly Pumpkin’s eastern Michigan locations!
Oktoberfest in Michigan
Way back in the 1500s, Bavarian lawmakers forbid the brewing of beer from April through September to ensure quality and consistency, since warm weather wreaked havoc on the beer. So, of course, when October rolled around, they kicked it into gear and celebrated their ability to brew again! While we don’t have to worry about the warm weather with modern technology, we certainly don’t turn down a reason to celebrate beer. Keeping with tradition, these German-style lagers are malt-forward in taste and amber in color, due to the German malt (Munich or Vienna) used. There is not an overwhelming hop presence in this style, as the malt is allowed to speak for itself.
Noble Chaos | Short’s Brewing Co.
In typical Short’s fashion, this is a unique take on a classic. With toasted caramel malt flavors and a slight spiciness imparted by the Noble hops, this is a complex and tasty version of the Oktoberfest.
Dauntless | North Peak Brewing Co.
Brewed with a traditional Munich lager yeast, Dauntless is very malt-forward, which is befitting of the style. There are just enough hops to balance out the sweetness of the malt, making it very drinkable.
Octoberfest Beer | Bell’s Brewing Co.
Bell’s has been a pioneer in the beer scene with genre-defining beers such as Two Hearted and Oberon. With Octoberfest, however, Bell’s shows that they can also pay homage to a traditional style and do it justice. Octoberfest is lightly hopped and, like most beers in the category, exceedingly drinkable.
Violin Monster | Arbor Brewing Co.
Ready for Halloween monsters? Arbor Brewing is taking on the legend of the werewolf with a strong, dark, spiced beer using ingredients from Germany and the Netherlands. Brewed with warming spices and a hint of brown sugar, the Violin Monster is as black as the night that conceals the monsters. This brew changes every year so make sure to try it again. It’s a little less spicy than years prior.
Screamin’ Pumpkin | Griffin Claw Brewing
A true fall icon, Griffin Claw’s Screamin’ Pumpkin is like a slice of warm pie. Even if you’re not a big pumpkin person, this one goes down smooth and tastes great on most pallets. In the amber ale, you can taste cinnamon, clove, sweet pumpkin, a little molasses, making it the perfect Halloween celebration drink.
Oktoberfest | Lansing Brewing Co.
We could have picked dozens of this fall classic for our list, but we went with Lansing Brewing Co’s popular rendition. LBC used three different Germany style malts; Pilsen, Vienna, and Munich, giving the beer a bread-like malt flavor and easy drinkability. This version of Oktoberfest keeps to the original, except for its use of hops for the Washington state region (instead of Germany!).
Michigan Harvest Ales
More a celebration of a successful harvest than a specific style, Harvest Ales feature freshly picked hops to give their beers a delightful and fresh flavor and aroma. Harvest Ales tend to be wet-hopped, which just means that the brewers throw fresh hops in the fermenter to add flavor and aroma to a finished beer.
Harvest Ale | Founders Brewing Co.
You can’t talk Michigan breweries without first bringing up Founders, and you can’t talk fall beer without mentioning their Harvest Ale. This beer has an ultra juicy hop presence, exploding with fresh pine, melon, and citrus notes. Finish it with a toasted malt undertone and you’ve got this season’s harvest in a glass. This wet-hopped Harvest Ale clocks it at 70 IBUs and has a very juicy and citrus-forward hop profile. This is the perfect fall beer if you are still craving an IPA.
Kind Ale | Short’s Brewing Co.
Hops from Leelanau Peninsula are the star in this hoppy Harvest Ale. The hops add a hint of earthiness, and a little sweetness from the malt shines through. Short’s has been brewing this beer every fall since 2009 when it was brewed as a single batch.
Autumn Ale | Short’s Brewing Co.
We had to add this one to the list — autumn is in the name! A London style Extra Special Bitter (ESB), Short’s Autumn Ale bursts with flavors including malty sweetness and earthy, herbal hop bitterness. Winner of a silver medal at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival, Autumn Ale is a crisp refresher for the end of a day filled with pumpkin picking and corn mazes.
London Style Porter | Arcadia Ales
As the nights get darker, so do our beers. With 19th century brews and recipes as inspiration, Arcadia’s London Porter draws on rich historic tradition. The flavor starts with a bold, pleasing sweetened coffee richness, and gives way to subtle smoke. A hit of sweetness, faint pear, and hay notes remind drinkers that there are some delightful American Glacier hops under all the finery.
Michigan Hard Ciders
I know, I promised a list of beers and now I’ve resorted to listing Michigan hard ciders; however, Michigan autumns and apples go together like Michael Phelps and gold medals. Here are a few of my favorites.
Squishy | Starcut Ciders
From the creative minds behind Short’s Brewing Co., Starcut offers four delicious ciders, though Squishy is my current favorite (and not only because the packaging is super cute). A semi-sweet cider made with Michigan-grown apples is blended with Michigan cherries which results in a ruby-red cider that finishes with a pleasing tartness. Short’s currently has a maple bourbon barrel-aged version on tap, which is sure to be exceptional.
Totally Roasted | Vander Mill
Adding pecans, cinnamon, and vanilla to a lightly-sweetened cider really pulls out the roasted qualities of the pecans and accentuates the cinnamon which screams “fall” to me.
Java Vanilla Cider | Painted Turtle Hard Cider
As a small, family-owned newcomer to the hard cider scene, Painted Turtle has not been afraid to take chances which is evident in their Vanilla Java Cider. Blending their semi-sweet cider with vanilla and coffee from Schuil Coffee Company, this is a delicious and unique cider offering that successfully blends the bitterness of coffee with the sweetness of Michigan apples.
With great craft breweries opening constantly throughout Michigan, there are likely hundreds of worthy Michigan beers perfect for the fall season, and we know we missed some. What are your favorites that we must try before Christmas music hits the radio and the Lions have been eliminated from playoff contention?