This fall promises to be unlike any before, but thanks to suburban microbreweries, autumn will taste satisfyingly familiar to local beer lovers.
Across the Chicago area, breweries are rolling out fall offerings from German-style brews to pumpkin porters.
Although flying to Munich to enjoy the world's largest Oktoberfest celebration isn't possible this year, any suburbanite with a car and a phone can order Roaring Table Brewing Company's Festbier and get a taste of what those Germans would be enjoying.
Owner Beth May said Roaring Table's Festbier is the same style that's consumed by the stein-full at Oktoberfest. She said when most Americans order an Oktoberfest beer in the states they are given a style known as a Marzen, which has a more caramel flavor than the Festbier. May said her husband, Roaring Table co-owner and brewmaster Lane Fearing, brews Festbier rather than Marzen because he finds it more enjoyable.
"Ours is cleaner, less malty, less sweet and more crisp," May said. "With all of our beers, even our crazy sour beers, we want a crisp finish so the customer always wants to take another sip."
Another style that makes some beer drinkers look forward to cooler weather and shorter days is pumpkin beer, and there is no shortage in the suburbs.
In late September, Scorched Earth Brewing Co. in Algonquin will release Crypt Keeper, a popular imperial pumpkin porter. Co-founder Mike Dallas said the Crypt Keeper has evolved over the last six years since the brewery opened.
Unlike a traditional pumpkin ale, Crypt Keeper is brewed with roasted malts that produce chocolate and slight coffee flavors. During the brew, the team throws in pieces of squash and pumpkin that have been spiced and roasted. At the end, they mix in special pumpkin pie spices.
"It's a super cool beer," Dallas said.
Scorched Earth will host a celebration of German beer styles the week of Sept. 16 to 19 as well. It's a type the company knows well; Scorched Earth's German Doppelbock won a silver medal at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival last year.
Summer generally does not inspire thoughts of dark beers: Rich stouts and roasted porters are too rich for most on a hot day. But when fall brings a bracing breeze, it's a different story. And in October, Penrose Brewing Company in Geneva will release its Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout with Vanilla, which taproom manager Katie Pilcher said has been aging for more than a year.
"This stout has a nice warmth to it with its higher alcohol content to stand up to the cooler weather," Pilcher said, adding that the flavor would go well with gathering around a campfire.
Pilcher said she can't say which distillery the bourbon barrels came from, but Penrose has been barrel aging beers in a variety of styles since the brewery opened six years ago.
"We typically try and release one bourbon barrel aged stout a year as they are very popular and special releases that our fans get excited about," Pilcher said.
Because of the pandemic, Pilcher said owners won't be hosting their usual release party, but they will put together some type of virtual release.