The beginning of October confounds me. The leaves are starting to brown and dry and fall, that smell of yawning ancient oak fills the air, the grass gives one last glimpse of green before slipping into hibernation for the winter…but sometimes it’s still 85 degrees outside. The signs of Fall abound, but Summer isn’t quite sure she’s done yet, holding onto the remainder of her days like a tick on a bloodhound.
But the worst part isn’t having to put my shorts away for the winter. Or having to dig them back out again because it’s suddenly too hot.
The worst part is never knowing what to drink.
Sometimes it’s too hot for the heavy spices of the come-too-soon pumpkin beers or the malt punches of the Octoberfests, sometimes it’s too decidedly autumnal to go back to all those crisp pilsners and saisons I cooled off with in July. Thankfully, the beer world has me covered.
The four primary beer seasons are obvious to most drinkers – the crisp hops, lager yeasts, and pale malts of Spring; the sun-inspired golden ales, saisons, and wheat beers of Summer; the gourd-centric, hearty malt, heavy brown and spiced ales of Fall; the sweet and strong Stouts and imperials to keep us warm through bitter Winter.
But in between come the segways. They roll in all gyroscopically, balancing expectations between temperatures and styles, filling in flavor gaps that accompany subtle shifts in weather, guiding us through the transitional periods to new tastes for new seasons. They are crucial to gustatory preparations for the coming season. Unless you live in a place without seasons. Which I never have, so the whole concept is weird and confusing like an Indian Pale Lager.
The seasonals echo a natural tradition that predates man; a cycle of verdant birth and decay, of planting and harvest, of Hades and Persephone and pomegranates. It may seem like a marketing ploy to keep drinkers interested in and trying new things, or a way for brewers to experiment with lots of different recipes, but it is really more of an homage to the rhythmic splendor of the Earth.
Just as the moon waxes full then wanes, just as an old man dies and moments later a child is born, just as the wheels on a CEO’s overly-expensive transport near silently whirl, the beers too shall turn.
So don’t complain about seasonal creep. Appreciate those few beers that appear and disappear in an ephemeral flash. They may seem like they’re showing up at your birthday party two hours early and then leaving before the candles on your ice-cream cake have even been lit, never mind blown, but they came, and they brought a present. That’s all that really matters.
That present is a herald of what’s to come. A horn blast, signaling plenty, singing in the next wave of beery goodness.
A malt and hop hint of what’s to come.