‘Tis the Seasonal
Ah, the signs of fall are turning up all around us. I know this for a fact, because I have been asked to help with the annual fall decorating efforts in Maggie Valley, where in addition to the many other beautiful fall decorations adorning the town of Maggie Valley — fall’s little helpers will ‘dress-up’ all 300 telephone poles along Soco Road.
Each and every one of those poles is wrapped with corn stalks, partnered with a hay bale and garnished with a fresh pumpkin. That’s a lot of hay hauling, corn stalking and pole dancing — but when finished, Maggie Valley will be dressed for fall and ready to greet the annual throngs of ‘leaf-peepers.’
Ya-gotta-love fall color — It’s one of the things that attracted Carol and me to Western North Carolina in the first place. But by far, my favorite sign of fall is not the changing of the leaves, but the changing of the beverage coolers at stores everywhere — from lighter, thirst-quenching summer session beers to the fall stalwarts of pumpkin ales and Oktoberfest beers.
“To Helles with the summer beers,” I say. “Fall and winter beers are good for what ale’s you.” The dark, caramel, roasted and smoked malts make for a richer, more robust-tasting beer — at least for my personal tastes.
Over the years, my wife has become especially fond of pumpkin ales. Not a big surprise, because our house is filled to the brim every fall with candles smelling like ‘pumpkin spice and everything nice.’
Carol’s favorite pumpkin ale is Catawba’s King Don Pumpkin Ale — which was a big hit at Waynesville’s recent Craft Beer Faire. There are many other good pumpkin ales to choose from this season, including Anderson Valley’s ‘Fall Hornin’ and Holy ‘Gose,’ Flying Dog’s “The Fear” Imperial Pumpkin Ale, New Belgium’s ‘Pumpkick,’ Smuttynose Brewing’s Pumpkin Ale and Terrapin’s ‘Cranberry Pumpkinfest.’
Be aware that some brewers don’t buy into pumpkin ales. For example, Frog Level Brewing Company’s brewer and chief, Clark Williams, recently posted on Facebook that, “Friends don’t let friends drink pumpkin beers,’ and “We don’t harvest pumpkins.”
Waynesville is apple country, so Frog Level’s fall seasonal is Annual Autumn Harvest Ale — made with honey-wheat, bushels of apples from Waynesville’s own Barber’s Orchard and, of course, plenty of cinnamon. This great harvest ale is currently ‘resting’ and should be drinkable shortly after you read this column.
If you like craft beer, you might know about Left Hand Brewing Company out of Longmont, Colorado. Left Hand’s Marzen/Oktoberfest is one of the best of the season, with malty goodness and a spicy, dry finish courtesy of noble pedigree hops. Another great fall offering from Left Hand Brewing, with a name my wife can relate to — ‘Wicked Juju.’
In the words of the brewery, Wicked Juju is ‘Consecrated in observance of the light and dark in all creatures,’ with dark roast malt, and fresh juiced ginger.
Wicked Juju pours dark black, and tastes of ginger heat giving way to a chocolatey malt sweetness. Yumm.
Did you know? The term ‘joujou’ is French for a plaything. In common usage, ‘Juju’ is a spiritual belief system where physical objects such as jewelry are used for either religious practice or witchcraft. Jujube’s are a chewy, fruity candy that got me through many a scary movie when I was young.
Back to beer — Finally, Left Hand Brewing just released, ‘Wake up Dead Nitro — a Russian Imperial Stout, ‘with a trifecta of cocoa, dried fruit and licorice notes.’ It’s very complex beer you can practically chew on. And with an ABV just over 10 percent, it packs a kick as substantial as the beer’s 90 score from Beer Advocate.
Whatever your tastes for beer, be sure to support our many local craft breweries and ‘fall’ for a seasonal beer that’s easy on your Juju.
And when you are in Maggie Valley, be sure to thank the merchants for giving the town an early swath of fall color.