After a long, hot summer, it seems like Autumn is finally around the corner. Fall is my favorite beer season. In addition to the ubiquitous – and tasty – pumpkin ales and Oktoberfest offerings, I am a big fan of brown ales, fresh hop IPAs, and other offerings that pepper the stores like leaves on the sidewalk.
Starr Hill Brewery recently released their latest Fall Tour Variety Pack, and it features several styles – none of which are pumpkin or märzen! Included in the pack are an IPA, a white IPA, a brown ale, and a helles lager. A bold choice, and inspired. Starr Hill was kind enough to send Colleen N. and I a pack to review ahead of the fall season. What did we think? Read on to find out!
Northern Lights IPA
Sonora: Starr Hill recently updated the recipe for their flagship IPA. The updated version is very smooth and very fresh – I sipped mine two weeks after it was bottled. It’s got a citrus kick in the beginning and a bitter finish, but not overly so. The taste lingers slightly but there is no resin or stickiness. It’s easy to drink – almost too easy! It’s equally good for warm summer days and cooler Autumn evenings.
Colleen: Disclaimer … I’m pretty partial to Northern Lights. I’m pretty sure it’s the first IPA I ever tasted. I used to live in the Charlottesville area and visited the Starr Hill tasting room in Crozet often. Back then I was not a fan of hoppy beers (HAHA). But nowadays, I LOVE IPAs and Northern Lights especially. It’s piney with a bit of citrus. It’s not overly bitter and makes a great “starter” IPA for new craft beer drinkers. It’s a little bit sweet and on the darker side.
Whiter Shade White IPA
Sonora: I first had this beer when it was called Whiter Shade of Pale, and I remember liking it then. I also like it now! You get the impression from the scent that you’re in for a fruity beer, and fruit you get. Pineapple, orange, maybe a little grapefruit; but all are cut by the zip of the hops. This is a true blend of styles, a beer that highlights the best of both an IPA and a white ale.
Colleen: The first thing I tasted in this beer was BANANA! It actually reminded me of Starr Hill’s The Love at first. This beer has a lovely hop forward, piney flavor too which gives a great fall feeling without the typical flavors you’d expect when someone says a beer is “for fall.” It would be an awesome tailgate beer. It’s pretty much like they took all of my favorite things about Starr Hill beers and combined them in this bottle.
Last Leaf Maple Brown Ale
Sonora: This is replacing Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter in Starr Hill’s seasonal line-up. It is a worthy replacement. Last Leaf is a chocolatey, nutty brown ale perfectly kissed with maple, as it’s brewed with Virginia maple syrup. This is a very balanced brown – the maple stands out, but not in a way that’s overly sweet or dessert-y. I’m happy to see brown ales getting more love!
Colleen: I think this beer might be the highlight of this variety pack. It has great maple and nut flavors. It’s sweet but not as thick and syrupy as I expected when I heard the word “maple.” It’s a great alternative for someone who wants an easy, sweet fall beer but doesn’t love the idea of pumpkin beers. I would totally drink this while handing out trick or treat candy! It also made me want pumpkin pancakes. I imagine myself with a big ol’ plate of pumpkin pancakes and sausage while sipping this out of a coffee mug. It’s the perfect balance of nut and maple and I want to drink it all season!
Basketcase American Helles
Sonora: This is another brand new one, and another stellar offering. This beer is very crisp and refreshing. The hops add just enough of a citrus zing to keep the lager from being overly sweet; but there is plenty of malt to keep it from crossing over into mega-hopped territory. It is very balanced and delicious. This one was probably my favorite in the pack, but I truly loved them all. You can’t go wrong with this pack!
Colleen: The first words that come to mind are light, crisp, and refreshing. It’s a great sipping beer. I would drink this at a late summer, early fall bonfire or sitting on my porch in the early evening. It’d be a great happy hour beer! It did have more hop than I expected which not a bad thing. It’s definitely not my favorite of the pack but that’s probably just because it’s not a style that I typically reach for.
Stats: Starr Hill Fall Tour Variety Pack
Quantity: 12 beers (3 of each)
Beers: Northern Lights IPA (6.2% ABV), Whiter Shade White IPA (7.5% ABV), Last Leaf Maple Brown Ale (6.1% ABV), Basketcase American Helles (5.4% ABV)
Availability: August – November