Top Shelf: Celebrate the autumn season with autumn beers

The days are growing shorter, the air is growing crisper and the leaves have been set ablaze with color — autumn is upon us, and it’s the right time to hunker down with a good brew and enjoy the season.

With so many great craft beers now available, the Top Shelf “brew crew” has pulled together a few regional selections for your libatious enjoyment.

• Harpoon Octoberfest (Windsor, Vt.): This red beer is all about balance. The creamy head and rich maltiness complements the touch of sweetness, the nice hop character and mild bitterness on the finish. This is a great all-around seasonal brew and one of our favorites.

• Geary’s Autumn Ale (Portland, Maine): The darkest of our beer selections, Geary’s Autumn Ale is full-bodied and malty, like a good British brew. A firm, creamy head covers a nut-brown ale with hints of coffee and chocolate flavors. The refreshing dose of hops prevents the beer from becoming too heavy.

• Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale (Portsmouth, N.H.): There’s no doubt about the pumpkin being present in these suds. This beer is bright orange and rich with cloves and nutmeg. The sweet, malty flavors are countered by a healthy dose of hops ending in a bright, bitter finish.

• Samuel Adams Octoberfest (Boston, Mass.): A TS fave, this beer has all the good stuff an autumn ale should have and none of the bad. Rich amber in color, the barley is roasted to bring out the caramel and toffee flavors. A delicate sweetness with bitter notes from the hops impart deep flavors without overwhelming each other.

• Shipyard Brewing Co. Pumpkinhead (Portland, Maine): With a name like “Pumpkinhead,” we were expecting a pumpkin-pie-meets-Guinness-type of beer, but surprisingly, the fruity flavors were very subtle. A real change from the heavier autumn beers, Pumpkinhead is a lighter, orange-tinted wheat beer. The first sip is distinctly tangy, with just hints of spices. Very refreshing!

• Magic Hat Jinx Seasonal (South Burlington, Vt.): With a name like “Magic Hat,” how could we resist? This beer speaks of the cold weather to come with roasty, toasty malt flavors, big hop bitters and a fuller-bodied character. A thick, creamy head resolves to a clean finish. Think of Jinx as Guinness’ petite cousin.

• Woodstock Inn Brewery Red Rack Ale (North Woodstock, N.H.): All right, so we cheated a bit in this not being a special seasonal release beer, but lusty red beers remind us of so many quaffed down over atomic hot wings and bad Phoenix Cardinals football — definitely autumnal rites. Being a local brew was also a nice plus. A deep amber red, the head was surprisingly thick and creamy, something we haven’t seen on too many red beers. The toasted malt flavors were brightened by a nice hoppy bitterness.

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