Fall Beers: Experts at Bars, Restaurants, Breweries Share Thoughts on Seasonal Favorites

It’s fall…that time of year when the weather gets cooler, sweaters come out of the closet, and we all search for rich, spicy flavors that evoke the season. Of course, bars, restaurants, and breweries always join the fun and offer a menu of beers that jive with the autumnal vibes.

What's popular with customers when it comes to on-premise beer this fall, or what will be popular in the near future? Bar & Restaurant News spoke with numerous industry leaders for this beer round-up.

‘The Shades of Beer Turn Darker’

John Fusco, vice president of creative and brand marketing, Wilmington Brew Works in Wilmington, Del.: “Oktoberfest always signals a turn to lagers in our taproom, and the shades of beer turn darker. We'll start dedicating some tap space to imperial stouts and darker beers as we head to the colder months. We typically eschew the pumpkin beer fad, but we offer some fall ciders that are cozy, with caramel or apple pie flavorings.”

Aaron Baker, brand manager, Dale’s and the Oskar Blues Brewery in North Carolina, Texas and Colorado: “Oktoberfest seasonals reign supreme in the fall. These seasonals seem to demonstrate great staying power and even seem to be gaining momentum. This fits within the larger on-premise beer trends of consumers being open to more flavor-forward lagers. Marzens and festbiers demonstrate this trend in the fall but the appetite is out there for well-produced lagers all year round.”

Fall Beers - Best Fall Beers at Bars Restaurants
(Photo: Courtesy of Rock & Brews)

‘One of My Favorite Times of Year’

Trevor Tyler, vice president of beverage operations, Eureka! Restaurant Group in Hawthorne, Calif.: “Late August and September always bring Oktoberfest season! So, we see a lot of demand for Marzen and other Oktoberfest beers during this time of year. We also see a ton of great beer coming out of the Pacific Northwest for ‘fresh hop’ season. It's one of my favorite times of year. In addition, while it isn't as popular as previous years, pumpkin ales also start popping up in October.”

James Stewart, operations manager and beverage development, Rock & Brews chain of restaurants: “For fall, Rock & Brews guests still seek darker, more malty beers with spicy or sweet notes that evoke holiday and colder weather vibes. In the near future, health-conscious options, like NA [or non-alcoholic or low-alcohol] beers and low-calorie choices, are expected to continue growing in popularity among on-premise beer offerings.”

‘Bolder Flavors with Combinations of Pumpkin, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Caramel’

Aaron Bisges, chief operating officer, StillFire Brewing in Suwanee, Ga.: “Fall always brings the Oktoberfest crowd, so German-style beers are a must. As the weather turns, we focus more on launching darker beers with bolder flavors with combinations of pumpkin, chocolate, cinnamon, caramel, etc. Our German chocolate cake altbier is a must!”

Ilona Smith Martinez, beverage director, Honey Bar at Reno Public Market in Reno, Nev.: “As we move into the colder months, we are seeing more of a demand for darker beers rather than a cider, which is a usual fall go-to. We have some awesome options at Honey that we are sure consumers are going to love. We just added Mammoth Double Nut Brown Ale and Dirty Wookie from The Brewer’s Cabinet.”

George Hummel, mentor and grain master, My Local Brew Works in Philadelphia: “Tastes migrate to amber and brown beer. Oktoberfest Maerzen, brown ale, and porter offers more appeal. Pumpkin beer is – fortunately – dwindling in popularity. If you feel you need to carry them for the people who want pumpkin everything, stock it packaged in bottles or cans, instead of wasting a draft line that will become tainted with vegetal and spice flavors.”

Beer Trends - Fall Beers - Lagers - Pumpkin Beer
(Photo: Courtesy of Eureka! Restaurant Group)

RELATED: Beer Report: Operators Point to a Revival of Craft Beer at Bars and Restaurants, Among Other Trends

Aaron Kiel, based in Raleigh, N.C., has worked in the beverage, tea and coffee industries for nearly two decades, as well as hospitality and technology. He’s a journalist and writer/reporter at heart, but he also wears a PR hat through his consultancy, ak PR Group. He works as the editor of World Tea News with Questex’s Bar & Restaurant Group, as well as a contributing writer for Bar & Restaurant News. He also sits on the advisory board for the annual World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, which is co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo. Connect with him on Instagram: @adventurer_explorer.

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