Cicerone Sam Merritt Picks Perfect Beers for Autumn and Beyond


Southern Wine & Spirits director of beer education Sam Merritt already weighed in on what to drink at Vegas Seven’s third annual Desert Hops International Beer Festival, but we asked him to put his certified cicerone hat back on and recommend the perfect beers for this season and the next.

Las Vegas is right at the intersection of summer and fall: It’s still warm during the day, but the evenings are just so blissfully cool you can actually sit on your patio. Prescribe the ideal end-of-summer beer—I’m just not ready for pumpkin yet!

A German hefeweizen or a Belgian saison farmhouse ale—really nice for that transition. Still quenching and tart, but also giving you a bit of spice. They’re vivacious beers, those saisons. It’s a vivacious time of year.

Now, fast-forward another month or two. It’s cooler, boot and jean weather. We’re in the Halloween spirit and starting to think about the holidays. What beer can I bring to a Thanksgiving feast and not be given a dirty look?

When it starts to get cool, I go toward brown ales. When the weather starts to change,  people think about campfires and being outdoors. That gets people into that mood: “OK, we’re cold enough where we can burn some wood.” That kicks it off.

One thing I always do in the fall is I get a whole bunch of different brown ales and a whole bunch of different pumpkin ales and I just combine them and make brown-pumpkin ales. I call it a Drunken Pumpkin.

OK, one more season forward. After the winter holidays comes New Year’s Eve. Is there a Champagne-esque style of beer that would work for popping at midnight?

Absolutely, the strong golden ales from Belgium—so elegant. I’m thinking of brands like Duvel, Delirium Tremens; we have a really good strong golden called Fin Du Monde from Quebec, which is appropriate because it means “the end of the world.” North Coast Brewing Co. out of Fort Bragg, California, has one called Pranqster, which is really nice.

They’re all bottle-conditioned, and all very effervescent, so they act a lot like Champagne on the palate. And they’re strong—9 percent or so. Not as strong as Champagne, but certainly bubbly.


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