While pumpkin beers might rule the taps in fall, there’s a more subtly seasonal brew worth seeking out: sage beer. A classic brewing ingredient during the Middle Ages, sage was used then for its purported medicinal qualities. Now modern-day brewers like the herb for its potent, earthy aroma and flavor that enhances, rather than masks, the flavors of malt and hops, as well as the herb’s food-friendliness.
Here, four sage beers to try this fall.
Deschutes and Harpoon: EHOP
A collaboration between Oregon’s Deschutes and New England’s Harpoon, EHOP celebrates both breweries’ participation in the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Brewers Ryan Schmiege of Deschutes and Ethan Elston of Harpoon decided on the recipe together. They opted to make an amber ale as an homage to the early craft beer movement when ambers were king and decided to brew with sage (fresh in Harpoon’s case, dried for the Deschutes version) and thyme to represent their respective areas’ local ingredients. Also included: employee-grown hops. Two versions of the beer (one brewed at Deschutes, the other at Harpoon) will be available at the end of September.
Stillwater Artisanal: Cellar Door
Light, a little lemony and packed with savory sage, this thirst-quenching farmhouse-style ale is incredibly drinkable. Though it’s sold as a summer beer, it’s perfect for early fall sipping. Owner and brewer Brian Strumke uses white sage not only for its flavor but also for its reputation as a cleansing element—it is often burnt in purification rituals.
Crooked Stave: Colorado Wild Sage
Tart but not overly funky, Crooked Stave’s Colorado Wild Sage is a saison barrel-fermented with Brettanomyces yeast, which gives it a terrific sour quality. Those flavors are intensified by the addition of lemongrass and fresh white sage. Though it goes down easy, the beer does pack a bit of a punch at 7.2 percent ABV.
Smuttynose: Farmhouse Ale
The New Hampshire brewery’s hazy, full-bodied ale includes a touch of pineapple sage, named for its pineapply scent. The idea first came from chef Mark Segal, who suggested the brewery use pineapple sage and lavender in a saison-style beer Smuttynose was making a pilot batch of for a beer dinner. While the brewing staff wasn’t particularly enamored with the addition of lavender, they loved the sage and decided to include it in the Farmhouse Ale for both intrigue and character.