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The Season for Beer

That title might be a bit misleading – there's always a season for beer.

Posted By Greg Barbera on Oct 05, 2016

But just as the weather changes, so do the styles of beer that get produced. Gone are summer's wheat ales, steam beers, pilsners, and kölschs. In come pumpkin and spiced beers, raunchbier (smoked beer), and a bevy of brown ales, silky porters, and thick stouts.

Below you'll find a selection of seasonal beer offerings from Durham breweries. Some seasonals, like Bull City Burger’s quaffable Octoberfest, can come and go in the blink of an eye. So get these while you can.


Over on the east side of town at the corner of Ramseur and Fayetteville streets, Ponysaurus Brewing has a few offerings for you. They've taken their Fig Saison, added a spicy, fruity twist to it and re-crowned the brew Autumn Fruit Saison. It's darker than its cousin, but you'll still get the nose of figs and a dry, rye-like finish.

Everybody loves IPAs and nobody really wants them to go away. So Ponysaurus brewed the Fall IPA to keep the hopheads happy. The bitterness is tempered by the beer's malt bill; you'll get your hop fix mostly in the nose. You'll primarily find a chewy, molasses-on-toast, grainy finish, which is common for brown ales. I'm going to dub this beer Indian Summer because it offers the best of both seasons.

Bull City Burger and Brewery

The biggest beer festival in the world is the Bavarian Oktoberfest, which takes place from mid-September to the first weekend of October. And beer is the backbone of this legendary German fair. Because the festival lasts over two weeks, it is important that the signature beer be tasty yet highly drinkable, and preferably served in a stein.

Stierstadt Octoberfest is Bull City Burger and Brewery's entry into this style. Brewed with Bavarian yeast, Munich malts, and German Hallertau hops, the beer doesn't stray from tradition. The malts impart notes of toffee and the German hops lend an earthy, fruity tone to the beer. A couple of pints of Stierstadt – which is German for Bull City – and you'll be yearning for pretzels and saying prost!


Down the street at Fullsteam, you’ll find a couple of collaborative beers on tap for autumn. Brewed in conjunction with Pittsboro's Fearrington House Inn is Fearrington Fall – an apple ESB. I know it sounds crazy, but we’re talking about a plow-to-pint brewery here. The apples give this English-style bitter ale a little bit of a cider twist. The fruit is moderate and almost unassuming.

And then there's the Julius Pepperz – a smoked Tobago pepper IPA made in conjunction with Carrboro's YesterYears Brewery that is named after UNC basketball and football player Julius Peppers. I love smoky stuff. I love peppers. And I love IPAs. You get the smoky pepper in the nose of the beer but you don't get much heat in the finish. Oh, you'll know you just drank a pepper beer, but it isn't spicy. As a matter of fact, it is somewhat fruity and sweet. When can we expect the Christian Laettner Pale Ale, Fullsteam?

Durty Bull

The new kid on the block, Durty Bull Brewing Co., doesn't offer seasonal beers. But they do have a stellar Lager made with Munich and Vienna malts. A German-inspired beer that is a clean and crisp, this is the gateway craft beer for your friends. This will get them in the door and before you know it they'll be sailing on the sour ship and singing the praises of Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus. Durty Bull also offers a boozy (9 percent ABV) Baltic Porter. It's wood-aged so you'll get a slight taste of vanilla as well as roasted chocolate and sweet caramel – perfect for a chilly fall afternoon.

Love beer? Learn more about Durham's brew scene

About the Author

Greg Barbera