Fall is officially here, and with it comes an exciting period for both beer and whiskey drinkers. Besides the chill in the air making it a good time to break out the peaty Scotches and hefty stouts you’ve been missing all summer, it’s also football season, and nothing pairs with football better than whiskey and beer.
It actually makes a lot of sense that these two titans of the drinks world would go together, and I’m talking about more than just Boilermakers. Both beer and whiskey are made from the same ingredient: malted barley. And in recent years, brewers and distillers around the world have started to borrow techniques and ingredients from one another to create new and delicious beverages we can all enjoy together. Here are a few whiskies you should try this fall if you’re a beer geek looking to expand your horizons.
WESTLAND AMERICAN SINGLE MALT WHISKEY ($80)
Brewers have access to an astounding array of different types of grain, from the heavily toasted chocolate malt used for porters and stouts to the more lightly-colored pale malt for lagers and pale ales. On the other hand, most distillers use just one type of malted barley to make whiskey. Seattle’s Westland flips that script, incorporating five different malts into its delicious flagship whiskey, which offers rich custardy, chocolaty and fruity notes—a lot like a complex dark beer.
CHARBAY S HOP FLAVORED WHISKEY ($140)
Northern California’s Charbay Distillery & Winery has been making craft spirits since before people called them that. Way back in 1983, Charbay started making European-style brandies, and it hasn’t looked back since, expanding into an astounding assortment of spirits of all varieties. This truly unique whiskey is part of a series that distills and ages “bottle-ready” beers, in this case Big Bear Stout from Sonoma County’s Bear Republic Brewing. You’ll find roasted coffee and chocolate in this whiskey, along with unexpected floral and citrus notes from the hops in the beer.
CHICAGO DISTILLING COMPANY RAUCH AMERICAN SINGLE MALT WHISKEY ($40)
To make whiskey, you first ferment grain into what’s called “distiller’s beer”. It is technically beer, but because it’s going to be distilled, its flavor and unique characteristics don’t really matter. Or do they? Chicago Distilling tested that by brewing four different popular craft-beer styles, then distilling them into whiskey and aging them in oak. This one is the most unusual of the four, made from a rauchbier, a fairly obscure German style made from smoked malt. The whiskey has an intriguing earthy, chocolaty smokiness, simultaneously similar to but also very unlike a peated Scotch. Don’t like smoke? Try the other bottles in the series, made from a dunkel, a stout and a Belgian strong dark ale.
SIXPOINT BREWERY RUNE & SKÖLL
Well fine, this is more of a beer for whiskey lovers than vice-versa, but it’s still worth a try. Venerable Scotch distillery Highland Park teamed up with Brooklyn brewery Sixpoint to create these two beers designed to pair with specific whiskies. Rune is a subtly sweet golden oat ale, brewed with heather flowers for a bit of rustic floral perfume that goes wonderfully with the honeyed notes of Highland Park 12 Year Old, while Sköll is a rich dark ale made with cherries, whose fruit and chocolate flavors match nicely with Highland Park Dark Origins. Both brews just rolled out and will be on tap at whiskey-focused bars around the country for a limited time.
KIUCHI NO SHIZUKU ($19 FOR 200 mL)
Hitachino Nest White Ale is a favorite among beer geeks, a gentle but still complex Belgian-style ale from Japan (with an adorable owl on its label, to boot). This spirit (whose name means “first drip from the distillation kettle”) distills Hitachino Nest and ages the result in a barrel with coriander, hops and orange peel for a month, then distills that again and ages it in oak for another six months. It’s a process unlike anything else I know of, and it yields a spirit a little bit like a genever, with dominant notes from those white-ale spices and just a hint of aged-whiskey oak and vanilla. (No, this isn’t labeled as a whiskey, but it’s distilled from grain and aged in oak—it’s a whiskey in my book!)
WATCH JASON BLIND TASTE TEST BOTTOM-SHELF VODKA