Plus, the beers to pair them with.
We've partnered with Breckenridge Brewery to highlight delicious fall dishes from coast to coast. Do you have any favorites that represent fall in your city, state, or region? Let us know about them in the comments!
What do you look forward to eating every fall? As soon as the first hint of chill hits the air at my home in Virginia, I start conjuring up images of an East Coast autumn paradise: fresh apples, straight from the tree; brilliantly colored leaves fluttering in the breeze; the smell of marshmallows roasted over a bonfire; and all the baked goods my oven can possibly handle. If you’re in New Mexico, the smell of roasting chiles might be the first thing that comes to mind; in Florida, maybe you’re thinking of fresh stone crab claws, dipped in a mustardy sauce.
My autumn paradise isn’t quite complete without a good drink in my hand, and as fall sets in my beer tastes start to widen. I’ll always love a crisp IPA or a bright, fruity sour, but when the days begin to shorten and the temperature drops, I find myself craving warmer, more assertive drinks, too: stouts, porters, brown ales, and the like.
In honor of the changing season, we’ve collected a few of our favorite autumn dishes from around the country, and paired them with some great fall beer picks from Breckenridge Brewery. Put them on your list and make the most of this short season, wherever you are.
In early fall, New Mexico explodes with fresh green chile peppers. Makeshift roasting operations spring up along roadsides and in parking lots, and the aroma of blistered chiles saturates the air. The most popular way to enjoy this southwestern fall specialty is in a spicy, roasted green chile sauce. You can slather ladlefuls of this piquant green sauce on everything from burgers to eggs, but our favorite way to enjoy it is on stacked enchiladas topped with Monterey Jack or Chihuahua cheese.
There are a lot of flavors going on in this dish—smoky notes, heat from the chiles, melty cheese—so you want something assertive yet balanced to drink alongside, like an amber ale. The mild flavor, balance of malt and bitterness, and crisp finish in Breckenridge’s Avalanche Amber Ale strikes just the right chord: It stands up to and complements those strong flavors without overwhelming them.
October through May is stone crab season in Florida, and every year we await the official kickoff (October 15) with a great deal of anticipation. Almost all of the country’s stone crab comes from Florida’s waters, so there’s no better place to enjoy them fresh. The best part of a stone crab is its meaty, sweet claws, which are usually eaten simply boiled or steamed, and served with a mustard-based sauce.
A Nitro Irish Stout remains one of my favorite beers to drink with seafood; it’s an unexpected but delightful pairing. The beer’s toasted notes (from the roasted barley) set off the brine of the seafood, and its relatively dry finish and high bitterness is a crisp complement to rich, sweet crab meat.
Is there any dish more emblematic of fall than a bubbling, still-warm-from-the-oven spiced apple crisp? (No, there isn’t.) Apples hit their prime in autumn all over the United States, but Washington takes top honors for apple production, with more than 130 million boxes of apples in last year’s crop. This season, try making a crisp with Braeburn apples, which have an intense flavor and hold their shape; top it with a warm, cinnamon and nutmeg-spiced streusel and an obligatory scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Dark and complex, sweet but not syrupy, a glass of Vanilla Porter goes particularly well with just about anything you’d serve with vanilla ice cream. It’s a natural choice to pair with an apple crisp, echoing the vanilla in the streusel and playing well against the warm spices and sweetness of baked apples.
For most folks in the Northeast, cider doughnuts (cake doughnuts made with a bit of apple cider, often leftover from the local cider mill) are essential fall treats. The cider in the batter gives them a tender crumb and a tangy hint of apple flavor. Incorporate a little cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla into the batter; fry up a batch; coat them in cinnamon sugar; and you can see why people line up for them.
Apple cider might be the expected beverage pick for a spiced cider donut, but don’t discount the delight that a beer like Breckenridge’s Autumn Ale can bring to the table. A hint of nutty sweetness and malt, plus a clean finish, makes this somewhat unexpected beer-and-doughnut pairing shine.
So named because of their similarity to the fruit of the buckeye (Ohio’s state tree), these peanut butter and chocolate confections are a state specialty. The recipe itself is simple: It’s just a mix of peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and sugar dipped in melted chocolate. These bite-sized candies appear at events throughout the year, but we especially love them when the weather gets cooler and the holidays come calling.
A rich dessert needs a rich beverage, and Breckenridge’s Christmas Ale—a strong ale with hints of caramel and chocolate—hits just the right notes. (Strong ales, with their high alcohol content and malty, fruity aromas, make excellent cold-weather sippers in general.) Try using dark chocolate in your buckeyes instead of milk for an even more intense combination; the sweetness of the beer will smooth out the chocolate’s more bitter notes, and the cocoa brings the dessert-y flavors in the beer to the forefront.
Fall is an excellent time for fly-fishing in Colorado, and as such, it’s an equally excellent time to eat the fruits of those labors, like trout. Grilled trout is great durning the summer months, but when the colder weather hits, we like to head indoors and cook up something a little more hearty. These pan-fried crispy filets, dredged in cornmeal and covered in sage, are the perfect way to cook trout in autumn.
Light, refreshing, and citrusy—but with enough spice and body to keep it from feeling wan—white ale is a lovely beer to sip along with seafood, especially a white-fleshed fish like trout. Based on a classic Belgian witbier (an unfiltered wheat beer brewed with spices), Breckenridge’s White Ale balances malted and unmalted wheat with orange peel and coriander, giving it a nice kick and a clean finish.
Georgia is one of the top-producing states for pecans, and sweet, dense pecan pie is a fall classic (you won’t find a Thanksgiving table in the South without it). The pecan harvest begins in September, and from then on it’s pecan pie season. We try to stuff as many slices of the tooth-achingly sweet dessert into our maws as possible before the end of the holidays signals the season has come to a close.
Pecan pie filling, with its thick mix of corn syrup, brown sugar, and butter, is sweet, nutty, and very rich; accordingly, it requires a rich beer. Breckenridge’s Chocolate Orange Stout is brewed with cacao and orange zest and packaged in a Nitro can, which gives it an irresistible velvety texture as it’s poured. The beer's blend of flavors—nutty cacao, toasted pecans, notes of molasses, and bright orange peel—is a pairing made for those with a sweet tooth.
“Toasted” ravioli, or more accurately, breaded, deep-fried ravioli, is a popular appetizer in Missouri, especially St. Louis. The dish is said to have originated in the city’s Italian neighborhoods, although several local restaurants each lay claim to the invention. This is the bar snack to end all bar snacks: Meat and cheese ravioli gets breaded, fried until brown and crispy, dusted with Parmesan, and served hot with tomato sauce for dipping.
What better beer to serve with bar food than a classic IPA? The Simcoe and Citra dry hops in Breckenridge’s Hop Peak add a citrusy, bright flavor, a little bitterness, and a crisp finish that contrasts nicely with the heaviness of fried pasta and cheese. Well-balanced and easy to drink, it’s a versatile beer that works well with this beloved, substantial dish.
One of the many unofficial dishes of Texas, chile con queso (more commonly just referred to as queso) is a creamy, melty dip of cheese and chile peppers, served warm with tortilla chips. It’s almost always made with American cheese, which gives the queso its smooth, melty texture; in other words, don’t try to replicate this dish with the real stuff. It’s not unique to fall, necessarily, but in our opinion the cooler, shorter days call for the warm comfort of melted, processed cheese.
Light and bubbly with just a hint of sweetness from the agave, Breckenridge’s Agave Wheat beer pairs well with salty tortilla chips coated in spicy, gooey cheese. Subtle citrusy notes perk up the palate in-between bites, and a crisp clean finish and a low ABV make it the kind of beer you can keep drinking. Dip, sip, repeat.
This list is by no means a definitive guide. We want to hear about the dishes that say autumn in your neck of the woods. Be sure to tell us about them in the comments below!
In partnership with Breckenridge Brewery, Colorado-based makers of quality craft beers, we're thrilled to share locally approved bites from coast to coast. To find the perfect pairing close to home, you can use the brewery's handy beer locator, which lets you search for specific varieties at stores and restaurants near you.