Drinking Tunes: Fall Beer + Music

(Michigan State University’s campus in fall 2005)

Fall is easily my favorite season; likely because I grew up somewhere that actually has a fall (Michigan). New York typically has autumn weather, which we’re finally sort of starting to feel, but it’s definitely not the same as being somewhere with trees that change colors and leave you with a yard full of leaves to rake up and jump in. And going apple picking here is certainly not as easy as it was when I was growing up (my senior year of high school, some friends and I ditched homecoming and instead piled seven of us in my old grandpa car and went to the apple orchard). And I hope you’re prepared for lots of pumpkin, apples and soup on here in the next couple months.

I wrote a few words about five songs, new and old, that are perfect for autumn and my friend Bret Stetka, who writes about food and drinks for Time Out New York, Metromix and MSN.com (he also has a doughnut blog), paired them each with a beer that complements the music and the mood, and explained why they work together. Cheers! (Also check out our spring and summer editions.)

THE SONG: Iron & Wine, “Passing Afternoon”

Sam Beam’s voice is soothing, perfect for when summer slips into fall, which sometimes seems to happen more or less overnight. This song is about all the seasons, but in autumn the wind sweeps over a perfectly made bed, and there’s mention of pulling kids out of piles of leaves.
THE BEER: Sierra Nevada Autumn Brown Ale (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, CA)
Sam Beam’s hushed, folkie ways call for something comforting but with a hint of scraggle to approximate his epic beard. Sierra Nevada Tumbler! Sierra’s fall seasonal is a near perfect interpretation of an American brown ale — a deep copper tone, a smooth sweetness with a hoppy bite and a subtle toastiness at the end (the scraggle) — it’s perfect for cool weather and thoughtful acoustic folkery.

THE SONG: First Aid Kit, “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” (Fleet Foxes cover)
So, I know pretty much all of Fleet Foxes’ music is perfect for fall — delicate harmonies, acoustic guitars, beards — but the two Swedish sisters who make up First Aid Kit actually win this one. Both in flannel shirts, they cover “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” sitting in the woods as they sing about forests, birds, tall grasses and cold mountain air.

THE BEER: Autumnation (Sixpoint Craft Ales, Brooklyn, NY)
This track might be the ideal campfire song, assuming said campers can sing really, really well. So what could be better than an Autumnal beer in a conveniently portable can? I featured Sixpoint’s new canned line in ETB’s summer beer list, but I’m still beer-geek excited that one of my favorite local breweries deals in aluminum. Hence, for this song, I’m going with their new Autumnation tallboy. The beer has a rich, nicely sweet disposition great for cooler weather, plus it’s brewed with pumpkin, fresh grated ginger, and white pepper for spicy fall flavor.

THE SONG: Yo La Tengo, “Autumn Sweater”

Yo La Tengo is one of the bands I listened to the most during my first couple months in New York, in the fall of 2009. Most of their lower-tempo songs are fitting for autumn, but the obvious pick is “Autumn Sweater,” from 1997’s I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One.
THE BEER: St. Botolph’s Town (Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, Cambridge, MA)
Pretty Things’ outstanding “rustic dark ale” is the beer equivalent of an autumn sweater: hearty, rich and comforting. There’s a pleasant malty sweetness with tastes of wood and smoke (presumably due to toasted barley malts) yet the beer is perfectly subtle and approachable — it’s as soothing as this song’s warm, relaxing organ line.

THE SONG: Frontier Ruckus, “Dark Autumn Hour”

What I miss most about living in Michigan is the fall — especially in college, as I was lucky enough to spend four falls at Michigan State University, with leaves changing colors against the old buildings on the north side of our huge, gorgeous campus. And what makes me miss Michigan — especially in autumn — is Frontier Ruckus, who mostly all went to MSU, and whose music is perfect for my favorite season. Their songs are filled with Michigan references, mentions of trick-or-treating, interstate highways and the “safe world of campus.”
THE BEER: Hooksett Ale (White Birch Brewing, Hooksett, NH)
This band’s scrappy yet refined country folk goes great with White Birch’s Belgian IPA, a mildly funky ale with woodsy pine flavor and a hint of grass (a good thing). Like Frontier Ruckus, the beer is earthy yet sophisticated and the tasteful outdoorsy label just really seems right for this song.

THE SONG: Mountain Man, “Sewee Sewee”

What sounds more autumnal than three ladies who call themselves Mountain Man and sing stripped-down folksongs with titles like “Buffalo,” “Sewee Sewee,” “Honeybee” and “Loon Song”? In three-part harmony (sometimes a cappella, or else backed by just an acoustic guitar), there are mentions of coyote calls, tall grasses and animal tracks.
THE BEER: Founders Red’s Rye IPA (Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids, MI)
A Michigan beer! This one’s for Laura. Mountain Man’s high and icy harmonies call for something humble, crisp and comfy, and this twist on an IPA fits the bill nicely. Roasty sweetness is balanced with pleasantly biting spice (courtesy of rye grain) while bold pine flavor — again with the pine — equates with the band’s general woodsiness.


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