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Sipping seasonally

Owner Christopher Mullins is getting a jumpstart on fall at McGillin’s Olde Ale House in Philadelphia. The 152-year-old tavern launched its Oktoberfest celebration at the end of August. “We try to be the first for all of the holidays,” says Mullins. Early celebrations often catch notice from the local press and create a buzz in customers’ minds, he says.

And, he notes, brewers are already ramping up their fall production. “If you don’t get the seasonal beers when they are first available, often you are out of luck. Some bars will buy and hold, but frankly we don’t have the space to do that.”

Among the fall selections on the 30-draft list are Stoudt’s Fest, Flying Fish’s Octoberphish, Ramstein’s Oktoberfest, Lancaster’s Oktoberfest, Yuengling’s Oktoberfest, Sly Fox’s Oktoberfest Lager and Saranac’s Pumpkin Ale. All local craft beers are priced less than $4.50 a glass.

Although many people associate Oktoberfest with October, it’s traditionally celebrated the last week of September. “We’re just celebrating for the entire month,” notes Mullins. “There’s a good marketing opportunity because September is a transition time: people are coming back from vacation, going back to school. People are ready for the leaves to change, to put on their sweaters and drink seasonally.”

The end of McGillin’s Oktoberfest promotion coincides with the Midtown Village Fall Festival—an event that attracts a crowd of 50,000. After that, until Halloween, the restaurant’s beverage menu becomes pumpkin-centric, with a greater emphasis on pumpkin beers as well as squash-accented cocktails. These include a Pumpkin Bomb and Pumpkin Martini, of which Mullins estimates the bar will sell over a thousand by year’s end. Pumpkin-flavored liqueur is mixed with vanilla vodka and cream, and served in a glass rimmed with cinnamon sugar. The Pumpkin Bomb is a pint of pumpkin ale accompanied by a mixed shot of pumpkin liqueur and Captain Morgan Spiced Rum.

Christmas comes early at McGillin’s, too; staff decorate the first week of November. In the same spirit, the bar starts featuring new winter and holiday brews. “Seasonal changes keep the menu fresh,” concludes Mullins. “When you’ve been around for 152 years, you have to keep it fresh.”


House cider rules

Nothing says fall better than apple cider. The seasonal fruit hangs heavy from tree branches and local cider mills are cranking. Here’s a little cider trivia to imbibe:

  • At around 5 percent alcohol, cider is lighter than many of today’s beers. It’s also naturally gluten-free.
  • Millennials are into cider, according to the Chicago-based research group, Mintel. In the company’s April On-premise Alcohol Consumption Trends study, 26 percent of respondents aged 21-24 reported drinking hard cider/hard lemonade/coolers in a three-week period—versus 11 percent of all age drinkers.
  • Hard cider was the most ubiquitous beverage in America up until the mid-1800s, when beer became the popular quaff. It’s still a common call in European pubs.
  • Although cider is still just a fraction of the market, tellingly, the beer big boys are making an investment in the category: Anheuser-Busch recently launched Michelob Ultra Light Cider, MillerCoors purchased Crispin Cider and Boston Beer launched Angry Orchard Cider.

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