Beer Review: Brewery Ommegang Scythe & Sickle Harvest Ale

This isn't your typical autumn seasonal beer


Brewery Ommegang didn’t want to brew just another fall beer. Looking to do something fresher than the ubiquitous Oktoberfests and pumpkin ales, the brewers in Cooperstown, N.Y., crafted Scythe & Sickle Harvest Ale, an homage to the harvest season. Scythe & Sickle is making its debut this year — between September and November in all 43 states Ommegang distributes to — and making somewhat of a splash as a sublimely malt-sweetened ale that’s perfect for drinking with the fruits of this year’s harvest.

S & S is very lightly hopped but very heavily malted with barley, wheat, oats, and rye. The quadruple punch creates a beer that’s naturally sweet, without the use of common additives or spices. In fact, this flavor profile provides a textbook example of what malty sweetness tastes like. It’s not a complex taste, but the addition of Belgian yeast gives it a longer finish and a richer flavor than most German-style fall beers can claim. If you gulp it — which I made the mistake of doing — you do realize there are hops in there somewhere and that they reside as a bitter flavor on the very back of your tongue.

Like a traditional autumn seasonal (by which I mean a Märzen or an Oktoberfestbier), it has a medium body and a lack of extremity, but unlike a traditional autumn seasonal, it has a copper color and a very dense, thick ,and creamy, almost-beige head. The aroma is like a faint simple syrup with an evocative twist of red, yellow, and orange leaves crunching underfoot.

I could field an argument that this beer can pair with anything you can eat. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend drinking it with a salad tossed with sharp balsamic vinegar but if you were to wilt the greens and age that vinegar for 15 years or so... I’d enjoy it and probably order another. Vinegar aside, this beer will pair remarkably with anything you think of as being an autumn dish: root veggies, Cornish game hen, rosemary chicken, shepherd’s pie with stewed rabbit. No exaggeration — it will lend that natural sweetness I keep mentioning to any sort of European peasant food (maybe less so Spanish and Portuguese) that’s lightly seasoned and hearty or gamey. The best part is you can drink another one for dessert. Scythe & Sickle is mild enough not to clash with raspberry rum cake, butterscotch ice cream, or of course, that old standby whose essence gets reproduced by the majority of breweries: pumpkin pie.

— Tara Nurin, The Drink Nation

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