There’s something special on the East End this time of year when a plate, bowl or pint glass is placed in front of you. Stephen Wirth agrees. “We love the fall,” says Wirth, owner of Digger’s Fine Food and Spirits in Riverhead. “You get heartier foods, you do more stews, you get the great vegetables like squashes and butternut squash and acorn squash, great soup time and grilled cheese time.” Pause for effect. “And then you get all the great Oktoberfest beers.”
For the uninitiated, Oktoberfest beers don’t require a passport and plane ticket to Munich, but can be enjoyed right here on the East End. “It’s a style of brewing that the Germans developed,” Wirth says. “They’re ales, kind of copper-red in color, they have great malt character. How would you describe it? I’d describe it as delicious. Darker beers just go good with cold weather this time of year.”
So while the world’s largest beer festival takes place in Bavaria, “We always put the Spaten Oktoberfest on tap. Spaten is kind of the Budweiser of Germany, but it’s one of the best beers there is. We also brought in some craft beers— Stoudts Oktoberfest, out of Pennsylvania, and Tröegs—we brought in a new IPA they came out with, Perpetual IPA. IPAs are really hoppy, heavy in alcohol, but they go great with your spicy foods, your chicken wings during football in the fall. And we also brought in their Pumpkin Ale.”
Pumpkin has become a darling of the craft beer world, working particularly well with the wealth of big orange orbs dotting the East End. “We’re having Long Ireland’s Pumpkin Beer, Greenport’s Leaf Pile—they call it a harvest beer but it has those kind of spice notes to it,” he says, and you can almost taste the nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and allspice. “We also have a Pumpkin Stout in bottles—that is good stuff, really dark in color. It has that smoothness that stouts have, and with the pumpkin, it’s not like you’re tasting pumpkin pie, it’s more of a spice note to it that gives it a subtle finish. Red meat, prime rib, burgers—that’s what you want to drink that with.”
Sounds perfect, but that’s not the only option for the pumpkin-beer drinker. “People like to rim the beer with brown sugar and cinnamon,” he says. “It’s like drinking dessert.” We’ll drink to that.
To check out the latest pumpkin ales, Oktoberfest beers and other ways to toast the season at Digger’s Fine Food and Spirits, you can visit them at 54 West Main Street in Riverhead or online at diggerspub.net.