Amy Kafka and Ryan Wilson, owners of Garden Sweet

By: Doug Usher

Summer in Colorado tends to steal all the glory. People get excited about IPA’s, peaches, tomatoes and flip-flops. But fall is, for me, the best time of year in Colorado. The change of seasons means I get to enjoy all sorts of things I’ve been neglecting during the hot summer.

Dark beers, hearty pastas, bold red wines, and shoes with socks suddenly return to my life and I couldn’t be happier. Of course, the season moves quickly, and with winter just over the horizon, I want to cram as much enjoyment into these few months as I can.

What’s great about the Colorado growing season is that things start to get really exciting in September. Tomatoes are just beginning and will be growing for several more months. Eggplant, peppers, lettuces, broccoli and root vegetables are all at their best starting in September.

I stopped off at Garden Sweet to see what was growing and what they were most excited about this fall. Their biggest tip? “Shop from what’s available locally and you’ll love it. Foods taste best when you eat them in season.” Their Fall CSA is essentially just a debit account with the farm that runs from October to Christmas. Instead of getting an unpredictable box of ingredients, you just stop by the farm stand and pick out what you want. So if you’re looking for access to fresh, seasonal produce for the last months of the year, this is a fun and locally supportive way to do it. I’m especially looking forward to late season radishes, which start getting sweeter after the frost hits.

Brent Jackson, Head Chef at The Kitchen, Fort Collins, says he likes to imagine sitting at the window, looking out at the snow falling; “What do you want to be eating?” That to me, is a perfect way of thinking about it. When it’s cold outside, you want to be warm inside. To me, this means roasty, malty beer, braised foods, and a bunch of friends sharing stories and reminiscing about wearing shorts “not that long ago.” Jackson says that “the availability of local, seasonal products in Northern Colorado is getting better every year,” allowing for a longer season of utilizing local. More farms are utilizing grow tunnels, allowing them to start things earlier and extend their season longer. This translates to better, more predictable produce available to consumers and restaurants alike.

When the cold starts driving us indoors, it’s easier to exchange our citrusy IPAs for a malt forward dark ale. Tim and Carol Cochran from Horse & Dragon Brewing are especially excited for the annual Beers Made By Walking, which happens each fall. Participating breweries are tasked with developing beers that are “inspired by their surroundings.” Carol loves the change of seasons as an excuse to change up flavors, both in food and beer. “Seasonal brews and ingredients are a great way to ‘spice it up’ in your gustatory life, season after season.”

I, for one, can’t wait to put on a sweater, cozy up to a window and watch the snow fall with a dark beer and a plate of risotto. Hello fall, I’ve missed you.