No one understands fall drinking better than the Germans, hosts of the famous Oktoberfest festival and consumers of massive amounts of gimmick-free lager. Their beers are the right strength for the seasonal chill: Though they don't generally subscribe to the concept of seasonal beers, Germans spend the whole year drinking perfect-for-fall pilsners with 2% more alcohol and a lot more kick.
You don't have to go to Germany to get a great fall brew, however. Many American craft breweries once rang in the colder weather with heavily spiced pumpkin beers, but now there's a growing trend toward make simple, hearty German styles stateside. To help us find the best German and German-style beers in America, we turned to Rob and Kurt Widmer, founders of Widmer Brothers Brewing Company in Portland, Oregon. After living in Germany for two years and learning to appreciate the country's strict traditions, Kurt returned home and started brewing. "We've always felt that seasonal beers are charming," Rob Widmer says. "But I want a beer I can count on."
Here's are the brews he's talking about.
Widmer Okto Festival Ale
This beer was Portland-based Widmer Brewery's first-ever seasonal, released in 1986 as a tribute to traditional German Märzenbier, the common Oktoberfest lagers that were once brewed in March and fermented until fall celebrations. The Okto deviates in one major respect – it's an ale, not a lager, which means it will be slightly more fruity, less crisp, and it doesn't require as much time to make. The beer looks Märzen-like, with its deep amber color, and it tastes appropriately sweet and malty, with some subtle caramel notes that are delivered without a heavy body or cloying sweetness. There's something earthy and nutty about this beer that reminds us of how autumn smells in a leafy place.