Bryan Richardson
Ahh, autumn. As I savor the brisk, clean sensation of early fall air in my lungs, and delight upon the peaceful drift of brilliantly colored leaves as they descend from tall trees, spinning and dancing like tiny ballet dancers, I find myself yearning to do one thing: Get delightfully drunk off of seasonal beer. Local microbreweries are the only place to go for seasonal ales, and fall is perhaps the best season of them all, featuring beers that bridge the sharp, light brews of summer and the thick, goulash-like beers of winter. In addition to McMenamins Scarecrow ESB and Hair of the Dog Brewing Company's Doggie Claws barley wine, here are a few of our area's best seasonal brews.

Pumpkin Ale

Brewed by the same folks who make MacTarnahan's from a recipe developed by Buffalo Bill's Brewery in Hayward, California, there's no beer that tactfully screams "IT'S FALL, BITCHES!" at the top of its lungs like Pumpkin Ale. Think of an alcoholic pumpkin pie, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what this is like. While some of my friends can't stand the nutmeg and other spices, I think it's the perfect seasonal beer--perfectly balanced, appropriate for its time, and it disappears just before it wears out its somewhat schtick-y sweet welcome, staying away long enough that it's a delight to see it when it returns to shelves the following fall. Available in most supermarkets, or at Portland Brewing Co., 2730 NW 31st, 228-5269

Laurelfest Lager

True, there's nothing extraordinary about Laurelfest--but there's definitely nothing wrong with it, either. Best enjoyed on the patio of Laurelwood's NW location, Laurelfest is organic, features a strong profile that stops just short of being overly hoppy, and provides a solid compliment to Laurelwood's Macho Nachos, which have a name that makes you feel like a stupid asshole when you order them, but are actually pretty good. Plus--and this is important--it's only $2.50 a pint. Laurelwood NW Public House, 2327 NW Kearney, 228-5553; Public House & Brewery, 1728 NE 40th, 282-0622

Twilight Ale

A welcome contrast to Deschutes Brewery's overrated Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Twilight Ale has a softer feel and a smoother taste. While Deschutes brews it as a summer seasonal, Twilight almost fits in better with early fall brews. It definitely retains the refreshing lightness that the straw-colored ale would imply, feels more substantial than most summer brews. Available most supermarkets, or, if you've got a lot of time on your hands, at Deschutes Brewery, 901 Simpson Ave in Bend, 385-8606


While it's probably my favorite of all seasonal brews, I can't ever quite put my finger on why Oktoberfest is so damn good. A confident yet subtle profile and just the right balance of hops and barley--or some other fancy-sounding beer talk--is probably responsible for the great taste, but all I really know is this: Oktoberfest is pretty much the apex of any and all beers ever made. Ever. But move quick-like--while this amber ale will be available throughout the end of the month at the Widmer Brothers brewery, it always seems to disappear too quickly from supermarket shelves. Expect it to be gone within the next week or two, in order to pave the way for the WBs' brand spankin' new winter seasonal, Snowplow Ale--which has a lot to live up to with regard to their prior winter brew, the dark, chocolatey Winternacht. Available everywhere, including Widmer Brothers Brewery, 929 N Russell, 281-2437