Fall Brews 

As I write this, the temperature is pushing 90 degrees in the middle of September. Global warming anyone? But things are supposed to start cooling down soon, and the autumn colors should be coming on any day now. With that in mind, it's time to start thinking about bigger bodied brews with those rich flavors that pair well with the heartier foods of fall. Here are a few of my favorite recent arrivals:

Hale's Ales O'Brien's Harvest Ale

You know that fall is just around the corner when the O'Brien's comes to town. This heavily anticipated harvest ale is brewed with fresh central Washington hops for a unique flavor profile. While the emphasis is on those hops, they're assertive but not overly bitter and smooth out nicely on the finish. Lightly sweet malt flavors add just the right touch in this well-balanced brew with hints of spicy orange and lemon zest. Bet you can't drink just one.

Grand Teton Brewing Fest Bier Marzen Lager

Idaho's own take on the Oktoberfest style is an almost iridescent red-amber in color with a thick, creamy head. Marked by very fine and persistent bubbles and a flavor profile that is spot on for fall—sweet malt with a light toast quality backed by soft hops. Where this brew really shines is on the long, perfectly balanced, totally satisfying finish. The Otto Brothers are brewing some world-class offerings in Victor, and this most recent Cellar Reserve continues that tradition.

Widmer Brothers Okto Festival Ale

OK, Widmer cheats a little since this is an ale (like most Northwest brews) masquerading as an Oktoberfest lager. To my taste, it's one of the best efforts year-in and year-out, a full-bodied brew perfect for cool weather consumption. The nutty malt flavors are rich and hearty with touches of pepper and reserved caramel. The hops lurk mostly in the background in this creamy, ultimately satisfying brew. Bring on the brats and burgers.

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