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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Widmer Oktoberfest Taps into Portland's Late Summer

Perfect September weather. That's what they had for Widmer's Oktoberfest Friday and Saturday. Like a baby bear's porridge: Not too hot, not too cold...just right.

A couple of days of beers, food, games and music in ideal weather make you wonder why one of the larger outdoor festivals doesn't relocate to September. The most obvious suspect in that regard would be the National Organic Festival, whose late June digs tend to be dicey on the weather front. Oh well.

This was the 9th Annual Oktoberfest on Russell Street. They've more or less figured out how to maximize the space there. Tables with and without chairs are sprinkled around generously. Filling stations for food and brews are similarly available. There's a makeshift stage and room to roam behind the pub.

Grilling dogs for the masses
And don't forget the nod to Widmer Brothers history. The vintage Datsun pickup once used by the boys to deliver kegs and schlep hops and grains was on prominent display in the middle of things. You gotta love the attention to detail. Rob Widmer reportedly keeps the old gal alive. When we get around to putting together a craft beer museum here, the old Datsun will undoubtedly be part of it.

This was my first trip to the Widmer version of Oktoberfest in several years. I got down there Saturday afternoon, half expecting lines to get in and a wait for everything. That's not what I found. Instead, there were a few of us milling around at 3:00 p.m. waiting for the gates to open. No lines inside once we got in. I didn't stick around to see what happened Saturday night.

Future craft beer museum piece
If you were hoping for a fantastic selection of unique or one-off beers, this wasn't the festival for you. They were pouring standard Widmer fare, as far as I could see. Different serving stations had different beers, but those choices were limited to things like Green & Gold, Hef, Hopside Down, Alchemy, Okto and others.

I didn't hear any bitching about the beer selection. This is an Oktoberfest celebration, not a tasting event. The festival mug/stein will hold 20 ounces of beer, a far cry from the much smaller mugs and glasses used at festivals where small tastes are the thing. This is a drinking festival, pure and simple. Get over it!

Comfortable late afternoon on Russell St.
If I were going to grump about anything, it might be the $6 (six tokens) cost of a beer. As mentioned, the mug holds 20 ounces. But the apparent fill mark was right at 16 ounces. I refilled several times and each time I got about 16 ounces of beer. I think $6 is a lot to pay for that much of these beers. You can judge for yourself.

They had a decent lineup of bands playing from the makeshift stage that looks out on what is essentially an outback storage area for empties. I didn't venture into that area on previous trips to this event...don't ask me why. They had filling stations, a token tent as well as places for people to mingle while enjoying the music. The band Melville was playing while I was there. Not bad.

Melville on the loading dock stage
It's hard to imagine a better way to spend a few hours on a perfect, late summer afternoon. Days like this are numbered as we begin our long (and hopefully slow) descent into the wet, gloomy months of winter here. Soon enough, warm weather events like this will be nothing more than pleasant memory waiting for a rerun next year.

The mug/stein fill line

No event is complete without phone ogling
Cockpit of the relic

Wall of kegs in the outback


  1. Not to point out the obvious here, but Widmer's Oktoberfest doesn't make me wonder why one of the larger outdoor festivals doesn't relocate to September, it makes me wonder why an Okterberfest is happening in early September!

  2. Even though Oktoberfest originated as October festival, it has been moved ahead in modern times to allow for better weather conditions. It now starts in September and runs through early October. So, really, the Widmers and others who sponsor Okto-fests in this country aren't breaking any rules. Perhaps these events should be called Septemberfests, since they happen in September.


Keep it civil, please.