Saturday, January 21, 2012

Widmer Rotator Release: W'12 & Spiced IPA

shiny fermenting tanks at Widmer Brothers Brewing
Thursday night, as the rain began to beat a little less furiously on the pavement of Portland, I strolled into the Widmer Brothers Brewery with fellow writer Jeff Alworth. Warmly greeted at the entrance, we joined a group of about 20 Portland beer bloggers and assorted writers gathered in the fermentation room. Amidst the reflective glow of the shining fermenting tanks (at least three stories tall), Rob Widmer spoke to us about the beginning of Widmer, detailing the brothers' adventure early on and how they got the yeast strain for their flagship Alt beer.

Joe Casey (L) and Rob Widmer (C)
Swirling the caramel, malty smooth Altbier in my glass, I marveled at the amount of camaraderie in the room. Familiar faces, and many friends (including my #pdxbeergeeks co-founder, Michael) were in attendance. We gathered, facing the arched brick cathedral style windows, and Rob described the new release beers we would be drinking.

Moving on to the W'12, the seventh installation in the Brewmaster's Release, we learned about the departure from previous year's styles in this "Brewers gone wild" opportunity.  Fred Eckhardt, a Portland legend, stood off to my right. John Foyston of the Oregonian, camera at the ready, moved within the crowd, and Angelo of Brewpublic recorded brewer Joe Casey as he spoke about W'12, a dark Saison, and Spiced IPA, the newest installation in the Rotator series.

The Gentlemen: Fred Eckhardt, Bill, Angelo, & John
The W'12, inspired by farmhouse ales, is a moderately caramel beer, with aromatic notes of Belgian-esque spices, and a slightly tart top note. I like this beer, and had enjoyed the sample sent by Widmer with a black bean burger and some sweet potato fries. The W'12 is a clean, fresh, beer - at only 5.5% it provides a quaffable solution for multiple food pairings.  Some points of discussion among myself, Brian Yaeger, and Jeff were that there was an expectation of more dark malt characteristic - but despite the light end of the beer, this is one I'd be happy to stock in my fridge.

W'12 Dark Saison
"We're excited to release Dark Saison," said Ben Dobler, a Widmer Brothers brewer. "Often thought to be an endangered style, saisons are in the midst of a resurgence and we're happy to share this smooth, malty interpretation. It's the perfect beer to commence a meal or for those who simply prefer a smoother beer without lingering bitterness." It makes a nice entry point for the mainstream market as well, creating an easy drinker for people who may not be fans of Farmhouse or Belgians - this is one I would heartily recommend as a gateway beer to those styles. The Brewmasters' Release series is just one example of the way in which creativity and collaboration within the brewery bring interesting beers to the consumer. Each of the Brewmasters' Release beers are unique interpretations of styles that might not otherwise make it to the recreational consumer - one reason I sincerely appreciate Widmer's lasting dedication as a hometown craft brewery. 

Rotator Series: Spiced IPA
Passing around a glass full of the dry tea blend used in the Spiced IPA, Joe described the process by which the collaboration between Widmer and the San Diego Homebrew Club came to be. Inhaling deeply, the tea blend includes Malty Assam Black Tea, Ginger, Cinnamon, Clove, Star Anise, Black Pepper, and Cardamom. While the tea blend itself is deeply pungent and reminiscent of a warm spice market, the resulting beer is delicately aromatic; peppery and piquant. Lively carbonation brightens the tea notes, creating a whisper of chai in the mouth.

The Rotator Series is the expression of experimentation and opportunity for homebrewers to create a beer with Widmer. Originating from Paul Sangster's recipe, and further developed with Chris Stawney of San Diego's QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity),  Beginning with X-114, Falconer's and just finishing, O'Ryely, these IPAs are limited quantities, allowing Widmer to share as many IPA recipes as possible on a constantly changing basis.  "In many ways, Paul Sangster's recipe embodies what Widmer Brothers beers are all about: unique interpretations of classic beer styles," said Joe Casey.

Many thanks to Widmer Brothers for including #pdxbeergeeks on their invitation list to this delightful preview of W'12 and Spiced IPA. If you're looking for interesting new beers to try, give these a shot. You won't be disappointed!