Widmer Brothers Brewing
Drifter Pale Ale
I’ve only ever tried this brew in bars on the West Coast, so seeing it at the bottle shop, I instantly picked up a few bottles with the intention of reviewing at least one before drinking them all casually. I just barely made it.
A thin, off-white head makes a brief appearance before fanning itself out across the surface and all but disappearing.
The color is polished oak and copper. Fine, slow carbonation shows through the excellent clarity of the amber. The nose is all hops, but more sweet than tangy or bitter. Powdery orange and tangerine emerge like the spray from freshly peeled fruit.
The mouthfeel is full, but even. Soft citrus candy flows across the palate, turning tart with some lemon and water cracker malt snap. Green apple skin crackles toward the end – light with a slight tingle of carbonation. The finish is creamy and smooth and, with that effervescence, sort of like an egg cream. A true pale ale with the Widmer’s signature West Coast bent.
Widmer Brothers Brewing Co.
Broken Halo IPA
A very rocky, pure white head rises slowly, and descends again to a quarter-inch. The color is surprisingly light, more straw than many IPAs which tend towards amber. Some orange and gold tones shine through the very good clarity. You can see slow, widely spaced bubbles rising throughout.
This angel plucks hop strings.
The nose is almost all grapefruit with just a faint resinous back of pine cones.
The mouthfeel is exceptionally full and hops are running rampant across the palate. There is a really nice, clean wash of slightly chewy malt, but it is soon washed away by the citrusy hops. This is a wonderful brew for a hophead, but it doesn’t leave your mouth puckered. The hops are full and undeniably present without but surprisingly mild, leaving an overall hop feel in the mouth, rather than wiping out your tastebuds with a bitter assault.
Some beautifully formed craggy lacing is already sticking to the glass after just a few sips. Another fine brew from the Widmers.
Full Sail Brewing Co.
Hood River, OR
Full Sail is one of those breweries that seldom disappoints. Their Session line is a great example of how great West Coast beers don’t need to punch you in the liver. Here is their dark lager which pours a semi-translucent, very dark, deep brown. When held to the light, loamy tints of red come out beneath the fairly well-maintained light tan head.
The nose is an interesting mix of malt and light West Coast hopping. Maple syrup and pancakes, along with some roasted notes of chocolate and toffee. The hops are subtle, but there is just a bit of orange tang in the back.
The mouthfeel is excellent. Initially, you are met with some of the roasted grain that is impressively smooth and creamy. Touches of chocolate and brown bread flow towards the back of the mouth as the roastiness subtly makes its way around the mouth.
The finish is seamless, becoming slightly twiggy, and finally finishing cleanly with an afterthought of the roasted barley.
This is an indication of great things coming in small packages. While I love the stubby-style bottle as it reminds me of VB, it’s only 11 ounces, and I wanted all I could get. As the name suggests, this beer could pass for a session. At 5.4%, this would make a great choice if you’re looking for something more interesting than your standard, easy-drinking lager.
As an added bonus, you get an under-the-cap game. I’m a sucker for those extras. Buy a case and play with your friends. It’s a session beer, but don’t try to play solo.
Paper beats Rock. Rock beats Country. Beer trumps all.
Widmer’s Brother Brewing Co.
Pitch Black IPA
This is the Brewmaster’s Release: 2010 “Cascadian Dark.” The Widmer Bros have been in the business of brewing for over 25 years and this beer caught my eye: a dark IPA. Most of time, IPAs are golden-amber, but this includes a bit of roasted barley and black malt to darken it up.
When held to the light, the beer is just shy of opaque, with a rich, chocolate brown translucency. The head is very lively and tan. Even after several minutes, there is over a quarter-inch of foam which clings to the glass like it was falling down a well.
The nose is truly amazing – there is a wonderful mix of strong pine and grapefruit from the Cascades, but with a subtle maltiness in the back that turns quickly from sweet to roasty.
The mouthfeel is excellent. In fact, this is a truly rare beer. The initial onslaught of tangy, citrusy hops is undeniable – it’s any hopheads dream – but just as your mouth is being dried out by those sere hops, the roasted barley kicks in ever so slightly to provide a mild dark chocolate breadiness that possesses a tang of its own to join the rush of bitters.
This is one of the most interesting – and best – beers I’ve tried in a while. If you’re a hophead, try it. If you like porter, try it. If you like beer, try it. If you don’t like beer, try it, maybe it will make you a convert. I’d say this beer knows the riddle of steel.
Mirror Pond Pale Ale
I’ve sampled this brew in the past and have loved it, with good reason. Hopheads tend to salivate over Cascade pales, and situated in Bend, OR, Deschutes is in the prime Cascade region in the US.
The beer is a soft copper color with just the faintest haze, otherwise the clarity is good and you can see the fine and frenetic effervescence clearly. The head pops up slightly yellow-orange, billowy and whole, and settles to a soft quarter- to half-inch sticking all the way.
The aroma is pure grapefruit with some soft pine residue and a sweet back of Juicy Fruit gum and some mild violet florals. It’s a wonderful smell that is simultaneously earthy and fresh, like the white rind of ripe clementines.
The mouthfeel is beyond excellent; it is mint condition APA. The very beginning is velvety, like the inside of warm French bread, but that yields quickly to the real reason you cracked the bottle. The hops creep from the top of your mouth down, and from the outsides in to deliver some rich but not too-potent phenols, that are appropriately oily but that soften up with some sweet malt and then on into the citrus bite you’d expect.
The lacing is simply glorious – finely woven like grandma’s doilies, but the rings covering the glass top to bottom are like ripples in a mirror pond.
This is not a DIPA, so don’t think it is going to overpower you, but it is a hop-heavy ale that is not going to disappoint any H. lupulus-lovers. There’s a reason the West Coast is known for it’s pales, and this is a pretty good piece of evidence to support the case.