Three Cheers for Widmer
by Eric Griffith and Mimi Griffith
I had a déjà vu moment when we walked in to Cicero’s beer school this week. Karen King was standing on stage and I was fairly certain that she had already taught our class earlier this semester. If you have participated in any Goose Island beer tastings around St. Louis in the past nine months you might have met Karen or as we used to refer to her, “the Goose Island girl.” But tonight she was at beer school to cheer on the beers of Widmer Brothers Brewing Company.
Raise your hand if you are familiar with Widmer Brothers Brewing Company…and don’t feel bad if your hand is down, mine is. This is one of those rare times at beer school where Mimi and I run into a brewery that we’ve never tasted. Sure we have seen the name around here and there, but I will be honest and say that I can’t remember ever tasting a Widmer before tonight.
You probably already guessed that there are brothers with the last name of Widmer involved, and you would be correct. The short story from Karen is: “Two dudes went to Germany and discovered that they really like beer. They came back home to Oregon and started brewing. Woot! Woot!” I may have paraphrased a little, but you get the picture. If you are still wondering why “the Goose Island girl” is talking about Widmer let me fill you in…Widmer Bothers is under the Craft Brewers Alliance umbrella which also owns Kona Brewing, Red Hook and (drum roll) Goose Island. This is a great way for smaller breweries to work together and distribute their beer into new markets. Widmer Brothers only distributes three beers to Missouri and we got to try them all.
Should you put a lemon in your Hefeweizen? The debate rages between beer drinkers around the globe and the answer is simple…do what makes you happy. And for the people at Widmer, lemons make them happy. I prefer to skip the lemon, but after watching some videos at www.lemonyourwidmer.com I may have had a change of heart. Widmer is often credited with bringing the lemon in your hefe craze to America or bringing the hefeweizen style to America for that matter. I suggest you try Widmer’s flagship beer with and without a lemon and decide for yourself.
She says- I didn’t get any scent off of this beer, but my nose isn’t working well this week. I thought this would be a good hot summer day session beer. It was mild and clean, and would make a good gateway beer for a newbie. I’d pair it with summer foods and BBQ.
He says- I love a good hefeweizen so I was excited to try this gold medal winner. The color is darker than most hefes and the aroma is on the lighter side. I pick up a little citrus and wheat on the nose. There is not enough banana flavors for me and I would classify this as an American wheat rather than a hefeweizen, but it is a very drinkable beer and I can understand why it has gained such popularity. At 4.9% ABV you can try several while you experiment with your lemons.
Drop Top Amber Ale
Widmer Brothers has been brewing this Pale Mild Ale since 2003 and Drop Top has 2 gold medals from the Great American Beer Festival. This is a session beer with 20 IBUs and 5% ABV that leans towards the sweet side due to the addition of honey malt and milk sugar or lactose.
She says- Another mild, session beer. This would also work well as a gateway beer. It was a very smooth beer, but to me not one with a very big personality.
He says- The beer shows a clear amber color and the smell of candy. The mouthfeel is a little sticky, but dry at the same time. If you like to put honey on your biscuits this beer might be for you. Different, but drinkable. I am not sure I like this beer, but I am curious enough to try a full pint to explore the combination of sweet and bitter flavors.
Drifter Pale Ale
One of Widmer Brothers newest beers has moved up to the #2 seller for the company. Brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand along with Summit hops this beer checks in at 32 IBUs and 5.7% ABV.
She says- I found drifter to be a little stronger than the first two, yet well balanced in malt and hops. I noted caramel and nutty flavors. Others mentioned citrus but I didn’t pick up on that as much. Karen listed several hops being in the beer, yet I didn’t find it being overly hoppy. I thought this would be a good fall session beer. For some reason (could be my goofy sinuses) it reminded me of the smell of fallen leaves. I labeled Drifter a good “raking the leaves” beer!
He Says- I smell the dry hopping right away. It has a strong aroma of sweet hops and grapefruit. Nice malt backbone really balances out the beer after the strong hop nose. This beer should make hop fans and malt fans happy. This was my favorite of the night and I will pick up a six pack as homework. I would compare it to Schlafly’s Dry Hopped APA as far as the style and aroma, but the Drifter leans more to the malt side.
The Last Sip
We had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs tonight. Karen King is so enthusiastic and passionate about the beers and that carries over to the class. Thank you to Karen for introducing us to Widmer Brother Brewing Company and for challenging us all to truly explore the beers and discover new flavors. Now don’t forget to do your homework and attend the extra credit class on Monday, November 22nd. Class dismissed!
Husband and wife Eric and Mimi have been attending beer school for about a year now and love every minute of it. Mimi was born and raised in St. Louis. Besides sitting down with a fabulous pint of beer, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her horse. Eric was born and raised in Texas. He enjoys sports and searching for the next great beer. A search he says he has been on for five years and one that will certainly never end. Mimi, on the other hand, just realized beer actually has flavor about a year ago. After having moved away for a few years, in 2007, this happy couple moved back to St. Louis and is enjoying all the St. Louis beer scene has to offer, especially Cicero’s Beer School. Cicero’s is lucky to have such an enthusiastic couple writing the beer school blog!