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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sneak Preview: Widmer Brrr!

Here's an interesting question to which I do not know the answer: has any beer ever been released without vowels in its name? I ask because over the weekend I got a chance to try Widmer's '08 winter seasonal, the vowelless Brrr.

The Widmers unveiled the beer at a private event that served as a thank you to the Widmer extended family (a big family--500?) to celebrate the opening of their new expansion. (I have pictures that I'll post later today--John has some, too.) That expansion includes a new "52,000-square-foot, three-level brewery addition that features new fermentation facilities," (explains Foyston from his recap), "the relocation of keg washing and filling, new cold keg and bottle storage, an additional shipping dock and expanded lab and office space." The keg-washing line includes two impressive robot arms to tote kegs. The new facilities bump up capacity to over a half-million barrels. (Widmer's the 11th-largest brewery in the country and Oregon's biggest.)

The Brrr is actually not a new beer, but a repackaged version of their W '06 Hoppy Red Ale. You may recall this as one of the first NW Big Reds, a variant of strong ales that has emerged as a recognizeable style. Here's what I wrote about it two years ago, a critique I'd level at this very green version of Brrr:
I found the beer to be the ale equivalent of Starbucks--a strong, I'd call it harsh bitterness, but thin and out of balance. The flavors are all strong: a clear hop bitterness (no funky NW hopping); a strong alcohol bite; a soapy maltiness; and a resinous finish that coats the mouth.
This is characteristic of the style--short on malt, long on hops. The style is a tip of the hat to those who have a distilled sense of what they like in beer: green, glorious, bitter hopping. I am hopeful that Brrr will transcend the style a bit, or perhaps inform it. The sense of being out of balance might be mitigated somewhat by a little age. I'm hoping the Widmers will be using some of their expanded capacity to put the beer aside for six months so that when winter rolls around, it will

12 comments:

martin said...

Does "syzygy" count as not having vowels?

Anonymous said...

Would you consider Rogue's St. Rogue Red as a "Hoppy Big Red?" If so, it was being brewed back in 1992 - probably earlier. When I worked for them, we used to dry hop some of the kegs with a little cheese-cloth bag full of hops tacked to the bung. Tedius!

Jason

Jeff Alworth said...

Never heard of it, but no, I'd say "y" is functioning as a vowell here. Thrice.

Jeff Alworth said...

Would you consider Rogue's St. Rogue Red as a "Hoppy Big Red?"

No. It's only 5%, give or take. I'd say the NW big reds start in the high sixes or seven. Widmer's is 7%.

Dr Wort said...

Well, there ya go again pontificating on things that don't exsist in the real world.... ;-}

Jeff, how can you argue the difference between Rogue's red and a Big/Strong Red ale? There is no such beer style!! It's a fabrication of a brewers whim, but not a authentic "Beer Style" according the BJCP. The BJCP notes that in some regions AMBER ales are called Red ales, period. There is NO official description of a "BIG HOPPY Red or STrong Red" in the BJCP style guidelines.... So, A Big Red could be anything. 5.2%, 7.3% or maybe even 11.2%. Is it supposed to be Red? Roatsy, toasty, malty, hoppy, yeasty, meaty??? I just don't know, no one has categorized a beer style outline for a "BIG HOPPY RED" yet... You may be the first! Maybe you should give us a flavor profile and some beer stats on what a REAL "BIG HOPPY RED" Ale... ;-} Comparisons??

Come on Jeff.... we're waiting....

;-}

Jeff Alworth said...

Dr. Wort, do you think there were people back in the middle ages tsk tsking the monks in Belgium telling them that "there is no abbey-style ale!" It does not conform to the BJCP style list! Or Czech beer drinkers who eschewed the golden lagers 200 years ago, or ...

I suspect you're in good historical company.

Dr. Wort said...

Apples and oranges...

But, a good dodge of the question.. ;-}

Since we're talking about strange little unique styles of beer that are not internationally recognized... Do you know that's there's an estimated 144 different individual styles and types of Belgian beers? Only a handful are categorized. Maybe we should have the BJCP work on categorizing some of those, first.

That said, I've had a couple good NW brewed Dubbels lately. Still waiting for a Belgian worthy Trippel and Saison though. So far, the yeast is never quite prominent; the malt is too sweet and cloying or it's just too boring. Anybody taste a decent Trippel or Saison locally? Let me know...

Jeff Alworth said...

It's not a dodge. You're arguing that the list of beer styles should be fixed and catalogued by the BJCP. That's nonsense. Styles evolve. You're clearly a cranky traditionalist, which is fine, but I'm not. I see a bunch of beers that look a lot alike and conform to no other styles, so I've started calling them Big Reds.

I think you like to debate just cause you like to debate.

Dr. Wort said...

It's not a dodge. You're arguing that the list of beer styles should be fixed and catalogued by the BJCP. That's nonsense.

>>NO! That's not what I'm saying! Why do I have to explain myself, again? You were brow beating some guy who thought a Rogue Red was a BIG RED BEER. No need to brow beat the guy based on a beer that has no style definition! You make a point to say, "NO! It's not a big red beer..." I question, "By who's definition?" Obviously you think YOU can define beer styles all on your own. Kind of self proclaimed Fred Eckhardt who originally defined beer styles in the world. It's your pathetic self appointed pomposity of beer styles that I'm trying to correct. How long have you worked in the beer biz? Judging beer, by style?

Styles evolve. You're clearly a cranky traditionalist, which is fine, but I'm not.


>I understand how styles evolve, trust me. Wanna talk about Cranky Traditionalists? Talk to some guys from CAMRA.

I see a bunch of beers that look a lot alike and conform to no other styles, so I've started calling them Big Reds.

>>WOW, Jeff! A new beer style named by you! I bet the beer world feels privileged of your proclamation!

>>Thus, Big Red beers are born! Someone else do the profile, Jeff doesn't have the time or knowledge. You said,"I see a bunch of beers that look a lot alike.." That's a great idea, Jeff! Lets' name beers according to appearance! We can use a Lovibond chart to create names for new beers...!

>>I love debating and arguing with you Jeff.... You make it so easy....

>>Are you going to Fredfest? Maybe you and I can talk to Fred and he can give ya some tips on how to define new styles of beer and submit YOUR thoughts to the BJCP, so everyone can benefit from your insights... ;-}

Cheer!
DR Wort

I think you like to debate just cause you like to debate.

>>Sometimes....and you fall right into the trap everytime ;-}

Jeff Alworth said...

>>Sometimes....and you fall right into the trap everytime ;-}

Fair enough--won't make that mistake again...

Dr. Wort said...

Sure ya will, Jeff....

You can't resist.... :-O

Anonymous said...

Dr. Wort, you need to prescribe yourself some tranquilizers. You're going to have a heart attack, man!

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