Portland's Widmer Bros. Brewer at Tap 42; Talks Cigar City Collaboration, Florida Beer Scene
Not all tap takeovers are created equal. There, I said it. Some tap takeover events are little more than wait staff being confused as to the latest keg being tapped, oblivious to the types of beers being poured. Not at Tap 42. When they do a tap takeover, you'll know about it weeks in advance, get reminded the day of through social media, and when you finally arrive for the event, see signs beckoning you in. The menus will be transformed for the event, making sure everyone knows what's going on with the special beers, and the flight boards... oh, the flight boards have printed descriptions of the event's offerings.
Courtesy Tap 42 Widmer Brothers brand manager Brady Walen (left) and brewer Ben Dobler (right).
Beyond my fawning over an establishment that understands how much those of us in the beer culture appreciate organization, Tap 42 this past Monday night saw the release of quite a rare offering in the beer world today: the Widmer Brothers/Cigar City Brewing collaboration beer Gentlemen's Club. Not only that, but Widmer's head brewer Ben Dobler was also in attendance. See? Tap 42 does tap takeovers right.
The latest collaboration between Florida native Cigar City Brewing and one of the veritable titans of the craft beer industry, Widmer Brothers, is a beer called Gentlemen's Club. No, not the kind of gentlemen's clubs that can be found within walking distance of the Tampa-based brewery, where patrons can transact for lap dances, but the late 19th century kind, the members-only clubs of the British upper class. The kind of place where a top hat and coat were required, and the talk of the day centered around politics and business (sometimes gambling); a place that acted as the luxurious 'pub' for the aristocracy of the time.
Using an Old Ale recipe as the base beer, Gentlemen's Club "Old Fashioned Style Ale" was brewed with cherries and oranges, Alchemy, Sorachi Ace and Pacifica hops, and hand-selected specialty malts to mirror the qualities typically found in an Old Fashioned cocktail. The beer was aged on three different woods: bourbon barrels, rye whiskey barrels and new oak spirals, resulting in three unique versions of the beer, each offering a slightly different take on the same age-old recipe.
So what can we gather from this description? First off, an old ale is a style that generally refers to a dark, malty beer originating in England, something akin to what might be called a strong ale, or even a winter warmer. Some notable examples of the style include Founders Curmudgeon, Hibernation Ale from Great Divide, or Adam from Hair of the Dog Brewing Company. It will be rich, malty, and have some dark fruit character. Older and stronger versions might reach into port-like territory.
Second, the hops varieties used are a selection of New Zealand Pacifica, Japanese Sorachi Ace, and a hop blend known as 'Alchemy' - a group of secret varieties hand-selected by Widmer Brothers brewers each year. Widmer's head brewer, Ben Dobler, said that it's generally "a high alpha blend, all Pacific Northwest hops. I can say there is Chinook and Apollo as late addition hops." These hops all help to bring out the citrus character of the beer, which, when you're seeking to emulate a citrus-based cocktail, is crucial.
Aging this beer in barrels will give it a distinct vanilla and mellowed flavor (for the bourbon style) or a distinct rye character (for the whiskey style), something oaked Chardonnay fans will be familiar with. The barrel process makes sure that the beer doesn't end up cloying, but instead has a smoothness that gives it a lighter body instead of being sticky-sweet.