April 1, 2012

Neglected Portland Breweries: Widmer Brothers Brewing Co.

Portland has some 40 breweries and counting. Many are world-class, even out-of-this-world, but not all.

Sometimes I beat myself up for not having been to every single brewery in town. I intend to visit them all, but if we're being honest, the ones I haven't checked out yet are the ones that generally have no Beer Geek Brownie Points. Here's Pt. V in an ongoing series that included Tugboat, Philadelphia's Steaks & Hoagies, Max's Fanno Creek, and the Broadway Grill & Brewery: Neglected Portland Breweries.

It seems that this town has short attention spans when it comes to breweries. Sure, Upright just had a packed house for their 3rd anniversary this week, but let's see if anyone shows up for the 4th. Everyone's gaga over Gigantic and they haven't even opened yet. And it's fair to say that at less than year out of the starting gate, Occidental Dunkel is the Pliny the Younger of Beervana. The longer in the tooth, the more neglected the brewery. An Eighties Flashback reveals Oregon breweries like Full Sail, Deschutes, Rogue, Bridgeport, MacTarnahan, and the McMenamin Bros. debuting, but where are they now? Add to this list yet another pair of brothers, Kurt & Rob Widmer, who have all but descended into fermented obscurity.

While big brewing companies advertise during the Super Bowl or World Cup, you're only likely to see Widmer Bros. at a Blazers game thanks to having a pilot brewery at the Rose Garden Arena, or at a Timbers game, if you can even find the Widmer Brothers Southern Front bar at JELD-WEN Field.
As with the other breweries we've looked at in the Rose City, perhaps there is something in a name, for a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but names do count. Philadelphia's doesn't have the word "brewing" in their name. Broadway Brewery doesn't have a brewery. There's no Max at Max's Fanno Creek. Perhaps if the real brothers Widmer came up with a catchier name for Widmer Bros. that really stood out with some personal pizzazz, say, Craft Brew Alliance.

Now onto our visit to their brewpub in industrial NE PDX. As with most hidden Gasthauses, their tap offerings have been known to run on the common, well-trodden side like a Hefeweizen, Prickly Pear Braggot, and most recently, a mundane Spiced IPA I cleverly dub ChaiPA (and by that I mean like the tea, not the Hebrew word for living). Apparently, they had to resort to letting some homebrewers come in and help save this one. Finding IPAs in Portland is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, so to prove this point, there's actually seven different shots at an IPA, most they were too lazy to devise a catchy name and merely dubbed things like X-431 IPA or X-467.

To eat, despite having a bountiful menu, I ordered a large plate of "Widmer sisters potato salad." I'll give them this much, it's the best potato salad in town!

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