Advice to the Widmer Brothers

As I mentioned below, I made a trip to the Widmer Gasthaus yesterday. About half-way through my second sip of their delightful Dortmunder, I had a a moment of clarity. It has evolved from this hope that they were starting a slow mosey back toward lagers. So imagining that they hired me as a consultant to help position them in the post-Redhook alliance era, here's what I'd say. Go lagers. Create a subsidiary line of four biers that bear their own branding. The "Widmer Family Line," say, with a nod to the Widmer's lineage. You could create a nice label that ties the beers together and also recalls an earlier era in American brewing. But the key is to select four types of lagers that are slightly unusual but geared toward the American craft market. A few suggestions:
  • Dortmunder. This is really just a variant of a pilsner, but so what? Real pilsners are in short supply. Widmer's version was exceptional--crisp but slightly sweet and vivid with Saaz hops. It is half-way between a retro lager like Session and an American pale ale, with the strength and hop vibrancy Americans like. Put this bad boy out in the summer, and I'd buy it by the case.
  • Schwarzbier (aka "blackbier") . This is the second bier the Widmer's already make. In some ways, it fills the same niche of a porter, but it's drier and lighter than most. People have already developed a tasted for dark beers, but few commerical options, and fewer styles, exist. A great Spring beer.
  • Rauchbier (aka "smoked lager"). Thanks to Rogue and Alaskan, we think of smoke beers as strong, in-your-face beers. But not all the beers of Bamburg (where the style originated) are so aggressive. Some are milder both of body and smoke. I'd suggest something like this, perhaps in the mode of a slightly smoky Oktoberfest, for fall.
  • Kellerbier. This is really an obscure style, but perhaps would appear the most familiar to American craft beer drinkers. Keller (German for "cellar") is a style of aged bier, usually matured in casks, that is often a higher gravity and IBU than most German beers. A big, burly, tasty beer that would go perfectly with your winter roast beast.
There are other options--a good pilsner hasn't been put in the bottle in these parts since Saxer's. Or, for that matter, a good doppel. There may be legal issues in producing an eisbock, but that's another possibility, too. The point is that there are a lot of lager styles I believe Americans would be ready to receive. (Or mine the German ales--roggenbier (rye), weisse, or gose, say.)

I know the Widmers have smarter people than I on their payroll, so perhaps the data don't back this idea up. But sometimes you have to anticipate the market, and I do think this would be a perfect time to try something like this. One man's opinion--

Brief Reviews
So in addition to the Dortmunder, I had the Teaser and an IPA made with an experimental hop known (not quite poetically) as X-114. The Teaser I enjoyed a lot. Since it's made with these new, greenTeamaker hops, I have no previous point of comparison. It would be nice to try a beer with Teamakers in their dried version. It was mellow and gentle--unsurprising for hops with no alpha acids. A bit cookie-like, with a salad-greens freshness.

The IPA was all hop, and X-114 is no fading violet. It is boldly citrusy in the lemon/orange continuum. Has cattiness in both the nose and palate, as well asa grassy, herbal quality. Fades to pepper. It is so aggressive that if I were to brew with it, I'd use it with other hops, and perhaps add it to the boil a little later, so it extracted the nice citrus and spice but left some of the grinding behind.