When news from Russell Street hit that Widmer Brother’s Pub was closing, it was a startling revelation for most in the local beer community. Yet within a month, they’ve already arrived upon a new concept for the space, beyond the continuing work being done by the Innovation Brewery.
While information about the new program is still in flux, it was made clear that Widmer’s current charitable program called Pints for Portland, which raised over $50,000 last year for local non-profits (a different one each month), is now being re-launched as Brothers Table.
Not all the details of the coming project have been fully disclosed, though the plan is to utilize the existing pub as a space for non-profit organizations to host fundraisers once or twice a month. It may also be utilized for special events, such as their annual Oktoberfest celebration.
The Brothers Table program was announced to a handful of local media visiting the brewery on Tuesday. In addition to the charity program, the Widmer Brothers Pub will also become the default launching and ending point for their public tours, including their ever popular Zwicklemania tour, happening tomorrow between 11am and 4pm, February 16th.
Being that the connected Innovation Brewhouse, overseen by Thomas Bleigh and helmed by Parker Penley & Dan Munch, is continuing to brew small batch beers, the taps are still full of mostly R&D offerings. They’re also beginning to locally distribute, in kegs, these small-batch offerings around town – something that hasn’t been done much since it’s inception a few years back.
As for the tour itself, to start, everyone will gather in the Pub space and receive a sample of “the beer that made Widmer,” the world-renown Hefe. The foundations of the brewery will be discussed, focusing not only on the hard work put in by Kurt and Rob, but especially that of their father, Ray.
Tours will continue across the street, into the 250 barrel brewhouse, then through The Cathedral – a four story building containing eight 1,500 gallon+ fermenters. Before leaving the production brewery, at least during Zwicklemania, samples from the Innovation Brewhouse will be pouring from taps in the back of The Cathedral.
In a new twist, the tour returns back across the street to enter the Innovation Brewhouse entering through the back loading dock and into the space where Widmer’s barrel program resides. From here, during Zwicklemania guests will receive fresh sample pours from the Zwickle of one of their beers conditioning in brite tanks. Before returning to the Pub, the tour passes through the fully-automated 10 barrel Innovation Brewhouse itself.
Lastly, each guest will receive a 12oz keepsake of one of their limited, small batch beers they’re doing in-house, another new spin on the tour. The first of these “Members Only” Tour Brews, that will also be given out Saturday, is the savory Crème de la Café Cappuccino Ale, which coincidentally just won Gold at the Best of Craft Beer Awards last weekend. While these cans won’t last long, they will continue to can additional one-off beers which will only be available to those taking a tour of the production facility.
I’ve tried this new Cappuccino Ale and was honestly pretty blown away by the ample coffee and vanilla flavors inherent in this easy drinking, 5.6% ABV Ale.
While Widmer’s Pub is no longer open daily for causal visits, tours are being held at 3pm on weekdays, and at 1pm & 3pm on weekends. As for tomorrow’s Zwicklemania tours, those will commence at 11am and continue until 4pm. I plan to be there later in the afternoon and might just run into you!
The brewery, and CBA as a whole, have already begun to increase can production. Over the past 6 months, they’ve installed a canning line in the basement of their production facility and are currently canning 12oz variety packs for Kona Brewing (as seen below), as well as 16 oz cans of Widmer Hefe and other big selling brands.
What hasn’t been officially announced yet, is that they’ll be canning three new beers this spring. The first is a new seasonal called Tang-A-Rang (a Passionfruit Berliner Weisse), and the other two will be limited releases coming in March: Secret Stash (a Dank IPA) and Juicy Sunrise (a Hazy IPA). Some will be available in 12oz six-packs and others in 16oz four-packs.
So while the Widmer Pub did in fact close, there’s still a lot going on these days on the Widmer campus and you can expect more cans, local drafts, a renewed purpose for the not-quite-dormant Pub, and maybe even a few surprises.