The Widmer Brewery has been in a bind since the late 80s, victims of inadvertent success. When Rob and Kurt founded the brewery, they imagined the flagship ale would be an alt like the one they fell in love with in Germany. Dry, bitter, and smooth--it would actually have been a great beer for current Oregon palates. Alas, they started brewing a wheat ale during a period of evolving palates and now their flagship--and anchor--is the bland Hefeweizen.
The Widmers have staked out a few interesting niches. Their Collaborator project, wherein homebrewers create obscure beers, has produced a milk stout, Snowplow, that is now part of their regular rotation. Mmmm, tasty. And they are famous for producing some of the most interesting beers for brewfests--beers locals can later try at the Gasthaus. But the commercial experiments tried and abandoned--Big Ben Porter, Sweet Betty Blonde, Hop Jack Pale (the list goes on)--litter beer bottle collections across the state.
Will Broken Halo break the string of bad luck? We'll see.
The brothers always produce very bright, filtered beers, but Broken Halo looks too bright when it pours out. It's straw pale, clear as water. This is a hint to the central character of the beer, but we'll get to that in a moment. The aroma is nice--a clean, citrusy bouquet.The head is, like the picture in the photo, snowy white. My initial impressions were favorable, but there was something out of place.
Turns out that Broken Halo is not an IPA--which had been suggested by its delicate appearance. Judged against some of the broad shoulders of the NW IPA world, poor BH is wouldn't stack up well. But if the label said Pale Ale, you'd nod admiringly. The hopping is rich and resinous, not just bitter, but flavorful. The malting is subdued, coming through as a mildly sweet balance. A fine pale and a fine beer.
I think what we're seeing is the result of the misnamed BridgePort IPA--one of Oregon's most popular beers. Though it tastes big enough to be an IPA, it has the advantage of drinkability: people knock back a couple-three and they're not staggering around. All the flavor, but manageable alcohol. No other IPA has cracked BridgePort's domain because they tend to be actual IPAs--7% alcohol or more--which are just too big for people to drink regularly.
The downsizing of IPAs leads to compromises. The Widmers have made a tasty, balanced beer. Pour this in a glass and hand it to a hophead, and she'll be happy. Just leave out the India part.
Hops: Bittering, Alchemy, finishing Cascade and Columbus
Malts: Pale, Caramel (10 and 20l), and Munich (10l)
Alcohol By Volume: 6.0% by volume
Original Gravity: 14.25 degrees Plato
Other reviews: Belmont Station Blog
As an IPA, Average. As a pale, Excellent.