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Tuesday, March 03, 2009


I first visited New York City in 1993 with a girlfriend at the time. Her grandmother lived in Edgewater, NJ, and we had friends in the East Village and Brooklyn. (I could write a 10,000-word reminicence of that trip--hoo boy.) Among the several thousand things I wanted to do was have a slice of Ray's Pizza. Ray's is not a pizza chain, it's a state of being. All over the city, people have pizzarias named Ray's--Famous, Original, World-Famous, etc.--but they're all independently owned. A conspiracy of Ray's, brotherhood among competitors, a way of confusing the tourists. I was in the city less than an hour when, after a walk due south from Port Authority, I stopped in at a Greek-owned Ray's for a slice of offbeat kalamata olive. Ah, finally, the suchness of Ray's.

All of this brings me to Widmer's new Drifter, the first beer I've decanted since getting this spiteful flu of mine. As you can see in the detail of the label at right, there's the curious adjective "Original" in the title: the Original Drifter Pale Ale. Original? In the case of Ray's, we can understand the jockeying: claiming the ur-status does not ensure quality, but there are certain bragging rights (though the claim does not make it so). Among a sea of Ray's, "original" has context. To my knowledge, however, there is no such glut of Drifters. In this way, the "Original" is a mite odd. Especially when you consider that the beer is only now just debuting. (No doubt marketing wished to offer an instant classic, burnished with age.)

As to the flavor and whether it's different from the W '07 that preceded it: I can't say. My flu-soaked body chemistry played cruel tricks, turning the beer into a glass of poison. It seemed almost to burn. If this were an Eastern European novel, I would worry that some kind of cosmic cruel trick was being played on me. But it's just a virus.


  1. Jeff,
    We used the word Original because we really feel that Drifter is unlike all the other pale ales. Summit hops are my new favorite hop and they have taught me something that may have been obvious to others but was kind of a break through for me. I now believe that eveyone likes the aroma and flavor of hops but many people just don't like the accompanying bitterness. The cool thing about Drifter is that beer geeks that I've sampled love it because it is so unique and delicious and "regular" folks like the tangerine/pink grape fruit quality but appreciate the lack of "afterburn".

    I hope that you are feeling better soon. Are you sure that you're getting enough beer in your diet?

    Rob Widmer

  2. Sounds spectacular. Can hardly wait to get my hands on a bottle.

  3. Rob,
    Drifter is indeed a fantastic pale. Pretty much blew me away at the Gasthaus on Saturday night. Summits can have a strong catty nose to it, and this beer has none of it. You guys nailed it and this is my new go to pale.

    Hopefully your tastebuds recover soon. It's the worst part about being sick.


  4. Yay! Beer should taste and smell like food - things we eat like the produce of blossoming things and especially citrusy things. Not like toothpicks, resin, or Christmas trees! I'm delighted to hear an important brewer talk about hoppiness in terms that make beer a source of sensory delight rather than assault. Here's to the day when triple digit IBUs is a warning rather than come-on. I can't wait to try the beer.

  5. Rob, you're writing all the right things for this self-professed anti-hophead, who recently found love for the strongly-flavored-but-not-so-bitter hoppy beers that Ninkasi puts out (Tricerahops especially, but also Spring Reign more recently). Your TEAmaker was along similar lines, though its hop flavor was much less pronounced; if you can split the difference between that and the Spring Reign, I think you've got a winner.

    Still keeping my eyes out for those bottles (I'm still only seeing W'09),

  6. Jeremy in SE PDX8:25 PM, March 03, 2009

    Beer Fan, taste is funny... it's rare I meet a beer that's too hoppy, but I can't abide anything the slightest bit fruity or "citrus-y" in a beer at all. Blech!

    Fruit goes in wine. Beer should taste like grain! My favorite beers always have a "cereal" aftertaste.

    Note "rare" isn't "never." There is such a thing as too much hops.

    Anyway, the beauty is there's room for all of us in here in Beervana. Let a thousand flowers bloom!


  7. I am anxious to try it.

    Most Fred Meyers around have halfracks of it stacked besides, or next to the beer coolers. I must get one.

    I for one love bitter beers.. as long as it is the hops making it so.

    I am a huge fan of the grapefruit notes... many must dry hop at least a couple times to get that aroma and taste.

    I hope Widmer will kick out another IPA... something a little more robust and unique. Or just release the original Halo in some bombers. Or how about a new Imperial IPA that could be found in bombers at Freddies? ;-)

  8. i notice Widmer public house didn't make the list of "honest pints"...what's up with that?

  9. Ok just grabbed that 12-pack I said I was going to...

    ... This is a very good ale, and quite possibly my favorite to be bottled from/by Widmer.

    Very good aroma of citrus and pine... and of the people I asked... they didn't notice it.. and I can't for the slightest see why or how.. maybe I am a good taster?

    I was thinking... darn, too bad there isn't a cold 6-pack on the shelf.. just a warm 12-pack. But now I am glad I got the 12-pack.. because I won't be able to stop with this one. One of the better pales around on a grocery store shelf.

    If anyone has ever had Laurelwoods Workhorse IPA... imagine that, a bit more mild, watery, and filtered... and only dry-hopped once like it is... thats what you've got. It's like a Workhorse Pale... best way to put it. When great with my chicken pot pie lol..

  10. You can note the word "Original" used in a smattering of Widmer's marketing.