Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Widmer and Redhook Breweries Merge

My dad forwarded me an article from the Portland Business Journal about Widmer Brothers Brewery of Portland and Redhook Brewery of Woodinville, WA, merging to form a new company, Craft Brewers Alliance. The co-CEOs of the new company are David Mickelson, president and COO of Redhook, and Terry Michaelson, president of Craft Brands Alliance (Craft Brewers Alliance's marketing and sales arm, created before the merger). Kurt Widmer (guess which brewery he's from) is chairman of the board, and Paul Shipman (recent chairman and CEO of Redhook) is chairman emeritus. You can read more about it in this Portland Business Journal article (if the link is stale, here's a PDF version).

I think this is a good thing for both breweries, especially Redhook. According to a January 5, 2007 Oregonian article, Redhook hasn't posted an annual profit since 1996, compared to Widmer's double digit growth between 2002 and 2006. Since both companies A.) are partially owned by Budweiser and B.) have been working together for at least a few years now, I think this merger will go over well, so long as their beers remain separate. You know, keep the Widmer beers Widmer and the Redhook beers Redhook. I do like my Widmer Hefeweizen and my Redhook Chinook, and it would be a shame if they decided to combine all the beers and dropped or combined some.

I do have to say that the Widmer/Redhook conglomerate now presents some decent competition to Sam Adams, the other large craft brewer on the market today. Who knows, we may see some Widmer and Redhook commercials on TV in the next few years.

Apparently, Widmer and Redhook released a joint press release (on Widmer's site, or from here if that link gets stale) about the merger back in November 2007, and have been talking about it long before that, so the Portland Business-Journal is a little slow on the uptake.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Buckbean Original Orange Blossom Ale

Happy 232nd Birthday, America!

My wife and I had our 4th of July barbecue tonight, and of course we invited some friends over to celebrate and watch the fireworks. Because we're poor, it was BYOB, and one of our friends brought 6 cans of Buckbean Brewery's Original Orange Blossom Ale. For those not in the know, it is Reno's only microbrewery (the brewpubs Great Basin, Silver Peak, BJ's, and Brew Brothers presumably don't count because they don't bottle their beers), and it is taking Reno by storm. I went into Ben's the other day, and they were completely sold out, and at the grand opening of Reno's Whole Foods, I saw tons of people taking home 4-packs of Orange Blossom and their other beer, Black Noddy, a schwarzbier like Sam Adams' Black Lager.

As mentioned in previous posts, Buckbean was established in 2007 and just opened earlier this year. The Buckbean name comes from the Buckbean plant, an herb which grows over North America and Europe, and also in Tahoe Meadows. Apparently, Buckbean leaves have been used as a substitute for hops and also as a remedy for scurvy and stomach illnesses. Dan Kahn, the brewmaster, says he plans to use the herb in future brewing projects, and I personally can't wait to try them. Original Orange Blossom Ale was created by Dan while he was brewmaster at Riverside Brewing Company in Riverside, CA for their Orange Blossom Festival, becoming the first to use orange blossoms in the brewing process. They got to try it, but now it's all ours. (All info came from Buckbean's website, which unfortunately does not allow direct linking.)

Here come the stats:

Buckbean Original Orange Blossom Ale
BREWERY: Buckbean Brewing Co., Reno, NV, USA
STYLE: Orange blossom ale
ABV: 5.8%
MALTS: Caramel, Munich
HOPS: "American"
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Tangy, herbal or spicy foods, soft cheeses or pastries

I got this information from the can, which can also be found on Buckbean's website. I will talk with the brewers to see if I can get the rest.

The beer poured a beautiful cloudy orange color, accompanied by a decent white head that did not stick around very long. The nose was unlike anything I've ever smelled in a beer before, a swirl of orange and hops; my wife noted that it smelled like a nice perfume. The taste also was unique, a light hoppiness mixed with a smooth orange flavor, best described by one of my friends as a Blue Moon Belgian White and the orange already in the bottle. The finish was crisp and clean with a delightful aftertaste that didn't wear out its welcome.

Buckbean has truly made a great beer that is one-of-a-kind and fits in with Reno's unique culture. I look forward to seeing what else they can do. For now, you can also try out Buckbean's seasonal tap-only brew, Artown Vienna Lager, in honor of Reno's own Artown festival.