There's a lot of craft beer out there, from relative giants like Lagunitas and Stone to the three-barrel nanobrewery down the street. Portland, Oregon's Widmer Brothers Brewing falls somewhere in the middle. You can spot their taps in many New England bars. You've likely had their American-style Hefeweizen, an unfiltered brew that is the company's flagship. You've heard of Widmer Bros., but they're also not the first name that rolls off your tongue.
Widmer's latest year-round offering is Alchemy Ale, a beer that has a chance to make inroads among casual craft drinkers. My sample of Alchemy Ale came from Widmer's public relations folks, who pitch me often. It came all the way across the country in a fancy blue box with little vials of hops, grains, and yeast. As dense as I am, I realize Widmer is trying to get me to think about the ingredients that make up the beer, and that they're particular proud of the ones they've chosen in this case.
I unfurl a scroll to get an information sheet about what I’m about to drink. Alchemy Ale is an American Pale Ale brewed with Widmer’s proprietary hop blend, described as a “blend of choice hops from the Pacific Northwest.” Pale, Caramel, Munich, and Vienna Extra Special malts are used. The beer weighs in at 40 IBUs and 5.8 percent alcohol by volume.
Alchemy Ale pours a transparent liquid gold. Lots of tiny bubbles float skyward. There's a faint pine smell and some citrus, but it's mostly caramel.
The first sip is smooth though not overwhelmingly flavorful. The hops are present each step of the way without making the beer too bitter. I'm reminded a little bit of a less earthy, less hoppy Sierra Nevada and also of Samuel Adams Boston Lager. There's exceptional balance here, is what I'm trying to get at.
Alchemy Ale is available year-round. It won't blow you away, but it's a solid option at a good price point.