Is This Beer Key to Widmer’s Resurgence? A Taste of Upheaval IPA

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If you’ve kept tabs on the blog lately, you may have caught my recent posts on the Craft Brew Alliance and the variety of reasons I think 2014 will be big for them. That was before the brewing company decided to add 100,000 barrels to production, too.

It’s fitting then that CBA will continue an early push in 2014 for the company and its brands. Last week, Wider Brothers released its newest, year-round beer – an IPA, of course.

In my profile of Widmer, I pointed out the company’s reliance on hop-forward brews, both in the past and future. Feb. 10 marked the release of the new Upheaval IPA, a beer the company proudly proclaims uses two pounds of hops per barrel. In this time of Hop Heads, it seems to bode well for Widmer that their new beer uses more hops per barrel than any other in their lineup.

Fittingly, the hop usage explodes on the senses with this one, first offering resinous and dank fruit flavors. Nelson Sauvin hops offer a touch of white grape while Widmer’s proprietary hop blend, called Alchemy, adds a variety of Pacific Northwest citrus aroma you’d expect from that region. The smell was mostly led by ripe grapefruit and a little tart apple.

I was very impressed with the flavor, which for an IPA offers clean bitterness throughout, but none that lingers on the tongue. Some green onion stood out to me, but I thought peach was the dominant flavor. There was a little tart taste much like the smell, but I couldn’t put my finger on an exact flavor.

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Made with wheat, Upheaval showed surprising clarity.

I know Mosaic hops weren’t used in this beer, but the profile really reminded me of a recent IPA homebrew I made almost exclusively with the hop. Even more so, this beer came across to me as a toned down Lagunitas Sucks. It’s not nearly as dank as that beer, but is in the same ballpark.

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Head retention was solid, with lacing sticking around.

Most important, however, is the question of whether this beer is something mainstream craft beer drinkers would want to try. Upheaval does have a dry finish which may turn off non IPA fans and at 7 percent ABV it’s a little warming but not boozy by any means. The grain bill, which includes 40 percent wheat, keeps things pretty even-keeled with a dose of Caramel malt.

When IPA is the fastest growing craft beer style year-to-year, this all bodes well for Upheaval.

However, there are two questions I’d focus on with any new beer:

  1. Would I drink this again? Yes.
  2. Would I buy it in the store to share with others? Yes.

In that regard, Widmer has succeeded. Especially at Upheaval’s price point, which may be just a touch below other nationally or regionally distributed brands.

Upheavel IPA stats:

  • Malt: 2-Row Pale, Wheat, and Caramel
  • Hops: Alchemy, Chinook, Simcoe, Brewer’s Gold, Willamette, and Nelson Sauvin
  • Additives/Adjuncts: N/A
  • ABV: 7 percent
  • Brewery: Widmer Brothers or Portland, Oregon

Disclosure: I received a sample of Upheaval courtesy of Craft Brew Alliance, which only guaranteed that I would review it and not review it positively. All thoughts and opinions were on my own volition.

Related: Why Aren’t We Talking About Craft Brew Alliance? A Look Inside the Company: Widmer Brothers

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac


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