Book Review – The Widmer Way

I am a sucker for beer history. Maybe since I have been blogging about craft beer for just about ten years now, I have seen fads and trends pass, breweries come and go and morph into new forms. But I still want to know more. What happened on the brewdecks and the sales calls and the places in between.

The Widmer Way by Jeff Alworth has the added bonus of being set in Portland (AKA Beervana) at the dawn or very early morning of craft beer. The best service that this book provides is to transport the reader back to those bootstrap start-up days and show that Widmer Bros. becoming what it is today wasn’t a sure bet.

The tale begins at the first brewery that Rob and Kurt put together and details the major part that their father had to play in keeping the brewery going that only a real handyman could and then tracks the brewery from their initial Alt bier to the flagship Hefe that the brewery is now known for.

You also read up on the strategic partnership with Anheuser-Busch and how the brothers were admired by the patriarch of the clan. Certainly a much different time for the now foreign owned beer giant. What follows is the eventual formation of the CBA – Craft Brewers Alliance. Both of these financial moves set a precedent for breweries to either use or reject in the future.

I do wish that the book was longer. It is a common complaint of mine, I know. But I would like to have learned more about the Brewers who followed the brothers. Or more about the Widmer’s place in the shifting landscape of Portland beer. I guess more about the beer in general.

Overall though, the writing is sharp and precise and never veers into boring history. Alworth has a firm grasp on each sentence, paragraph and chapter.

And by the end, you will want to drink a Widmer Hefeweizen, maybe with a lemon.