During my trip out to Oregon for my Brewmaster Cusinternship, I met Kurt and Rob Widmer at the Oregon Brewers Festival Brewmasters’ Dinner (and again at the parade, pictured right). The encouraged me to stop by their brewery while I was in town and take a tour. They were tremendously gracious and offered to make a phone call if I couldn’t get a reservation – as tours are only offered on Fridays at 3 pm and Saturdays at 11 am and 12:30 pm, and reservations are required (Call 503-281-2437 for a reservation). Fortunately, I was able to get a reservation.
I decided to take the 11 am tour, allowing me to enough time for lunch and then back to the Oregon Brewers Festival. My friend Betty (seen in the video at the bottom), who lives in Portland, joined me since she had never taken the tour herself. The brewery was very conveniently located right along the streetcar line and I snapped a couple pictures of the exterior of their offices and their brewhouse.
The tour started very different than other brewery tours I’ve taken. We actually started in a tasting room where our guide played a short video explaining the history of the brewery and how beer is made. We had three 2-3oz samples of the Widmer Hefeweizen, Drifter Pale Ale, and Drop Top Amber Ale. We then proceeded over to the brewhouse, stopping first in the grain storage area. We moved through the extremely clean, state-of-the-art 250-barrel brewhouse and into the fermentation area.
The Fermenters were some of the biggest I’ve ever seen – six 1500 barrel fermenters. As you can see in the video, they were simply enormous… and they had room for four more! From there we moved to the kegging area, where they had a new state-of-the-art kegging system capable of filling 300 kegs per hour. It came complete with robotic arms that lifted and moved the kegs through the line. The two arms were nicknamed Kurt and Rob after the founders.
We moved from the kegging area to the bottling and packaging area, which bottles beer at a rate of 500 bottles a minute. After that we moved back through the brewhouse where each of us were given a Widmer pint glass (it seemed many breweries were giving away their pint glasses as they recently replaced them with “honest pint” pint glasses after a law was nearly passed in 2009 requiring them).
We walked out of the brewhouse and back across the street to the Widmer Gasthaus Pub for lunch. Betty ordered the beer sampler and I had the Widmer Timbrrr Imperial IPA. At the pub, we talked with our waiter, and I found out about The Collaborator Project with the Oregon Brew Crew (one of the largest and most active homebrew clubs in the U.S.). They hold regular homebrew competitions, and the winner brews their beer there at Widmer and the beer goes on tap at the pub. There are always one or two beers from The Collaborator Project always on tap at the pub.