Brand Manager Brady Walen explained that this is a big release for Craft Brew Alliance and Widmer Brothers. Widmer Brothers doesn't do that many collaborations while Cigar City does a lot. Widmer Brothers is an enormous brewery especially compared to Cigar City. Widmer Brothers is on the verge of its 30th anniversary while Cigar City is only a few years old. Not to mention their locations are about as far apart as possible within the continental US. The breweries thought all those differences could lead to a pretty special project. And it was born.
Widmer Brothers flew down Brewer Ben Dobler for the launch at Tap 42 in Ft. Lauderdale and other events scheduled throughout the week. Marketing Manager Ciea Palmer (who also invited me) introduced me to Ben. Ben is one of 18 brewers with Craft Brew Alliance, but he explained he focuses mainly on the experimental and smaller batches for Widmer Brothers, which includes Gentlemen's Club. Ben echoed Brady with his excitement to work with Cigar City. He talked a little about the process of making this beer, but we also chatted about some of the brewery's other offerings among other things. Ben was a very personable and knowledgeable guy, and it's always cool to be drinking a beer that the guy next to you made!
|Me, Ciea Palmer, Ben Dobler|
So I arrived early expecting no people, but Ed Roberts was there already so I knew that the party had already begun. Apparently 6 pm was kind of a bullshit time. I sat down in an awesome seat by the window and got to try not only the three versions of Gentlemen's Club but also a few other Widmer beers I hadn't tried--Alchemy Ale, Citra Blonde and Hopside Down. Add in those conversations with Ben, Brady, Ciea, the Tap 42 staff, and all the others there to support the launch and this was a great event. It was cool to meet some new people and re-meet a bunch of people that I don't see too often (because I'm a homebody). I'm looking at you Phil!
No sooner did I sit down than I was introduced to a "flight" of the three Gentlemen's Club versions. Ed told me the direction I wanted to sample. New Oak, Rye Whiskey, Bourbon. I really enjoyed all of them and I think my favorites changed with each new sample. These were rich bold beers brewed in the Old Ale style with a recipe that was trying to mimic the Old Fashioned Cocktails you might find in the Gentlemen's Clubs of a century ago. New Oak was aged with oak spirals. Rye Whiskey and Bourbon were aged in used barrels, and the spirits addition was apparent.
I really enjoyed the Oak beer. But for me, the rye whiskey and bourbon characteristics in the other two made the other two versions much more interesting. I loved the spicy rye and the sweet bourbon flavors imparted by the latter two. Ed liked the Oak one better (it was also very good). Despite the 10.5% alcohol (9.5% for Oak), I didn't feel any hotness from these beers.
Tap 42 was a great host for the event. I was thinking about ordering one of their $5 Monday Prohibition Burgers, but just as I was about to order, tons of appetizers were put on the tables. Chicken wings, calimari, this great watermelon sushi dish, pretzels, etc. Service was great. I also met Paige, who is in charge of the cocktail program for the restaurant.
What else? I think I only stuck my foot in my mouth one time (could have been more). Ciea gave me a really cool bottle opener. I took a few crappy photos. I had an idea to take pictures of the logos from all the brands there. You can see those below. Decide for yourself if it was a good idea or just stupid. Oh, and I highly recommend reading a real journalist's take on the evening, note pad was flying. Doug Fairall did a great job!
Thanks to everyone!
|Ben, Brady, Ciea|