Widmer Hefe not only looked and tasted different than anything else on the market, but a decision by the bar owner to serve it in 23 ounce Pilsner glasses with a lemon on the side made it really stand out.
"Portlanders are very adventurous by nature and they would see it and say, 'What the hell is that?' said Kurt. "Then they would try it and fortunately they liked it."
Widmer Hefe became more than a one time thank you. Within 18 months it was Widmer Brothers best selling beer, and the brand they built their company around.
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As it happened, Widmer's Hefe may have been the first Hefeweizen brewed in the United States, but it wouldn't be the last.
Unfiltered wheat beer has become a common offering —with everyone from startups to macro brewers offering their own versions of an unfiltered wheat beer. Big beer stalwarts like Anheuser Busch InBev, with its Shock Top, and MillerCoors with its Blue Moon Belgian White brands, have even gotten in on the game.
In an era of barrel aged and hugely hopped beers, the Hefeweizen style may seem tame by today's standards. Still, Rob Widmer thinks the time is right for more beer drinkers to return to wheat milled beer, as the pendulum of consumer preference swings away from extreme offerings towards beers lower in alcohol.
"There are limits to how many hops, how much bitterness or how high the alcohol content you can put into a beer" said Rob.
"Beer drinkers are working their way back down to more refreshing beers," he added. "They still want a more interesting beer, they want authenticity, but these extreme beers we think has peaked."
Adapting to the twists and turns of the beer business is something the Widmers have done repeatedly over the decades. In the late 1990s, on the heels of taking on debt to finance an expansion plan, the craft beer industry hit a slum that had the Widmers teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
The brothers survived the downturn, and in 2007 joined with Redhook Ale Brewery to create the Craft Brew Alliance, a craft beer industry trade group. Anheuser Busch took a 32 percent stake in the publicly traded venture. Hawaii's Kona Brewing Company joined the alliance in 2010, and in 2012 the group launched the gluten free brand Omission. For the first nine months of this year, the Craft Brew Alliance had sales had a profit of $2.4 million on sales of $153 million, with 632,400 barrels sold.
However, the partnership with Anheuser Busch would ultimately cost Widmer Brothers the "craft" label, since the Brewers Association defines a craft brewer in part as an entity with no more than 25 percent ownership by a large brewery.
Rob and Kurt Widmer don't hide their disdain for their fellow brewing pioneers that kicked them out of the craft beer club that they themselves helped to create. But they are not above having a little fun with the situation.
The planned "30 Beers for 30 Years" release that marks the year 2007 is aptly titled "Rejection Ale," which will be brewed to mark the occasion of getting kicked out of the Brewers Association.
After three decades of navigating the ups and downs of the beer business, the Widmers haven't lost sight of the reason they got into the business in the first place.
"You know if we were making nuclear warheads or something like that, what do you do at the end of the day? You can't go blow something up" joked Kurt.
"At the end of the day, no matter how bad of a day we might have, we can have a beer, and we can have one of our own beers," he added. "It's still fun."