Widmer Brothers Columbia Common
The California Common is a type of beer that’s been around for a couple of hundred years and was born out of necessity more than anything else. Since refrigeration was non-existent in the late 1800s (when this style was believed to have been created) breweries were forced to come up with alternative methods of cooling down their wort. One result of that experimentation was the development of a special strain of lager yeast had been trained to ferment at warmer temperatures — a process still used today.
The best example of this type of beer that I am quite familiar with would be Anchor Brewing’s Steam Beer. And to tell you the truth, aside from a batch or two of home brew that my father-in-law used to produce, I don’t believe I’ve had many other samples of this style. That is, until now.
Widmer Brothers take on the California Common utilizes a specialized strain of lager yeast as well as Hefeweizen yeast to craft this beer. But that’s not what makes it special. Apparently, the brewery helped re-establish the Columbia hop variety in the process of developing this 4.7% ABV (and 32 IBU) brew.
Now, I can’t validate their claim so I don’t know if it’s just a little marketing spin or not. What I do know is that the Columbia variety is a sibling of Willamette and was first released in 1976 and was often used as a replacement for the Fuggle variety. And with that, on to the review.
Columbia Common pours golden amber in color with an off-white cap of foam that dropped slowly to a decent ring and sparse surface cover.
It’s certainly got a decent hop profile that is spicy, grassy and carries a light pine character. There’s a decent bit of citrus fruit (grapefruit) as well as distant, bready malts in the background.
A nice citrus fruit note arrives first before flowing quickly into a solid bit of grassy, spicy hops with a moderate amount of bitterness. The beer has a crisp mouthfeel with a smooth, clean finish that lingers nicely. I can pick up a little hefe character within it’s hoppy depths, especially as the beer has had a chance to settle in the glass.
This is a nearly sessionable little beer with good flavor and a refreshing nature. It’s got a clean character and an earthy hop profile that tingles the palate with just the right amount of bite. I could certainly sit down with a couple of these over a warm Spring weekend.
This is a review of a promotional sample from the brewery.