As many of our reviews begin, here is another story about a brewery that began with two home brewers a long time before it became the norm.1 In 1979 home brewing was legalized in Oregon and Kurt and Rob Widmer began brewing beer for themselves, their family and friends. A few short years later in 1984 they quit their jobs and embarked on the journey of starting their own brewery.
One of the concoctions they’ve brewed up is SXNW: South by Northwest Brothers’ Reserve #7. Arriving at that name because of the use of southern spiciness but brewed up in the north, it is brewed with chilies, chocolate, cinnamon and toasted pecans. This creates a beer that they describe as having “traditional southwest flavors brought to you by way of the northwest.”
I’m excited to try the beer after reading the description, so I quickly take the pictures and crack open the bottle. A dark brown liquid with a reddish hue fills my glass, and even with a vigorous pour there was no head at all2 – just the barest ring around the edge of the glass. For only being 9.3 percent ABV it has a pretty boozy aroma up front. Malty, roasted nuts, molasses and a touch of cocoa all laced with a sweetness make up the aroma, which is overall quite rich – almost cloyingly sweet but not quite.
Taking the first sip, the SXNW is quite sweet and malty, with notes of chocolate and some nuttiness. The cinnamon that it was brewed with is absent from my palate, with the chilies’ spiciness only showing a slight hint of itself on the finish. The finish is medium in length, with the spiciness swelling a little before fading, leaving the slightest tingle on my tongue. The mouthfeel of the beer is interesting. With the rich aroma and the color I would guess at a heavier mouthfeel, though it’s nowhere near that. It stops just short of what I would call a light mouthfeel, with plenty of carbonation that accentuates the chilies on the finish.