Widmer Brothers Alchemy Ale to replace Drifter Pale Ale

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Widmer Brothers Brewing is sure keeping everyone on their toes lately. What with continuously rolling out new product and leaving few of even their standard year round beers untouched. A perfect example is the debut of Alchemy Ale a new year round Pale Ale to replace Drifter in their lineup.

I am surprised to see the Drifter Pale Ale go, it felt like a relatively fresh and recent addition to their lineup and I thought it was pretty popular but perhaps that was drifting away so to speak. I always thought Drifter picked up it’s signature fruity and tropical notes from the New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops, it was one of the first beers to use that variety. However Widmer production manager Doug Rehberg tells me that Drifter was always primarily flavored with Summit hops, a variety that is starting to fall out of flavor because of it’s distinct onion notes though the orange flavor it contributes can be quite nice.

With the replacement of Drifter and recent hints that Craft Brew Alliance CEO Terry Michaelson made that Widmer Hefeweizen is due for a refresher, (perhaps with new variations on the classic) I am surprised how long Drop Top Amber Ale has stuck around.

Alchemy Ale is the first Widmer beer to primarily make use of it’s namesake Alchemy Hops which is not really a single variety but a proprietary blend trademarked by Widmer Brothers. Apparently the blend can vary and in the past has relied on Warrior and Millennium hops and rumor has it that Falconer’s Flight has also made it into the mix. While Alchemy Hops have appeared as an ingredient in many Widmer brews they have never used it as a primary hop and never marketed it like this before. As CBA communications manager Brady Walen they thought it was time for the Alchemy Hop blend to finally shine.

My Tasting Notes:
(poured from a 12oz bottle complimentary from Widmer)

As usual when trying a new beer I started by pouring straight down the middle of the Imperial pint glass that Widmer sent me, this releases more aroma and also lets me know how carbonated the beer is, and what it’s head retention is like. Alchemy pours with a big rocky white head that does not dissipate quickly, it also has nice lacing, perfect carbonation. This is one of those little things that larger more technically advanced brewers really do so well, one of those things that make their beers subtly stand out. It really is increasingly rare to get a beer with such perfect bottle conditioning and carbonation from a craft brewer.

Anyway the aroma is of a pleasant grassy hoppiness and fruity aroma, with sweet orange peel and lemon. It settles into a clear copper color with nice bubbles. Light malt body with toasted cereal notes are front in center. Alchemy Ale has a mild bitterness in the center and is a bit sweet and fruity. The finish is of a light crisp beer with some earthy hop flavor, it leaves some lingering sweetness on the tongue.

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: [email protected]


  1. robert

    July 22, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    i know several people in south florida, myself included, that considered Drifter their favorite beer. it really sucks that its gone.

    alchemy ale is too spicey. it is NOT a replacement at all.

  2. kingfish

    July 31, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    We’re from Southern Michigan and I first encountered Drifter 3 years ago while visiting our daughter in Portland. It immediately became and still is (was?) my absolute favorite Pale Ale. It took 16 months once we got home to get our local distributor to carry it. To find that Widmer has dropped Drifter from production amazes me and breaks my little beer drinkin’ heart!

  3. Monica

    August 5, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Drifter was by far one of my favorites! I loved the crisp fruity flavor with a pale ale. I was wondering why I hadn’t seen it this summer. I used to buy it by the case last summer. So disappointed!

  4. Unknown

    November 13, 2013 at 1:59 am

    twelve packs of Drifter have been on sale at Grocery Outlets in the PNW for $8.99 all summer long, and I do is excellent! Sold out in all the stores, I am down to my last case and will miss it something brutal.

  5. Anonymous

    December 20, 2013 at 5:18 am

    Alchemy is not a fair replacement for Drifter. Man Drifter was literally the greatest daily drinker of all time. Sorry Sierra Nevada Pale. Dear Widmere, please bring Drifter back right away. In it’s absence you are forcing me to drink beers I don’t like and pretend to agree with idiots who say they love over hopped, bitter, chewy garbage. And please tell the rest of the brewing industry that you rule because you invented the greatest drinking beer ever and they can suck it. Just my opinion.

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