You've probably already heard about the Widmer product shakeup:
- Broken Halo IPA has been retired.
- W'10 is now year-round in $9 4-packs as Pitch Black IPA.
- Deadlift IIPA is now called Nelson IIPA (still in $9 4-packs).
- Broken Halo's 6-pack slot will be filled by various IPAs labeled Rotator.
- The latest Brothers Reserve is out: Galaxy Hopped Barleywine.
- The summer seasonal that was called Sunburn last year, is now called Citra Blonde.
The loss of Broken Halo is amply compensated for by the first Rotator IPA, called X-114, named after the experimental hop variety that is now called Citra. An IPA by that name has been on and off at the Widmer Gasthaus for a couple years now, and I even remember seeing it on tap at Belmont Station once, but odds are that the recipe has been changing during that time. The version that's out on tap and in bottles right now is very nice. It has that beautiful orange-blossom aroma that Widmer's Drifter Pale Ale has, even though the aroma hops are different for the two beers (Drifter uses Summit and Nelson-Sauvin instead of Citra). But X-114's sturdy backbone keeps the flavor up right to the end, whereas Drifter's flavor falls disappointingly flat. X-114 isn't a barn-burner, but it's a solid IPA that I'll be indulging in regularly while it lasts.
The Galaxy Hopped Barleywine that's out right now is also a treat, and well worth seeking out. It's darker than what you might be used to in barleywines (see the picture above), and has a comparatively light mouthfeel. The Galaxy hops give it a nice tropical fruit aroma; in your mouth it takes a second for the hops to kick in. They provide a kind of guava or tangerine flavor, followed by a moderately long, bitter finish. It's very smooth and drinkable: I don't get the Old Foghorn maple/alcohol kick that I usually find (and appreciate) in barleywines. It might age OK, but it seems better to drink it now while the hops are in full bloom.
In the interests of disclosure, I'll note that Widmer sent me samples of the X-114 and Barleywine, though I bought some of my own X-114 both before and after receiving the freebies. Both beers are only available for a short time -- the Barleywine is a one-and-done; the brewery says the X-114 is due to be replaced by the next Rotator sometime during the summer -- and I recommend both of them, especially the cheap and plentiful IPA.