PORTLAND — Brothers Kurt and Robert Widmer turned their hobby into a living brewing beer first for themselves and friends because they couldn’t find any that they liked. What started small grew big over time, and Widmer’s brews have made it all around the world over the years.
Home brewing was legalized in Oregon in 1979. By 84′, the brothers had quit their jobs and scrounged up enough parts to set up shop in an industrial area now known as the Pearl District.
Within six years, the company had outgrown it’s Northwest Portland digs and relocated to Russell Street in 1990.
April 2nd marks their 30th year in business. Widmer Brothers was at one point the largest draft-only brewery in the nation and is now said to be the ninth largest brewer in the United States. They were also the first to offer a full four-seasonal line-up of beers.
“It didn’t happen overnight. This year, we’ll do somewhere around 800,000 31-gallon barrels. When we over over there on Lovejoy, we made just under a thousand,” said brewmaster Kurt Widmer.
The Hefeweizen was one of the first brews that Widmer made available, and it’s grown to be their most popular.
The brothers helped start the Oregon Brewers Festival in 1988, which has grown into a must-attend annual event for beer enthusiasts. It’s now the largest outdoor craft beer festival in the nation.
The vision that the Widmer brothers had decades ago has helped Oregon become third nationally in craft breweries per capita.