It had the makings of a slam-dunk beer release: a collaboration between Oregon's Widmer Brothers and our very own Cigar City. Three wood-aged variations of a classic cocktail-inspired strong ale, at the height of the classic cocktail craze. Conceptually interesting, with beautifully designed label art. Well-organized release parties, both in Florida and Oregon.
Yet, more than two years after its release, Gentlemen's Club Old Fashioned-Style Ale is still on sale all over the bay area, often relegated to sad, forgotten bottom shelves.
When Gentlemen's Club failed to make the expected impact, many complained it simply wasn't that good. I beg to differ. My theory is that it wasn't "cool" enough. Widmer's membership in the Craft Brew Alliance — minority-owned by A-B/InBev — made it an easy target for beer elitists, and, as bottle release fever is driven primarily by Internet hype, that may have been the kiss of death. It also wasn't particularly scarce or hard to get — and, sadly, many consider this directly correlated with quality.
Gentlemen's Club is an Old Ale, flavored with oranges and cherries (Florida and Oregon — get it?), a nod to the Old Fashioned cocktail. Since these bottles are 2 years old by now, expect the beers to be even more malt-driven than when they arrived, with thick caramel and toffee notes playing off vanilla, peppery spice and savory oak flavors, depending on which variant you choose.
I think Gentlemen's Club has a future in the glass of the open-minded beer drinker. It's easy to find all three variants — aged in bourbon barrels, rye whiskey barrels and on new oak spirals — for about $15 a bottle, though some stores still optimistically sell it at its original $20 price. The beers are substantial enough to pair with a big holiday meal, but they'd also be nice during a cool, fall evening.
Whether you've tried them before or not, now is the time to revisit the Gentlemen's Club lineup. Let's clear out those dusty bottom shelves and show this underrated collaboration some love.
Justin Grant, Times correspondent