Sometimes a little bit o’ luck is all ya need. Take Allagash Brewing owner, Rob Tod, who stumbled into the beer business washing kegs at Vermont’s second largest brewery, Otter Creek, in ’93. At the time, he didn’t know the biz well, but fell in love with brewing after two days of work. In ’95, Tod began Portland, Maine’s Allagash Brewing, an astoundingly successful venture that has led to a lifetime commitment to making interestingly renowned libations.
“We did in on the cheap,” Tod explains as we celebrate Allagash night at Jersey City’s newborn Barcade, November ‘11. “Shipyard and Geary were already opened so there was a readied local market. After the plumbing and welding, we started with a no-frills draft only system with two fermenters.”
A big part of Allagash’s successful culture has come from crafting innovative recipes and styles that moved beyond the inaugural Belgian-styled novelties. Though limited in capacity, Tod never let his small space constrain the audacious originality of an ever-expanding lineup of gratifying suds. At any given time he may have five different beers barrel aging and then blended differently.
“We taste the barrel aged versions every six months and let them sit for a two-year period,” Tod says. “Anyone at the brewery who has an idea for a beer could brew one on a 10-gallon pilot system. Some have become full-scale beers.”
Allagash is constantly coming out with limited release beers (check the Beer Index), learning from each experience. As the only American brewery invited to Belgian brewfest, Allagash made several wonderful spontaneously fermented beers.
“We’re going back March 2012,” the proud entrepreneur indicates. “We re-created the Belgian yeast funk with Maine’s soft water, which is well-suited for our beers. Our Interlude and Confluence use brettanomyces yeast we found at the brewery growing in a batch of beer we cultured. We also brewed Thing 1 and Thing 2 for an event in Boston. We take the first runnings of a base beer and ferment separately.”
At Barcade’s Allagash Brewing Night, several sour ales and wild ales make the rounds with positive feedback coming from the packed house this rainy Thursday night. There’s typical Belgian-styled fare such as Allagash’s signature Curieux, Dubbel, Four, Grand Cru, Interlude, and White, plus previously untried offerings such as Victor and Victoria (Belgian Strong Ales) and Bourbon Black.
Even the industrious Tod has not tried every single beer he’s crafted onsite. Though he’s tasted Thing 1 and Thing 2 off the tank before carbonation and conditioning, the tall zymurgist has yet to try the finished draft version. Hopefully, tonight will be the right time to indulge. Cheers!