Classic off-dry flagship retains clean pale malt-spiced orange tang , grassy hop astringency and resinous herbal whim. Wispy peach, mango and tangerine illusions add further brisk zesting to perfectly centrist, yet stylishly bold, West Coast pale ale.
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!
Two blocks down from blue-collar Gritty Mc Duff’s was quaintly pristine SEBAGO BREWING COMPANY (with three newer locations in Kennebunk, Scarborough, and Gorham), visited October ‘05. A neon light sign, arched windows, and side deck lead to entrance with comfy waiting area. Interior features neuvo design, pine-stained walls, neo-Classical columns, and a bar (with twin TV’s) overlooking Middle Street. Menu contained sandwiches, burgers, wraps, pasta, and seafood.
Quaffed fizzy prickly-tongued Saaz-hopped leather-backed straw-dried Northern Light Ale, punctual red-fruited spice-tingled hop-embittered Frye’s Leap IPA, and nutty tea-like maple-hinted malt-spiced Boathouse Brown Ale, for openers.
Resinous chocolate-roasted cocoa-puffed nut-dried Retro Porter went nice with chocolate dessert. Caramel nut-spiced Slick Nick Winter Ale proved seasonally appropriate.
Bottled beers brewed in basement area and brought home for consumption were Sebago Bass Akwards Berry Blue, Sebago Frye’s Leap IPA, Sebago Hefe-Weizen, Sebago Lake Trout Stout, and Sebago Runaround Red (reviewed in Beer Index).
Portal to the northernmost Atlantic State, this hilly fishing village remains a time-honored outdoorsman paradise. I originally discovered several decent Gritty Mc Duff’s brews up there during daily excursion from Portsmouth base in March ’02. Priot to the trip, I’d already reviewed a few Sea Dog, Shipyard, Geary, and Belgian-styled Allagash brews beforehand (check Beer Index).
In October ’05, discovered fabulous RSVB on Forest Avenue, scoring Maine brews by Sheepscott, Bar Harbor, Atlantic, Mc Govern’s, Carrabassett, Sebago, and Casco Bay.
But my first stop on rainy autumn ’05 eve, GRITTY MC DUFF’S, located one block up from the wharf situated in historic ‘Old Port’ district, proved equally rewarding.
Beginning in ’88 as one of America’s first brewpubs, Gritty’s expanded in ’95 with a second bar in nearby Freeport, and recently added a third in Lewiston.
Opening to a bar lined with white novelty mugs that served on both sides, the red-brick Portland-based pub had right side dining, back porch patio seating, wooden tables-chairs, plus downstairs bar, rear kitchen, and brew tanks.
Pub chow included recommended marinated lamb. Tried nutty tingly-hopped mild ale Best Brown, nitro-injected citric-hopped phenol-spiced Halloween Ale, and mellow red-fruited bitter Pale Ale alongside lamb.
Buttery floral-citric English-styled Bitter was on the mark for hop-heads.
Durable nut-roasted, black coffee-enriched Black Fly Stout offered robust change of pace.
Seasonals to look for in future include Vacationland Summer Ale, Christmas Ale, Raspberry Wheat Ale, and Scottish Ale.