So, in keeping with my promise from earlier in the season, I’ve got a pair of blueberry beers to review to celebrate summer with. After the fourth of july and the ever-increasing heat, I keep thinking about blueberries – specifically wild Maine blueberries fresh from the vine.
In New England, several (many) breweries offer a blueberry brew – if you have an abundance of a great local ingredient… why not play with it? One of the following brews hails from Maine, another from Portsmouth, both different and interesting points on the blueberry ale spectrum. (to check out another, read my posting on my favorite blue brew wild blueberry wheat ale… bluepaw.)
The first is Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale (Atlantic Brewing Company) – which hails from bar Harbor Maine. The label claims that it is “American’s Original Blueberry Ale”. It is an ale based brew which is different than the taste of a blueberry wheat. I’ve found that ale based blueberry beers tend to have a tarter, more subtle taste than their wheat beer counterparts.
With this one, you know they ‘re using wild blueberries because you can smell it, but when you taste it, it comes out in the end mostly, and tastes a little better not so cold. It isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, which is a good point in its favor. However, this isn’t ‘blueberries for dummies.’ It takes a bit of concentration to pick out the fruit’s flavor within this one, but it’s a refreshing ale none the less. Not the best blueberry ale I’ve tried, but certainly nothing to sneeze at. I also respect (as always) the use of local ingredients. I actually recently heard that if you’re eating a blueberry at any time, anywhere in the world, there’s a 1/4 chance that it’s from Maine. Cool, eh?
The second I actually had on tap, straight from the draft. It was in Portsmouth, NH at the Portsmouth Brewery. (For all you brew fanatics, its the same brewery that Kate the Great hails from.) A few friends and I stopped by to grab a pint, and we picked various beers that we hadn’t tried. I saw ‘bluebeery’ on the chalkboard and got one delivered to me with five fresh huge blueberries dancing in the carbonation. The color of this brew was an amazing purpley red, probably from the blueberries in it. When I tasted it, I was expecting to be knocked over with blueberry, considering the color. But I was surprised by the thin and not overly sweet taste. The base of this brew is definitely an ale, which takes away a little sweetness. The blueberry flavor itself in it tastes like they are wild and tart, a great contrast to the ones that taste like the are sugared. The balance and subtlety of this brew is actually quite pleasant. It is nice occasionally to have a good non-traditional brew that isn’t just a novelty. I could see myself drinking a few of these in a row – which I can’t say for most blueberry ales. So, it’s a good pick for the blueberry ale category.
For my own sanity, I created the chart below. Because there are really four attributes of blueberry beer : sweetness vs. tartness and strong blueberry flavor vs. subtle hints of blueberry. I don’t think its perfect but I think I’ll keep adding to it if I review additional blue brews.