I first encountered the Maine Beer Company’s Spring Peeper at the Maine Beer Festival’s Beer Pairing Dinner. The two brothers and owners of the brewery, Dan & David, sat at a panel and quietly and humbly described their beer. My first impression was that this barely-bigger-than-nano-brewery might have felt a little uneasy sharing a table with Alan Pugsley (Shipyard) and Kai Adams (Sebago) for the first time. They seemed a little star-struck, but remained honest and likeable. At dinner, the beer was paired with a wonderful goat cheese and spicy greens salad – fabulous. I resolved that I ‘d find out more about this beer and the guys from The Maine Beer Company.
Now easily found in Portland, ME (get the bottles at at Novare Res, Whole Foods, or anywhere else they sell beer from Maine) their first beer has become a rapid success – and is talked about a lot. My beer geek friends keep asking me, “have you had this Spring Peeper beer? It’s awesome.” I talk a lot about this beer, and I figured it was time for a proper review. When I picked up a bottle at Whole Foods, I also nabbed one of the last few bottles of their newest beer, Zoe to try as well.
Spring Peeper: This is described on the simple label as “handcrafted american ale, pleasant malt body, 100% American hops.” It pours a cloudy light orange, with a soapy head. I was pleasantly surprised to see a cloudy pale ale, and its smell was very inviting. It smelled like hops, but of sweet and fruity hops. It smelled light, like a cool summer’s night. This is not your typical hoppy beer, nor is it something forgettable and light. The taste on this one is different than anything out there – and certainly anything in Maine. Its complex but really satisfying. The hops are balanced by light malts, and there’s a lot going on here. Not syrupy/malty like a 90 minute IPA from Dogfish Head, this has a light, but not watery finish. Honestly I can’t even describe it. Its different in a lot of ways. I’ve used this as a beer to introduce people to hops, and they love it. I honestly wish it came in 6 packs so it could become my go-to beer. And I’m probably not the only one. On Ratebeer.com, it currently has a score of 92 – which is quite a feat for a brewery’s first offering. Go get this beer – you’ll definitely like it. It has a little bit of spiciness to it that made it pair well with the spicy salad, but I think I could drink this with anything. It’s a definite winner.
Zoe – I was happy to see this at the Brattleboro Beer Fest – because I’d heard about it but hadn’t run across it yet. For good reason, it turns out – the beer has a really limited distribution, and can sometimes be found at certain beer stores around Porland but no guarantees. The bottle has a cute smiley face logo on it, and is described simply as “our happy, hoppy amber ale.” I was surprised by the dark color – someone on ratebeer described it as root beer colored, and I’d say that’s a pretty good description. The smell is all hops – like citrus, bitterness, and almost a resin – like fresh pine sap. The taste reminds me of trying my recently homebrewed IPA wort. Hoppy and bitter up front, but with a sweetness kicking in late. This is a flavorful, but drinkable hoppy beer. There’s a lot there – but it doesn’t kill your taste buds like a Stone Ruination. You do remember that you’ve sipped it – the hops coat your mouth and you can lick it off your lips for hours. I finished this beer and wanted another. A great hoppy beer – something that I’m struggling to find a comparison to on this coast. Very nice, and worth hunting down.
In addition to being two cool guys who love great beer, the brothers have decided that a part of their profit goest to environmental organizations – part of the 1% for the Planet campaign.
If you’re living in Maine and haven’t heard of the Maine Beer Company, you’ve been missing out. If you’re living outside of Maine, you’re going to be hearing about these guys soon. But for now, its our favorite little story of the garage-brewers-gone-big. Cheers!