This past weekend, Sebago Brewing Company hosted a group of fifty beer bloggers and writers as part of a Beer Blogger’s Conference taking part in Portland and Boston, MA. Sebago Brewing sponsored a well-organized and impressive beer pairing event, to the delight of bloggers. The last pairing in the lineup was a surprise, as it came with Sebago’s new seasonal release the Bonfire Rye. Not officially released until the beginning of August, this beer was given to us as a sneak peek before being released to the public.

The label – which I assume is an example of the look and feel of the redesign – has a bonfire graphic element laid upon an edited photo of several friends sitting down in front of a bonfire behind that, an iconic summer scene. Well done.

It pours a dark copper, with a red undertone, with the color of the beer complemented by the new bottle labels. The aroma is of slightly spicy hops, but without a citrus or grassy feeling. It is very inviting, and not at all intimidating from a hoppiness perspective.

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The taste struck me right away as something different than Sebago had brewed previously, as well as something different from other seasonals available in Maine. It is definitely a beer full of flavor, but somehow it is executed in a very balanced package. In addition there is an earthiness to it that comes in towards the end of the pleasantly-balanced hop profile that just adds a final complement to the flavor.

Described by owner Kai Adams as a beer that could “bridge” the seasons of summer and fall – this one is neither too sweet nor too earthy to be inappropriate for either season. One could imagine that it would even work in winter. At 5.7% ABV, this is also one that could go with – as suggested – friends and a bonfire, without worrying too much about things getting out of hand.

Bonfire Rye will officially be released on August 1st, and will be celebrated by a patio party at each of the Sebago Brewing locations starting at 4pm. This is a great chance to see the new face of Sebago, as well as to sample the town’s newest brew.

While you’re there, check out this year’s Hop Swap – a beer that changes its hop profile each year and is built on a malt base that stays the same. Hop Swap impressed me this year, and I greatly prefer it to last year’s which was a little bit thin, but still packed with hop flavor.