Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Category: Beer Adventures (Page 2 of 14)

Sebago Brewing Company – Bonfire Rye bridges summer and fall

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.


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.


How to survive your first Beer Blogger’s Conference

I have been lucky enough to have attended almost all of the Beer Blogger & Writer Conferences that have been held since they first began in 2010 – and I have learned a lot along the way. Because I’m kind of a “veteran” and there are new bloggers each year, I thought I’d take a minute to offer a few pieces of advice if this is your first go-around.

1. Go out of your way to meet new people.
My first blogger’s conference, I was star struck by a few people that I had been reading for years, and made a quick clique of folks that I sat near during the first session. While I am still friends with that small group to this day, when I remember back to the conference, I realize that I barely talked to anyone else throughout the rest of the conference. The following year, I tried a new tactic – every session, field trip, dinner – I made an effort to sit with people I hadn’t chatted with yet. And I had TONS more fun. People are interesting, and they are also interested in what you do and how you came to be sitting next to them. Trust me, I am not an extrovert (though I play one on the Internet) and this effort pays off. All you have to do is keep moving around the room.

No matter how many fests you have been to, or beers you’ve reviewed or checked in to, you probably won’t be prepared for the constant stream of beer that will come your way during this conference. There are educational sessions that will involve samples, beer dinners, and then bottles that people just happen to share at tables, on busses, and so on. It is constant. And if you accept and drink every single sample poured for you, you won’t be too happy of a camper by Saturday morning. It is okay not to finish a sample. Believe me, you will be judged less for leaving behind a “wounded soldier” than you will for becoming belligerent or hungover.

3. While we’re on the topic of hangovers – hydrate!
You made room for the bottles of beer your bringing, but scoot one over and pack a water bottle. Most conferences have had water around the room, but it’s easier to fill up a Nalgene once than a cup four or five times. Use it to cleanse your palate between samples, then take another round as insurance against hangovers. 99% of hangover ickiness is caused by dehydration, so it’s a really simple way to help you survive.

4. Charge everything. And bring all of your chargers. Check twice.
You’ll probably be Tweeting, Untapping, Facebooking and Instagramming, maybe even Vine-ing or Periscoping more furiously than you ever have before. Make sure you have juice, and bring the plug-in chargers with you to the conference itself (don’t leave them in your room). Often there are power strips at the table to help you charge up, but you’ve got to stay on top of it. Pro tip: Label your chargers with sharpie. Your iPhone charger looks like everyone else’s – especially after a few beers.

5. Don’t trust yourself to remember blog-worthy details.
“I’ll write about it later” will spell the death of the content for you if you think you can just recall all the details. The second year, I started taking notes using just ‘notepad’ on my laptop, but this year I’ve switched to Evernote and/or Google Keep. Write down beer names, details, key points, anything that you trust yourself to remember later, because those details fade very quickly after tightly-packed schedules.

6. We’re all basically equals here. Don’t be afraid!
There will be people at the conference who have been writing about beer for longer than you’ve been legally able to drink it. There will be some that just started their first podcast or blog only a few short months ago. But when we’re together, we’re all just people who are passionate about sharing our love for craft beer. So the fact that someone has a LOT more twitter followers than you, or that they’ve written a book shouldn’t give you any pause. When we walk in the room, we’re all there to learn and meet new people – and everyone is super happy to meet everyone else. 

Those are my best pieces of advice as a “veteran” of the conference. The conference will have social opportunities, learning moments, funny incidents, and of course, fantastic beer. It’s easy to make the most of it. And if you see me, please sit next to me. I’d love to hear your story too.

The Beer Babe

Adventures in fermentation at UFF and Maine Beer Company

Right now, I am sitting in my living room in a chair, with the small window-unit air conditioner aimed squarely at my back. The fact that my hair is blowing in my face as I am trying to type doesn’t phase me – at least the air blowing at me is cooler than the air in the rest of my apartment. So, when a friend came up to hang around in Portland for a visit this past Sunday which was just as hot, I knew that my usual routine of aimlessly wandering around the Old Port wouldn’t do.

After a delicious lunch at Duckfat, we decided to turn towards the Bayside neighborhood, since I knew Urban Farm Fermentory (UFF) would be open for tastings that day. On a normal day, this would have been no problem at all. However, as the hill crested and flattened, we began to wilt in the heat. Though high-spirited, our pace continued to slow as we oozed down the street. When we walked in, we were greeted by a friendly employee and a few folks waiting to take a tour. However, it was just as hot inside as it was outside.

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Tapping Portsmouth

I cannot even tell you how excited I am for this…

“Tapping Portsmouth” exhibit at Strawbery Banke Museum open daily May 1- October 31.

Tapping Portsmouth logo_1 copyPortsmouth, New Hampshire (April 10, 2013) – Four Portsmouth breweries – The Portsmouth Brewery, Redhook Brewery, Smuttynose Brewing Co., and Earth Eagle Brewings — are working together with Strawbery Banke Museum to present this year’s special exhibit, “Tapping Portsmouth: How the Brewing Industry Shaped the City,” opening May 1, with additional sponsorship from Kennebunk Savings Bank.

To celebrate both the extensive history of brewing in Portsmouth and the extraordinary conjunction of major breweries, brew pubs and home brewing styles and ingredients (including heritage plants, herbs and hops from Strawbery Banke) on the Seacoast, the brewers are creating three collaborative beers.
A Colonial-style ale, brewed at Earth Eagle, made from turnips, a splash of molasses and spruce tips.
An Industrial-era porter will be made at the Portsmouth Brewery with Strawbery Banke ginger and molasses.
A “super hoppy” IPA, Stride Wide Ale, at Redhook
Brewers Andy Schwartz (brewer and brand specialist for Craft Brew Alliance, Inc. at Redhook), Tyler Jones (The Portsmouth Brewery), JT Thompson (Smuttynose Brewing Co.) and Charlie Ireland (Smuttynose) got together at the Redhook test batch brewery at Pease International Tradeport on April 5th to start the Stride Wide Ale, using Australian and American hops and 175 pounds of malt. When the beer was knocked out it was run through more whole-leaf hops, in the hop-back at The Portsmouth Brewery. This special batch will be served on May 3 at a Museum event, open to the public.

“For these four breweries to collaborate was truly an historic event,” said “Tapping Portsmouth” exhibit creator and Museum Chief Curator Elizabeth Farish. The beer will be available to the public, sold by the growler, at Redhook, The Portsmouth Brewery and Earth Eagle Tastings and will be presented in a special Tasting event on Friday, May 3rd, 5-7 p.m. in Pitt Tavern and on the grounds of Strawbery Banke. Chefs Evan Mallett of the Black Trumpet, Susan Tuveson of the Acorn Kitchen and Brent Hazelbaker and Taylor Miller of The Green Monkey will create “small plate” offerings to complement the beers, using local ingredients and spring harvested herbs, lettuces and vegetables from the Museum gardens, under the direction of John Forti, Curator of Historic Landscapes and Slow Food Seacoast advocate. There will be informational booths and access to the “Tapping Portsmouth” exhibit throughout the event.

The Tapping Portsmouth Tasting event is open to the public over aged 21. Tickets are $40 ($35 for Strawbery Banke members) and are available online at the Strawbery Banke website.

Strawbery Banke Museum’s featured exhibit, “Tapping Portsmouth: How the Brewing Industry Shaped the City,” offers a pub crawl through 300 years of history as brewers and tavern keepers kept “something brewing” in Portsmouth, then and now. The exhibit is open daily, May 1 – October 31, 2013, seven days a week, 10 am to 5 pm through October 31st. For information, call 603-433-1100 or visit

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Strong Brewing Meets Fundraising Goal

You did it again! Strong Brewing Company (profiled in this post on the Portland Press Herald) successfully hit and exceeded their fundraising goal. 155 people pledged a total of $8385 to help this Sedgewick, ME brewery take its first step. Congratulations, Strong Brewing Co. and thanks to everyone that supported them!

Strong Brewing Company

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