Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Category: Beer Reviews (Page 4 of 55)

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 6.02.45 PM

Summer Session from Peak Organic Brewing

Many craft brewers have acknowledged the role that seasons play in the styles of beer that they brew, and summer is no exception. With the increase of the number of brands and individual beers available, I have been remiss in keeping up with all of the options available for summer beer enjoyment – and Peak Summer Session is one that I recently tried that is worth adding to your list.

Peak, like many other breweries, has several beers that they release only seasonally, and their summer beer is named, simply, “Summer Session Ale.”


Peak Summer Session Ale. Photo courtesy of Peak Organic Brewing Company.

Session beer is described as beer that is low in alcohol (though definitions vary, typically under 4.5% ABV), and thus you can safely have more than one in a “session” of beer drinking. While this beer comes in at 5% ABV, it is still low enough in alcohol to fit the idea of a session beer.

Peak Summer Session is described as a “summer wheat beer that marries a West Coast pale ale.” It contains locally grown wheat, and is dry hopped with Amarillo hops – not a typical combination. The beer is a clear but slightly golden color, and pours out beautifully.

The aroma of this beer delivers the hop’s citrus character without apology. I found myself double-checking whether lemon was an added ingredient or not – it wasn’t.

The taste is a very interesting combination that works. There is a lot of the wheat character to the body of this beer. The sweetness carries through, and then the citrus and lemony attributes come back at the back end. The best part is that it is simply refreshing, completely hitting the spot on a hot day, in a back yard, or while watching (hopefully legal) fireworks while at camp.

Tasting this made me wonder how many other summer beers I might have missed lately. When a lot of things are being released in large-format bottles, it is easy to miss some excellent beers sitting on the shelf in a six pack. I encourage you to seek out a few of these beers – there might be some gems right under your nose.


So, I’ve been Drink’n and Think’n

I was lucky enough to be invited on a Maine-based beer podcast called Drink’n Think’n. Ben, Ryan and Tony were amazing to chat with, and we shared a lot of beer (and non beer) geekery together.

Topics of discussion included (but was definitely not limited to): Guinness floats (spoiler alert: yum), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, lobster doughnuts, women and beer, and fireworks. I had a lot of fun with it and I hope you enjoy listening. There is some profanity in the podcast, so that’s my official warning on that. :)

You can listen to the episode here: Drink’n Think’n Episode 32



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.

[Read More]


What is Kombucha?

So, while I may have spent an exorbitant amount of time learning about beer and beer styles, I admit that I never came across the word Kombucha until a few weeks ago. Or maybe I had seen it and just not thought it was relevant. But when I was at a local beer store, looking into their cooler at a row of glass bottles from Urban Farm Fermentory – one caught my eye that had lots of words I didn’t know on it.

“Urban Farm Fermentory – Kombucha Culture – Chaga Chai” the bottle said.

“Handcrafted. Bottle Conditioned. Gluten Free. Keep Refrigerated. 500 ML. 1.5% ALC By Vol.”

I stared at the label and thought two things. First, this I wouldn’t be staring at this bottle in the middle of the beer/mead/wine section if it didn’t belong in that general category. Second, I like chai tea so I thought I’d bring it home and figure out what it’s all about later.

Well after some Googling I found out the answer. Kombucha is a beverage made from fermented tea, that contains live yeasts and bacteria and creates its own carbonation. So it’s in the family of fermented beverages. Typically, it is served with the actual culture still intact (think that kind of film that forms on the top of a glass of juice when you leave it out for a few days… if you are squeamish you’ll want to skip searching Google Images for this, trust me). Chaga, on the other hand, is a type of fungus that grows only on Birch trees, and has purported health benefits.

So far I’ve gathered that it’s fermented tea with fungus inside. Sounds delicious! Always up for an adventure, I decided to crack this open and give it a shot.

It pours a tea color, but with some definite carbonation present. The big bubbles almost spit at the top of the glass (like a great Czech pilsner would) and the smell is unique. It definitely has a little tea flavor, but I’m hit mostly with an acetic acid (vinegar) and almost an apple undertone. Not having any idea what this should smell like, I just dove in for a sip.

I was pleasantly surprised – the taste was a lot more like cider than I imagined it would be. There was a tight tartness – the kind that dries out your mouth a little like vinegar. But the tartness was mellowed by a bunch of spice notes – almost like the spices that would accompany a spiced chai latte. I ended up describing it as a “tart apple cider with a little bit of chai spice” when I had to fit its description into a 140-character-or-less statement. I would try it again if offered, and if nothing else it was an interesting learning experience. Also, with under 2% alcohol, you could probably drink this for breakfast.

Now, Urban Farm Fermentory is also well known for their ciders – and I had the opportunity to try their Hopped Cidah as well. This one is a little more familiar in appearance and in taste. It pours a beautiful straw yellow that’s cloudy with big bubbles. The aroma is all fresh apples and the taste takes on a very earthy characteristic – like you’ve just eaten a big part of a fresh McIntosh apple peel. The earthiness is probably due to the Cascade hops, and it adds an interesting element to it. This is not a “hoppy” cider, particularly, but the hops bring a nice new dynamic to something you might be used to.

Urban Farm Fermentory (also known as UFF) is part of the “yEast Bayside” community that includes Rising Tide Beer, Bunker Brewing, Maine Craft Distilling and Tandem Coffee Roasters. The area there seems to be rich for collaboration, experimentation, and community-focused endeavors. I can only wait with anticipation to see what else comes out of this blossoming area.


Rising Tide – Maine Island Trail Ale (MITA)

Every summer I take a vacation with a friend to Vinalhaven Island – the highlight of which is usually kayaking around the inlets and tiny islands and hanging out with eagles, seals and the sights and sounds that make summer sing with life. I am grateful for the opportunity to do this, but also grateful that the coast of Maine has stayed mostly natural, and that there are so many Mainers that are fighting to protect its beauty. The Maine Island Trail Association (MITA) has been working for 25 years to create sustainable ways that people can enjoy Maine’s islands and waters without leaving a harmful impact. Through partnerships with private landowners and public lands, MITA created the first ever water-trail – The Maine Island Trail – stretching 375 miles and including almost 200 islands.

In support of this effort, Rising Tide Brewing Company endeavored to create a beer for summer that would capture a little bit of the feeling of summer in Maine, and also contribute to MITA’s goals of coastal stewardship. To do this, Maine Island Trail Ale was created, and portions of the proceeds from the sale go back to MITA. Making its debut (very appropriately) at Portland Greendrinks, the beer has been well-received – so I went to grab a bottle of its second batch that was released this week.

The bottle is pretty – and features a map of the trail on top. The beer is a session pale ale with an ABV of 4.3% – so this is no alcohol bomb, and can easily be consumed on a relaxing summer evening. It pours a thin copper color with terrific pine and citrus aroma. The beer features Simcoe and Citra hops (two of my favorites) and they are the ones bringing the delightful whiffs of forests and fruit to my nose.

The hops make this one quite “zippy” (at least that’s the word that sprung to mind when I sampled it) and are in no way heavy-handed. There is plenty of citrus in the taste, and it comes off with a very summery feeling. The mouthfeel on the Maine Trail Ale is also pleasantly light. It is a refreshing alternative to those that can coat the tongue with their sticky or resinous feel. This is a beer that would be excellent for a really hot day – lots of flavor without weighing you down. It has a very approachable hop profile to it, and I’d say it might even be a good one to use to get a friend to “test the waters” of hoppy beer while keeping one foot in the familiar.

This is the second beer in Rising Tide’s collaboration series, and I am hopeful that they will continue finding place in the community to participate like this. It is one thing as a brewery to state that you are committed to building community, it is another thing entirely to actually engage with the issues that matter to your customers and to your local area. Rising Tide has accepted this challenge with pride – and I think that their commitment to finding ways to help is worth a toast. Cheers to that!

Page 4 of 55

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén