To be in Portland during the summer is to experience the full spectrum of sound. It’s fireworks and the echoes of waterfront concerts, and it’s the gentle lapping of water against a pier and the soft rustle of a kite lazily swooping through the air above the Prom.
Many of my favorite Maine beers can be similarly categorized. Some are bold and celebratory in flavor, announcing their character in shouts. Others require a quiet moment to appreciate, and are best enjoyed while contemplatively gazing at a sunset or a campfire.
Baxter Bootleg Fireworks
A double IPA (DIPA) is the apex of hopped beers; many brewers sacrifice some balance to put the hops more fully into the spotlight. But this beer manages to keep its high alcohol content (9%), hops and body in harmony. It’s slightly thinner in mouthfeel than your typical DIPA, which makes it easier to drink more quickly. For that reason, I do not recommend pairing it with actual fireworks. Best to leave that to the sober professionals.
Bissell Brothers Lux
Rye is an alternative grain that is used in conjunction with barley to change the texture of a beer. It can also impart a slight spiciness. Lux, a rye IPA, combines a very tropical hop lineup with the rye grain to make this memorable, richly flavored hop bomb.
Sebago Whistle Punk
Another DIPA, Whistle Punk manages to bring more fruit flavors into a beer than I thought possible (without actually adding fruit to the glass). The aroma of pineapple, grapefruit and citrus is so strong that it emanates from the can before you’ve even poured the beer, though the beer itself is hearty enough to hold its own in the face of all that fruit flavor.
Banded Horn Greenwarden
Greenwarden is a “spruce beer” brewed with painstakingly harvested spruce tips that grow for a very short time at the beginning of summer. Used as a bittering agent, these tips bring a bright, piney bite to this beer that can be refreshing, but can sometimes overwhelm its pale ale base.
Allagash Little Brett
The Brettanomyces yeast used to make this beer gives it a dry texture and funky flavor. The dryness keeps it light, and the complexity is such that this beer plays out a little differently on the tongue with each sip. Not to be consumed quickly, Little Brett is well suited for lazy days in the lawn chair.
Austin Street Patina Pale Ale
I have something of an obsession with this beer. If I see it on a menu I nearly always order it, but I tend to enjoy it the most when I know I won’t be distracted while drinking it. There’s something in its malt bill that gives Patina a dry and remarkably delicate character despite the wave of citrusy hops that appears in the middle of each sip. Lovely.
Allagash Brewing Company arguably put wheat-forward beers on the map with their flagship White, but Gneiss Brewing Company (in Limerick, Maine) has something more to say on the matter. Their Weiss is a straw-colored beauty with all of the right aromas (banana, cloves) and a traditional taste that rivals that of its better-known Bavarian counterparts (like the popular Weihenstephaner brand from Munich).
Maine Beer Company Peeper Ale
I always feel a little bad for Peeper. Its big brothers, Lunch and Dinner, get all the attention and shady Craigslist re-sales, while this beautifully crafted ale stands steadily in the shadows. If you’re looking for a beer that’s not bold but still tickles your tastebuds with some hops, Peeper Ale is the one for you. It’s not a summer ale, specifically (yet another reason it gets overlooked), but it gets along with everyone in all seasons.
Your best opportunity this month to find the beers to match your summer moments is the Maine Brewers’ Guild Beer Festival, which takes place July 23 on Thompson’s Point, in Portland. Maine’s craft beer showcase, this fest is a must for anyone interested in what’s happening in the state’s thriving brewing scene these days. Tickets and more info at MaineBrewersGuild.org.