Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Category: Maine Beer (Page 1 of 31)

The Loud and Quiet Beers of Portland Summer

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.

The Loud

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.

The Quiet

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.

Gneiss Weiss

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.

Everything Else

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.

Brewers-Guild

 

Photo Gallery: Bissell Brothers New Location @ Thompson’s Point

Bissell Brothers opened their new taproom at Thompson’s Point this weekend. I stopped by to check out the new space and some beer. Enjoy!

Above the Fruited Pint

Published in the May 2016 issue of The Bollard


Years ago, if you ordered a brew made with fruit, or even allowed a slice to garnish the rim of your glass, you risked being the subject of ridicule for being “girly.” There was a stigma that bordered on sexism (and homophobia) attributed to fruit beers. They were considered the alternative for people who didn’t like the taste of “real beer.”

Fast forward to 2016. I’m standing in a beer store, staring at a wall of six-packs chilling in the cooler. As I watch other beer-savvy customers make their selections, I notice a trend. You can see it right on the labels: fruit.

Most of the fruit beers popular in Maine these days are brewed in other states. Ballast Point, a brewery in San Diego that recently began distributing here, brought a portfolio of India Pale Ales flavored with pineapple, grapefruit, and even Habenero peppers. Samuel Adams, in Boston, makes a Grapefruit IPA (given the manly name Rebel), as does Vermont’s Magic Hat Brewing Co., which dubbed theirs Electric Peel. Harpoon, another famous Boston brewery, has a new mango-flavored pale ale called Camp Wannamango.

What’s behind the revival, or redemption, of fruit beers? It can be partly attributed to the popularity of more fruit-forward hops. Many of the hops used to make some of the juiciest IPAs (like the East Coast–style IPAs developing in our region) produce aromas and flavors similar to those of tropical fruits, so the addition of the same is complementary.

The obsession with hops that accompanied the IPA craze has made it possible for guys to order a pineapple-flavored beer at a crowded bar without a hint of embarrassment. And brewers of the best varieties now eschew fake flavorings in favor of fresh fruits or purées that give their beers a bright character. The improvement in taste has been dramatic.

So why aren’t more Maine breweries riding this gushing wave? Well, we aren’t exactly in the tropics, and Maine brewers love to keep it local when sourcing their ingredients, so grapefruit and pineapple are out. But Maine does have a bounty of berries, especially blackberries, raspberries and, of course, the blue ones.

The first blueberry beer in Maine was brewed in 1993 by Atlantic Brewing Company. According to legend, it was inspired by the time a farmer showed up at their Bar Harbor brew pub desperate to unload a truck full of his crop. Atlantic’s Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale, which is a little less sweet than many of its imitators, has since become a Maine staple.

More recently, local brewers have been using berries to boldly go beyond sweetness, into tart and sour territories. Liquid Riot’s Rasby Trouble is a twist on a traditionally sour Belgian style, called Oud Bruin (or Old Brown). The raspberries add a welcome tartness to what can be a slightly acidic-tasting brown ale.

The funk masters at Allagash Brewing Company also use fruit in creative ways. Their Farm to Face ale is made with heaps of fresh peaches (three pounds per gallon) from an orchard in New Hampshire. Little Sal, a clever play on the title of the classic children’s book Blueberries for Sal, was a sour red beer made with blueberries grown in Windham. Beers in Allagash’s wild-fermented Coolship series have been flavored with cherries and raspberries.

The influx of fruited beers from away may swamp the local market this summer, but Maine brewers have the berries, the brains and the bravery necessary to battle back with homegrown varieties that are just as good and even more interesting. The smart money is still on the locals.

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