Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

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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!

All the news that’s fit to drink

Originally published in the June 2016 issue of The Bollard


Last fall I wrote an article for a national beer magazine that provided a detailed itinerary for craft-beer enthusiasts visiting the Portland area {Protip: Read that first!}. I wrote it thinking the guide would also be useful to beer tourists arriving this summer, but so much has already changed. For example …

  • Bissell Brothers Brewing Company has left its nest amid the cluster of brewers on Industrial Way, in the Riverton area, and moved to Thompson’s Point, in Portland’s Libbytown neighborhood.
  • The space Bissell Brothers vacated will not remain empty for long. Neighboring Foundation Brewing Company plans to expand into that area. And on the back side of the same building, Austin Street Brewery has just completed a major increase in its production capacity, so they’re no longer the little kids on the block.
  • Steps away on Industrial Way, Allagash Brewing Company has introduced, for the first time in two years, a new beer to its lineup that will be available year-round: Sixteen Counties. A nod to the growing availability of local malted grains, all the malts and grains used to brew Sixteen Counties are sourced within the state of Maine. When you see this fruity and crisp beer on tap or in the cooler, I encourage you to try it.
  • Blue Ox Malthouse recently opened in Lisbon Falls. In addition to being a large-scale malting facility preparing grains for brewers, the warehouse is roomy enough to host bluegrass hoedowns, which will take place on a semi-regular basis this summer.
  • The “yEast Bayside” community in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood continues to grow. Rising Tide Brewing Company recently redesigned and expanded their tasting room, providing more space for seating and activities. And the Rising Tide beer formerly known only as Gose now has a new name, Pisces, and (much to my delight) is more regularly available. Don’t worry, hop fans, the highly sessionable Maine Island Trail Ale remains a summer staple.
  • Just around the corner from Rising Tide, on Anderson Street, new arrival Lone Pine Brewing Company now has a tasting room and is bottling their beer. Urban Farm Fermentory, also on Anderson, just got approved to start brewing beer in their space, in addition to the ciders and kombucha UFF produces. They plan to offer gruits, which are beers brewed with herbs other than hops to bitter them. And yet another brewery in the neighborhood, a nano-size enterprise called One Eye Open, is preparing for a mid-summer debut on Fox Street.
  • Rick Binet, co-founder of The King’s Head craft-beer pub on Commercial Street, has opened a new place in the Old Port, on Wharf Street, called Portland Mash Tun. The small but cozy spot boasts a robust tap list, to which Binet plans to soon add beers from his own nano-brewery on the premises.
  • Speaking of new bars, there’s now a craft-beer gastropub inside Whole Foods! [Hannah Joyce McCain reviewed the food in this issue.] The Somerset Tap House pours 24 mostly Maine-centric selections, with a few beers from other New England states peppered in. I found it a little weird to watch people shop for groceries while I sipped beer at the bar, but appreciated that the atmosphere inside the pub was quiet enough to carry on a conversation.
  • There’s action across the harbor, as well. The new Fore River Brewing Company is South Portland’s first brewery. Located on Huntress Avenue, Fore River has a decent amount of room for groups to sit and sample their brews. It’s also one of the only tasting rooms in Maine that regularly serves at least one beer on a nitrogen-based tap. And just over the Casco Bay Bridge, in SoPo’s Knightville neighborhood, a second beer-maker, Foulmouthed Brewing, is preparing to open a brewpub on Ocean Street in the coming months.

I hope this list helps you catch up on the happenings in the local beer industry since last fall. I’m sure that by the time this issue hits the streets there’ll be more Maine brewery news to report. It’s almost impossible to keep up with all the new brewers and expansions, but that’s a great problem to have.

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