What is there for a beer adventurer to do in Maine? Isolated in the northernmost and easternmost corner of the US of A, and bereft of any major cities, Maine is nationally known more for antique stores, funny accents and lobster than great craft beer.
For the beer traveler, there are several established breweries and several more on their way. Shipyard Brewing (and Sea Dog) is perhaps the most well-known and commercially obvious with a fine line-up of beers of differing styles. I had the pleasure of visiting several different kinds of Maine breweries on this trip, with noteworthy visits to Allagash Brewing Company, Rising Tide Brewing and the Sebago Brewery in Old Port.
Allagash Brewing Company
Allagash Brewing Company started in 1995, as a one-man operation (Rob Tod) in a small space on the outskirts of Portland, Maine.He designed a small 15-barrel brewhouse, gathered the finest array of authentic raw materials and began his quest towards the production of traditional Belgian style ales.
Rob sold his first batch of beer in the summer of 1995, with the first release of Allagash White, modeled after the traditional “White” beers of Belgium.
Some of the blogger’s boarded a bus and headed out to visit Allagash Brewing and Rising Tide Brewing before the scheduled events at Cabot Creamery and Sebago Brewing. We took a pretty great tour through the 60,000 barrel/yr Allagash brewery and got some insider tastes of experimental brews not yet released.
Rising Tide Brewing
Rising Tide opened its doors in October of 2010 as a nano-brewery hand crafting ales in 40 gallon batches. They are now brewing on a new 15 barrel brewhouse in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood. Their fairly hoppy array of beers include:
- SPINNAKER, Hefeweizen
- DAYMARK, Rye Pale Ale
- MAINE ISLAND TRAIL ALE, Hoppy Session Ale
- ISHMAEL, Copper Ale
- CALYPSO, Single hop Saison
- LYRA, Cabernet Barrel Aged Saison
- HEY BUDDY, Hoppy Dark Wheat
Cabot Creamery Beer and Cheese Pairing
The bloggers were treated to a very special evening of beer and cheese tasting at the Cabot Creamery. A wide variety of cheeses were paired with some excellent beers from Geary Brewing Company. My personal favorite was the tomato/basil paired with the London Porter.
Sebago Brewing Company
Established in 1998, Sebago Brewing Company has a full line of year-round craft beers, five seasonal beers, and several limited edition “Single Batch Series” beers throughout the year including Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout, Dark Wheat Project, Barleywine, and Milestone Ale. They are brewed with all American malt, hops and crisp water from Maine’s Sebago Lake.
A special treat this evening was a very tasty Citra Saaz Down IPA made in large part by three Maine-based beer bloggers, Chad Lothian, Carla Companion and Benjamin Moore,. We were hosted by the brewery’s own Kai Adams who gave us a great welcome and introduced the evenings fare.
First up was a Frye’s Leap IPA to get the taste buds awake. As we got settled in they brought out some flatbread toppped with brie, apple and carmelized onion, served with a Patersbier.
Patersbier – for those of you who, like me, have no clue what a Patersbier is – is based on one of the rarest beers in the world. It was originally brewed in the Belgian town Malle solely for consumption by the reverent Cistercian brothers. Made only from pilsner malt, hops, and yeast, the complexity that results from these simple ingredients is staggering: perfumey floral hops, ripe pear fruit, sour apple, spicy cloves, candied citrus and a slight biscuit character on the drying finish. So now we all know.
We all shouted “Down The Hole” in unison as we drank, chewed, swallowed a shrimp shooter with a Sebago Summer Seasonal Hefeweizen. I have had oyster shooters before but this was the first time I have ever seen it done with shrimp. If you want to try this at home, it is just about a quarter-inch of cocktail sauce with hefeweizen in a shot glass. Add a large shrimp (aka prawn) and let the fun begin. Down the hole!
We also were treated to a yet to be released Bonfire Rye, which will becoming out this Fall. The food paired with it was a BBQ glazed pork wing garnished with Chipolte Slaw. The BBQ sauce was made with Sebago’s Lake Trout Stout, a very fine brew all on its own.
After dinner we adjourned to The Thirsty Pig, your basic beer and hot dog pub. It had some taps of local beers and bottles from the normal places around the country.