I didn't pay as much attention to Shipyard Brewing as I usually do when I visit Maine. Maybe because they are now a mini-regional I can get their brews at the Galeville Grocery two hours away. A few years ago, as I went on a bit about back here as I reviewed the IPA, mein host and I got a personal tour of the waterfront brewing operation from the brewmaster who happened to be around on a Saturday afternoon. The brewing is based around huge steel yorkshire square primary fermenters, thick blurping and blopping foam keeping the open air from the pure brewificating fluid below. The smell was a boozey bakery.
Two tough characters, a college prof and a wild boar...
I know which I'd rather fight.
On this trip I think I only had one ale in addition to the two I brought back above - Shipyard's Blue Fin stout, as this was a journey to the dark irish side of Maine as far as I can tell. I had it at the Beale Street BBQ in South Portland and the Blue Fin was exactly right for its crusted juicey meats. A mocha pin tight head and a chocolate aroma turned into unsweetened chocolate cream. It was drier than the Gritty's stout of the day before with a subdued burnt grain tone. Mainly minty hops as is the classic style but also with some green.
I picked up a quart each of the Chamberlain Pale Ale and the Old Thumper Extra Special Ale. I love the Chamberlain and would if only for the man it celebrates, Maine's academic civil war hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain who was remembered in Steve Earle's 1999 song "Dixieland". The Old Thumper is named after a wild murderous pig. I'd want to be on the Chamberlain side any day.
The Chamberlain Pale Ale poured a light beige rocky head with butterscotch aroma. It was bright with lively carbonation, the first taste sweet caramel perfectly balanced with prudent twiggy hops. The fruit malt was big upfront with notes of strawberry, almond, apricot and cherry opening to a refreshing middle, tangy yeast standing up prominently in the long quality finish. This bomber was fresh, sparking a loud decapping leaving heavy foaming lace down the glass side. After, I realized how much the fruit acid and sweet biscuit reminded me of an empire biscuit - that old fashioned shortbread cherry iced cookie.
Compared to the Chamberlain, Shipyard's Old Thumper, brewed under arrangement with a UK brewer, is reticent in its malty fruit - even though there is still a touch of orange marmalade and, again, that bright acidic strawberry note. It pours lively with a whiter head and speaks mostly to fresh French bread. The yeast is creamier with a slight smokey tang providing a less open and watery finish. The mid-palate crest of hops is richly elegant. Warmth in the long finish tips scales with a discrete bite of hops on the tip of your tongue. I could move house to get closer to this ale.