You will see below that Knut has posted about seagull eggs and beer in Norway but I just realized he has his own beer blog. It is in English and looks quite snazzy.
Gritty McDuff's Brewpub, Portland
I got to visit both the Portland and Freeport locations of the oldest brewpub in Maine within 24 hours. I am glad to say the brew in each is fine even if the setting of the Freeport pub is a bit rough. It is a bit like drinking in an old storage shed though - to be very fair - it is clearly a summer spot and dropping in during a late winter snow storm did not show it to its best. I liked the food in both spots. If I was in Freeport again I probably would stop in for a stout but if you are heading to visit just one, go to Portland. In each you can see bench seating which is fairly common in New England and Atlantic Canada but less so as you move west.
So definitely worth the visit for the ales, Portland for the ales and the location. Gritty's also bottles its own - or at least has it contract brewed somewhere - which you can pick up pretty much anywhere in southern Maine. I think I brought a quart of Black Fly home for further study. Below are some shots from the Freeport location which you can click on for a larger view.
Spring has come to the Northern hemisphere - it is even approaching the Arctic coast of Northern Norway. This means it is almost time for a seasonal delicacy in these parts: beer and seagull's eggs. The eggs are gathered in late April/ early May, and are mostly eaten by the locals; though it is available is shops and restaurants in the region and in Oslo, too, if you know where to look. The eggs have a strong flavour, and are best eaten hard boiled with a pinch of salt or maybe a slice of smoked salmon.
The traditional beer to drink with this delicacy is a pilsner from Mack's, an old family brewery located in TromsÃ¶. They claim to be the northernmost brewery in the world, and who am I to dispute this? Their main product is their Mack pils, which I feel is a bit too malty for my taste, but the eggs have a quite strong flavour in themselves, so this is not the time for a more sophisticated beer anyway. Mack brew several other pilsner type beers as well, and additionally have some seasonal beers, of which the Christmas beer is the most interesting.
If you want to taste this combination of beer and eggs, you should hurry up. The Norwegian government have issued warnings about the consumption of seagull's eggs, as they are contaminated by PCB and dioxins. Children and pregnant women should avoid them completely; others should limit their consumption to a few eggs during the season. Even the fish in these waters, far away from the industrialized areas on the European continent, have enough poison to seriously affect the seagulls and their eggs. This does not mean much to an occasional visitor, but for the locals, who have used these eggs both as a staple food and as a nice way of earning an extra income; it is the end of a way of life.
This is a smooth cream stout that goes off in a direction that I just don't quite get. A beige ring over really dark black ale. It has chocolate, licorice and roast barley notes but also a somewhat odd Mennonite apple butter thing in the middle. Not unpleasant but really big and malty like you might expect in an imperial stout but this brew has none of the whallop one of those packs. If it was called porter I would not be surprised either but it still wouldn't be right. Am I a stylistic prude?
Neat to see these guys brew six different stouts...but none called Fresh Draught Stout. Maybe its the Black Irish Stout as one beer advocate notes that it has an "agreeably lithe fruitiness of a vaguely pruneish nature emerges mid palate and lends a blurred bitter cocoa dusted dark fruit contrast." Wheee-yew! And I thought I was a ripe little adjective squeezer.
From Baaah Haaabaaah, State O'Maine. Something like $5.65 US a half gallon at RSVP Liquors in Portland Maine.
We stop in Holyoke as our half way point between Maine and home. Last year at a gas station I saw in the beer fridge one of the Paper City Brewing Company's ales and I recalled I liked it. This year I headed into town and found a variety twelve pack for 13.50 USD.
As I have said before, these variety packs are the best way for a brewer to get a fan base as you get to know the product without a great outlay. I look for them when travelling and this is one of three I picked up duing my week in New England. One hint - if you are not sure of your stock, a brewer ought to go with a 4 variety selection. The brave go with two bottles of six types. Sometimes this can mean you show your weak hand, as with Cooperstown, but Paper City is one of the brave and rightly so. In fact, this brewery does more than a few things right and really deserves to be better known:
- Cabot Street Wheat: [click right for detail] This brew pours whipped egg white head, golden colour with a real lean towards a yellow tinge. A hefe-weizen which is light, crisp and fresh. The homage to this south German beer, under its clean green grassy wheat, leans more to the banana side of the spectrum rather than the clove. The hops have a rough edge which balance off well. The yeast is traditional hefe-weizen, an unfiltered reminder being left in the bottle. This is a vastly superior product to the eastern Mass. version produced by Sam Adams.
- Dorado Lager: Holyoke has a significant latin presence and having a cervesa on its repetiore means Paper City is paying attention. This lager is fruity in the peachy/orange range with a slight astringent adge which neatly cuts its biggish rich malty mouthfeel. It is a denial of the tedious thin sway of pilsner on the lager market and it is masterful in doing so.
- Nut Brown Ale: This is a favorite style of mine and one not done well usually. Paper City almost pulls it off. I'd call their effort a good decent nut brown. It is definitely not a US brown as it leads with the malt and not the hops. The yeast, however, is a bit out of balance and does not support the nuttiness of the grain which should be a hallmark of this moreish style. I am guessing that was created to be served cold which would cause the yeastiness to recede but also cause the nuttiness to hide as well. There is chocolate and something of the chalky side I like in a nut brown but it is all a slight bit out of balance.
- Riley's Stout: The day and the day before I had this beer I also had Gritty's Black Fly Stout. Standing up to that competition is a great claim to fame and Paper City has earned it. They are not exactly of the same sort, however, the offering from Gritty being a creamy stout from heavy reliance on rolled barley in the mash tun. Riley's Stout would be rich rather than creamy with a good claim to the classic black malt burned toast theme. It is tempered, however, by chocolate malt and a well balanced use of the minty hop Northern Brewer to create a very nice medium bodied stout. The head pours rocky and tan, hanging on and on to the side of the glass. The yeast is clean and supportive and all in all I am reminded of a lighter version Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout. Worthy.
- Banchee Extra Pale Ale: this straw coloured ale has a white fine rocky head and smells like sweet orange blossom. The malt is fruity with green and slightly astringent hops over a light but grainy brew. Very nice.
- Goats Peak Bock Spring Lager: I really like this lager...and that's sure something I never thought I would ever write. It has a big malty profile - more like a marzen than a bock, its tight off-white foam head sits over the red hued drink the colour of deep amber maple syrup. It is sweetish with cherry in the fruity malt balanced with a light touch on the German hops. The yeast is a little spicy and earthy, slightly dairy sour but more subdued than most lagers falling on the wrong side of the line.
This ale is the partner to Lake Placid's 46'er reviewed last month. It is a fine ale but hard to pin-point for style. At 7%, it is like a low-hopped strong US brown or even a weak Belgian dark strong beer. At its heart it is a big malty brew with some definite notes of chocolate and even a bit of a plum note in the middle. Dandy. $7.99 US or so at upstate NY grocery stores for a six.
I am on the road this week in New England, gathering some information and ales for future postings so I have been pleased to receive a few emails that can spark some activity around here - including the offer of a Norwegian columnist! That would be excellent.
In one email, I received this cry for help from Roger in California who is a new blogger and who has just returned from a trip to England. He writes:
We were amazed at the variety and quality of the English ales. Over the course of the entire trip I don't believe we had a single bad glass of beer, and there were some truly amazing ones...Unfortunately, what I've found upon returning to the US is that I can't drink American beers. I haven't tried everything, obviously, but out of both the local brewery in Fort Bragg, who's beer I liked, and several types of bottled beers, everything I've had has tasted nasty, skunky and BITTER.This is a "Beer Abby" moment if ever I saw one and I am glad to report to Roger that he is in the heartland of one of the great brewing regions of the world. The entire US west coast is home to many fine brewers whose brews will blow your mind, Roger. Find beers by Rogue from Oregon and Stone from California and start there. You may have to learn a bit about hops, how to avoid the cheap, dreaded but pervasive Mt. Hood variety and how to embrace US varietals like Willamette and Cascade.
One word of caution. English ales are among the lightest in alcohol content of any in the world due to decades of taxation based on strength. Conversely, Californians are the kings of the big beer. Make sure you know your milds from your imperial double IPAs. But enjoy as you edjificate yourself and feel free to post here or send a link as you explore your region's great ales.
A pal brought a 12 of this back from the States the other week. If one skips the border fees - as HE did - it was under 15 CND for the case. It is a well-made brew with a good measure of pale malt graininess but, compared to other north-eastern pale ales I might choose, like Shipyard Export Ale from Portland Maine, it is a bit too, well, "regular" - good body, slightly sweet, moderately hopped and . It is not really assertive one way or the other - but it is an American pale ale and not a IPA so that is to be expected. It likes being pulled icy from the fridge or warm from the case. There is a little dirtiness to the bitterness that makes me fear the presence of Mt. Hood hops. No good ever came of Mt. Hood. It would be interesting to compare to a Sam Adams Boston Ale which I think would not withstand the test. Well made but a little less adventurous than I like. A great choice to put in the fridge to introduce friends to good pal ales.
You may see at the right in "other links" a post on very own correspondent Ale-Fan's new beer named after an Albanian prince from the Middle Ages. He's made the press in Albania, too. Here is a clip from the website Albanian Mail:
NÃ«se birra tÃ« tilla si "Fosters", "Kronenbourg", "Stella", etj. nuk janÃ« aq tÃ« forta pÃ«r ty, atÃ«herÃ« porosit njÃ« "Skenderbeg"! Provo njÃ« birrÃ« tÃ« fortÃ« pÃ«r burra tÃ« fortÃ«! "Skenderbeg" sapo ka filluar tÃ« dalÃ« nga fermentimi nÃ« njÃ« nga fabrikat angleze tÃ« birrÃ«s, por nuk Ã«shtÃ« Ã§udi qÃ« ajo sÃ« shpejti tÃ« pushtojÃ« tregun vendas. TÃ« paktÃ«n kÃ«shtu shpresojnÃ« autorÃ«t e kÃ«tij projekti. "Skenderbeg" nuk Ã«shtÃ« thjeshtÃ« njÃ« emÃ«r i ri, por Ã«shtÃ« njÃ« birrÃ« e veÃ§antÃ«, e zezÃ« dhe e fortÃ« (5,5% alkool). Ajo ka njÃ« shije qÃ« mund tÃ« pÃ«rngjajÃ« me birrÃ«n e zezÃ« belge "De Koninck". Kompania "Beer2go" ka nxjerrÃ« nÃ« shitje shishet e para me emrin e ri, fillimisht nÃ« dyqanin e kompanisÃ«, nÃ« Suffolk, nÃ« AnglinÃ« lindore.You got that, right? I put the bits I got in bold lettering. While I was once big in Japan, I was never big in Albania.