I have some work to do. This is buy a part of the excellent cross section of beers from Maine that I was able to bring back the other week. One of the great things about a good beer shop is the ability to buy singles and mixed packs. When you think of it, a diversity of 12-packs is really no diversity at all. I will work on this post as I work through these ales, leaving a comment as a flag to updates.
- In the front row to the right is Andrew's English Pale Ale from Lincolnville, Maine, 70 miles west of Bar Harbor. The Andrews Brewing Company does not appear to have its own website and it must be tiny as it is not rated on beer advocate, though information on mainebrew.com says they have been around since 1992. This ale is a good example of a clean fresh pale ale without any drastic measures being taken. A pour leaves an active rim of white foam over the medium amber brew. The hops are a bit rough but no Mt. Hood, praise be to whomever. There is lost of pale graininess over sweet malt, too, but the effect is real and husky rather than off putting. A very drying finish. I'd recommend it as would 5 of 6 the beer advocatonians who have found it.
- Next, to the far left in the front row, is 420 IPA from Portland's Stone Coast Brewery. I was worried the 420 would refer to international bittering units but...that...would...be...insane. Nonetheless, it is a step or two up in the hops from the Andrew's Pale and a step up in sweetness as well. The head is a richer white foam that leave thick lacing. There is lots of pale malt fruit with flavours of orange marmalade, lemon zest and green apple and a creamy yeast holding it up in the middle. The hops are right at the front of your mouth with enough strong green herb with twig edging that I am also thinking slight chili heat. Not as sharp as say Ruination - but could there be two? All BA's say yea! 6.9 percent. A definite buy if you like the big hop bomb.
- Back row at the right Casco Bay Brewing's Winter Ale from a variety 12 pack called the "Tackle Box" - click on the photo for a shot of the nice design. Excellent presentation but I was really disappointed that it was four bottles of three varieties. I suppose the way they have marketed it, they could have any mix in the box but I like three of four types best. Regardless, this one was a pleasant surprise as there are not many real winter weight brews from North America which honour the tradition. This one poured a nice light beige head over a deep bright amber tipple. Its aroma is lusty musty old ale-ish orange peel and burlay. It sips a nice orange peel and marmalade, herb green hops and a note of a glyceral turkish delight kind of thing to the body. Good hearty hops at the back of the throat. A pretty fine winter brew and as there was 14 inches of spring damp snow in the in-laws backyard the other day, it is fine for late April - too even at 7.2%. All the advocates like it.
- Middle row, second from the right is Frye's Leap India Pale Ale by the Sebago Brewing Company of Gorham Maine. It is one of the odder IPA's I have had. It boils down to one thing. On my first sip, there is more than a note of the fruitiness which is charitibly like passion fruit and uncharitably like dry cat food. Maybe a bit of Tang, or rather its imitation "Taang" that cheap dry orange juice powder. It is not bad but it is not what I expect in an IPA. Beside this big Tang thang is a rough hop and not a lot else in terms of complexity. Medium bodied. I checked the bootle and there is no unexpected residue or cap rust and there is a nice lace being left by the medium amber brew. Not a bad bottle. Sweet design for the brand. The brewery explains the ingredients for this brew as follows:
Malt: American 2-Row, Caramel 20L, Caramel 60L & Chocolate MaltWhat I could be tasting is more like raw white grapefruit peel from that Cascade leaf - which would be the full leaf hop going later into the boil rather pellets - mixed with a fresh baked bread flavour from the malt. This illustrates one thing about flavour and perception. There is obviously no bread or grapefruit or catfood in the brew. There are esters and alcohols and other organic chemicals that my brain is trying to organize. It is likely that I never came in to contact with the key flavour and I am trying to perceive it. I live with more cat food than raw grapefruit peel so that becomes the peg my brain chooses to hang its hat on. Interesting. On tap at the original 1998 Maine Mall brewpub location and the two others as well. Bottles appear to be a new thing for Sebago.
Hops: Cascade, Nugget, Cascade Leaf
Alc. %/ Vol. 5.2 %
- Back row, left side: Casco Bay Pilsner. It smells of grass and gooseberry. The lightest amber (I see a touch of red without which I would call it deep straw) with a thin white rim of foam is all that is left after a minute past pour. This is all about the hops. Steely mint hops with a slight nod to green at the finish. Supported by the malt, the steel opens a bit to white grapefruit and some notes of plain tea biscuit. A fairly big but stark beer. All the beertonians like it.
- Middle row, second from left we find Boathouse Brown Ale from Sebago. An American brown ale in the style of these three rather than the other Maine brown I tried which was more in the nature of a southern English brown. The difference being the hoppy bite. It is reminding me a lot of the Brooklyn Brown with its dry cocoa meets rich creamy yeast thing. It is very good. The head stays on in a beige foam over the mahogany well-bodied brew. The hops are herby green but not overpowering. Although there is cocoa, there is not much sweetness - perhaps some raisin deep down there. The beer advocates are supportive.
- Dagnab it! A Vermonter sneeked into the bunch. Middle row to the right is Long Trail's Blackbeary Wheat. This is a pleasant enough very light summer brew. The body is quite watery with a bit of effervescence and a bit of malt for a little weight. The body is light straw coloured, the foam rim white. There is some wheat grassiness and berry fruit in the taste but mostly there is lemon juice with a slight roughness of hops. But with only eight IBUs it is hardly what you would call hoppy. 29% of advocates are against it, citing Bud-like qualities.
- Front row, second from the right, Winter Ale from Portland's Geary Brewing. I like the semi-stubbie feel of the bottle, maybe a nod to the shape of an old cone can. The beer pours a fine white rock head that resolves into a foam sustained by the active fine bubbles. The light amber ale is hot, though only 6%, with the slightly musty hop of an old ale. There are lots of fruit flavours in the malt - autumn apple, sultana, ginger-pear - and perhaps even some Belgian candi sugar. Spicy, even like a wee nip of rye whisky slipped in, but also very juicy and more-ish. Geary's calls it a hearty IPA which is kind of an odd way of thinking about it. I think it is a great ale but a little hard to place in style - not really a hoppy American IPA, not really a big malty Winter Warmer. BAers support it.
- Middle Row to the left is Belfast Bay McGovern's Oatmeal Stout. As I have written before, we like oatmeal stouts around here and Maine loves stouts in general. This one ranks well in both the global oatmeal scene and amongst stout Mainers, too. Rocky big bubbly head the colour of Mocha ice cream over a deep brown brew. Then, whammo, on the first sip of the no holds barred coffee, chocolate malt and roast barley medium bodied brew. Under the toasty malts there is minty hop and creamy yeast. All smoothed by the silk of oats. BAer love it. I do, too.
- Back row in the middle is Casco Bay Riptide red ale. It pours a deep cherry reddish amber with a beige head that resolves to a rim. Very moreish grape juicey beer with a bit of a husky note from the pale malt and the rough hops - slightly medicinal on reflection. The sweetness creates a bit of a roundness in the middle that may cloak other flavours but a fairly good drink nonetheless. The brewery says of it:
Our flagship, this Irish-Style Red Ale proudly won a gold medal at the 2000 World Beer Cup. A combination of 5 different malts and 3 hop varietals, carefully blended, results in a perfect balance. Full-flavored and medium-bodied, the Riptide Red provides surprising complexity for such an easy-drinking brew. The Riptide Red has an original gravity of 1.056 and a 5.4% ABV.Advocates consider.
- Up front and center is Geary's Pale Ale. One of the first micro-brewed ales in America, it is a deep amber and have a white head which resolves to a rim. It is remarkably like the previous ale, with a little less cloy and no cherry red in the colour. The malt is a little less masked accordingly. There is a bit of a rough burnt note to it. One perceptive advocatonian writes:
A lower score on drinkability because the first sip usually tastes the best. Nicely salty, VERY New England, a true seaside beer, goes great with seafood (hint: take a look at the label).Salty. Interesting comment. In Halifax as a youth we salted our draught from the shaker. That could be the thing. One to go about ten days after I started this post.
- Finally, on 7 May, almost half a month after I began, I get to the Geary's Summer Ale at 6% I am surprised by the rich malty milky middle like the Choulette Blonde but it is just one note in many in this ale rather than that French malteeser-fest. Around the richness is husky pale grain, some herby rough hops, pear juice and a nice milky quality yeast. This is quite a dandy ale which is said to be in the style of a kolsch but I have not had access to any kolsch here in Ontario so I cannot comment - a project for the future. Here are the advocated comments.
Amongst all the cargo hauled back up north the other day were more than a few 22 ouncers from Maine micros like these two from Bar Harbor Brewing Company of that sea coast town about an hour south of the US-Canadian border. Bar Harbor is a bit of a hot bed of micro-brewing, being also the home of Maine Coast Brewing as well as the Atlantic Brewing Company whose Coal Porter and Blueberry Ale I have enjoyed in the past. Pretty good for a population of about 5,000 folks. But that is not including the 476,452 tourists and 345,958 seals. I split these bottles with my kin as we watched the Braves spank the Phillies Saturday night. I received a "hmmm...pretty good" on each. High praise.
The Thunder Hole Ale is described as an english brown and I would say it is meant to be a southern english brown as opposed to the slightly tangy style of Newcastle Brown. It is a good moreish brown without the high hoppiness of many US brown ales. It is on the lighter side of browns but has a malty richness cut with layers of grain, pear and chocolate fruit and various sugars. Lighter than you would describe as dried fruit like in a Belgian brown. The hops provide structural support a bit green working with the pear, a bit twiggy and a marked astringency. All very medium which for a brown is usually a good thing. Well crafted rather than amazing as befits the style, this would make a great session ale. A long long finish. Advocates approve. I have not been able to identify the alcohol content.
Their Cadillac Mountain Stout was on my list of beers to buy as it came first in a recent All About Beer review of stouts and porters. I am starting to think that Maine is one of he hotbeds of world stout making, given the consistent excellence I have found there. This beer pours a big dark beige rocky head. It is rich and creamy, even buttery, and maybe is more smokey than dry burnt roasty. It has some of that fruitiness that Maine Coast's dry stout provides in large measure. There is some mint to the hops but also a characteristic I can only call hardwood. Notes of treacle and cocoa, too. In a way, it is more like a more complex and less sweet caribbean stout like Royal Extra from Trinidad. Certainly one of the best stouts I have ever had. Up there with Freeminer. Here is what the advocates said. Again, no info on the alcohol content.
Found at the LCBO southern Bank Street shop in Ottawa, this is truly a lovely ale from Shepherd Neame in Kent. The pale malt fruitiness you taste in crystal malt form in a beer like Bombardier is just as lushly at the forefront - but instead of a prune or raisin, it is a plum or grape...or better: apple pie of russets with a fine lard pastry. Hops play a intermeddling supporting role, almost overwhelming here and there but never getting their way. The yeast leaves a hint of cream beneath it all. This is the sort of ale that is so well made and balanced that you find yourself trying to speculate with yourself on whether you can dissect the flavour of the water out from the rest of the tapestry.
Heaven. Here's what the beer advocates say.
Update: Please read the comments to this thread which go a long way to explain the situation at Creemore. I am not, however, amending my post based on those comments as I am still not a fan personally and do still think calling a beer Ur-bock is vanity itself...
No great nashing of teeth around my house with the news the Creemore Springs [Ed.: anticipate sudden link-rot syndrome (SLS) to appear soon] is being bought by sugar water merchants Molson as I never liked the Creemore product, sourish lagers of a quasi-German style, or their incredibly unfounded vanity in relation to their "Ur-bock". Here is the news on the sale:
Molson Canada is adding small Ontario brewer Creemore Springs Brewery Ltd. to its liquor cabinet in a deal that will give it added punch in the premium "craft beer" category. The acquisition, financial details of which were not released, will see the Canadian wing of recently merged beer colossus Molson Coors Brewing Co. increase marketing for the boutique brewery and consider expanding the brand outside its home base in Ontario.There is no doubt that the "brand" will be "leveraged" which will have little to do with the quality of the fluid in the vessel. There is a risk this may be the start of a consolidation of "brands" into marco portfolios which will see fewer and fewer beers actually available to the consumer.
Interesting to note the following comments in our local paper, the Whig-Standard supporting smoking bans in pubs:
Several bar owners say business has rebounded since the cityï¿½??s smoking bylaw went into effect nearly two years ago. Their experience contrasts the findings of a study released this week that contends smoking bans cut bar sales nearly 25 per cent in the Limestone City and almost as much in three other major Ontario centres. "I chuckled when I read that [in the newspaper]," said Dan Clarke, who owns the Loyal Oarsman pub in the city's west end.
The study, conducted for the Pub and Bar Coalition (PUBCO) and the Fair Air Association of Canada, reported that local smoking bans cut bar sales by 24.3 per cent in Kingston, 23.5 per cent in Ottawa, 18.7 per cent in London and 20.4 per cent in Kitchener. Clarke said though his sales dropped about five per cent immediately after the ban went into effect May 1, 2003, business is now better than ever. "I wouldn't allow the smoking back in," he said. "I would lose business first to tell you the honest truth - We see a lot of new faces."
Clarke isn't alone. The Whig-Standard canvassed the owners of about 10 bars in the downtown core and in the city's west end. More than half of those establishments reported a rebound in business since an initial slump after the smoking ban. Bruce Clark, who owns the Toucan and Tango downtown, has watched his sales steadily climb over the past 18 months or so to the point where he does more business now than he did before the ban. "My business is up, although it is a little different - [The smokers] still come and they do spend money, though maybe not as much, and I've got a whole bunch of new customers," he said.
My sister is in Budapest with us now, so I went out and bought some German, Hungarian and Czech beers to try out. We also went out to an 'all you can eat' sushi joint on the Buda side called Wasabi (it may be part of a chain) and had some beer there. It was actually my first time eating sushi at one of these conveyor belt style places where you pick an item from the line of dishes that drift past you. Since it's all you can eat, my husband thinks it will soon go out of business. The day we were there we saw some large Hungarians leaving the place clutching their bellies in a satisfied way, so he may be right. The food was great though.
We had the German and Czech beers (a Bitburger and a Staropramen) at home. The Staropramen (which means "old source" according to the Oxford bottled beer database) was a light coloured lager. As I drank the Staropramen, I tried to find a little background information online. I read that Staropramen makes a light Pilsner that is every bit as good as Urquell, but cheaper. When I poured it out it had a froth that lasted about two minutes. It had a dry aftertaste or finish. It grew on me. It was more complicated than I had at first thought, but I also thought that I preferred the Pilsner Urquell that I had tasted at a restaurant a few weeks ago. I decided to go out and buy two more bottles so that I could compare the Urquell with the Staropramen. I poured both into glasses and put them side by side. They looked very similar.
which is which?
Actually they also tasted somewhat similar. But I still preferred the Urquell. And, especially when recalling how I had felt when I first drank these beers separately they had in fact seemed quite different. Maybe there are better and worse times to drink beer. The Urquell may have made a better impression because I had had it with food at the Gundel. And anyway in social situations beer often seems better. In any case, my impression was confirmed when I tried them out together but they are definitely not that different.
The German pilsner is billed as the number one draft beer in a can from Germany . It's slogan is Bitte ein Bit or "a Bitburger please". It's a golden coloured beer. It has a crisp dry flavour, but doesn't leave a lasting impression. Maybe I prefer darker beers. It's alcohol level is 4.8 percent. It's sold in Quebec (this I know, because it has instructions concerning the return of used cans in Quebec).
At the Sushi restaurant, we had an Amstel Bock which is a rich sweet beer with no bitterness. It pours out frothy. The head lasts for about a minute. It went well with the Teriyaki chicken. We had the Dreher Bak later (it was my sister's choice). It's a different beer than the Amstel. It has a rich molasses taste which is strangely (because I did say molasses) not as sweet as the Amstel. It has a nuttiness and a slightly bitter finish. I think I preferred it to the other bak.
Note the Goat - the universal symbol for bock
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.