Isn't science wonderful? Apparently, there is now evidence that moderate alcohol use may trigger brain cell growth.
Out of a Harpoon mixed 12 with the Ale, IPA and Munich Dark as boxmates. This is a nice US hefe with some of the odd esters that mark the style but lighter than thet original German version. While banana and clove are the usual flavours in the style, as was the case with Paper City's rendition, Harpoon's is more banana-pineapple with a dry hop astrigency laying across the middle of your mouth.
Worthy but not the greatest hefe I have had. Click for the big pic.
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.
Interesting to read this this morning in my review of the Portuguese media:
Lisbon - Portuguese gym-goers are being urged to drink beer as part of a healthy diet in a campaign launched on Wednesday by the nation's main association of producers of the alcoholic beverage. A total of 20 000 fliers outlining the health benefits of drinking up to two bottles of beer per day will be handed out to patrons arriving at gyms in Lisbon and Oporto, the nation's second-largest city, by Friday, according to the Portuguese Association of Beer Producers. The goal is to "draw attention to some less well-known aspects of beer, such as its agricultural origins, its nutritional value and health benefits when drunk in moderation and responsibly", it said in a statement. The fliers, which feature a smiling young woman jumping rope beside an image of a large glass of beer, point out that a 200 millitre glass of beer has less calories than a quarter litre cup of sugarless orange juice or a similar sized cup of milk.Hmmm: "a smiling young woman jumping rope beside an image of a large glass of beer..." - there is nothings like the scientific approach to an argument.
"Forget the myth of the 'beer gut' because it is just that: a myth," it reads.
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.