With a tip of the hat to a ticky-tacky tourist trap near Ellsworth, Maine . . . I was off to the Growler & Gill for a tasting of the Allagash Brewing Company of Portland Maine. I tasted five from Maine and two from elsewhere.
Allagash Saison is clearly Belgian, yeasty and malty without the sourness of some saisons. Yes, there’s touch of sourness in the nose, but not on the palette. It has good body where some saisons are a bit thin. There’s a sense of sweetness to it, tempered by slight acidity and slight peppery spiciness; actually I find the finish pleasantly dry. 6.1% ABV, making this the most “sessionable” of a strong set.
Tripel is classic Belgian. Poured orangey gold with about a half-inch head, leaving lacing behind and holding a ring for a long time. It leads with caramel, yeast and malt on the nose. Rich with great mouthfeel, hints of orange and butterscotch, a bit of herbs, a bit of honey, and a long yeasty finish. 9% ABV.
Take the Tripel, age it for two months in Jim Beam bourbon barrels, then blend this back with “fresh” Tripel. Allagash Curieux pours a beautiful white 1-1/2″ head over a hazy golden orange with just the faintest hint of bourbon in the nose, along with mild hops over yeast. On the palette: bourbon, smooth, creamy . . . a very soft mouth feel with layers of malt, yeast, caramel, maybe a suggestion of butter pecan, and whiskey. This is 11% ABV which is sneaky strong. Maybe the bourbon character is adequate warning that this is stronger than it tastes. The bourbon lingers on a long finish with maybe a touch of coconut.
Odyssey is a dark wheat beer bordering on a stout, slightly raisiny on the nose, then very creamy and smooth on the palette with a touch of peanut brittle with smoke on the end, where an oakiness emerges especially with vanilla on the finish. 10.4% ABV. I spoke to someone who is trying to like oak-aged beer, but can’t quite get there yet. If this can’t bring someone like that home, I don’t know what will, except perhaps a milder approach like Innis & Gunn.
Black seems very thin for stout, but with a nice hop bite. There’s tobacco on the nose and a deep treacle sweetness. It’s slightly smoky on the palette with a bit of creaminess and a sort of mineral tang, followed by mocha. Hops comes along on the end. 7.5% ABV, once again a bit more alcohol than is apparent.
Moving away from Maine, I tried Local Option Morning Wood, from Chicago. They call it an Oak Aged Coffee Amber. This looks just like apricot nectar once the slight head recedes. It gives a malty & yeasty nose, then coffee arrives on palette. This is more like iced coffee than hot, but the carrying flavor is the malt. There’s oak too but–to me–quite subtle. To those who aren’t thrilled with oak, the oak may dominate the coffee. Instead, for me I get a long gentle coffee finish.
I finished up with Thornbridge Halcyon, an American style IPA from an English brewery, which sounds like a contradiction in terms but works very nicely. Moderate head with citrus notes. On the palette this is rich and piney, leading with hops into very clean malt. It’s very fresh with nice acidity playing off the molasses of pulled pork sliders.