When I learned that Rob Tod, founder and brewer at Allagash Brewing Co., was going to be at the Great Lost Bear last Thursday night, I knew I had to go.

The Bear, at 540 Forest Ave., is a bar I frequent — usually Monday nights after meetings of a group I belong to. The bar is friendly, has 69 taps of mostly craft beer, only one TV set — added when the 2004 Red Sox run made it necessary — and has excellent service. And from 5 to 9 p.m. every Thursday it has a Craft Beer Showcase, featuring a brewery and often with the brewer on hand.

Allagash specializes in Belgian beers, and it isn’t because of all the Belgians who live in Allagash and St. Francis at the north end of Aroostook County.

“When I started in 1999, Maine already had breweries making great beer, British and German style,” Tod told me when I got him to join me on the Bear’s patio. “Geary’s and Shipyard and some others were already making great beer, so I wanted to try something different.”

And it has worked. Allagash is sold all along the Eastern seaboard and in California, but Tod is quick to say it is not sold everywhere in the country. He has 25 employees at his brewery in the Riverside Industrial Park, compared to just him when he started.

The Bear sells more Allagash White than any other beer, but I love the Allagash specialty beers, which often approach 10 percent alcohol.

“They aren’t brewed just to be high alcohol,” Tod said.

“But with the higher amount of fermentables, and the longer fermentation, it creates a lot more complexity in the flavors.”

Last Thursday night I drank Allagash Four, brewed with four different malts and with a heavily malty flavor and only mild hops and a lingering sweetness. It has 10 percent alcohol, but the alcohol wasn’t overpowering.

I also had an Allagash Victoria, which includes chardonnay grapes in the mix. It was lighter than the Four, and had an almost wine-like flavor. I liked the Four a bit better, but both were great.

In the past few months I also have had Allagash Black, which is my personal favorite of the Allagash beers, and Curieux, which is their Trippel ale aged in Jim Beam barrels.

I have never had a bad Allagash beer, but I did have one question, from a reader: Why does Allagash White on draft taste so much better than in bottles?

“It’s the same beer,” Tod said. “But when you put it in different packaging, it is handled differently and it is bound to taste different. It’s like wines that taste different when you drink them out of different glasses.”

Tod said he enjoys events like the one at the Great Lost Bear because it is one of the few ways he can interact with his customers.

He also brought his family and a good number of his employees, who stood by the bar talking among themselves and with other patrons.

Tonight’s offering at the Bear’s Craft Beer Showcase is a selection of 10 summer beers. Five of the 10 have been reviewed in this column in the past two weeks. I might have to go to test the other five.

Check out Allagash at allagash.com and the Great Lost Bear at greatlostbear.com.

 

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at

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