Writing this column has already had a benefit: Alan Pugsley gave me a personal tour of the Shipyard Brewery last week. Pugsley’s the person who brought English-style brewing to Maine when he helped David Geary set up his brewery, which began selling its beer in 1986.

Before that, Maine had no breweries or brew pubs. It is tough to picture, considering the number of breweries and brew pubs we have now, less than a quarter of a century later.

And Pugsley had a hand in creating a lot of them.

He helped set up Gritty McDuff’s in Portland, which became Maine’s first brew pub, and then Federal Jack’s in Kennebunkport, which is the seed where Shipyard started.

The key ingredient of the Pugsley beers is Ringwood yeast. It is the yeast he worked with at the Peter Austin Brewery in England, and that he brought with him to the United States. The yeast originated in Yorkshire, England.

One of the advantages of the yeast is that it works quickly. Shipyard beer, except for the Pugsley Signature Series, takes eight days from start to bottling, and the actual fermentation process is only a couple of days.

“If we used a slower yeast,” Pugsley said, “we’d need to have a lot larger brewery.”

But speed is only one attribute of the yeast.

“It fines up well (allowing the beer to become perfectly clear), and has a soft and subtle flavor,” he said. “It is a very diverse yeast. It does well in the wheat beer, which is our newest and fairly light, and also the XXXX IPA, which is a strong IPA. It works well in the Blue Fin stout.”

I bought a six-pack of the Shipyard Wheat after the tour and interview, simply because I hadn’t had it before. This is not a traditional wheat beer by any standards. The promotional material calls it an American wheat. The beer isn’t as cloudy as most wheat beers, and it has a mild taste. It is also fairly low in alcohol at 4.5 percent.

I liked the Shipyard Wheat as a relaxed beer — easy to drink with a mild flavor and a good color. It should fit well in the Shipyard lineup.

I also bought a package of Pugsley Signature Series that I will report on later, after my tasting buddies and I have a chance to do a serious tasting.

While the wheat beer is Shipyard’s newest brew, it is not Pugsley’s newest brew.

When I spoke with him he had just come back from England, where he had created an Independence Ale at Banks Brewery (part of Marston’s) in Wolverhampton. That beer went on sale Sunday at 500 Marston’s pubs in England.

But if you can make it to Federal Jack’s in Kennebunkport sometime this month, you can try the same beer, created from the same recipe at Kennebunkport Brewing Company. The company describes it as a blonde best bitter with a good hop bite and 4.2 percent alcohol.

I may just have to find an excuse to go to Kennebunkport.

 

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

[email protected]