The most important aspect of any beer is balance, says David Geary, founder of both the D.L. Geary Brewing Co. and the craft beer movement in Maine.

“You balance all things according to the dictates of the style of beer you are making,” he said. “A lot of extreme beers seem to lose sight of this. They do things just to show they can do them. Some of them are great, but some of them lose sight of the fact that it is a beer, a drink.”

“There are some schools that believe more is better, but I don’t subscribe to that,” he said. “I can’t imagine a chef doing to his food what some people do to beer.”

Geary’s two newest beers go to the edge of extreme, but they don’t reach it, he believes.

“Wee Heavy and the Imperial IPA are well on the way to extreme, but with a gentle hand,” Geary said.

Wee Heavy is a Scottish ale introduced about four years ago. It has 8 percent alcohol, and is fairly heavy on the malt with an understated hoppiness. I have enjoyed it a lot in the past.

The Imperial IPA is 8.2 percent alcohol, and is described as having an assertive hop bitterness with a subtle malt foundation. This has been out for three months, and somehow I missed it. The next time I see it on tap or in a store, I will try it.

Geary said all of the recipes for beer came from his office, and he is always looking to create new beers. But first he has to figure out where it will fit into the lineup, and then select color, sweetness, hopping rate and so on.

I asked Geary which one of his beers is his favorite. I loved his response.

“Well, the one I drink most of our pale ale, the flagship,” he said. “It is relatively low in alcohol at 4.7 percent. I can’t really say it is my favorite, but it is right up there within an inch. I love our Summer Ale and Winter Ale. Hampshire (Special Ale at 7 percent alcohol) is too strong for me, but I love it. Our porter has won pretty high accolades at beer festivals.

“I drink them all and like them all, but what I have on draft at home is our pale ale. The great thing about having draft beer at home is that you can just freshen this up a little and say, ‘I’ve only had one.’ I guess you can call our pale ale a session ale, and it has less alcohol than Budweiser.”

Geary said that in 1989, his company made a minor modification in the hopping of the pale ale, but that has been the only change.

I asked if he felt good that what he started in Maine has become one of the liveliest craft-beer scenes in the nation, or if he was upset at the competition.

“We are definitely doing fine,” replied Geary, who grew up in Portland and graduated from Deering High School. “Maine, particularly Portland, is a terrific beer market, with a lot of savvy drinkers and a great place to live.”

I bought a variety 12-pack of Geary’s to go with this column. It included three each of Geary’s Pale Ale, London Porter, Hampshire Special Ale and Summer Ale. I’ve had them all many times before, and like them all.

Hampshire has an excellent malty flavor, and is a beer I like to have when I am having only one. The London Porter is excellent, with a complex array of chocolate and coffee flavors, and I like it especially in cooler weather. It placed first in a New York Times tasting in 2006.

The Pale Ale is clean and crisp and something you reach for when you just want a beer. The Summer Ale was in the middle — though it wasn’t a winner in our summer-ale tasting, it was great this past weekend with sugar snap peas and dip before a dinner of steak and new potatoes.

I cannot remember drinking a Geary’s I didn’t like. I’m looking forward to the Imperial IPA.

 

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at: [email protected]