A cookbook featuring Allagash beers and food from all across the country is being created for release this holiday season.

James Simpkins, who spent some time in Portland as a chef with the now defunct Quimby Colony, worked last week in Rye, N.H., creating recipes to go with different beers from the Portland brewer.

“I thought and (Allagash founder) Rob Tod thought that we should not cook with the beer that much,” Simpkins said in a telephone interview. “There are only a handful of recipes out of the 50 in the book that use beer in the recipe.

“We looked at it much like pairing wine with some food. If you have a really good wine, you don’t dump it into your soup.”

“Allagash: The Cookbook” is being created by BlueTree and BranchCreative with Brian Smestad, CEO of BlueTree, as the photographer.

The original seed for the book was planted when Simpkins was in Portland, going to bars and drinking some Allagash beer while checking out the local food culture. He decided he wanted to do a beer dinner with Allagash beers, so he gave the brewer a call.

“That led to a really funny exchange,” Simpkins said. “I wanted to invite the Allagash workers over for a dinner, and they said, ‘So you want to buy some beer?’ And I said, ‘No, I want you to give me the beer.’ “

Eventually, he was transferred to DeeDee Germain, communications director at Allagash, and they started putting the dinner together — although a change in direction at the Quimby Colony meant the dinner never took place.

The idea behind the book is to create five different recipes for 10 different Allagash beers. Each recipe is based on what Simpkins admits is an arbitrary description of five different regions of the country: New England, the mid-Atlantic, the South, the Heartland and the West Coast, which includes the Southwest.

“Because the country is so large, it helps to break it down into regions,” Simpkins said.

The first challenge of the book was to taste all of the beers — usually with a friend — and write down what he thought the flavors were in each beer, and then compare his notes with the descriptions he found on the Allagash website.

“There was a lot of agreement, probably about 90 percent,” he said.

Simpkins said some of the recipes are traditional, and some buck the tradition. He tries to match the flavors of the beer and the food in some recipes, while in others, he tries to contrast the flavors of the beer and the food.

“One of my favorite recipes is the lobster roll, very traditional here in New England,” he said. “Everyone was considering how we could pair this with the Allagash Tripel.”

The Tripel is a long-finishing beer with flavors of banana, toasted walnuts and some tropical fruit.

Everyone agreed right away that the lobster roll should be made with mayonnaise rather than butter, and Simpkins started to think of passion fruit, which is hard to get, so he switched to mangos, which are easier to find.

“So we ended up making a tropical lobster roll with mangos that blended right in with the Tripel,” he said.

For the Allagash White, Simpkins created some New England crab cakes with spicy note that brought out the coriander flavor present in the beer.

With Victoria, a beer made with an addition of white wine, Simpkins went with a contrast for one region — spicy smoked pork with grits.

“It’s yin and yang, but it works,” he said. “The beer is fairly light, but it stands up to the spicy and hearty foods. The quality of the Allagash beer allows us to do a lot of different things with it.”

Simpkins said a lot of the dishes are fairly simple because they wanted them to be dishes that people could make at the end of a busy day and have a good beer to go with them.

In announcing the cookbook, Tod said, “Creating this cookbook allows us to take our passion for beer and food to the next level. Our hope for this project is that in not only exposes the infinite possibilities for pairing beer and food, but also allows us to expand our own vision of what that is and to share it.”

Simpkins said he thinks about food the same way Tod thinks about beer, and that allowed them to work well together.

“It is really a marriage of our ideas about food and culture,” Simpkins said.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth.  He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

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