The Fourth of July is the day Americans celebrate their independence. Coming at the peak of the summer as it does, it also is a great day to drink beer.
Being an American holiday, you will want to celebrate with American beers, but that doesn’t really narrow things down an awful lot.
You could go with red, white and blue cans, but that wouldn’t say much about the quality of the beer. You could be a traditionalist and drink the same beers you have been drinking since the Maine craft beer boom hit its stride a few years back, but that is no way to celebrate.
So, I am going to suggest you try something new — three established craft breweries that have been around for a decade or more, but which have just been introduced to store shelves in Maine. They are Lagunitas, from Petaluma, Calif.; Founders, from Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Green Flash, from San Diego, Calif.
I found these beers at the Bier Cellar, the new store at 299 Forest Ave. I knew Founders was coming to Maine, and I wanted to get some of that. I just stumbled on the Green Flash, and the person at the counter pointed out the Lagunitas.
These are three highly rated, popular breweries. I had tasted Founders and Lagunitas before while traveling, but had never seen Green Flash before.
Founders is rated the No. 2 brewery in the country according to one survey, and its beers are good. The company was founded in 1997 and almost went bankrupt before it started making unusual, maybe even extreme, beers.
I reported about Founders Cerise in my column on fruit beers last week, and it is good, but I liked it less than the other three beers I tried. They all were $1.99 a 12-ounce bottle, but I got a 10 percent discount because the Bier Cellar offers a 10 percent discount off the bottle price on mixed six-packs.
My favorite of the Founders was Dirty Bastard, a scotch style ale, coming in at 8.5 percent alcohol. It is a medium to dark amber, has an herbal hops flavor but is not overly bitter or hoppy and is just simply nicely done.
The close second was the Red’s Rye Pale Ale, mostly because I have been enjoying rye beers quite a bit lately. This has 6.6 percent alcohol, a nice amber color, clean and clear, with just a bit of mineral flavor from the rye.
The Founders Porter at 6.5 percent alcohol is dark and rich but not terribly complex. It was a good beer, but did not stand out.
The Green Flash beers were $2.99 per 12-ounce bottle. I had Rayon Vert, a Belgian style pale ale; Hop Head Red, a red IPA and Double Stout, a black ale with 8.8 percent alcohol.
My favorite here was the Double Stout, absolutely pure black, with almost no light coming through it. It had a wonderful dark tan head that persisted, a heavy malt aroma, a fairly heavy body and wonderful mouth feel, with a superb hops bite at the end.
The Rayon Vert is highly carbonated, with citrus aromas, a lot of herbs, and a bit of brett yeast, but not a lot. This is a highly refreshing beer that seemed a lot lower in alcohol than the 7 percent it is listed at.
Hop Head Red, also 7 percent alcohol, was a good West Coast IPA with its only distinction being the red color.
The only Lagunitas available was the limited release Wilco Tango Foxtrot, described on the label as “A Malty, Robust, Jobless Recovery Ale: We’re not in the red, or in the black … does that mean we’re in the Brown?!”
Lagunitas is known for its humorous and creative labels, and this fits the bill. So does the beer. It is a rich, dark brown, with quite a bit of sweetness and malt offset by a gentle hoppiness. This is a very pleasant strong brown ale that borders on being a barley wine.
Southern Tier Brewery isn’t new to Maine, but Hop Sun is its new summer seasonal, a wheat beer. We split this one four ways, and the drinkers who like sour ales liked this one, with its hint of a sour aftertaste, while those who dislike sour ales did not like this one.
I reported on the revival of Freeport Brewing Co. a couple of weeks ago, and I found growlers of the company’s Brown Hound Brown Ale and its Blonde Ale while I was at the Bier Cellar.
At $8.99 for a 64-ounce growler, plus $2 deposit on the bottle, these were a bargain — especially compared to the beers reviewed above. The company does not list the alcohol content, but these are session beers — low alcohol and refreshing.
The winner of the two was the brown ale: flavorful, sweet and refreshing but a bit complex at the same time. The blonde was good and refreshing, but did nothing to stand out from the pack.
Freeport doesn’t list the alcohol content of these beers anywhere, but I am sure they are low enough to allow you to drink a few.
Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at: