The first Portland Beer Week proved to be a tremendous success last week, with good crowds at the events I attended and reports of good crowds from others who attended events I didn’t.
The cask beer tasting on Nov. 7 at Sebago Brewing Co.’s Portland restaurant was a lot of fun. Luke Livingston of Baxter Brewing, Heather Sanborn of Rising Tide, and Kai Adams and Ryan Carey of Sebago were in attendance, as were several other employees from the brewers and lots of just plain beer drinkers.
The two beers I tasted were Rising Tide’s Zephyr, an American IPA, and Sebago’s Local Harvest, an American Pale Ale made with all-Maine ingredients. They were both less carbonated and yeastier than the traditional beers of the same name. I like these beers a lot, and it was interesting to taste them in the different format.
Because I had enjoyed Sebago’s Small Beer so much at the Maine Brewers Festival, I asked Adams about the beer.
He said a lot people were interested in it, and that he brewed it with the grains he had used earlier for his Barleywine. I found it intriguing that to make this beer, he got some Ringwood yeast from Shipyard — that is the only yeast Shipyard uses, and this is the only time I know of that Sebago has used it — because he thought the English yeast would be best for that style of beer.
Sanborn said the Woman’s Only Happy Hour at Rising Tide on Nov. 6 was a huge success. “We had about 50 people, and we all had a good time,” she said.
Some of the guests told her that they had been waiting for someone to hold a beer event for women, and it turned out to be a good way for people who had never met before to get acquainted. By the end of the evening, they were acting like old friends.
Livingston talked about Baxter’s new winter seasonal, Phantom Punch Winter Stout.
“It is named for the famed Sonny Liston/Cassius Clay fight that took place in 1964 right in Lewiston,” Livingston said, and it has a picture of a fist from Clay — who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali — on the can.
The English-style stout is 6.8 percent alcohol, is brewed on cocoa nibs and vanilla beans, and should be available in stores beginning this week. Livingston said the company is going to make the same amount of this seasonal as it did of the autumn seasonal Hayride, so the beer should be available through January.
Carey was excited about some Belgian-style beers that will be offered by Sebago this week. He said they have brewed four “one-off” Belgians: A patersbier, a dubbel, a tripel and a quad. They will hold an event with Allagash, which specializes in Belgian beers, beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday at LFK, 188 State St., Portland.
Sebago will again be offering these four beers as well as some casks beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday at Mama’s Crowbar, 189 Congress St., Portland.
“These two events will be the last time to have these Belgian beers our brewers created in our pilot system,” Carey said.
I also enjoyed the hop slam last Saturday at Portland Beer Week. Son Zachary was visiting, so we took advantage of the showcase of IPAs from two distributors.
The two pourers explained the difference between East Coast and West Coast IPAs. East Coast IPAs are based on English IPAs, and while they might be very hoppy, they are usually quite balanced. West Coast IPAs are all about the hops.
There were too many beers to taste, so I avoided the Laguinitas, Slumbrew and other beers I had had in the past.
The most dangerous beer in the group was Resin by the Brooklyn brewer Sixpoint. This is a very hoppy but also very sweet beer that comes in at 9.1 percent alcohol. You could drink a couple of these quickly and be legally intoxicated before you knew it.
Other beers I liked were Cisco Indie Pale Ale, Snake Dog from Flying Dog Brewery in Delaware, and Ruination from Stone, an absolutely wonderful, highly hopped IPA from California.
One other beer week event that I really enjoyed was the sour beer tasting at the Bier Cellar. I will report on that in detail next week.
I GOT TO TASTE Bull Jagger’s new beer, Dirigo Crimson Lager, in late October when I attended an open house at Mariner Beverages, Bull Jagger’s distributor, At that time, brewer Tom Bull said, it was only available on draft in a few bars throughout the area, but I found it in bottles at Bier Cellar late last week.
Bull said Dirigo is a Maarzen or Oktoberfest style of beer, but Bull Jagger did not want to call it that because it intends to sell it year round. These are strong lagers traditionally brewed in March and kept cool all summer for drinking in late September and October.
“I think it is a type of beer that people can enjoy any time of year,” he said.
I would agree. It was rich, flavorful and heavier on the malt than on hops.
I bought two bottles of this to split among the five beer drinkers at our house on Sunday, and they all agreed: This is an absolutely wonderful beer that we are going to want to have a chance to drink regularly.
Bull Jagger makes only lagers, and this is the fifth beer in its lineup — and I have liked all of them.
Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at: