In the world of wine, it’s fashionable to talk about terroir – that sense of place that local climate, soils and terrain impart to the taste of a wine. But craft brewers are now dealing in terroir as well, hearkening back to the days when beer was made by communities and not big corporations.
“Historically, brewers would have used ingredients that were available to them, which would have been local ingredients,” Rob Tod, founder of Allagash Brewing Co., said in a recent interview. “And that’s how you had different beer styles pop up in different parts of the world because they were much more restricted in the raw materials they could get.”
Allagash beer has always had a strong Maine identity, but Tod is taking things a step farther with “Sixteen Counties,” sold in 750 ml cork and cage bottles for about $9 at Whole Foods Market.
“We actually source all of our barley, wheat and oats from Maine small farmers,” Tod said. “And the barley, not only is it grown in Maine, it’s malted in Maine. There’s so much Maine in that beer.”
The malted barley comes from Maine Malt House in Mapleton and Blue Ox in Lisbon Falls. Aurora Mills Organic in Linneus provides the oats, and the unmalted wheat comes from the Maine Grain Alliance in Skowhegan.
The beer, according to Allagash, “opens with herbal hop notes, wheat-cracker, and citrus and ends with a balanced, dry finish.” I definitely detected the hop notes and citrus, as well as a strong taste of cloves that dissipated the longer the open bottle rested. It’s great beer for summer, but will be available all year round.
Allagash is donating some of the sales from Sixteen Counties to Maine organizations that support small, sustainable farming. More than $20,000 so far has been donated to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, the Maine Grain Alliance and the Maine Farmland Trust.
— Meredith Goad