Saturday, May 18, 2013
Carla Companion is a craft beer lover and investigator of all things beer. She started a craft beer website and blog thebeerbabe.com in 2007, sharing her thoughts as she explored what was new in beer, as well as brewery visits, trips and "beer adventures." Moving to Portland in 2009, she found herself surrounded by the Maine beer community and has been exploring it ever since.
In her blog, Carla profiles craft beer (and some mead and cider, too) being brewed in Maine, as well as looks into the people, places and stories behind the beer that makes the community so vibrant. Join Carla on her beer adventures and advice on where to get the best, newest, and most interesting fermented drinks around.
Carla can be contacted at askthebeerbabe [at] gmail.com or on twitter at @beerbabe.
Every spring, there are a lot of summer beers that pop up. Some are classic favorites and will always have a place in my fridge. But I am also always willing to add another one or two to the lineup for things that can get me through a Maine summer. While it's only spring, and our weather bounces back and forth from summer-like to "wait, I thought this was supposed to be spring, not winter" it's a good time to taste the landscape of beer out there and dream about the upcoming season.
One that I would argue should be on your tasting list is from Lewiston-based Baxter Brewing Company, and it their newly re-named Summer Swelter (formerly Celsius). The label of this beer, available in six pack cans, couldn't be more summery. A wood paneled station wagon is parked at a beach, looking towards the sunlight, ready for a summer adventure.
Described on the label as a "lemon and lime peel, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass added" I was immediately intrigued that they didn't just add a tiny bit of lemon to a regular pale ale, which is unfortunately somewhat of a trend with some other summer seasonals.
If you've ever visited southern California or the Pacific Northwest, the idea of food trucks would be just part of your consciousness. Walking around any decently sized city, near parks and sidled up to breweries, food trucks are just a part of the culture. It's a low-rent way of bringing tasty specialty or ethnic food to new neighborhoods without having to buy a space - or pay for wait staff. Trucks featuring everything from tacos, burgers and pizza to sushi and even cupcakes are just... expected. And perhaps the niche they fill is perfect - inexpensive variety in a fun and casual atmosphere. A win all around.
Until recently, however, Maine has not been able to enjoy the creative and funky foods from mobile vehicles. But recent rule changes have allowed a small fleet of trucks to start spreading out throughout the city, albeit to limited locations and times. As exciting as that is, it takes a few more partnerships before the "food truck culture" will sweep Portland. And this weekend, I think I witnessed a perfect union between two community-focused businesses - breweries and food trucks - as executed by Rising Tide Brewing in East Bayside.
Every Saturday this summer, Rising Tide has invited a different food truck in the fleet to appear from 12-5 and hang out at the brewery. This weekend was the debut of this effort, and featured Pizza Pie on the Fly, a brick oven on wheels that can "deliver" wood-fired deliciousness anywhere it is parked. Being a little more familiar with the greasy fast-food like trucks, I was very curious how this type of truck would work, and how the brewery could complement their efforts.
I hate the word bitter. You might even say that I'm bitter about it. Bitterness, to the outside world has a negative connotation, both emotional bitterness such as "cold, bitter tears of regret" or "bitter resentment" and the physical definition of the taste. If I say to you that something is bitter, most people will think that's a negative quality, and that's difficult when it is one of the major descriptors used to describe beer flavor characteristics. What compounds this problem is that bitter as a word is so unspecific. Do I mean the bitterness of coffee? Or the bitterness of a great IPA? Or in the case of Bunker Brewing's 122 Coffee IPA both kinds - and not a negative connotation for miles.
Now, before you spit out your coffee (or beer) when you hear the terms "coffee" and "IPA" in the same beer name, this perhaps isn't such an insane idea. After all, coffee stouts blend their own roasted bitterness with the sharp coffee notes to great success - why shouldn't this other bitterness found in strong hops work just as well?
On Sunday I stopped into Little Tap House to check in on its progress since I opened. I had a great time on one of the soft opening nights, and was eager to come back and see how they were making out. I sat up against the bar and looked over at the tap list. The selection was well thought out - everything from Victory Hop Devil to Oxbow Farmhouse Pale Ale - as well as a few I hadn't tried. The top of my list was Bunker Brewing's 122 Coffee IPA. How could that not catch my eye?
A handful of participants - ranging from avid home brewers to craft beer drinkers looking for something fun to do together - bought tickets to spend the day at Sebago, with the proceeds donated to the American Lung Association via Team Sebago and the Trek Across Maine.
The Trek Across Maine is an annual fund raising bike ride benefiting the American Lung Association. The 180 mile trip starts at Sunday River and finishes three days later at the Steamboat Landing in Belfast. Registered riders collect pledges and donations in support of the American Lung Association. This year's Trek takes place on June 14-16 and includes three 60-mile legs.
When I was young, and searching for something I'd lost, my mom would suggest that I stop looking for it. "It is only when you stop that you'll realize where it is," she'd say. Most of the time she was right. My glasses, books or keys would suddenly show up somewhere obvious as soon as I stopped turning over couch cushions in panic.
When I went looking for Oxbow Brewing Company's birthday ale - known as Freestyle #30 - I somehow forgot that piece of advice. Knowing that it had been released in March for co-founder and head brewer Tim Adam's 30th birthday, I was now looking for something that it was possible I wouldn't find. It didn't look good. Slow to hear about it, by the time I knew to start looking, it was already mostly too late. Traces of #30's tantalized me wherever I went. I saw curled fliers from release parties long past, saw hours old and days old Untappd check-ins, spied it's name on beer lists with ink barely dry from the strikethrough, faded characters in chalk - all of which declaring that I'd come a day, an hour, or a minute too late to try it.
So after a long day at work and after I'd given up looking, I stopped in to the Lion's Pride in Brunswick to console myself with - for me, at least - the best Belgian Frites in New England. When I lifted my head to look above the beautiful glass tap handles to the beer list, there it was: Freestyle #30.