Monday, December 9, 2013
This weekend, I was invited to join a Maine Brew Bus Tour, and got a chance to revisit a few local breweries as well as go to one I hadn't gotten a chance to visit yet. Zach and Allison Poole, owners of the Maine Brew Bus filled us with great beer, information about Maine brewing history, and kept us happy and well-fed. The "Casco Fiasco" tour took us to four places: Allagash Brewing Company, Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery in Saco, Rising Tide brewing and Sebago. Since I have written other posts about Sebago and Rising Tide recently, I thought I'd bring you along for the Allagash portion of the trip.
Now, I won't pretend that I am unfamiliar with Allagash Brewing Company. Allagash brews Belgian style and Belgian-inspired beers, and each are spicy, unique and well-known. One of the titans of craft beer coming out of Maine, Allagash, and specifically Allagash White - is available to purchase far outside of Maine.
Unlike a lot of other brewery tours - where the samples are the much-anticipated reward after the educational bit - Allagash starts with a sampling of four beers currently available at the brewery. Usually, they offer a combination of very familiar beers like the White or the Black and then one or two of the barrel-aged or smaller batch beers. Little did I know I was in for a treat.
But what I didn't expect was something marked only on the chalkboard with the mysterious title of FV13.
As our tour guide explained, FV13 stands for "Fermentation Vessel 13" but there's more to it than that. Similar to hotels with the missing 13th floor, brewers sometimes superstitious about numbering one of their fermenters the number 13. Allagash had no fermentation vessel #13, considering it to be bad luck. But when Allagash brewers started messing around with a foudre - a giant oak tank for aging beer - they nicknamed it 13. The beer inside was brewed using wild east and bacteria - the base beer being fermented with all of this funky stuff for a total of four years. FOUR YEARS.
The result? A sour beer lover's dream. Tart, funky and fruity, this orange and copper colored beer had one of those aromas that just draws you in and turns you away at the same time because of its oddity. A mix of apple and vinegar and oak flavors (in a good way, I swear) dance around your tongue when you taste it and keep it interesting at every turn. As a lover of sour beers, this one hits all the marks for me. Not off-putting but fruity and tightly funked, this one isn't musty or dry, but rather keeps your mouth watering from the tartness. A winner, and a unique one. And it's been waiting four years in that foudre (good Jeopardy or Scrabble word, no?) just for you to taste.
This is for sale in limited quantities in the bottle shop. If you've never been to the Allagash tour, or if you haven't stopped by in a while, consider this your reason to visit.
P. S. While you are there you can even take a peek through the plastic sheeting and imagine how beautiful the new expansion will turn out.
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.