Friday, December 6, 2013
By now, you've probably heard about the newest place downtown to grab delicious food and drink - In'finiti Fermentation & Distillation. If you're interested in a great description of the ambiance and food, John from The Golden Dish blog wrote a great post last week giving you the dining side experience its full glory (including candy-coated bacon... yum!).
But being a new brewery (and distillery) I, of course, had to go down to think about the merits of the beer that they are currently brewing. What I found was not what I was expecting - but definitely worth a taste.
My adventure at In'finiti actually started at Novare Res Bier Cafe. Being a Friday night, I expected a healthy crowd of chalice-sippers and people pondering the almost endless bottle list. However, I was surprised to see that it was a bit quieter - almost like a weeknight. As I left, I shrugged and decided to pop around the corner and check out In'finiti - Novare Res owners' Eric and Judy Michaud's newest food and drink adventure.
My first thought upon entering was that I had found all of the people that were normally at other bars in town - right here. I was able to find an open seat at the bar, but the crowd was bustling and flowing throughout the space.
In'finiti is currently offering up three beers brewed on premises:
Menu description: "Our first professional batch. Pale, slightly bitter, nod to the Belgian Trappist brewing monks' table beer. 4.5% ABV"
The first beer from them, and the first beer that I tried. "Table beers" like this one are typically session beers (low alcohol, and are traditionally meant to go with meals, as an every day drinker. Eventually, this tradition got replaced by soft drinks - though drinking beer each day is arguably much healthier than having a cola. Served in goblet-style glasses, the creamy head just hung so perfectly on top of these. The aroma is not very hoppy, but instead reminds me of Belgian yeasts and malts. The taste is smooth and goes down easy - living up to its style.
Menu description: "An American pale ale using mostly pils malt with a touch of caravienna and rye. Columbus centennial, chinook and amarillo hops provide bright citrus and pine notes, dry-hopped with 11 lbs per 8 bbls. Light body, dry. 6.1% ABV"
This is a beautiful color and was poured with a lot of great foamy head. For some reason, I thought that this would be an over-the-top IPA - one that would rival Maine Beer Company Lunch and Sebago Brewing Company Frey's Leap IPA. I guess I was so used to seeing the hoppiest and rarest and funkiest beer at Novare Res that I assumed they would be trying to make a big punch here. But what they did was better, I think. Instead of investing in a really strong hoppiness, they put lots of great aromatics in and made the mouthfeel light. The person sitting next to me at the bar took a few initial sips and told me, "Wow, I could drink this every day and be totally happy." Couldn't agree more. It's just the right amount of taste and drinkability. Leave your expectations at the door and let its balance "win" you over.
Menu description: "A dry and slightly hoppy rendition of a belgian blonde, made exclusively with Belgian malts, perle and styrian goldings hops, trappist yeast. 6.5% ABV"
This straw-colored beer was the favorite of the night for me. Blondes are not my favorite style - hey are some times too sweet or fruity for me and I have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy them. But this was different. Instead of a lot of sweetness, I actually did pull out some hops in the aroma, which gave me faith that the taste would do the same. The hops here are not by themselves the star of the show - but act to temper the sweetness of the beer. The yeast is also there kicking in some nice flavors, but the whole thing, again, remained very drinkable.
In all, I am very happy to have another beer project enter the Portland bar scene, and I am excited to see where they are going with this concept. All three beers were drinkable and of very high quality. If they keep pushing forward in this direction, I think they're going to have a lot more busy nights on their hands.
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.