Thursday, December 12, 2013
This weekend I was walking around downtown in search of a place to get some work done, and stopped in to the Portland Public Market on Monument Square. On the first floor, I always stop at the Maine Beer and Beverage Company. They have a great selection of local beer (as well as beer, wine and mead from far beyond Maine) and I picked up a few things to take home. That day, it was breezy but sunny, so my mind turned to summer. I spied a Portland classic - Gritty McDuff's Black Fly Stout - and promptly took it home with me.
Black flies (jokingly referred to as "Maine's State Bird" on some tourist's T-shirts) are a just a staple of Maine summers. Some years they are bad, and some years they are not so bad, but they are always going to be a part of living in Maine. Though both arrive every year, I imagine finding Black Fly Stout is a bit more welcome.
As expected, this beer pours a brown to black and has a long-lasting and silky, cream-colored head. After a few sips, it leaves a really nice lacing on the glass. This is one of the prettier beers I've had lately. The aroma was assertive, and definitely had a roast or burnt flavor to it, with undertones of chocolate or coffee. There's a little bit of acidity there that I can't place, but the roastiness is definitely its stronger characteristic.
The taste is surprisingly smooth considering that acid note on the nose. It's pleasing - a nice chocolatey note balanced with a bit of hops coming in the end. There is a slight astringency, but it is not unpleasant. I am surprised that this is described on the label as "dry" because I would not have picked out that word to describe it. I think it's one of those beers that lingers on your lips. The taste doesn't retreat quickly, but fades elegantly.
The carbonation level is very light, and I think that's for the better. The smoothness of this stout wouldn't work if it were more carbonated. Coming in at 5% ABV, this is also a relief from imperials that typically have me swooning after a pint at 9-10% ABV.
Gritty McDuff's is one of the oldest brewing ventures in Maine. Started in 1988, Gritty's now has three locations, including a downtown Portland brewpub in the Old Port. I enjoy sitting in that pub and looking out the window at the city going by, no matter what time of year. As a bonus, sometimes the pubs have Black Fly on "nitro" - which means it is carbonated with nitrogen gas instead of carbon dioxide. Because the properties of the two gasses are different, the nitrogen imparts a different mouthfeel - creamier, and some say sweeter. I like both versions, though I always prefer to get a pint from the pub.
I've noticed that there are a lot more hoppy beers being brewed by many of the newer breweries around as opposed to stouts. Is anyone looking for a simple, no-nonsense stout anymore? I guess I will leave that for you to decide. For my part, the roasty notes and its lingering chocolate is a nice break from the hoppiness that has dominated my beer palate as of late.Tweet
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.