Thursday, December 12, 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.
Hoppy Happenings is a weekly segment that will be posted on every Wednesday to provide brief updates on the Maine craft beer scene and news.
Gneiss Brewing (pronounced like "nice") is a brewery in planning located in Limerick, and takes its name from a geology term describing a metamorphic rock. According to their Facebook page, they've recently taken delivery of new brewing equipment which puts them one step closer towards their goal of opening in late fall of this year. They describe themselves as a German-style Weizen Brauerei that plans to use many ingredients grown at the farm property where the brewery is located. Those look like some "gneiss" hops, they've got there. Can't wait to taste some of their beer. Foundation Brewing, another brewery in planning, this time right here in Portland, has just ordered their equipment and put in their application to the Tax and Trade Bureau, a crucial step. Foundation will be operating at the Industrial Way complex - that has birthed other greats like Rising Tide and Maine Beer Company. They hope to open sometime "later this year." When opening a brewery, paperwork can be half of the battle, so I wish them lots of luck! Shipyard Brewing has announced the addition of a Mint Chocolate Stout to the line of Pugsley Signature Series Beers, starting in November. It is described as "a dark, silky beer with aromas of chocolate and licorice," with "notes of chocolate and coffee upfront followed by a subtle spearmint finish." I'm a little intrigued by the spearmint and not peppermint used to add the mint flavoring. I think balance will be key with this one, as I've found that even a tiny amount mint can sometimes overwhelm the earthiness of even a rich, dark beer. I'll be curious to try it, for sure. Peak Organic Brewing has teased fans with a picture of the newest beer in their lineup - Fresh Cut. Sporting a clean, modern label, this beer is slated to be a dry-hopped pilsner. There is very little information out about this, but there are teasers and a few spots in NYC where it's been seen on tap. I'm hoping that it'll make its way up to us as well, it sounds pretty refreshing. In other news, Funky Bow Brewing has been quite successful in its efforts to sell shares of its CSB (Community Supported Beer) program. There are less than fifteen shares remaining, providing the father-and-son team with enough additional capital to make a few updates to their equipment and tasting room as they continue to brew. You can read more about this effort here. If you news about Maine beer or have tips to share, email email@example.com and they might make it into a Hoppy Happening!
As a craft beer drinker, I am always on the look out for the new, the novel, the hard-to-find. Sometimes, I forget that there are beers available that have been around a while and just work, no questions asked. When they are made by bigger brewers or show up on the shelf at the supermarket, it's easy for me to find reasons to pass them by for the next newest release. While doing some beer and cheese tastings, I picked up a few lighter beers to use for research, and three of them gave me pause because they were just what I was looking for - but on an average day I might not have stopped to try them at all.
1. Harpoon Summer Beer
I am not sure how long Harpoon has been brewing this beer, but I am almost certain I hadn't tried it before I picked it up at Hannaford. It is a Kölsch, which is a somewhat rare German beer style that's slowly creeping back into our palates. Kölsch beers like Harpoon Summer pour a clear golden color, and have a lot of biscuty flavors in both the aroma and in the taste. What makes this one special is that it finishes slightly sweetly, almost a tiny bit of fruit, but its creamy texture makes this easy to drink with absolutely anything. If you are fatigued by the typical lemony or spiced generic "summer" beer this is where you should turn your taste buds instead. It is quenching, and would go great with any food. As a bonus, it comes in bottles or cans, so you can take this with you to your summer destinations.
2. Smuttynose Vunderbar Pilsner
I haven't written much about Bar Harbor based Atlantic Brewing Company because only a few bottles from their lineup tend to trickle down to Portland, but they do occasionally pop up. I was given this bottle as a thank-you and I was eager to try it because it had been so long since I'd sampled any of their brews.
The MacFoochie's Scottish Ale (7% ABV) is described on the label as an "Ale Brewed With Scottish Heather Tips" making its execution very traditional. The Scottish made a name for themselves in brewing history by using a variety of bittering herbs in their beer (hops do not grow as well in Scotland as they did in the England and other parts of Europe) for hundreds of years, including the plentiful heather plants.
It pours a dark brown to black (looking almost like a cola) with a conservative head, but the aroma swells up immediately upon pouring. The rich, full aromas of toffee, coffee and plums from the malts are unmistakably characteristic of this type of beer, and come in full force. There is a slight bit of herbal quality to the beer, but being largely unfamiliar with what a heather plant smells like, I'm not sure I can definitively tell you it is from the Heather, but it is an interesting element.
This past weekend, Sebago Brewing Company hosted a group of fifty beer bloggers and writers as part of a Beer Blogger's Conference taking part in Portland and Boston, MA. Sebago Brewing sponsored a well-organized and impressive beer pairing event, to the delight of bloggers.
One special privilege that was given to the bloggers was to be the first to taste Sebago's newest beer, and to see the debut of its rebranding efforts. Sebago has been undergoing a graphic revamp in the last six months - and I have been eager to see the ultimate outcome. Their new logo (pictured below) keeps the lake and nautical feel, but brings the brewery into a more modern and new-feeling place. It leaves me feeling classy - and I think that's a good vibe for Sebago to adopt in a crowded beer market of hip new breweries entering the Maine beer scene.
The last pairing in the lineup was a surprise, as it came with Sebago's new seasonal release the Bonfire Rye. Not officially released until the beginning of August, this beer was given to us as a sneak peek before being released to the public.
Many craft brewers have acknowledged the role that seasons play in the styles of beer that they brew, and summer is no exception. With the increase of the number of brands and individual beers available, I have been remiss in keeping up with all of the options available for summer beer enjoyment – and Peak Summer Session is one that I recently tried that is worth adding to your list.
Peak, like many other breweries, has several beers that they release only seasonally, and their summer beer is named, simply, “Summer Session Ale.”
Session beer is described as beer that is low in alcohol (though definitions vary, typically under 4.5% ABV), and thus you can safely have more than one in a “session” of beer drinking. While this beer comes in at 5% ABV, it is still low enough in alcohol to fit the idea of a session beer.
Peak Summer Session is described as a “summer wheat beer that marries a West Coast pale ale.” It contains locally grown wheat, and is dry hopped with Amarillo hops – not a typical combination. The beer is a clear but slightly golden color, and pours out beautifully.