January 16

What Ales You: Atlantic Brewing puts organic oats to tasty use

Aurora Farm’s Oatmeal Ale gives the Bar Harbor brewers a chance to support Maine agriculture.

Business gets slow in Bar Harbor in winter when most of the tourists are gone. That’s when Doug Maffucci, founder and owner of Atlantic Brewing Co., has to come up with something so that he and his brewers don’t get bored.

The latest result is Aurora Farm’s Oatmeal Ale, which was introduced Jan. 9 at The Little Tap House at Spring and High streets in Portland and will be on tap at bars and restaurants for the next eight to 10 weeks. None of the ale will be bottled.

“In the winter we have a little time to experiment and play around with beers,” Maffucci said in a telephone interview. “At the same time, we are not looking to depart radically from our tradition of brewing session ales.”

In addition, the ale gave him a chance to use some oats grown on a Maine organic farm.

“We are up in the hinterlands of Maine,” Maffucci said, “and we try to find some people in agriculture that we can connect with and bring some business to. My wife found some of Aurora Farm’s stuff on the shelf at one of the farmers markets.” The farm is in Linneus, in southern Aroostook County.

Maffucci said the Oatmeal Ale, which is 5 percent alcohol by volume, fits about halfway between the company’s flagship Real Ale and its Coal Porter, with the oatmeal providing a bit of creaminess.

I got a sneak taste of the Aurora Farm’s Oatmeal Ale when Alex Stevens, who does distribution for Atlantic in southern Maine, invited me to his home for a glass. He has been taking a mini-keg around to bars and restaurants, giving them a chance to taste the beer before deciding to offer this winter seasonal.

When he first poured the Oatmeal Ale I thought it was as black as a stout, but once I held it up to the light, I found it was a dark reddish brown. It had a stiff off-white head, and was fairly heavily carbonated. The aroma was malt and toffee, and so was the flavor. The literature said it was made entirely with Goldings, but that hops was barely detectable – just nicely balancing the malt.

The mouthfeel was a little thinner than I expected, but there was the creaminess from the oats Maffucci mentioned. Overall it had a crisp finish. And, as is the case with Atlantic’s other beers, I liked it a lot.

The batch was only 15 barrels, made in Atlantic’s smallest fermenter, and Stevens said some of it might leave Maine, but he is going to work hard to sell as much as he can locally.

Maffucci said he hopes to bring out a new beer every eight to 12 weeks during the off-season. He made a copper ale in the fall that I missed, and will have some kind of spring beer, but has not decided yet what that beer will be.

He has promised to let me know when it is coming out.

I DRANK some of Shipyard’s Mint Chocolate Stout during a stop by Jimmy the Greek’s in South Portland a couple of weeks ago.

This is part of the Pugsley Signature Series of beers, and is a big beer, coming in at 9 percent ABV. It is a complex beer. Although the first word in the name is “mint,” the mint is not the dominant flavor in the beer, although it is detectable if only because mint is so unusual in beer.

The flavor is rich, with a lot of chocolate and coffee, and there is even a little bit of licorice in the mix. Hops is only a minor player.

While the beer would obviously go well with chocolate, it also went well with the gyro platter I was eating for dinner.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

tomatwell@me.com.

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