December 19, 2013

What Ales You: Two Portlands converge for Gritty’s 25th birthday

At its celebration on Friday, the Maine brew pub will serve its version of an Oregon bitter.

By Tom Atwell

Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub in Portland is about to turn 25, and as part of the celebration on Friday it will be serving Gritty’s version of Deschutes Brewing Company’s Bachelor Bitter.

click image to enlarge

From left, Bill Stebbins, assistant brewer at Gritty McDuff’s; Ben Kehs, head brewer at Deschutes Brewing Company in Portland, Ore.; Ed Stebbins, brewmaster at Gritty’s; and Jason Barbee, assistant brewer at Deschutes, during a recent visit by the Gritty’s team to the Deschutes facility.

Courtesy photo

Upcoming beer events

WHAT: 25th Anniversary Party: Anniversary ale, food and The Jason Spooner Band

WHEN: 4 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub, 396 Fore St., Portland


WHAT: Saison Noel Vertical Tasting and Synthesis bottle release. Synthesis is a blend of barrel-aged farmhouse ales that have been maturing for 12 to 30 months.

WHEN: Noon to 7 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Oxbow Brewing Co., 274 Jones Woods Road, Newcastle

INFO: Gallery.html 

WHAT: 12 Stouts after Christmas: 6th annual Stoutfest; 12 stouts tapped, including Vintage RIS, Belgians and more.

WHEN: Beginning at noon Jan. 12

WHERE: Novare Res Bier Cafe, 4 Canal Plaza, Portland


When I spoke with Gritty’s cofounder and brewmaster Ed Stebbins last week, he had just come back from a long weekend at Deschutes’ brewery in Portland, Ore., creating a version of Gritty’s Best Bitter.

“For a brewer, this was like going to Disney World,” Stebbins said, because the other Portland has 43 breweries within its city limits, and 35 of them are brew pubs. Deschutes is a fully computerized, high-tech brewery.

The collaborations with Deschutes were done because both are members of the brewing class of ’88, influential breweries turning 25 this year.

Others in the class include Brooklyn Brewery, Rogue, Goose Island, Vermont Pub & Brewery, North Coast and Great Lakes Brewing.

Earlier this year Gritty’s did a collaboration with Vermont Pub & Brewery to create Noonan’s Wee Heavy, named after the late Greg Noonan, founder of the Vermont brewery.

If you missed that offering, it was excellent. And it will be brewed again next year at Gritty’s Freeport brewery, and offered in 22-ounce bottles as well as at Gritty’s pubs in Portland, Freeport and Auburn.

Getting back to the Bachelor Bitter. This is a clear but unfiltered bitter, a West Coast style but with English roots evident. It is hoppier than other Gritty beers, but not overpowering, and balanced, with a good amount of malt in the finish.

It is only 4.8 percent alcohol by volume, so it is a session beer, although a highly flavorful one.

Stebbins was pleased to note that Deschutes uses the same Ringwood yeast that has been used at Gritty’s for the past 25 years.

“When I first tasted this out of the barrel, we were a little nervous,” Stebbins said. “We thought it might be too hoppy for our customers.”

But customers have liked it and Stebbins likes it as well.

Bachelor Bitter will be available at Gritty’s Portland and Freeport locations probably until Christmas Eve.

“There won’t be any in Auburn, because they were thirsty up there and drank it all,” Stebbins said.

If you want to taste the cask-conditioned version of Bachelor Bitter, show up early Friday because the two casks are expected to disappear fast.

Another specialty beer being served as part of the 25th anniversary party will be Old Porter, which is 6 percent ABV and brewed with three kinds of Goldings hops: East Kent, Whitebine and Styrian.

Stebbins said Gritty’s has made this beer in the past, but I do not remember having it. That will be another reason to show up Friday.

Gritty’s is going to have some new beers next year. Stebbins was impressed that Deschutes uses whole hops rather than hops pellets in all of its beers, and that fresh hops beers are big in Oregon every fall.

“I can guarantee that we will have a fresh hops beer next fall,” Stebbins said.

He is working with Aroostook Hops, a farm founded in Westfield in 2009 that Stebbins said plans to buy the state’s first hops harvester next year.

He also is looking into gluten-free beers, in part because his cousin Bill Stebbins, who has worked at Gritty’s from the start, is gluten-intolerant.

I TASTED only two beers that were new to me on Nancy’s and my recent trip to the Mediterranean.

NikSicko Pivo lager is from the Montenegro town of NikSicko. The name has a lot of accent marks which we cannot produce in the newspaper, but I think the name would not translate well to the U.S. market.

It is 5 percent ABV, crystal clear, with an unusual herbal/grassy hops flavor. It was easy-drinking but nothing special.

Super Bock, purchased on draught at a Lisbon, Portugal, restaurant is another clear lager.

It was sweeter than most lagers and had a silky mouthfeel. It is not a true bock beer, but flavorful.

It turns out Super Bock has several different varieties, and the tap did not say which one I had, but it was probably the flagship, which comes in at 5 percent ABV.

This beer, I found out online, is one of the favorites of European football (soccer) fans.

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

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