May 25, 2011

What Ales You: New Hampshire's Moat Mountain now in Maine

Steve Johnson started Moat Mountain Smokehouse as a brew pub in 2000.

By Tom Atwell tatwell@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

Another beer brewed in New Hampshire by a former Mainer showed up on the shelves of RSVP on Forest Avenue last week.

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Shipyard won two first-place awards at the West Coast Brew Fest's Commercial Craft Competition, one of which was for its Brewer s Brown Ale).

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Iron Mike Pale Ale, available in Maine, is brewed with three types of hops.

I went to RSVP to attend a beer tasting in celebration of American Craft Beer Week and RSVP's 30th anniversary because I knew that Maine Beer Co.'s new Lunch IPA would be available. I'll comment on that a bit further down.

But my favorite discovery was 24-ounce cans of Iron Mike IPA from Moat Mountain Brewing Co. in North Conway, N.H.

Steve Johnson started Moat Mountain Smokehouse as a brew pub in 2000. And while he is from New Hampshire originally, he worked as a sous chef at Cafe Brix in South Portland, and started Federal Spice in Portland. He had an interest in brewing at that time.

"I was good friends with Rob Tod at Allagash and Kai Adams at Sebago," Johnson said. "I found a brewing system, and opened the brew pub in the old Scottish Lion Inn in North Conway. We have a 174-seat restaurant with five inn rooms upstairs and brewing, canning and bottling in the basement."

Johnson said he is limited by law to brewing 2,500 barrels a year, which is about 75,000 gallons. In addition to his own restaurant, he has about 200 customers, and he doesn't want to grow too fast.

"We are canning these things two at a time with three people working all day long in the basement," Johnson said.

He said he is coming into Maine because some customers kept asking him to, but he doesn't want to create too much demand too quickly and not be able to keep up with orders.

The only beer available in Maine so far is Iron Mike Pale Ale, which is the most popular year-round beer at the Smokehouse. It is sold here in 24-ounce cans priced at $4.99. Labeling on the can says, "Everyone loves big cans" and "Big enough to share."

It pours reddish-orange and clear with a good, stiff, off-white head. It is brewed with three types of hops, including Cascades, and has a citrus aroma. There is a bit of sweetness from the malt and some bitterness at the end.

It was a good beer after a long day of work while watching the Red Sox.

Johnson said he has to buy 98,000 cans at a time, and he has a trailer of cans outside his business. He hopes to start canning his brown ale in time for winter.

He also has long-range plans to open up a full-scale brewery elsewhere in North Conway, but that will await until sufficient demand is built up.

WHALE OF AN ALE

The Lunch IPA brewed by Maine Beer Co. in Portland is named after a whale seen regularly off the coast of Maine. The whale Lunch has a bite taken out of its fin, and Maine Beer owners David and Daniel Kleban named the beer after the whale because of its resilience.

I received only a couple of ounces of the beer for the tasting at RSVP, and a piney aroma and flavor dominated. If I don't taste more before this week's deadline, I'll add more later. The price was $5.49 for a 16.9-ounce bottle.

A REAL SMOOTH BELGIAN

On the other New Hampshire brewer with ties to Maine, I got to taste a lot more White Birch beer when Mariner Beverages held its beer and wine tasting for people in the industry.

The conclusion is that Bill Herlicka makes some excellent beers, and my favorite of the bunch was Hooksett Ale, a really smooth Belgian with 7.8 percent alcohol. I also bought a 22-ounce bottle of that at RSVP for $7.99.

SHIPYARD HONORED

Shipyard Brewing Co. won two first-place awards at the West Coast Brew Fest's Commercial Craft Competition.

Brewer's Brown Ale won in the brown ale category, and Pugsley's Signature Series XXXX IPA won for India pale ales.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

tatwell@pressherald.com

 

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