May 16, 2013

What Ales You: Here's to beers at In'finiti and beyond

The establishment had its soft opening in March and has been busy ever since.

By TOM ATWELL

In'finiti Fermentation and Distillation has opted against having a grand opening.

Primus Primus

Primus Primus, the first beer brewed at In'finiti Fermentation & Distillation.

Courtesy photo

"I think it is a little bit late for that," owner Eric Michaud said when I talked to him at the brewery, distillery and restaurant, on May 9. The restaurant has already had a lot of press, and everyone knows about it already.

The doors on the establishment at 250 Commercial St., Portland, had its soft opening sometime in March without signs or any advertising, and has been busy ever since. When I first dropped in on April 5, only three In'finiti beers were on tap, but now it has eight of its own beers available.

"We have 19 taps, and the eight different beers that are our own are the top sellers," Michaud said. "We want to offer other local beers, but they just aren't selling. We may end up putting out more of our own."

Michaud said In'finiti will sell mostly Belgian- and American-style beers, because that is what he likes best -- as shown by the listing at his other beer-centric local restaurant, Novare Res.

But the listings will also cover the world, and the eight beers on draft last week included a German-style Kellerbier and a British mild.

The creation of In'finiti was a family affair. Eric Michaud's father, Don, whose regular job is customizing cars with an emphasis on Porsches, served as general contractor, while Eric's brother, Ian, who has worked as a set designer on Broadway, did the furniture and overall design. My Porsche-owning brother Steve arranged the special visit for me through his relationship with Don.

Eric talked a little bit about the complicated state laws that cover an operation like In'finiti.

He told me the company just received its state distilling license the day I talked with him, and that he will probably be selling distilled spirits in a month or so after the federal government approves his labels.

Even though In'finiti will be distilling its own liquors for sale at its own restaurant, the liquor will have to be bottled and trucked to Augusta, where it will be sold to the state.

Michaud will then have to write a check to the state for the price of the liquor and appropriate taxes, and haul it back to the restaurant to sell.

And while he has to pay for the liquor he created before he can drive it back to Portland, the state will wait about a month to pay him for the liquor he delivered to Augusta, repurchased and already hauled back to Portland.

Michaud also said he will be selling some In'finiti beers to other bars around the state, including Novare Res. Another state law requires brewpubs to sell some of their beers off site, he said.

The day I visited, a brewer from De Struise Brouwers from Belgium was on site creating a beer that will be sold at The Festival, a high-end beer event being held by the Shelton Brothers on June 21-22 in Portland.

Now down to the beer. I reported on the Small Baltic Porter, a wonderfully flavorful low-alcohol beer, and Disbelief, a strong Belgian-style dark brewed with maple syrup, when I visited in April.

This time, I had a full 14-ounce Primus, a mild and yeasty 4.2 percent Belgian; tastings of blk abt (that's the real name), a Marshall Wharf collaboration on a Belgian royal stout that was wonderfully rich; Kellerbier, an amber German lager that was unfiltered and unpasteurized, which was refreshing and more malty than hoppy; Sir Halcyon Mild, an English take on a malty beer; Infinitely DIPA, a double IPA at 8.2 percent; and E+mc2, a strongly hoppy beer.

My palate got a little confused, but I really liked the Primus, the blk abt and the Sir Halcyon, and enjoyed them all.

For dessert after all of that, I had an 8-ounce Black Albert, a 13-percent Belgian Royal Stout from De Struise that was big, rich and wonderful. A great day.

MAMA'S CROW BAR on Munjoy Hill hosted the release party for this year's Prince Tuesday beer -- a collaboration by Allagash, Maine Beer Co. and Rising Tide -- on Saturday.

Prince Tuesday is a Belgian rye that was initially brewed for the first Maine Brewers Guild Festival in Boothbay. Son Zachary, daughter-in-law Marah and I all enjoyed this a lot while their children played in the yard behind the bar and a pig was being roasted.

It's a yeasty beer with a bit of mineral spiciness from the Maine-grown rye, and is well-balanced by the hops. It comes in at 8.1 percent alcohol, but tastes like it is much lower.

The beer will be available on draft and in 750-milliliter cork and cage bottles in Maine only. Part of the proceeds benefits Portland Trails.

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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