April 12, 2012

What Ales You: Imperial Red King Crimson, a bulked-up Spring Ale

Also: Penobscot Bay Brewery's Old Factory Whistle Scottish Ale and Sierra Nevada’s Ruthless Rye

By Tom Atwell tatwell@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

When I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I could not find Peak Organic's King Crimson at my usual shops, Jon Cadoux, the company's founder and head brewer, sent me to Whole Foods.

The beer selection at Whole Foods is impressive, as it is at nearby Trader Joe's, and I have to remember to keep them in mind when I am searching for beers to try -- even though my general inclination is to go with the locally owned enterprises.

We tried the beer with hearty appetizers, including cheese, roasted garlic and stuffed bread, during an Easter eve dinner last weekend. 

King Crimson, an Imperial red ale, is Peak's Simcoe Spring Ale after a body-building program. It features the Simcoe hops with its piney flavor, but has a much stronger malt flavor. Although it was a rich, clear red, the flavor at the end had a little bit of roasted malt, bringing to mind a porter.

The King Crimson is 9 percent alcohol, so it's a beer you'll want to sip slowly and savor. The price was $6.49 for a 22-ounce bottle.

It garnered mixed reviews. Son-in-law Christian didn't like it much at all, Nancy thought it was middle-of-the road, and I liked it but not as much as the Simcoe Spring Ale. It was quite sweet at the first taste, and then the heavy hops hit. It is a complex beer, and well done, but just not my favorite.


THE SECOND BEER of the evening was Penobscot Bay Brewery's Old Factory Whistle Scottish Ale. Penobscot Bay is part of Winterport Winery, and the company website describes it as its signature ale.

This is not a typical Scottish ale, which are usually big, strong and malty, but I enjoyed it anyway. It has very little carbonation, and not as much body as I expect from Scottish ales. Nancy described the flavor as flat, and not just because of the low carbonation.

Christian and I liked the complex sweetness of the malt, detecting flavors of caramel and, somewhat surprisingly, cherries and other fruit. It's brewed with English Kent Goldings hops, but these are very much in the background.

This beer is worth trying, if only because it's so unusual. It was priced at $6.99 at Shaw's.


THE THIRD BEER of the day was Sierra Nevada's Ruthless Rye, an IPA with a twist. Several people had recommended that I try this one, and it really did have a nice flavor.

The rye adds some complexity to what is a very good IPA. Rye has a spicy and occasionally metallic -- but in a nice way -- flavor when used in beer, and it paired off well with the spiciness of the hops. 

This is a highly carbonated beer, with a frothy head. It's an amber to orange beer, coming in at 6.2 percent alcohol.

Sierra Nevada describes it as a complex beer for the tumultuous transition to spring, and it is about to go off the shelves. I found it at Shaw's for $9.99 a sixpack.


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



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