February 2, 2012

What Ales You: In Peak's all-Maine brew, malt stands up to hops

By TOM ATWELL

I was at RSVP on Forest Avenue trying to find Peak Organic's Simcoe Spring Ale, which I missed last year but heard was great, or Peak's Mocha Ale, which I saw on Facebook and sounded intriguing.

click image to enlarge

Innis and Gunn's unique Rum Cask Ale is aged in rum barrels.

Courtesy photo

Neither was on the shelves, but I did find a 22-ounce bottle of Peak's Local Series Maine edition, so I bought that for a bit more than $5.

What Peak has done is brew four 50-barrel batches of beer using the same recipe, except that the hops and barley come from a different state for each batch: Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts or New York.

I got the Maine version, and I think that's the only one available at RSVP. I'm not sure, because I didn't read the label until I got home. But if you had all four, you could compare them to see how the ingredients from each region change the flavor.

This 6.8-percent alcohol beer was complex. The label describes it as assertively hopped, with dry-hopping as well as hopping in the boil. And while the beer does have an earthy and floral hop aroma, it's mild compared to some of the hop bombs that have been appearing on the market during the past few years. And I recall its being less hoppy than Sebago's Local Harvest, another beer made with all-Maine ingredients.

The hops definitely did not overpower the malt, which gave the beer a strong backbone and a bit of sweetness at the end.

Searching for the Peak beers was only part of the reason for my trip to RSVP. Mariner Distributors was conducting a beer tasting in which it offered Fuller's ESB, Cody Brewing's Wheeler's Brown, DeProuf Zoetzuur Flemish Ale and Innis and Gunn Rum Cask Ale.

I reviewed the Wheeler Brown a couple of weeks ago. The Fuller's, from England, is the model for an Extra Special Bitter. It has a wonderfully rich malt flavor and a pleasing amount of hops. It's at 5.9 percent alcohol, and is a great beer for drinking and relaxing.

The Flemish Ale has a bit of sourness from the Brettanamyces yeast and some sweetness from fresh Belgian cherries. This is a good beer, but not to my personal liking -- I'm just not a big fan of cherries. It costs $11.79 for a 750-milliliter bottle.

The Rum Cask Ale is unique and a little bit off the wall. It's a Scottish ale aged in rum barrels rather than the traditional whisky barrels. The beer is a bit sweet, with flavors of molasses, vanilla and oak along with the hops and malt. It's not a beer you could drink a lot of, but it is something to try. It cost $2.39 for an 11.2-ounce bottles, and was 7 percent alcohol.

THE MAIL BROUGHT a sampling of Samuel Adams beers, three of which I had not tried: Whitewater IPA, Alpine Spring and Mighty Oak Ale. All three are part of the current Brewer's Choice 12-pack, retailing for $13.99.

My least favorite of the three was the Whitewater IPA, another fusion of IPA and white beer. It's more witbier than IPA, with a cloudy golden color and flavors of copycat brewing. This style was invented only a couple of years ago -- now everybody is brewing one, and I am already tired of it.

The Mighty Oak Ale was only lightly oaked rather than mightily oaked, but had a nice maltiness and sweetness, and was a crystal-clear amber color. It had fairly heavy carbonation and 5.7 percent alcohol.

The Alpine Spring was my favorite of the three. The 5.5-percent alcohol lager is unfiltered, so it's just a little bit cloudy, and the hops have a bit of citrus in them. It's quite malty for a lager, and has a nice dry finish.

Finally, I had some of Sebago's Midnight Porter, which is beer they brewed in the past but not for a couple of years. This has a nice bit of chocolate malt, and is an easy-drinking dark beer for the days of late winter.

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

tomatwell@me.com

 

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