Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By TOM ATWELL
The Maine Brewers Guild festival in Portland earlier this month gave me a chance to taste a lot of beers I had never had before, try beers from a few breweries I hadn't tried, and meet a lot more people from the brewing industry.
With a few exceptions, my theme for the day was low-alcohol beer. As a member of the press, I received a VIP ticket, which meant I could potentially drink beer for four hours on a warm sunny day on the Maine State Pier. But we had company that night, so it made sense to limit my intake.
The first beer I tasted was Boothbay Craft Brewery's Devil's Thumbprint Black IPA, made in collaboration with Zero Gravity Craft Brewery in Burlington, Vt. The name refers to the fact that they put in six malts and six hops, and it came in at 6.6 percent alcohol.
This was a nicely rich beer, hoppy without being over the top and an overall good introduction to the Boothbay brewery.
Next, I went to Black Bear Brewery from Orono and tried its Roger's Farm Saison, named after the University of Maine's sustainable agriculture research farm. It was 7 percent alcohol, but very tasty, with a lot of farmhouse-ale yeast, some fruitiness in the hops and a well-rounded flavor.
The person pouring the beer said he thinks the Black Bear will be getting more of its beer down to southern Maine in the near future. That is good news.
Captain Dick's porter, a new brew from the Fire N Brew Restaurant in Wells, is 5 percent alcohol -- closer to the range I was looking for, but still full-flavored with a good mouthfeel. It was definitely nice enough that I know I am going to have to make a trip to southern York County sometime soon.
Having tried the new breweries and one that I just never get to taste often enough, I returned to old friend Rising Tide of Portland. Its new offering was Figue, the latest in the brewery's Entrepot line of farmhouse-style beers made in a warehouse.
This is a small-batch saison made with Turkish figs and mesquite honey, and is 7.7 percent alcohol. The honey and figs give it a nice sweetness and a rich flavor.
Just before lunch, I went to Sebago Brewing to try Citra Saaz Down, brewed by beer bloggers Carla Companion (The Beer Babe on the Press Herald website), Ben Moore (The Active Beer Geek) and Chad Lothian of the blog If My Poster Could Talk.
This was a low-alcohol but flavorful IPA that went very well with Sebago's bratwurst and pasta that made up the lunch included in the festival ticket.
After lunch, I went back to Rising Tide to have Hey Buddy, described as a "kitchen sink beer," brewed by Nathan Sanborn of Rising Tide and Chresten Sorensen of Bunker Brewing, companies located within easy walking distance of each other in East Bayside.
This beer was only 4 percent alcohol, but it was strongly flavored and refreshing. It's a seven-barrel batch, so I think I won't be around long.
The next stop was Andrew's Brewing, a very small brewery located in Lincolnville. I drink its beer when I see it -- usually at the Great Lost Bear -- but don't remember having Northern Brown. This was another very good beer for my low-alcohol mood. It was lightly hoppy and very malty, a bit sweet and with 4.2 percent alcohol.
I stopped by Federal Jack's intending to drink the Independence Ale that Alan Pugsley first brewed two years ago and which I liked a lot. Brewer Mike Haley suggested that I try Summer Solstice instead, saying it was a perfect beer for a hot day on the pier.
He was right. The American pale ale was a little sweet, mild with just a bit of a hops bite at the end, and less than 4 percent alcohol by volume. (This late in the day, and even though I was requesting small pours and doing mostly low-alcohol beers, my notes get a little hard to read.)
I stopped by In'finiti for my last stop of the day. They had a rauchbier at 4.7 percent alcohol that was smooth and not too smoky, but still very good.
Eric Michaud, the owner of In'finiti, had me try their Soured Wit, which was made with a little bit of lactobacillus acid to give it just a little bit of a sour taste. He called it "a session beer with a sour body," and it was just the type of exciting beer with which you want to end your day.
As previously arranged, I called wife Nancy to come pick me up, and had a nice evening at home.
Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at: