December 20, 2012

What Ales You: Rocky Coast favors basics and thirst-quenching beers

Brewmaster Andy Tomlinson is a native of England, lives in Wells and works as a biochemist in Boston.

Rocky Coast Brewing, which started selling its English-style ales at Post Road Tavern in Ogunquit in September, is taking brewing back to the basics, brewmaster Andy Tomlinson believes. 

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Jim Orser, left, and Andy Tomlinson display a sign they have yet to install at their brewery entrance in the Post Road Tavern in Ogunquit.

Tom Atwell photos

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Rocky Coast tap handles at the restaurant, which specializes in English-style food.

"I see craft brewers making bigger and bigger beers, with higher alcohol and more hops," said Tomlinson, who is a native of England, lives in Wells and works as a biochemist in Boston. "Beer in England is used to quench the thirst, and that can't be done with big beers. They are one and done."

The Rocky Coast beers go well with the menu at Post Road Tavern, which owner and assistant brewer Jim Orser said specializes in English-style food such as shepherd's pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash, meatloaf sandwiches and what Tomlinson said is the best-selling restaurant food in London, chicken curry.

The brewery uses a 3.5-barrel system and has three 3.5-barrel fermenters. All of the beers are unfiltered and keg-conditioned, and most of them meet the German beer purity laws, which say the only ingredients in beer are malt, hops, yeast and water.

Tomlinson believes the quality of Rocky Coast's beer stems from the fresh yeast that he creates for every batch of beer. He said many brewers take yeast from a batch of beer that they have just brewed and put it in the next batch. He says that over time, the yeast will change, and that will change the flavor of the beer.

Tomlinson creates fresh yeast in his home lab, using his skills as a trained scientist, and that way the beer will remain consistent.

Rocky Coast goes against the grain in the color of its beers.

"When a customer asks for a light beer," Orser said, "we recommend our stout."

The Parson's Stout pours like a traditional stout with a rich creamy head and a deep, dark color. But it is a mild-flavored beer, very light on the hops, with a bit of sweetness and a rich malt flavor. It is 5 percent alcohol, so it's fairly light in that department as well.

The Verger's Tipple is a pale ale, at 4 percent alcohol, and has a bit more hops than the stout, but is just an easy-drinking ale. 

Red's ESB, or extra special bitter, is a more full-bodied ale with a great flavor at about 5 percent alcohol. There is a little bit more hops in this beer, and it is a little more complex, with some spiciness.

Bad Wolf Brown is the last of the regular beers brewed by Rocky Coast. It is 6 percent alcohol, brewed with three different malts, and has flavors of both chocolate and coffee in the mix. It doesn't have a lot of hops, but does have a big flavor in every way.

Rocky Coast had two different seasonals on tap when I visited last Saturday, and they both were excellent.

The one I liked better was Islay Pale Ale, coming in at 6.5 percent alcohol and brewed with about 10 percent peated malt. Islay is the section of Scotland known for such highly peated Scotch whiskeys as Laphroig and Lagavulin, and the peat flavor comes through strongly in this ale, although it does not overpower the malt.

The Angel's Old Fashioned bourbon pale ale was fermented on oak chips that were soaked in bourbon, and Tomlinson did not figure out the alcohol content, but he thinks it is the highest of the six. After the first round of fermentation, he added some more yeast for some secondary fermentation, during which he dry-hopped the beer.

This had a higher viscosity than any of the other beers, and was the most complex. The flavor lingered in my mouth a long time after I took a swallow.

Tomlinson prefers his beer at cellar temperature, about 50 degrees, but the beer at Post Road Tavern is served cooler than that. Some of the beers are fairly low in carbonation.

Tomlinson was a home brewer in England, stopped brewing after moving to the United States, and resumed home brewing in 2009. Rocky Coast is his first commercial brewing.

The restaurant sells growlers of the beer, with the container costing $5 and the contents costing from $12 to $22, depending on the ale. 

As of now, the only place to buy the beers is at the restaurant, located at 705 Main St. (U.S. Route 1) in Ogunquit. After next summer, they might offer their beers at other bars in the area if it turns out they have any that they don't sell on site.

For more information, go to postroadtavern.com.

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

tomatwell@me.com

 

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