August 30, 2012

What Ales You: Small Bunker fills its growler with big taste

Bunker holds open house from 4 to 7 p.m. most Tuesdays.

By TOM ATWELL

Bunker Brewing Co. has been selling growlers at its 122 Anderson St. location in Portland for a couple of months, but my schedule did not permit me to stop by until nine days ago, when brewer Chresten Sorensen was serving a Czech Pilsner.

click image to enlarge

A Bunker Brewing growler costs $25 – $15 for the container and a discounted price of $10 for the contents. Refills will be $12 for most beers.

Courtesy photo

I had some trouble finding the brewery. There was neither name nor number visible from where I thought 122 should be on Anderson Street, and there was construction at the brick building closest to the street. A guy running a circular saw pointed me to the brick building behind the one he was working on.

Sorensen was working alone in the building and had two customers who were just leaving. He was brewing some as-yet-unnamed Oktoberfest when I arrived about 5 p.m. Bunker holds open house from 4 to 7 p.m. most Tuesdays, except when Sorensen has other commitments.

"We are really a one-and-a-half man operation," Sorensen said.

Sorensen and Jay Villani, chef/owner of Sonny's and Local 188 restaurants in Portland, started the brewery in the spring. Villani handled the real estate transactions and various permits, while Sorensen took care of the brewing operations. Sorensen previously was a baker for Villani's restaurants.

Villani's two restaurants each have two taps of Bunker beers going at all times -- along with a good selection of other beers -- and Bunker has beer at a number of other bars and restaurants in Portland. Only one keg has been sold outside Portland, when someone volunteered to deliver it to the Nocturnem Draft Haus in Bangor.

Sorensen said some Tuesdays when he sells growlers are busy, and some are slow. But he isn't worried about a high traffic count.

"I really do it so I can get to meet some of the people who are drinking the beer," he said. "I'm selling all the beer I can make, anyway."

Sorensen is increasing his capacity, however. He just ordered a new 3.5-barrel brewhouse and a 15-barrel finishing tank, which should markedly increase capacity.

Bunker makes both ales and lagers, with the lagers taking about five weeks to create. Sorensen uses local ingredients when he can get some, but that is not all he uses.

Most of the company's beers are between 5 and 6 percent alcohol, although Sorensen brewed an IPA that was 7.5 percent and an imperial stout that was 8.9 percent.

The Czech Pilsner was in the 5 percent range. It was slightly cloudy, with a stiff white head, a nice hop bite that was a little bit stronger than most Pilsners, and a crisp malt background.

If you think of Pilsner Urquell as the benchmark for this kind of beer, the Bunker version is a bit bigger in every way. But it is still a beer that is wonderfully refreshing and easy to drink.

Bunker's growlers are unique in Maine. They are taller than most, and instead of a screw cap, they have a spring-loaded cap with a rubber gasket similar to the stoppers that Grolsch often uses, but much larger.

The first growler costs $25, which Sorensen said is $15 for the container and a discounted price of $10 for the contents. Refills will be $12 for most beers, and a bit more for some of his imperial beers.

Sorensen says he likes his neighborhood. The building with the construction at the front of 122 Anderson houses Tandem Coffee, which opened after I visited last week. The Rising Tide brewery is about 100 yards away on Fox Street, and Urban Farm Fermentory is at 200 Anderson St.

BOSTON BEER COMPANY, brewers of the Samuel Adams line, has a new beer for its fall mixed pack, Hazel Brown Ale. It is described as a hazelnut ale, with lots of toffee and caramel in the flavor. As a fan of brown ales, I think I will like it.

The other beers in the pack are OctoberFest (which I have had this year), Latitude 48 IPA, Boston Lager, Dunkelweizen and Harvest Pumpkin Ale. I like them all except the Harvest Pumpkin Ale.

It also has a new imperial pumpkin ale called Fat Jack. I won't go out of my way to try this, and I am pretty sure Shipyard did it first.

GEARY'S Autumn Ale has joined the other fall beers on the shelves. This is an English brown ale, not too sweet but very malty, coming in at 5.8 percent alcohol.

I bought a 12-pack of this and a 12-pack of Shipyard's Old Thumper -- another personal favorite -- to mark a traditional English week as the summer winds down.

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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