February 14, 2013

What Ales You: Three brewers brimming with midwinter cheer

Sebago Full Throttle Double IPA is a big beer, with a lot of hops fairly well balanced by some malt sweetness.


When I got a news release that Sebago Brewing Co. was releasing this year's version of its Full Throttle Double IPA, it hit me that I had not been tasting as many of Sebago's beers as I have in the past.

When I worked full time in downtown Portland, I would walk down to the company's Portland restaurant on the Fridays that a new beer was being released and try it. It was always a good way to start the weekend. Now that I work from home, the trip to Sebago is a bit less convenient.

I did stop by a couple of weeks ago, when the Full Throttle Double IPA was released. This is a big beer, with a lot of hops fairly well balanced by a some malt sweetness. It is a good winter seasonal; an unfiltered amber coming in at 8.4 percent alcohol. And while this has a bit more hops than I like in my beers, I did enjoy it. I realize that many craft-beer drinkers like more hops than I do, and this is going to be a popular beer.

It is scheduled to be on sale through April, and I saw it in four-packs on the shelves of the Bier Cellar when I was there recently.

While at the restaurant, I also had Bub, which was more to my liking. This is a black IPA and described in the literature as being "from where the hops and the heart are." I found the malt more dominant in this beer. It seemed sweet and smooth, but it could be because I tasted it right after the Full Throttle.

Bub was created by longtime Sebago bartender Tiff Caron, was first offered at a pilot tasting on Halloween and arrived at the restaurants the day after Thanksgiving, so it might be disappearing soon. But it is good enough that it should at least be part of Sebago's seasonal offerings.

I did not buy the Full Throttle when I saw it on the shelves, but I did buy a 22-ounce bottle of Sebago's 2012 Grand Crue, and Nancy and I both liked it a lot. This is a wonderfully rich, complex beer that is a blend of four of Sebago's special beers: fresh versions of Lake Trout Stout and Barleywine, and bourbon-barrel-aged versions of Midnight Porter and Slick Nick, the company's winter seasonal.

This beer is definitely dominated by the malt, with just a bit of oak and a hops bite at the end. It is 6.4 percent alcohol -- higher than most everyday beers but quite a bit lower than the 2011 Grand Crue, which came in at 8.4 percent.

The bottle cost $8.49 at the Bier Cellar, but it was definitely worth it. It was my favorite of the three recent releases.

For future reference, Sebago had the mixing party for this year's Bourbon Barrel Aged Lake Trout Stout on Feb. 7, and I was out of town and missed it. But that beer will be coming out soon, and I am looking forward to it.

ABOUT A MONTH AGO, I was at RSVP in Portland and saw a group of Limited Beers from Samuel Adams. I bought three that I had never had before -- Verloren, Tasman Red and Dark Depths -- and Nancy and I drank them on three successive nights while waiting for, living through and recovering from the Blizzard of 2013. They cost $4.99 each for a 22-ounce bottle.

Verloren is an unusual beer. It is described as a Gose from Saxony, a wheat beer with coriander and salt, and comes in at 6 percent alcohol. I surprised myself by liking this beer quite a bit, as it tasted a bit like Samuel Adams Summer Ale but with more intensity all around.

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