June 2, 2011

What Ales You: With Gritty's growlers, draft beer gets carried away

Narragansett's Summer Ale is new creation, brewed by Trinity Brewhouse.

Gritty McDuff's, with brew pubs in Portland, Freeport and Auburn, is now selling its beer in growlers -- half-gallon containers that are filled directly from the tap at a brew pub.

Gritty's growlers are half-gallon containers for $15.99, with each refill $11.99.

click image to enlarge

Narragansett Summer Ale is an old brewery's new creation.

Courtesy photos

When I got the news release, I was a bit surprised, because I thought the idea behind the growler law was to allow brew pubs without bottling facilities to sell their beer to people who want to take it home. Gritty's bottles its own 22-ounce bottles at its Freeport brewery, and has 12-ounce bottles contract-brewed at Shipyard.

So I called Ed Stebbins, Gritty's co-owner and master brewer, to find out why the company is doing growlers.

"The growlers are very popular now," Stebbins said, "and the Brewers Guild went through a lot of work to get this law through the Legislature. We are just trying to be a good guild member and support the effort to get this passed."

Stebbins said Gritty's had been quietly selling growlers for a couple of months before announcing the fact to the public, and they sold well over the winter.

There are different opinions about whether draft beer is always better than bottled or canned beer, he said.

"Session beers like the kind we make are much better on draft," he said. "And the less beer travels, the better it is, and usually draft beer is the freshest beer you can get."

The price of the first growler of beer at Gritty's is $15.99, and each refill costs $11.99.

NARRAGANSETT'S SUMMER ALE has shown up in Maine beer stores, and it is quite good.

Since the old New England brewery's revival a few years ago, it has recreated beers that 'Gansett made before the company was sold to Falstaff Brewing and basically went defunct. It has done a Fest for fall, a Porter for winter and a Bock for spring.

But with the Summer Ale, it has created a new beer rather than revive an older one. And it is an ale rather than the lager for which Narragansett is most known.

Like its Bock and other specialty beers, the Summer Ale is brewed by Trinity Brewhouse in Providence, R.I., Rochester, N.Y., and Pawcatuck, Conn.

It's brewed with two-row malt and Citra hops, but the hops comes through more as aroma than bitterness. It has a creamy mouthfeel and just a bit of malt sweetness. At only 4.2 percent alcohol, it is a beer I could drink a couple of after working outside in the garden.

THE TREK ACROSS MAINE, a three-day, 180-mile ride from Bethel to Belfast in support of the Maine Lung Association, is one of Maine's premier fundraisers.

Tying into that, Jon Clegg, a brewer at Sebago Brewing Co. in Gorham, created Brewing for a Cause, in which about 20 people paid a fee and gathered at Sebago to brew a beer from start to finish.

The result is Trekker Pale Ale, a 6.1 percent alcohol American Pale Ale that will be available through July on draft and in 22-ounce bombers.

I have a number of friends who do the trek, so I wanted to taste the beer dedicated to the event. Clegg told me the easiest way to do that would be to drop by the Sebago's Portland brew pub, where it would be on draft. What he didn't tell me is that Sebago had just made its move -- which I knew was coming but didn't remember when -- from its location at Middle and Exchange streets to Franklin and Fore streets.

So as a bonus, I got to check out a new bar as well as a new beer.

The Trekker poured a little cloudy, so I think it's unfiltered, and had quite a bit of hops up front with the sweetness of the malt coming after. It would be a great second beer after bicycling for 60 miles. The first beer would have to be a bit lighter.

I also liked the new Sebago space. It was more open and spacious than the old one, with several television sets going in the bar area. It will be a good spot to check out the many good Sebago brews. 

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

tatwell@pressherald.com

 

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