Sebago Brewing Co., with its brewery in Gorham and pubs in Portland, Gorham, Scarborough and Kennebunk, will be introducing its new Saddleback Ale Friday at the Saddleback Bluegrass Festival in Rangeley.

But it is not really a new beer.

“We have been brewing our Northern Light Ale for 11 or 12 years,” said Kai Adams, brewmaster and co-owner of Sebago Brewing, “but it has never been packaged or promoted. It was sold only at the brew pubs.”

Jon Clegg, lead brewer at Sebago, created Northern Lights as a pilsner-style lager when Sebago opened its first brew pub — now replaced by the Scarborough location — in South Portland.

But as a lager, it took 28 days to ferment, and it would sell out in less than two weeks. To speed production, they converted it to a bottom-fermented ale with the same Czech-style Cascades and Mount Hood hops and the same pale malt.

For my research, I tried the Northern Light at the Sebago in Portland a week ago, and Adams opened a bottle for me when I visited the brewery on Monday, the first day it was bottled. It has a wonderful light straw color, with a clean white head.

It has quite a bit of hops — like the European lagers it is derived from — a crisp flavor and 4.1 percent alcohol. It will be available to bars in kegs, and sold in stores in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles.

The new name, marketing and decision to bottle Saddleback Ale came from a discussion with Chris Farmer, director of development at Saddleback. Adams knew him from Farmer’s days at the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, where he ran the Sebago Lake Brew Festival.

“I was proud to enter a partnership with Saddleback,” Adams said, “because like us, it is a local company owned by local people.”

Sebago brewed its beer at its restaurants until 2005, when it centralized brewing in Gorham. Before then the company mostly consisted of restaurants, with beer as a sideline.

Adams, with Clegg and head brewer Tom Abercrombie, are hoping to increase the beer’s percentage of the business, and Adams says sales of the beer have been growing fantastically this year.

Sebago brews with American malt, hops and yeast and water from Sebago Lake. Adams notes that this separates Sebago from many of the other Maine breweries, which use British recipes and ingredients.

Adams said he learned brewing when he got a job at a brewery while attending the University of Colorado in Boulder. A Greely High School graduate, he moved back to Maine to be a brewer at the original Sea Dog Brew Pub in Camden, where he used the methods brought to Maine by Alan Pugsley, brewmaster at Shipyard.

But when he opened his brewery, he went back to the methods he learned in Colorado.

Adams gave me a hint of a real new beer to come.

Local Harvest Ale, due out in September, will be brewed with hops from Irish Hill Farm in Monson, Pietree Orchard in Sweden and some local backyard gardeners, and malt grown in Aroostook County.

“I think this is the first commercial beer made with Maine malt and hops,” Adams said.

The locavore-leaning garden geek in me is really looking forward to it.


People can taste some Allagash Victor and assist the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the St. Lawrence on Congress Street. Allagash contributes $1 from every bottle of Victor sold to St. Lawrence.

Victor includes chancellor red grapes in the mash, along with pilsner malt, Fuggles and Hallertau hops and is brewed with wine yeast. I’ve never tasted it, but it sounds good. And I have had Allagash’s Victoria, which is similar but made with chardonnay grapes, and enjoyed that. Admission is $15.


Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at: [email protected]