With all of the warm weather recently, I was ready for summer beers — just something to enjoy on a hot afternoon after spending a lot of time outdoors.

At Shaw’s, I saw Newcastle Summer Ale with an intriguing label — saying Hops and Glory on the neck but Summer Dog on the back, based on the Noel Coward lyric that only “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” It is made by Caledonian Brewing Co., brewers of Newcastle Brown, a beer I drank and enjoyed a lot of in the past but don’t recall drinking for several years.

Upon pouring, this looked like a pale ale, and I was expecting the crisp, slightly bitter flavor of an English pale ale. Instead, it was quite sweet and fairly heavy on the malt, tasting almost like a brown ale. It had a nice head, and was crystal clear in the glass and very tasty.

It is only 4.4 percent alcohol, which is perfect for a light summer ale. The price was about $13 for a 12-pack, and I am sure I will enjoy drinking these over the many warm days ahead.

TREKKER PALE ALE from Sebago Brewing is a beer that supports the Trek Across Maine, a three-day 180-mile bicycle ride from Bethel to Belfast for the American Lung Association.

This is an excellent American pale ale at 6.1 percent alcohol, and is fairly malty and sweet with balanced hops. It was a little bit cloudy, and had a nice head.


It cost $3.69 for a 22-ounce bottle at RSVP in Portland, and is another beer that hits the spot, as we work through the hot days of summer.

SWEET ACTION from Sixpoint had a mixed reaction from three tasters. As the name implies, it was a fairly sweet beer. But, since it was dry hopped with fresh rather than dried hops, it was very strongly flavored with a floral hops without being at all bitter.

Wife, Nancy, and son-in-law Christian both disliked this beer. I like it because it tastes and smells just like the hops we have growing on a fence at one edge of our vegetable garden. The mix of herbs and sweetness kept me going back for more. It cost $8.96 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans.

ALLAGASH BLACK is now available in 12-ounce bottles. I picked up a four-pack for $10.39 at RSVP in Portland last week.

The Belgian-style stout is not, of course, a new beer. It is part of Allagash Brewing’s year-round line-up of beers, and my personal favorite from the brewer. But it has been available only on draft and in 750-milliliter cork-and-cage bottles.

Dee Dee Germain, a brewer and director of communications at Allagash, told me in January that Black in 12-ounce bottles would taste a little different from the 750-milliliter version, in part because the cork-and-cage bottles can handle more carbonation.


I didn’t taste the 12-ounce bottles side-by-side with a 750-milliliter bottle, but I didn’t notice much difference. It is still a highly complex beer with wheat and oats, a lot of chocolate malt, just enough hops to balance out the malt and a fairly heavy viscosity.

I think Allagash will be selling a lot more Black because of the packaging. When you open a 750-milliliter, especially with a beer that is 7.5 percent alcohol, you need to have someone to share it with you. But a 12-ounce beer you can drink by yourself — even if hot summer days are not the ideal time to drink this heavy and complex beer.

BAR HARBOR REAL ALE is from Atlantic Brewing Co., and I have drunk this out of bottles for many years, but mostly before I started writing this column. I considered it a good beer, but it did not stand out from the pack.

I saw some on tap while I was waiting for a takeout order from Silly’s in Portland last week, so I gave it a try.

Real Ale on draft blew me away like it never did in the bottle. It’s a dark brown with a lot of caramel sweetness, a nice taste of yeast, a creamy mouthfeel and almost no hops.

Real Ale was a movement from the 1970s in Britain protesting the takeover of the beer market by national companies that artificially introduced carbon dioxide into the beer instead of having secondary fermentation in kegs or bottles. This beer is an ideal representation of what those real ales should be.

I’m going to have to buy a six-pack of Bar Harbor’s Real Ale real soon to make a more recent comparison of the two.

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


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: