What beer lover will pass up the chance to drink good, free beer beginning at 10 a.m. on a wonderfully sunny and warm late-summer day?

I joined 74 other volunteers in that activity on Sept. 7 at Sebago Brewing Co.’s production facility on Sanford Drive in Gorham — and all I had to do was remove hop flowers from the vines that had been brought in by Elm Hill Farm of Monroe, Ducktrap River Farm in Lincolnville and John Fox, who lives on Pine Point in Scarborough.

According to Jesse Baines, marketing and publicity guru for Sebago, Fox is the person who came up with the idea for Sebago’s Local Harvest Ale, in which all 198 pounds of the hops flowers produced this year will be used.

Baines said the 198 pounds of Cascade hops and 75 volunteers are both records.

Hops flowers look like bright green pine cones, and it is the yellow resin hidden behind the bracts of the hops flower that provides the wonderfully spicy aroma and flavor that make beer such a wonderful drink.

Hops processing at Sebago began about 9 a.m., but I had morning errands, so did not show up until about 9:30. I joined a table piled high with hops vines still twining around the rope that they grew on, made introductions with only first names, and joined a spirited discussion that included such expected topics as hops and good beer, and unexpected topics such as rugby.

One of the people at the table — Cory Schnaible, an organizer with Portland Greendrinks — and I had a good discussion about the fairly recent change in price structure at Greendrinks.

Greendrinks recently raised its entrance fee from $2 to $5, all of which goes to a charity. People bring their own glasses and can have all the beer they want, until it runs out. Schnaible said raising the price will bring more money to charities and weed out people interested more in cheap beer than the charity.

About 10 a.m., someone mentioned that the taps were open. One of the beers was Citra Saaz Down, a low-alcohol IPA brewed at Sebago with help from, and a recipe by, bloggers Carla Companion (The Beer Babe), Ben Moore (The Active Beer Geek) and Chad Lothian (If My Coaster Could Talk). I’d only had this once before, and was pleased to have some again.

Kai Adams, head brewer and co-owner of Sebago, walked by and said that with the number of people processing the hops, the job would be done by noon, compared to 3 p.m. last year. By then, the table had switched to Bonfire Rye, Sebago’s late-summer/early fall seasonal, and Adams was asked if he could make that a year-round beer. Adams shook his head “no.”

Shortly before noon, the hops processing was done, and the volunteers got a free lunch. Adams conducted some tours of the brewery for people who hadn’t taken them before.

The day was highly enjoyable, but what pleased me most was that when I buy my Local Harvest Ale, I could be drinking some of the hops that I helped process.

This year’s Local Harvest will be released at Sebago’s Octoberfest at the Sanford Drive brewery on Saturday. It will include music as well as one liter of beer for $20, with more beer and German food available for additional money. Tickets are available at sebagobrewing.com.

Other brewers hold similar hops-processing parties. Rising Tide held one on Aug. 31, at which it offered beer served through a Randall, a device that adds hops to the beer just as it is being served. I had other commitments that day.

LAST WEEK, I wrote about two beers that I have never had before, and I rectified that even before the column was in print — but well after my deadline.

Both were as good as I had expected.

Rising Tide’s Calcutta Cutter is easy-drinking for an 8.7-percent alcohol double IPA. It has a nice hoppiness but is not bitter, and has just a bit of malt sweetness at the end.

Peak Organic’s Fresh Cut Pilsner was crisp, clean and tasty. It was a medium golden in the glass and had a thin head, and the flowery hops aroma was intense.

This is Peak’s first lager, and they did it right for the American palate. While hoppy for a lager, it was mild compared to most IPAs, and totally impressive. It’s like Peak started with a true Czech Pilsner and then Americanized it by dry hopping.

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

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. 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: