Jason Perkins untwisted the wire covering and popped the cork on a bottle from the batch of Sixteen Counties, a golden ale made to showcase ingredients from Maine and the latest addition to Allagash Brewing Co.’s stable of year-round beers.

Perkins, the brewmaster, had tasted the product throughout the process, from chewing on the raw grain to cracking a warm bottle before it was fully carbonated.

ThatMomentBut now that cases and kegs of the beer were at a warehouse on Warren Avenue to be trucked to distributors next week, there was no more testing to be done.

“This is it,” Perkins said of the oversized bottle he’d been keeping in a mini-fridge in his office at the brewery on Industrial Way.

The only thing left to do was drink it.

It had been years since the idea for a beer brewed from mostly Maine ingredients, something Perkins has always wanted to make, began to seem like it could happen.


The 41-year-old grew up on a small farm in Vermont where most of what he ate came from outside his door. It’s also where creating what he consumed became ingrained.

He came to Maine for college at Bates in Lewiston. That’s when he started homebrewing with setups as rudimentary as beer made in a bag that hung in his dorm room.

After graduating in 1997, he and his girlfriend – now wife and mother of their two girls – took a trip to Montana and ended up signing a lease and staying for a year. He got a job at a small brewery there and fell in love again.

When they moved back to Maine to be closer to family, brewery jobs were the only ones he sought. After six months at Gritty McDuff’s, he joined Allagash as its third full-time employee.

Allagash brewmaster Jason Perkins says for years he has wanted to make a beer that could use products grown on Maine farms. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Allagash brewmaster Jason Perkins says for years he has wanted to make a beer that could use products grown on Maine farms. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

At the time, the company was annually producing less than 1,000 barrels of its Belgian-style beer, a deviation from the more common English and German styles that uses unique ingredients and spices to create distinct aromas and flavors.

Then, everyone did everything, from sweeping the floor to running promotional events, in addition to brewing.


The company grew slowly every year, and sometimes not at all, until 2007, when it skyrocketed. It hasn’t stopped.

“I don’t really remember when it wasn’t like that,” Perkins said about the dizzying pace of the past decade.

Sixteen Counties on the production line at Allagash. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Sixteen Counties on the production line at Allagash Brewing. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Now, Allagash has more than 100 employees and annually brews 90,000 barrels of beer that’s sold in 17 states, though the company hasn’t forgotten where it’s from.

Perkins has incorporated Maine-grown cherries and berries into recipes for specialty releases before, but grains – the main ingredient in beer after water – weren’t available in the state until recently.

Barley was grown as feed for livestock and wheat for making bread, but the standards are different, Perkins said.

Plus, the barley would need to be malted, the process of germinating and drying the grain, and no one in Maine was doing that.


Then, a couple of years ago, Allagash got wind of two malting companies that were opening in the state, creating the possibility of locally sourced beer.

Allagash started working with them right away, experimenting with their products and giving them feedback.

After more than a year of trying out various recipes, incorporating several Maine ingredients, Allagash settled on its first version of Sixteen Counties, a beer that the company imagined it would release once a year and that would be different every time, aside from its ties to Maine. The first one was released in 2014 and sold at the brewery and in local bars. Another was made a year later.

“One was lighter, one was amber, the yeast strains were different each time,” Perkins said.

But the company realized it could do more to support Maine agriculture – a primary reason for making the beer – by producing Sixteen Counties year-round, which meant settling on a single recipe.

Perkins started with a purpose.


“We really wanted to build a beer that would showcase the flavors of the malt and grains itself,” he said, so it couldn’t be too dark or too hoppy.

Sixteen Counties features oats from Linneus, wheat ground in Skowhegan, and barley malted in Mapleton and Lisbon Falls. Not too dark or too hoppy, it showcases the malt and grains. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Sixteen Counties features oats from Linneus, wheat ground in Skowhegan and barley malted in Mapleton and Lisbon Falls. Not too dark or too hoppy, it showcases the malt and grains. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Although the production of hops in Maine is growing, it’s not yet at the level where Allagash could rely on it for a year-round beer, Perkins said. But the company plans to use local hops when the supply is more readily available.

The latest and final version of Sixteen Counties features oats grown in Linneus lending silkiness to the mouth feel, wheat ground in Skowhegan giving it a toasted flavor, and barley malted in Mapleton and Lisbon Falls infusing sweetness. Allagash describes it as having aromas of lemon rind, flowers and candied grapefruit, an herbal first sip, and a dry, balanced finish. A less sophisticated palate might simply call it drinkable.

In a giant warehouse filled with metal tanks and machines, the grains were mixed with water and filtered from the liquid. Hops were added as it boiled before being fermented for 25 days. Two weeks ago, it was moved into kegs and 750-milliliter bottles where it would become carbonated. On Monday, a panel of tasters signed off on its release, and as of Saturday it will be on tap in the brewery’s tasting room and for sale in the big bottles at $9 a pop.

It’s one of eight beers that Allagash will produce year round. The second batch was bottled Thursday.

The day before, Perkins popped a bottle for the first time solely for the purpose of enjoying it.


He poured it into a glass and watched the head rise quickly.

“It’s a lively beer,” he said, referring to the amount of carbonation.

He tilted the glass and took a sip, letting it sit in the front of his mouth.

How did it taste? “Good,” he said, then took another sip and revised his assessment.

“Oh, it’s delicious.”

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