A couple of months ago, Allagash Brewing Co. had to clear out some trees and large bushes to make way for expansion work on a building. It was left with a small, cleared area that seemed more like a blank canvas than a place to dump dirt or plant more grass.

Jason Perkins, brewmaster at Allagash Brewing Co., picks the first cherry harvest at the Portland brewery’s new orchard. Photo courtesy of Allagash Brewing Co.

So the brewery decided to plant its own orchard, with the help of a landscaper and Doles Orchard in Limington, which already sells fruit to Allagash for use in some of its beers. The little orchard of 40 trees is not going to be any competition for Doles, but Allagash brewmaster Jason Perkins is looking forward to using its fruit to experiment with, and to brew very small batches of beer that will only be served in the brewery’s tasting room.

There are three kinds of fruit in the orchard: peaches and two varieties of tart cherries, Balaton and Montmorency. “We really wanted to get tart cherry trees because tart cherries are something we’re commonly using in our beer,” Perkins said.

Fruit is used in a few of Allagash’s Coolship beers, which are brewed using spontaneous fermentation. Coolship Balaton is aged on Balaton cherries, for example, and Coolship Cerise is aged on a blend of Balaton and Montmorency cherries.

The brewery was able to snag some “shockingly mature” trees this year, Perkins said, so there’s already been a cherry harvest, albeit a tiny one. Perkins and other staffers “were like a bunch of kids out there” picking cherries in July and sampling them as they went along. The harvest was just 10 pounds, and it’s being used for a sour blonde ale in the Allagash pilot brewing system. “I expect we’ll be serving this in our tasting room within a few months,” Perkins said.

Allagash Brewing Co. harvested about 10 pounds of cherries in July from its new on-site orchard. Photo courtesy of Allagash Brewing Co.

By comparison, the brewery sources 8,000 pounds of cherries from Doles Orchard every year.

“The fruit was small this year, too, compared to the cherries we get from Doles,” Perkins said. “They were still quite tasty, though.”

The peach trees won’t be bearing any fruit this summer, Perkins said. Allagash uses Maine-grown peaches to finish its Coolship Pêche.

Allagash doesn’t have any plans to expand the little orchard, Perkins said, because “we aren’t farmers.”

“We brew beer,” he said, “we don’t grow trees.”

This story was updated at 11 a.m. on Aug. 5 to correct the amount of cherries.


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