Posts Tagged ‘pale ale’

The Bully Boy Speakeasy

So, last Friday night I went to Bully Boy’s speakeasy party.

It was pretty sweet.

Let me explain.

A couple months ago, the Bully Boys started dropping hints on Facebook and Twitter that they were going to throw an exclusive bash to celebrate their one year anniversary of the distillery. Old-timey garbed dudes started showing up at local bars, and posters appeared around town, each with a QR code to scan, which took you to a website. From there you registered, and got a secret entry password to the secret location (which wasn’t revealed until a week before the party), in the style of old speakeasies. I still have no idea what my password actually was, since the audio file kinda slurred the last word. Black gull? Black gulp? Black colt? Not a clue. Something like that. So I planned to equally slur the last word to gain entry.

Finally, the location was revealed: the Waterworks Museum out in Chestnut Hill. It’s located on the reservoir, and was the original municipal water pump station for the City of Boston until the 1970s, when the source was switched over to the gigantoid Quabbin Reservoir out in Central MA. The Lady Friend and I arranged a logistical puzzle (she was coming from Seaport in the city, whereas I was coming from work, then into the city on the T) and met up on the green line, carefully avoiding the horror of the B train through Boston University. Seriously, it stops every 30 feet out there. Ridiculous. After snagging a C train to the Reservoir stop (they were running shuttle buses after Reservoir, so we totally lucked out on that one) we had a brief stroll around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir itself, and over to the museum. Entrance was gained via the side door, and in we went. They actually never even asked for the password.

I bet it’s haunted.

Just inside the door, we ran into co-Bully Boy Will Willis, and chatted for a bit before continuing farther in to the museum. Holy snotrockets. This place was HUGE. Three story-high machinery lit with accent lights towered above, while the DJ pumped out remixes of classic Prohibition-era ditties (before switching over to some sweet Ace of Base). Several bars were set up throughout the machine room, and we sidled up to one to get a few drinks. I led off with a Mojito (pre-mixed, but Mojitos are a pain to make) and the Lady Friend went with the Rough Rider, the whiskey cocktail. After our traditional Bully Boy cheer “BULLY!” We took in the small details while sipping our drinks: the cigarette candle holders (real cigs… I checked), Bully Boy branded coasters, match books and empty liquor bottles as flower vases, all arranged on wooden casks. The Bully Boy logo projected brightly onto the machine room floor, and the guests, some decked-out in Prohibition-era attire, meandered in to clutch highball glasses and stare at the mechanisms looming above.

And jamming out to some sweet tunes. I did indeed see The Sign. And it opened up my eyes.

Our next round of drinks worked out quite nicely as the Rule 37 for the week:

The Commodore

– 2 oz Bully Boy White Rum (our pour was at least double that, but I’m the last to complain about a heavy-handed bartender)
– Top with Night Shift Brewing Trifecta (Belgian-style pale ale)
– Garnish with lemon wedge

Um. Pour a whole bunch of rum into a pint glass and top with the Night Shift. Plop a lemon wedge in there and drink it.

Whoa. It was certainly boozy. Trifecta is a 7% abv beer to begin with, so there’s a decent amount of punch in this pint. Yes, it’s more of a beertail than proper cocktail, but this totally still counts. Nosed with a strange mixture of sugary blackstrap rum and a Belgian-y sweet & sour aroma. The Bully Boy certainly overpowers the brew, but it’s still in there with a faint cry of “I’m not dead yet!” The taste? My notes read “oh that’s strange.” A Belgian fruity and sour note, offset by the sugar of the rum. There’s certainly a boozy astringency as well, and an almost grapey sour quality to the Belgian. I’d have to try the beer straight to get a better idea of it, but the two did get along quite well.

As we slurped our Commodores, the OTHER Bully Boy, Dave, came over and chatted with us for a bit. As we were talking, Michael O’Mara, co-founder and brewer of Night Shift, walked up, fresh from delivering kegs at the American Craft Beer Festival, and we were introduced. His altered suggestion for the drink was a shot of Bully Boy rum, topped with the Trifecta and lemon wedge, but served in the skinny highball glass over ice. It probably would have been a more manageable alcohol content, and a better blend of flavors, but I was satisfied with my big ol’ pint o’ booze.

The Lady Friend and I stayed a bit longer, exploring the museum, tasting more cocktails and having some snacks. We headed out as the party got REALLY crowded, and made our way back to the T, complete with Indiana Jones-style lawn sprinkler evasion maneuvers. While waiting for the God-forsaken T train way out in the wasteland of Cleveland Circle, we observed a pointy kitty (large rat) shuffling and snuffling along the rails. The Lady Friend, unperturbed by our new acquaintance from the Order Rodentia, and perhaps feeling a bit cocktail-laden, insisted on sitting on a junction box clearly marked “Wet Paint.” Luckily for her, it had dried by that point leaving khakis unblemished for the trip home. Bully!

Mil-wacky in March, Part 2: Mil-wacky, Wis-cahn-sin

Yet another travel series that I never seem to finish. This one tells the tales of our Milwaukee adventures in late March of 2012. We went there to do some serious drinking. Oh, and also Trevtastic got married. Yeah, some girl actually married that boy. But still, it was a good excuse to show the Lady Friend the various drinking landmarks of Milwaukee, so that’s what we did. Wistful wanderings in Wisco. Part 1 is here.
Yah dere hey.

Ok. Enough Chicago. Time for the real destination: Milwaukee, WI. We flew into O’Hare with the intention of driving up to MKE, so we started off with the acquisition of our sweet rental vehicle, a Chevy Captiva/ Daewoo Winstorm. The Lady Friend had reserved a “small” vehicle, and we got this monsterous crossover contraption that looked like a Big Wheel made from Legos, stale breadsticks, and shellac. Since I’m used to driving Elsa, who is only about 4′ tall, or Phantom, the Lady Friend’s Corolla, the Captiva was like sitting in a ski lift. Apparently this counts as a compact vehicle in the Midwest. Still, it did seem to move better than most domestic plastic monsters, and in about an hour, we hit Milwaukee.

Holy redneck, Batman. I think we made a wrong turn and drove to Alabama.

We met Trevtastic and cohort Meissner for brunch at The Wicked Hop (Milwaukee is really into brunch) and started with a few beers. The Lady Friend asked me to find her something new and local, and got Oscar’s Chocolate Oatmeal Stout from Sand Creek Brewing in Black River Falls, WI, about halfway between Milwaukee and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Not exactly local, but at least in the same state. I went with a Central Waters Mud Puppy Porter, which was quite tasty. Much smoother than her Oatmeal Stout, which was on the bitter side. The Lady Friend was content with sipping her stout while I went for a second round: Lakefront’s Poison Arrow IPA. I’m told it’s only available on tap at The Wicked Hop, but I wasn’t able to confirm that. Still, I’d never seen it before, and it was mighty tasty: an excellent West-Coast style IPA. While finishing up, I got a message from LB, a friend from high school who moved to Milwaukee (by way of Flore-da) several years ago. We were crashing at her house for the rest of the trip, and she shot me a text to say she was doing some work around the corner above the Milwaukee Ale House. We still had a bit of time to kill before our 2pm Great Lakes tour, so the Lady Friend and I headed over for a hello, and a quick drink.

Can’t have an alehouse without ales. And mugs.

The Milwaukee Ale House is the brewpub for Milwaukee Brewing Company. I had been here for dinner on my previous trip, and found their beers to be good, but not great. Their IPA in particular irked me last time, as it was described as “aggressively hopped” but was pretty weak. It had some hop to it, but was nowhere near anything I’d call aggressive. I made a point this time to try some other hoppy offerings to see if they could stand up. While the Lady Friend tried their Hop Happy IPA, I went with a pale ale, followed by a sample of their dIPA.

Pull Chain Pale Ale 5% abv 43 IBU
Nose: Bitter aroma; sharp, slightly savory, English-style hop with a decent cereal malt sweetness.
Taste: Tastes much as it smells. Sharp, bitter English-style hop with a cereal maltiness. Overall bitter, but drinkable.

Double IPA Double Imperial Pale Ale 9.5% abv, no IBU listed.
For some unfathomable reason, this beer was listed under the heading “Session Beer.” WTF? Session beers are defined at 4-5% abv, depending on who you ask. How could a 9.5% double IPA possibly fit that category? Anyway, the menu also claimed that their dry hop was “totally over 25 pounds!” when making the beer. Ok then. Let’s taste it.
Nose: Candy sweet, almost like a bubblegum Belgian, but heavier, with more body behind it.
Taste: Wheaty bubblegum sweetness, but with an alcohol kick. Tastes like a wheat beer with a shot of grain alcohol. Not very well balanced, since I didn’t get much hop bitterness, and too boozy.

So, not the greatest experience. I’d still love to give the full lineup of MKE Brewing a run and see if there’s some gems in the mix, because I haven’t hit any yet. That said, the beers I have sampled were all perfectly drinkable, just not anything I’d seek out specifically. Perhaps on my next MKE voyage I’ll have time to give them my full attention, but this last trip had other priorities. It was time for a tour of Great Lakes Distillery. Right after I took some shots of a Lamborghini Murciélago that was parked at the curb.

A Lamborghini in Milwaukee seems as out of place as a John Deere tractor in NYC.

Mil-wacky in March, Part 1: Chicago

Yet another start to a travel series that I never seem to finish. This one tells the tales of our Milwaukee adventures in late March of 2012. We went there to do some serious drinking. Oh, and also Trevtastic got married. Yeah, some girl actually married that boy. But still, it was a good excuse to show the Lady Friend the various drinking landmarks of Milwaukee, so that’s what we did. Wistful wanderings in Wisco.
Yah dere hey.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted for awhile, this is why. If you didn’t notice… well… never mind.

Yes, I know that the series is named for Milwaukee, and Chicago is a different city, in a different state. I understand that. But as a whole, we spent the most time in MKE, so… too bad.

The adventure starts, as most do, with a trip to Harpoon Brewery. Well, not exactly. But we walked right past it in our usual combination of parking garage -> Silver Line -> Logan Airport. With nothing else to do in the terminal, I stared at the TV, because I can’t resist that flickering siren. In the entertainews cycle I caught a story of some woman in California who was caught speeding three times, in one hour, with speeds over 100mph. Are you kidding me? Shoot her in the leg, take her car and say “have fun commuting now.” I was making comments along these lines and bantering with the Lady Friend when the girl in front of us turned around, agreeing with my heavy sarcasm. Strangely, she then proceeded to ask if it was the first trip the Lady Friend and I had taken together. I guess it was our passive-aggressive conversation about the Lady Friend wanting the aisle seat, despite booking MY name for it. I actually hate the aisle seat (I’m a window guy) but it was amusing that SHE booked the tickets and still didn’t get the seat she wanted.

It was an uneventful flight, sitting in between the Lady Friend and some crunchy-emo girl reading a Nicholas Sparks novel, likely because nobody loves her and no one ever will. Especially if she keeps reading that dreck. We touched down in the massive complex that is O’Hare, and paid a quick visit to my dinosaur friend, before boarding the CTA (or whatever silly name they have for their transit system) into the city.

My Chicago tradition. Although Denver might be more apt.

It was about 40 degrees and “fahkin raw” in Boston when we left, but a sunny 65° in Chicago, as we hauled our bags and winter coats down the sidewalk to our temporary base of operations: the Congress Plaza Hotel. Nice hotel. Old and classy. Allegedly haunted. Great view. They even have their own logo-printed wallpaper.

Awesome: king bed.
Not Awesome: The hinges on the bathroom door sounded like a witch being boiled alive. Despite the acres of space in the bed, the Lady Friend woke me up every hour on the hour with a hideous screech from the bathroom door, since she has a bladder the size of an infant salamander. Fact.

We changed into warm-weather garb and headed out in search of food. We found a pizza chain with a combo deal for a jumbo slice and a pop. WTF is a pop? Silly Midwest. Despite the odd name for a liquid that educated people refer to as “soda,” I will grant that their jumbo slice was indeed, quite gigantoid.

Pen added for scale. It didn’t actually come with my meal.
This thing was seriously large.

Thusly stuffed, we made it to the Sears Willis Tower, slapped down $18 each, and proceeded to wait in a line full of swollen Midwestern parents and chubby nasal-accented stinkchildren. Then there was a brief movie. Then another line. Then into the next room, containing another line. Finally, through a revolving door into a line in front of the two under-sized elevators. Push and shove, push and shove, sardine can, 103 stories up and we’re there. The “Skydeck.” Urchins ran amok as their birth-givers squealed over the shot glasses, t-shirts and official Willis Tower branded Lego kits in the gift shop. We did our viewing out the windows, and stood on the protruding “skyboxes” which extend out from the building about 4′. Unfortunately, they’re on the most uninteresting side of the building, and all you can see on the horizon is the endless flat expanses of Illinois. Thrilling.

This was the slightly more interesting view.

After waiting in another 45-minute line just to get DOWN from the observation deck, we needed to get far far away from people, so we strolled along the river before popping into a pub for a few pints of liquid powerup. It was named Poag Mahone’s, which is either some sort of chain, or just a popular name for an Irishy pub. It’s suspect as to whether anyone of Irish descent has ever set foot in the place. Either way, it was properly dim and pub-like, and had many signs for some sort of sporting team, a so-called “WHITE Sox.” Well, that’s just silly. A Frankenstein assemblage of large wooden bar back, old-timey stained glass room dividers, and pop-culture Gaelic phrases stenciled on the walls made it seem like this place was trying a bit too hard. Most importantly, they had a decent beer list, with several selections previously untasted by Squirrelfarts and the Lady Friend, so most of the bars sins were quickly forgiven. I went with a New Holland Mad Hatter IPA, which was excellent. Resin and overripe fruit on the nose. A syrup start and VERY bitter hop kick. Dry, sour, finish but quite tasty. It’s got quite the hoppy punch. The Lady Friend’s Great Lakes Brewing Commodore Perry was a bit too sickly-sweet with fig for me, but she enjoyed it. From there she moved to Two Brothers’ Cane & Ebel rye beer, and I hit up the Half Acre Daisy Cutter Pale Ale, which I’ve heard about, but never seen in MA. It came in a shiny silver tallboy can and was quite an adventure. Fresh, wet, hop aroma; spicy and pungent. The taste was all at once woody and smokey, with some dark spice. It was like drinking in the smells of a springtime camping trip: the wet trees, campfire smoke, and decomposing leaves. Wildly entertaining. I thought it was great. Snag one if you see it.

I had been giving the Lady Friend some insight to the unique personality of the Midwest, in that there’s a lot of cheese, a lot of beer, and pop-culturally, they seem to lag about five years behind the coasts. I believe I told her to expect someone to describe something as being “da bomb.” Or reference Spider-Pig. Or McLovin. Or Ella, Ella, Ella, Eh, Eh, Eh. Naturally, as soon as Little Miss Salamander Bladder went to the bathroom, the yokels at the very next table started quoting Borat and CRACKING UP. I couldn’t have possibly come up with a better example than that, and she totally missed it.

With aching feet temporarily silenced by our intake of liquid painkillers, we set off for some deep dish pizza because a) it was Chicago, and b) I would have wanted deep dish pizza no matter what city we were in. The sun dipped at a low angle on the horizon, and the combination of the Magic Hour and my mild buzz led to the Lady Friend gaining a lead of about a block, while I lagged behind shooting and giggling over the intensely orange solar beams and resulting crisp shadows. We finally made it to the restaurant, and tucked into a Founder’s Centennial IPA and some good (but not great) deep dish (Paxti’s was better). A post-dinner cocktail was debated, but I was wiped out. Waking up at 5am, a day of travel, and hiking around a city tends to do that. Time for a king bed and a horribly squeaky bathroom door. Tomorrow: MIL-WACKY.

White Birch Brewing

Ah, the unspoilt expanses of granite-laden New Hampshire. The Lady Friend and I were up that way to visit Maggie the Thunder Kitten of Doom, and took the long way back to Braintree, by way of Hooksett, NH. It wasn’t exactly on the way; Hooksett is past Manchester on the way to Concord, so it’s a detour whether traveling on 101 or 93. Manchester is kind of like the last civilized outpost before the frontier lands of NH. The only reason to drive past it is to visit the mountains, lakes, or Vermont. You know, wilderness.

I’ve included a helpful map.

However, there was a reason for venturing into such dangerous, possibly bear-infested, territory: White Birch Brewing. No no, that’s White BIRCH, with an “R” not a “T.” Trust me, the White Bitch website is totally different. Anyway, I had seen their clean, black and white graphic labels on shelves in the South Shore area, but had never been intrigued enough to purchase one. As a N’Hampsha native, I can appreciate the white birch (state tree!) branding, but there would always be a different brew I was more interested in when beer shopping. Since we were already up in the Granite State, a minor detour sounded like a good excuse to finally check out what they do.

Well, as brewery exteriors go, that’s a different one.

Yup. It used to be a car dealership. Now it’s a brewery. It turns out they do pretty much all Belgian-style ales, which are not exactly my most favorite. But I was certainly willing to partake of the free tasting. Ben the Brewery Assistant was pouring the samples, so we dove in.

Belgian Style Pale Ale
Year-round flagship beer
Nose: Tart fruit, almost like a cider or a sour ale.
Taste: Foamy head. Belgian wheat, but not too banana/yeasty. There’s a nice hop bitter that helps to cut through the yeast. (The yeast used is their house yeast, a Belgian strain.)

Hooksett Ale
Nose: Caramel. Sweet malt.
Taste: Malty, with a slight bite to the end.

Wrīgian Belgian-Style Ale with Rye Flakes
Pronounced “Rye-gan”
Nose: Fruity malt aroma. Caramel.
Taste: Malt. Slight rye spice to the back end. Nice little bite to cut the malt.

Oak Aged Tripel
Flavored with rye-soaked oak chips
Nose: Foamy head. Slight sour apple aroma.
Taste: Starts fruity, foamy, with a soft carbonic. Slight spice in the start, changes over to malty mid, with a rye whiskey snap to the finish.

Nose: Dark color. Noses with a dark, malt, some syrup, and a slight roast.
Taste: Smooth and sweet. Malty start, but Belgian yeastiness helps add spice to cut the syrup, without being too mouth-coating. VERY nice.

2nd Anniversary Ale
Flavored with oak chips
Nose: Malty, but with a sweet roasted flavor.
Taste: An open sweetness unusual for a beer. An evaporative sensation opens up the taste, unlike the heavy syrup sensation/mouthfeel that was expected from the malty nose. Maybe it’s a higher alcohol punch (it IS 9% abv) that helps cut through the malt and give a slight evaporation.

So, that did it for the tasting. All Belgian-based, which is not my preference, but certainly some interesting things with rye and oak in the mix.

Live Free or Die!
Yeah, pretty much everyone in NH has a vanity plate. It’s like a law or something.

So, White Birch is about two and a half years old (hence the 2nd Year Anniversary Ale we tasted). Two weeks before our visit, they had moved to their new (current) location, which was previously a car dealership. They’re running a 7 barrel system, which is quite a step up from the 20 gallon system they started with, proudly displayed in the main room. There’s plenty of beer for sale on the giant wall of happiness, and we picked up a Colonial Ale that looked interesting, though we haven’t cracked it yet. Among the beers were some dog treats as well, made from the spent brewing grain and some peanut butter. As we were snooping around, pickup trucks were drag-racing from the traffic lights on Rt 28/Rt 3/Hooksett Rd. Yeah, Hooksett is that kind of place.

Yup. Toooootally a former car dealership.

So. That was the White Birch experience. If you live up that way, or are making a road trip, stop by.
Beware of bears!

Soused in SanFran – Part 2: SFO D1

This here is Part Two of the Grand Caliventure of November 2011.
For Part 1, make the clicking to here.

Hold on to your butts, this is going to be a long one.

The dawn did done diddly dawned Thursday morning as JJ and her husband scurried about the apartment and left for work and classes, respectively. The Lady Friend and I eventually changed out of sleepy pants and rallied for the day’s adventures. The one certainty on the schedule was a lunchtime visit to 21st Amendment Brewpub, but after that we were open until tentative happy hour plans with JJ. We decided to walk, since it was a couple miles away, and I like to wander and do some street shooting. Went down by the water to see the Bay Bridge on the way, and then were plenty ready for lunch and beer.

Slightly bigger than Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth, NH. Slightly.

21st Amendment Brewery is a brewpub in the South Park area of SFO, and is apparently near AT&T Park, a baseball stadium that is a whopping 11 years old. How cute. Fenway is almost 100 years old, so suck it California. 21st is, of course, named after the Twenty-first amendment to the Constitution which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment of nation-wide prohibition. I’ve had several of their canned offerings including the Brew Free or Die IPA, Hop Crisis ImpIPA, and Hell or High Watermelon (of which I believe there’s still a can in the Lady Friend’s fridge.) While they don’t have an official sampler of their beers, you can order a sample of each, which we did. However, the normal canned beers (which apparently are canned in Cold Spring, MN) were not on the list. They might have been on tap, but we were at a table instead of the bar, and didn’t get a look. Here’s what we got:

We tasted right to left.

Ninkasi Total Domination IPA (Guest Brew)
Nose: Apple fruit. Slight malt. Very light and airy aroma.
Taste: Green, unripe tree/ stone fruit. Tart, apple.

Rammstein Bavarian Wheat
Nose: Banana clove. Sweet and aromatic. The Lady Friend described it as “circus peanuts” that marshmallowy orange candy.
Taste: Initial spiciness, eases off to a banana/ bubblegum wheat flavor.

Roasted American Amber Ale
Nose: Roasted malt/ barley. Not a coffee roast, but a TOASTED aroma.
Taste: Burnt toffee. Not syrupy. Not quite toast-like, but essence of golden brown crust, like fresh baked bread. Slight copper metallic, but very slight. We both really liked this one.

Fireside Chat Dark English Ale
Apparently they’re canning this one, but I haven’t seen here yet.
Nose: Very weak aroma. A stir with a fork yielded some slight fresh-baked cinnamon bread aroma.
Taste: Cinnamon raisin bread. Gives way to a slight syrup maltiness with a touch of roasted bitter.

Schooner’s Oatmeal Stout (Guest Brew)
Nose: Roasted oats. Yep.
Taste: Bitter coffee, but eases off. Very smooth. Finishes with a roast bitterness lingering. Nice.

Two Rivers Granny Smith Apple Cider (Guest Brew)
Nose: Apple juice. Tart and sweet.
Taste: Tart start. Mouth puckering. Not too sweet, but finishes nice and apple-y. I’m not generally a cider fan, but this one was really nice, and not too acidic.

It was very lumber-y inside.

Following our sumptuous repast, we started wandering around with thoughts of heading down to a beer store where I planned to do some purchasing. However, though it began as a brisk, sunny day, by mid-afternoon it started to rain. Then pour. Plans for walking several blocks were aborted, and we about-faced to head towards Union Square. I had gotten in touch with a friend of mine from my former company, Qwadd Grafficks, who I met by chance on a tour of a printing plant in Wis-cahn-sin. She also turned up on one of our ski/snowboard house trips to Killington/Pico in Vermont (SnoHaus 2010). She left Qwadd to travel to France earlier in the year, and was now working as a bar manager in SFO. She traveled with two other Qwadd ex-pats, who, following the trip, became wine harvest interns in Sonoma County. Ke$hia Ho is a plucky little Asian girl with dance moves that demoralize any white boy within a seven-block radius, except perhaps Trevtastic. She rocks a New York fashion-sense, despite her Minnesota upbringing, and since I saw her last has developed quite an appreciation for, and knowledge of, cocktails. She had Thursday off, and agreed to meet us in Union Square, then hang out for the afternoon.

The Lady Friend and I ducked into a dark Irish sports bar to dry ourselves, just off of Union called Lefty O’Doul’s, who is apparently some former baseball player. It was appropriately dark, dank and bar-like, so we grabbed a couple stools at the end of the bar and ordered up two Anchor Porters. When in Rome. Sidebar: it also happened to be International Stout Day. A porter may or may not technically be a stout, depending on who you ask, but I had the oatmeal stout sample at lunch so THAT TOTALLY COUNTS. Louie, apparently a regular, was having a grand old time a few seats down slurping Heineken’s and hitting on the female waitstaff, who are plainly used to his advances. Ke$hia Ho strode in after a short time, and we departed for a bar called Top of the Mark, a hotel bar with commanding panoramic views of the city. Though the rain had stopped, this unfortunately meant hiking, and I do mean HIKING, up several of the steepest hills mountains I had ever encountered in a city setting. It’s not even funny.

The view was pretty nice.

So, Top of the Mark is a ritzy little cocktail and piano bar, and we flipped through the extensive drink menu looking for a tasty tipple. However, something quite alarming caught my eye: the Top of the Mark Negroni, made with Ketel One Citron, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Wait… what? A Negroni made with VODKA?? Guess what tardclowns, THAT’S NOT A NEGRONI. I should NEVER have to specify that I want GIN in a Negroni. Ugh. They lost all credibility for that one. Unbelievable.

Despite the waiter’s near unintelligible accent, we managed to place our drink orders, with Ke$hia Ho sipping on a French 75 (she had some champagne earlier in the day and wanted to keep the theme going) and the Lady Friend trying what she thought was a Tequila Sunrise, until something tasted a bit off. Turned out, she got a Tequila SunSET, which was Stoli, 1800, Grand Marnier and Grenadine. Take a tequila drink and dump in some vodka. What is the matter with this place? Anyway, the cocktails were pricey, the waiter unsuccessfully attempted claw his way through the English language, they massacre classic drinks, and we spent our time there next to a group of business types drinking Bud Light. In a cocktail bar. The only reason to go here is to see the views, which were very nice, but after you’ve seen it, there’s no excuse to go back. Also, the bathroom, while elegantly decorated, had the distinct bouquet of a thousand haunted farts, with strong overtones of wet dog. Time to leave.

So, leave we did, thankfully taking the bus instead of walking, to a bar called Harry’s to meet JJ for happy hour. Yes, SquirrelFarts, there is a Happy Hour. We’re not in Boston anymore. Nothing too special about Harry’s… casual, but nice, and dark. There were $3 drafts, including Lagunitas IPA and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Awesome. The Irish Lad isn’t a fan of Lagunitas IPA, though I’m still not quite sure why. I think it’s slightly pine bitter, but delicious.

As we were chatting, a girl came up to our table calling Ke$hia by some other name… I forget what. After some confusion, we figured out that apparently Ke$hia is this other girl’s doppelganger. When the other girl turned up, it was a pretty close match, and mild chuckling ensued. We had a few munchies until JJ arrived, looking rather drawn and haggard. A nice pint of Sierra Nevada revived her, and we all headed to a Peruvian restaurant for dinner, though some of us would have much preferred a slice of pizza.

The place was named Fresca The roasted chicken looked tasty, and that happened to be the one thing on the menu that the kitchen was out of. Super. So, I said I didn’t want anything else, and started doing some tasting notes on my Cuzqueña Peruvian lager (no nose whatsoever, a slight skunky “green glass” lager taste with some cereal grain sweetness. Also of note: it’s allegedly the only South American beer that adheres to the Reinheitsgebot; the German purity law that says beer must be made only from water, barley and hops.) I’m not sure if the notebook did it, (although I have had strange things like this happen before) but all of a sudden the waiter came back saying there was magically ONE more chicken in the kitchen, and would I like it? Um, sure. Maybe they thought I was some sort of reviewer or critic, but whatever the reason, I got my chicken. And it was tasty. As were the accompanying french fries I very nearly inhaled.

After that we called it an evening (since it was a work night for JJ). Ke$hia hopped a bus with plans to meet up with us again the next day, and the remaining three of us stumbled back down Fillmore to the apartment for another night of futon slumber. This was just day one: more drinking adventures to come!

Mayflower Brewery

Mini road trip! This weekend’s adventure was a trek down Route 3 to Plymouth, MA, for a tour of the Mayflower Brewery and some bar-hopping in downtown Plymouth. One of my former coworkers lives down there, and is always up for shenanigans in town, though I’m fond of saying that Plymouth is a 45 minute drive from everywhere. The Lady Friend and I had been to Mayflower for their open house back in May, and got to sample the full range of beers then. However, we’re always up for a repeat performance, and this time I’d get to document it properly.

Actually nicer than most brewery locations.

We met up with the coworker, Tresstastic, and her boyfriend at her apartment, and pounded a quick Sam Octoberfest before heading over the the brewery, meeting up with two other friends. Mayflower, like most breweries, is located in an industrial park. It’s hard to spot, so keep an eye out for the delivery trucks parked next to the building. As soon as I walked in the door, the Man Behind the Bar asked “Hey… Man with the Camera… are you from somewhere important?” No, but I like to pretend. Then, the girl working there said “Hey… I recognize you…” Yup. Getting recognized at breweries. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing. Like the liquor store near my apartment that stopped carding me long ago. It’s nice, but probably not a good sign for the future of my liver.

There is a bit of a story to that one. Back in May when LF and I were at the Open House, we hung around the bar area towards the end and chatted with the staff, one of which was the girl working this weekend, Sarah. She swore I had been there before, even though I had never been to Mayflower. Apparently I have a doppleganger, because she insisted it was me, or someone who looked exactly like me that had been in there about two weeks before. I made some comment about having to hunt him down because THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE. Anyway, apparently either I made an impression, or my doppleganger is still lurking about Mayflower Brewery, since Sarah remembered meeting me before.

Like most breweries now, Mayflower has a tasting room/retail area front, including some bar tables and small seating area, while the actual brewery lies down a small hallway into the back warehouse section. We were pretty much the only ones in the place, which made it nice and casual for our tour. Before beginning, we started with a beer. “Can’t take a tour without a beer in your hand,” remarked Man Behind the Bar, as he poured a sample of the Golden Ale for each of us. We headed into the back, and Sarah started the tour.

This is where rainbows and dreams are born.

The usual: blah blah blah, beer beer beer. Mix grain with water and hops, boil it up, add yeast, and let it sit and ferment. Here’s some of the interesting bits about Mayflower: the founder, Drew, is a 10th generation descendant of a man named John Alden, who was the cooper (barrelmaker) on the Mayflower. Yes, that one. Why is that important? Well, the cooper was responsible for building and maintaining all the barrels stowed on the ship during the voyage. Yeah, those weren’t water barrels either… they were full of beer. Water wasn’t very clean in those days, and most people drank healthy, nourishing and refreshing beer all day long. Even kids. Especially kids. Gin wouldn’t become the drink of choice until a bit later. Anyway, the story goes that the Mayflower was destined for Virginia, but ran into Cape Cod instead, and decided to land because they were out of beer. Not finding any suitable fresh water (it was pretty stagnant on the Cape) they set off again and landed in Plymouth, where they found an adequate supply of fresh water, which is the same source used to make Mayflower Brewing’s beers today. The founder, Drew, got tired of being retired, and started up Mayflower in 2007 which is currently a 2,000bbl facility. Pretty good for a four-year-old place.

So, we poked around and gawked at their grist mill, mash tun, fermenters and runoff buckets bubbling happily with C02-and-wort foam released from the top of the fermenters. Bubbling gunk means fermentation, and fermentation means alcohol! Go little yeasties, go! As usual, I was snapping pics for the duration leading Sarah to chide “What ARE you taking pictures of?” However, the first time I pointed the lens in her general direction, she jumped as if scalded with boiling hot mag-ma. The main room is all one unit where the fermentation tanks take center stage. Some time ago, Mayflower expanded into the next room where their shiny new Italian-made bottler lurks. It’s a two or three person operation and will bottle both 12 oz bottles and 22 oz bombers. Mayflower has 15 employees, including a couple of delivery drivers. The brewery cranks out four year-round beers and one rotating seasonal, plus a few elusive experimental bottles of their Thanksgiving beer, which changes every year.

Ciao Italia! A working bottler! Kind of need someplace to put all that beer.

That’s enough touring… time for TASTING.

We congregated back in the front room and lined up at the bar. Taps were pulled, and mighty beer plunged forth. Mayflower gives you some decently generous samples, in the 4-5oz range served in mini-pint tasting glasses. They serve lightest to darkest, and everything is deliciously free. Free beer always tastes better. Especially when it’s fresh.

Golden Ale
We started off with the Golden Ale to sip during the tour. Mine didn’t make it past the grist mill.
Nose: Light, with a bit of malty cereal sweetness
Taste: Mild hop with a nice malt balance. Light and refreshing. Almost lager-like.

Pale Ale
Now, I first had this back in May at the Open House. I’d had the IPA many times before, and enjoyed it, but tasting the pale ale was my real flash-of-lightning “A-HA” moment. The trick is, in many breweries, the pale ale doesn’t really have much presence, and the IPA is a real hop bomb. There’s no similarity. With Mayflower, the pale ale tastes like a lighter version of the IPA. You can really taste the progression from one to the next. I had never experienced that before, and it was wonderful.
Nose: A mild hoppy nose. Definite aroma, but not too strong.
Taste: Deliciously hoppy bitter. Mayflower leans towards the English style ales, with a more bitter hop, but their brews are very well-balanced.

India Pale Ale
I’ve had this many many times, but still not as often as I should. Harpoon usually wins my purchase for a local IPA due to the convenience and price, but I really do need to make an effort to buy Mayflower more often. I’m not saying it’s better, but, well, yeah, it’s better.
Nose: Sweet, tree fruit. It reminded Lady Friend of a Citra hop, though not as strong. They use a combination of Nugget, Simcoe, Amarillo and Glacier hops, with the Simcoe and Amarillo in particular adding citrus aromas.
Taste: Yum. Bitter hop up front, malt sweet rushes in with a sweet clean slight fruitness, then leaves a dry hop bitterness lingering. So. Good.

Autumn Wheat (Seasonal)
This is the, well, autumn seasonal. LF and I had the Summer Rye back in May, and this is described as an American Dark Wheat beer. Interesting. Also of note: the next seasonal will be an Oatmeal Stout. We’ll have to visit again in winter.
Nose: Very roasted and malty. Don’t really get any of the yeasty/ wheaty banana smells as in a Belgian Wit.
Taste: Roasted bitter. Malted sweetness. There’s a slight nuttiness, due to the roast, but a rounder sweetness from the wheat. Very nice. Again, not overpowering, and well-balanced.

A great Porter. Lady Friend liked it so much after our trip in May that she’s purchased it several times since. This is a girl who about 10 months ago preferred Coors Light.
Nose: Coffee bitter. Not much sweetness.
Taste: Roasted. Bitter roast. I’m not a coffee fan, but I’ll drink this. If you ARE a coffee drinker, you’ll love this. There’s not a whole lot of chocolate in there, but there is a touch.

While chitchatting with Sarah and The Man Behind the Bar, I eventually found out that his name was Mike, and he also has a blog, cunningly titled “The Best Beer Blog.” And here I am stuck with “Squirrel Farts.” Shucks. We discussed the hassles and happiness of writing blogs about alcohol, and I showed him the magical scam of free business cards. Finally, the rest of the group grouped and grew restless, and they dragged me away. We dropped the car back at the apartment and cabbed it over to the Main Street Grill in downtown Plymouth for dinner, where the Lady Friend waited way too long for some turkey tips (they were comped) and I scored a 22oz “Main Street Brew” for a paltry $3.50. She had something Octobery with a sugared rim. After the foodening, a quick saunter around the corner brought us to the British Beer Company. This was a goal of mine for some lovely imported brews (I was obliged to take a draught of Fuller’s London Pride pale ale, or, as it’s ordered in London, a “Pint ‘o Pride”) and cozy leather wingback chairs in their upstairs lounge. Too comfortable in fact, since the group lost its momentum, and we all decided that the adventure was flickering out. No matter; the trip was a rousing success, and even ended with some ice cream for the Lady Friend and I before returning to the Bastion of Beer, Squirrel Farts Headquarters.

‘CuseQuest Bonus Round: Albany Pump Station

Ok, I’ve got to get this out of the way right now.

That song goes through my head every time I think of the name “Albany Pump Station.”

Pump it up
A little more
Get your body moving on the dance floor

Have I started yet?
I have?

The Lady Friend and I departed Beeracuse and headed to the wondrous Capital Region to meet up with some friends of mine just outside of Albany (actually outside of Schenectady, a town with the most ridiculous name… Niskayuna, not easy to type into a gps while on the Thruway). We got to see the newly-relocated Casey Sage, a golden retriever who loses her furry little mind every time she sees me, and the resident pooch, Rosie, a black lab. Critter Count: 12! Five of us (humans) went to the Albany Pump Station for some grub, and a beer tasting for me. Sadly, the pups stayed home (in separate rooms; they get into mischief together).

The Albany Pump Station, formerly the Quackenbush Pumping Station, was used to pump Albany municipal water from the Hudson River. A guy named Neil Evans bought the building in 1999 to build a brewhouse, bringing his family back into the brewing world. The Evanseseses had started a brewery way way back in 1786 in Hudson, NY, but, like everybody else, got closed down by Prohibition in 1920. According to their website, they were quite popular, even exporting to England and France. They also boast one of the country’s first bottling facilities in 1889, and even malted their own grain. The Pump Station is a solid two story brick building; very cool and industrial looking. Two giant cranes still hang inside and were used to haul the brew tanks up to the second floor, where they now sit making gallons of bubbling happiness.

It was certainly a cool place, and hopefully the beers would hold up. I’ve been let down before, but Albany Pump Station (C.H. Evans Brewing Company) more than rose to the challenge. I was the only one in our group to tackle the eight (8!) beer sampler for a very reasonable $7, though the other male with us stepped up and had a hefeweizen. Before the food came, I got to wander around and take a few shots. They opened up the main dining area by cutting away most of the second story, and you can look down on the whole place from the upper mezzanine.

Hi, BBack!

The group consisted of my friend from Maine, BBack, who had just moved to the area for a teaching job. Her twin sister, and the twin’s husband had been living in Cambridge for awhile before moving to Albany a couple years ago. BBack’s husband is the owner/operator of previously mentioned Blue Line Apiary in Maine, and he’s due to follow to NYState soon. Naturally, the Lady Friend was present as well.

When the beers came I scuttled back downstairs to start the sampling. The group was somewhat intrigued that I go to the trouble of taking notes, though Lady Friend was all too used to my nonsense and wasn’t fazed in the slightest.

Scottish Light
Described on the beer list as “an amber hue and short finish.”
Just like me!
…wait, what?
Nose: Sweet cereal, barley, with a slight cherry fruit
Taste: Cereal. Barley. Very refreshing.

Quackenbush Blonde
…I knew a Quackenbush blonde once…
Nose: No discernible aroma
Taste: Cheerios! Also had a light, floral hop flavor.

Smoked Hefeweizen
Nose: Banana wheat hefe smell. Slight smokiness. Everyone else smelled much more smoke than I did.
Taste: Cinnamon/ clove with a slight smoke finish. Not bad for a hefe.

Doc’s Pear Cider
They were out of the Belgian-style strong ale, and BBack wanted to try the pear cider, so I requested this as a substitute. A good choice.
Nose: Um. It smells exactly how you would expect pear cider to smell. Sweet and pear-y.
Taste: Light and crispy. Nice pear flavor with a touch of tart sweetness. Lip smacking. Very tasty. I am not generally a fan of pear flavors, or cider in general, but this was really good. After my taste, BBack drank the rest and I was sorry to see it go.

Belgian-style Dubble with Cherries
Nose: Mild, dark cherry aroma
Taste: Belgian wheaty texture, though no banana flavor. A tart, cherry syrup sensation with a malty roast.

Oatmeal Stout
Nose: Roasted malt. Slight sweetness detected.
Taste: Nice bitter roasted flavor. Dark and malty. Delicious.

Kick-Ass Brown
Nose: Sweet, with a hint of lemon fruit.
Taste: Malty with some lemon. Smooth. Low carbonated mouthfeel. VERY nice flavors. More going on here than a regular brown.

Pump Station Pale
(Amarillo Hop)
Nose: Piney hop aroma, though not overpowering. Some tree fruit juiciness.
Taste: Very nice. Bitter hop balanced well with the malt sweet. Yum.

Our food came as I was finishing up the tastings, and everyone was impressed with the size of the sandwiches. Very tasty, and good fries. The New Yorkers picked up the check for my birthday (thanks!) and Lady Friend and I hit the Thruway back to Boston, battling traffic and downpours the whole way back turning an easy cruise into a demolition derby. We made it back unscathed, unloaded our precious cargo, and I finally got to sleep in my own bed of awesomeness. I declare the ‘CuseQuest completed!

Treasures from the journey!

Upta Potlind, Paht 7: Bray’s Brew Pub

This is Part Seven of an ongoing series chronicling the Maine Beercation of late July, 2011. To start at Part One, click here.


Following a day of tours and tastings including Gritty McDuff’s, Allagash, The Maine Beer Company, the Great Lost Bear, Sebago Brewpub, and Novare Res, I awoke rather reluctantly Saturday morning with a case of the beer flu. Bacchus’s revenge. Morning fog, cropsick, crapulence. Suffering from intemperance. Not eager to start the day.

Eventually, I rallied enough to gingerly coax some Hatorade, that Lady Friend had graciously procured from the nearby Shaw’s, into the depths of my gullet. Baby steps, baby steps. But, we had an itinerary to keep, and after passing a rather interesting sign proclaiming an imminent invasion of little people, the first stop of the day was Bray’s Brew Pub in Naples, up Route 302, next to Sebago Lake (apparently there is a “Lake Sebago” in New York State).

Sebago looks like this.

Bray’s Brew Pub claims to be only about 30 minutes from Portland, but if you’re heading up Rt 302 in the summah be aware that it’s the ONE road to the lakes region, and every yahoo in Cumberland County is going boating. Bray’s is located at the intersection where Rt 35 forks off of Roosevelt Trail/Rt 302/Rt 35/Rt 11. Seriously, Maine? Anyway, if you’re goin’ up dere from Potlind, it’ll be on the left, and it looks nothing like a brewpub. It looks like an old farmhouse, mostly because it IS an old farmhouse.

Not pictured: helpful exterior shot.
I wasn’t really functioning at peak efficiency at the time.

This place was pretty cool. Seriously… picture an old-timey farmhouse, and put a bar in it.

Little Alehouse on the Prairie.

We sat down to lunch, and ordered a flight of beers to share. I was able to keep down some Pepsi (gotta get that caffeine and sugar boost going), water, and a taste of each beer. Lady Friend took up the duty of finishing off the wounded soldiers. I managed to eat one (1) french fry, and that was enough. When I get hungover, the LAST thing in the world I want is food. Others go the opposite way, like my Milwaukee mate ‘Tastic, who demolished a breakfast burrito the size of a terrier after a night of drinking, along with a Bloody Mary that was more garnish than drink.

Seriously. It’s not a “drink” if it’s mostly solid foods.

When I’m hungover, my stomach and I need some time apart. We go our separate ways and meet up after about 10 hours when my appetite returns, and we reacquaint, stronger than before. Sometimes in a relationship, you have to know when to just back off, and spend some quality time away from each other. As such, I have never been able to follow the “hair of the dog” technique, but was able to do some mild tastings of the brews that Bray’s produced. They had five pours of roughly 4-5oz, and we started sipping, one of us with much less enthusiasm than usual (this guy).

Taste order was right-to-left.

Irish Red Ale
Nose: Malty, slight copper.
Taste: Smooth & creamy. Malty, grain. Slight bitter finish, but not metallic. Very nice.

440 Blues Brew (blueberry)
Nose: Slight farmy aroma, with fruit.
Taste: Fruity, then malt, then slight bitter. Fine, but not a ton of flavor.

Old Church Pale Ale
Nose: Hoppy floral.
Taste: Hop start with malty sweetness. Well-balance. Nice.

Baa Baa Black Wheat (stout?)
Nose: Bitter coffee roast
Taste: Bitter coffee roast. Not much sweetness.

Muddy River Bog Brown (brown ale)
Nose: Weak, malt aroma
Taste: Malty, but cereal sweet.

Nothing was bad, but nothing jumped out at me. I suspect my palate was also not entirely up to snuff, but there really weren’t any surprises in this batch. However, they also do offer a 50+ bottle list, which was very nice. Sadly, the family behind us (apparently from central NH, as overheard from the patriarch’s vociferous boasting of the infinite differences between the superior glory of the NH lakes region versus the squalor of ME) did not partake of the wonders offered, choosing a Bud Light and a Michelob. At a brewpub. Sigh.

Hmm… bring me your finest, coldest, low-calorie, pasteurized, cut-with-30% rice,
St. Louis pale lager, and be quick about it, my good man.

Yes, Budweiser is brewed with up to 30% rice, taking the place of things like barley. You know, to get rid of that pesky “beer” flavor. Ick.

Bray’s also has an outdoor Bier Garden section, with tented seating, an outdoor bar, and a stage, which was put to use shortly after we arrived. A large group of bikers began walking in, including a number of police bike units. Their department patches gave away their origins, with several from Portland, Lewiston and one from Old Orchard Beach, some 50 miles away. As near as I can tell, it was some sort of memorial ride, and the bikers mostly wandered out to the bier garden where a classic rock band had started dishing out the best ear poison from BÖC, BTO and REO (Speedwagon, in case there was some confusion). It was time to go.

Don’t fear the Reaper.

This was our last beer stop in Maine. The next destination was a winery called Blacksmith’s, where Lady Friend did a tasting, and was quite impressed. I tried some local cream soda (lovely) and a very nice hard cider, made in the British style: not too sweet. We were the only ones in the place, and chatted with the bartender, Brandon (Brendon?). He sympathized with my plight, and offered his own remedy: chug a bottle of chocolate milk. He insisted that the milk gives your stomach a nice, creamy coating and helps you feel better. I retorted that everything in a radius around me would be quickly and violently coated with said milk if I attempted that cure. But it was another interesting tidbit to file away.

We had intended to drive up to Lewiston and tour Baxter Brewing Company, a canned craft brewery, (apparently New England’s first all-canned), but the distance and the enthusiasm level led us to abandon that plan and head south to visit friends in North Berwick for dinner. On the way, we pulled off at a small beach on the lake to dip our feet. Brandon had suggested diving in to help clear my head, but given the lack of appropriate swim attire, and the long car ride home, wading would have to do. It was quite nice, and was another checkmark on our Maine-approved activities, followed up by blueberry picking with the Maine friends, a lovely dinner of grilled chicken, corn on the cob and potatos (my appetite had returned by then), and a post-meal walk with Casey Sage, the golden retriever. Back into the car as night fell for the drive back to Boston, my own lovely bed, and a refrigerator now stocked with a plethora of souvenir brews, waiting to be tasted.

Upta Potlind, Paht 5: Sebago Brewpub

This is Part Five of an ongoing series chronicling the Maine Beercation of late July, 2011. To start at Part One, click here.

I say See-bay-go, you say See-bah-go

I had stopped by Sebago Brewpub a couple years ago while interviewing for a job in Portland. It was on the corner of Market and Middle streets right in the middle of downtown/Old Port, and looked the way a brewpub should… dark wood, a proper bar, fermenting tanks lurking behind glass along the side of the dining area. However, as Lady Friend and I discovered, they had moved to a new location, on Fore Street, several months ago. This… was a bit disappointing.

Um. Not very brewpubby.

Their new location is all shiny and new, with lighter wood, brightly painted walls, and silly track lighting. The dining sections take up the majority of the space, but there is a decently long bar. I’m guessing they were doing well enough to abandon the old location in favor of this space. Good for them. I’m not saying more business is bad; I’m just of the opinion that the old location had a lot more character, and this one looks too new and manufactured, like a Boston Beer Works. I know that Sebago has several locations, but this new space LOOKS like it’s part of a chain.

Is there a bar back there somewhere?

This was a bit disappointing, but I’ll get over it. At least it means that business is good, and people are buying decent, local, craft beers, so I’ll let it slide. We asked the hostess for a table for two, and she said it’d be an hour wait. Yikes. I mean, it was Friday night, and the place was hopping, as evidenced by the interior photos above. We put our names in and headed to the bar with the idea of having at least one beer, and bouncing to another place for food if we didn’t feel like waiting. I spotted a breech in the wall of bodies at the bar and sent Lady Friend scooting over to secure a beachhead. I was staring at the taps, trying to decide what to order, when someone tapped me on the shoulder: it was Rob, the brewer from Gritty’s I had met at lunchtime. We chatted a bit about who works where, and how everybody has worked for Shipyard Brewing at some point, and I ordered a Citra Hop IPA that was on tap, not part of the normal lineup. Lady Friend snagged a blueberry ale, and as we were paying for the drinks, the hostess came up and said a table was ready. It had been about five minutes of the original hour wait estimate. Cool. We hadn’t understood why the wait was an hour in the first place, when we could see several empty tables.

We sat and started to taste our drinks. My Citra Hop IPA nosed with floral hop and a citrus aroma. The taste smacked of apple/tree fruit, a bit more sharp and/or tart than Irish Lad’s homebrew version, and drier. There was a smooth, malty undertone that didn’t so much counteract the hop, but added a counter-melody, playing along with the predominately fruit/hop flavor. It was good. Her blueberry was tasty, without being too sweet. A lot of fruit-flavored beers tend to wind up tasting like a mild ale with fruit syrup flavoring dumped in. Sebago’s version didn’t seem to have that problem. Lady Friend really enjoyed it, saying it was her favorite blueberry beer that she’s encountered so far.

We ordered dinner, and it was perfectly tasty. More importantly, we had to get a flight of beers for a tasting. There were five in a flight, decently sized at about 4 oz, and 10 varieties to choose from. Ours consisted of the five standard offerings: ale, IPA, brown ale, red ale and stout.

Saddleback Ale
Nose: Faint fruit/wheat. Faint.
Taste: Malt. Cereal grain with a touch of bitter.

Boathouse Brown Ale
Nose: Roasted and malty
Taste: Roasted and malty. (I know, very original). Sweet. Slight copper tang, but then finishes malt sweet.

Lake Trout Stout
Nose: Roast. Coffee beans.
Taste: Creamy mouthfeel. Bitter roast, but not unpleasant. Hint of vanilla sweetness. VERY good.

Runabout Red Ale
Nose: Very faint. Slight fruity malt, but hard to tell.
Taste: Starts fruity sweet, changes over to copper/metallic. Finishes copper bitter, but there is an interesting point in the middle of the taste when the sweetness starts to mix with the copper bitter. Unfortunately, the copper keeps going and leaves a sour taste after a nice transition.

Frye’s Leap IPA
Nose: Floral hop with a sweetness behind it
Taste: Syrupy mouthfeel. Starts with hop bitter, finishes medicinal. Alcohol. Middle has tart apple, and a bit of earthy flavor. Terrible finish. Too harsh. Like the red ale, there’s a lot of interest in the middle transitional flavors, but then gets ruined by a bad finish.

So, Sebago was a mixed bag. I miss the character of the old location, but if they’re doing business well enough to open this new space, good for them. The food was good, standard burgers-and-fries type pub grub. The beers were tasty overall, with a few disappointing finishes. However, the Lake Trout Stout stood out as the clear winner in the batch we had… a nice roast, smooth mouthfeel and pleasant experience start to finish. Lady Friend saved half for an after dinner treat. I was horrified to see a table of four behind us with only one member drinking beer. There was actually some dbag drinking a martini. In a brewpub. I bet it was vodka.

Next up: Novare Res Bier Cafe

Upta Potlind, Paht 3: Maine Beer Company

This is Part Three of an ongoing series chronicling the Maine Beercation of late July, 2011. To start at Part One, click here.

Zounds! What epic façade be this? Why, verily, ’tis The Maine Beer Company!

Oh yeah. It’s all Taj Mahals and Versailleseses over here. Brewers truly lead lives of runaway opulence and awe-inspiring vistas.

Or, you lease a unit of an industrial space, toss in some equipment and make beer.

Like the Maine Beer Company.

Don’t get me wrong; this was one of my favorite stops of the trip. We just got a little concerned upon our arrival seeing the sign in the window.

Oh, I thought it said ‘Sorry, we’re CLOTHED.’
This makes more sense.

Turns out, they were open. The brewer saw our panicked looks through the window and opened up, saying he’d wait a few minutes before starting the tour in case others showed up. No prob. You’d never guess what the interior of this place looked like if you had just passed by. Bright, screaming colors contrasting the gleaming stainless brew tanks. Very energetic. A row of glasses lined up waiting to be filled.

Put beer in us!

While waiting for others, Lady Friend and I chatted with Dan, the brewer. He started the place with his brother, Dave. Dan is in charge of brewing; Dave does everything else. It reminded me a lot of Bully Boy Distillery: both companies were started by two brothers, and Dan comes from a law background, as does Dave the distiller from Bully Boy. Dave from Maine Beer Co. was a financial adviser, and the brothers grew up in Southeast Michigan. They brew all American-style hop-forward beers, because that’s what they like.

Like Allagash, we started with the tasting first. It wasn’t so much of a comparative tasting as “have a glass of our beer,” since they only had one variety available at the time. It was the Peeper Ale, which was a very nice pale ale. Hop floral nose, bitter hop flower taste, dry and crisp on the finish. Hopped with Cascade, Amarillo and Centennial. It was delicious. I wish they had their IPA available. When I visited the Mayflower Brewery several months ago, I tasted their pale ale and IPA back-to-back and finally had the “aha” moment. Mayflower’s pale ale was delicious, and the IPA was simply a hoppier, stronger tasting version. I’m hoping the same holds true for Maine Beer, and I picked up a bottle of their Lunch IPA (“Lunch” is apparently the name of a humpback whale) at a local liquor store later that day. I did, however, also find a bottle of their Peeper Ale a few days later in Quincy’s Atlas Liquors. The plan is to taste them alongside each other and see where the differences lie.

Notable brewery factoids: Maine Beer specifically buys wind-powered electricity from the power grid. They are a 15 barrel brewery, having recently (Nov. ’10) upgraded from a ONE barrel system. Yes, one. Dan said it was just constant production to keep up with demand, and things are much easier with the larger system, including two fermenters (can do two different beers at the same time). Their old system was sold to Rising Tide Brewing Company, which is located around the back of the same building. More on THAT later.

Being such a small brewery (two employees), Maine Beer purchases their malt pre-milled, eliminating the time and expense of an in-house grain mill. They love to dry-hop for strong aromatics. Their beers take about four weeks, start to finish, with two weeks spent bottle conditioning. No filtering or forced carbonation is used, though the Peeper Ale pours nice and clear. Everything is bottle- and keg-conditioned; there is only natural carbonation, using about 30lbs of priming sugar per batch, and re-pitching the same yeast strain. There is a new test batch currently conditioning in French oak pinot noir barrels from Sidiuri Winery in Napa, which they got for free, though the barrels normally cost $600-$700.

Bottle conditioning. Sleep, my pretties.

One of the tour members asked why they decided to start a brewery. Dan replied with a couple of reasons. Number one, it’s kinda fun. Number two, he and his brother couldn’t buy locally-produced American-style hoppy ales that they enjoyed. Most of those come from the West Coast. So they decided to brew the beer that THEY like. This was also similar to the attitude of Dave at Bully Boy: he said they didn’t make a gin, because they don’t LIKE gin. You have to make a product that YOU enjoy, and are passionate about, otherwise you won’t get a great result.

Maine Beer Company’s target is to reach to a production level of about 4,000 barrels, without wanting to get much bigger. Considering they’ve only been in business for about 18 months, they seem to be doing quite well. They feel that they’ve gotten over the start-up hump, and now have two employees, including their first full-time brewer. Kevin, who was just hired, has production experience at Shipyard and Sebago. While experience helps, Dan says starting a brewery is really about practical business experience. Good to know, since most of the start-up capital investment for the brewery was from the two owners themselves. You pay attention very closely when it’s your own money on the line.

I really enjoyed the tour of Maine Beer… one of the highlights of the trip. There’s something about the attitude of a small operation that you don’t get from the larger breweries. Dan was very laid-back, friendly and willing to answer whatever questions we could come up with. The parallels in philosophy between Maine Beer and Bully Boy really hit me – two groups of brothers who had prior careers and decided to jump into doing what they love: making alcohol. The excitement and spark of ambition is evident, with the brightly painted walls adding a touch of personality to an otherwise cold, industrial setting. Well worth the trip if you’re in Portland.

Plus, they make great beer.

And awesomely minimalist tshirts.

Next up: Rising Tide Brewing Company and Great Lost Bear Brewpub.

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