There is a lot that I could say about the things I ate and drank in Maine. Beer, Lobster, more beer, french fries with bacon dust, oysters, home brewed beer, lobster, and back to the basics… beer. So, if you couldn’t figure it out, the thing I did the most of in Portland was drink beer, and the beer I was lucky to drink the most of, was Allagash. I will say that Portland Beer Company was a close second, I am a big fan of both their Lunch IPA and Peepers Ale.
I’ve been interested in Allagash for a while now. The fact that they only brew Belgian style beers is awesome. Their beers are so good, and getting so popular that they are struggling to keep up with demand, which is only available in the northeast. I was super excited that my friend Ryan works there and could give me a private tour.
I’ve been on several brewery tours, seen the brew tanks, fermenting tanks, bottling line, kegging station, and everything else that most every brewery has. Allagash has all the things which make a brewery seem like an industrial factory instead of a place of magic. Allagash also tries some brewing methods which involve as much luck as they do science for how the beer will turn out.
Allagash is one of very few breweries in America to make naturally fermented lambic beers. The beer sites for 24 hours in that tank, in a room with the windows open. It collects whatever wild yeasts are in the air that it can, then goes and sits in a fermenting tank until it’s done, and they aren’t ever really sure how long that will be. The open air fermenting tank was awesome, but I was more interested in the barrel celler.
Here you see Ryan, my friend and host for the weekend. I am taking the picture and standing in the larger of the barrel rooms. The one I am in holds mostly Curieux, which is Allagash’s Tripel aged for several months in bourbon barrels. The room Ryan is entering into holds much more interesting things. It is full of barrels of experiments. Things that Allagash is trying which if may or may not put into production at a later date. Some things also are just tests that they are doing for fun.
Here is a picture of me, behind me is the biggest barrel I have ever seen. Inside the barrel is their “old beer” which is infused with brettanomyces and is used to make Gueuze beers. A Gueuze beer is a beer that is a mix of newly made and older beers, which then going through another fermentation period to create a new and different beer than either of the ones were before. And a Gueuze beer is usually a lambic beer, but almost always a Belgian style beer.
Ryan also found some of Allagash’s raspberry experiment beer. I say experiment because the beer took three years to come to completion, only to discover that somewhere along the recipe, something was messed up, and only half the bottles ended up being carbonated. The fact that this beer existed seems crazy to me, and the luck of opening one of the carbonated bottles is crazier still. I have never had a raspberry beer that I enjoyed more. I found out that they used green raspberries in the mixture, so instead of being overly sweet like fruit beers often are, it was dry and tart. It also tasted like fresh raspberries, which was quite a feat, considering that the ones in the beer were about 3 years old.
I had a wonderful trip. I learned more about brewing that I ever had on any past brewery tour. Now that I am back in Austin, I am thinking about doing some home brewing of my own. And once the weather gets to an appropriate temperature for it, I will probably do my first batch this fall.