The final installment of our Maine brewery adventure happened on our return home with a quick pit stop at Bissell …
My wife and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary by taking a trip up to Maine last weekend. On our way up we stopped at Industrial Way, an unassuming commercial road in Portland where a few of Maine’s breweries have made their homes. Talk about a nice neighborhood!
Our first stop of the day was at Allagash Brewing Company, who for over 20 years has been serving up high quality Belgian-inspired beers. Any beer enthusiast is probably familiar with at least a few of their offerings, so it was exciting to see where all the magic happens. They have the largest facility of the breweries in the vicinity, claiming an entire lot to themselves. From their parking lot you can see some large brewing tanks and an outdoor seating area. Before entering the taproom/bottle and merchandise store, you are greeted at the door by a friendly host who, in exchange for viewing valid identification, will present visitors with a token redeemable for a free flight of four beers. You can also make arrangements to join a tour (also free!), but our schedule did not allow for it.
I did, however, have plenty of time for the free flight of beer. Consumed in the order above from left to right, my first sample of the day was House Beer, a Belgian-style Pale Ale. The taste was quite nice; lightly hopped dry grapefruit accompanied by the distinct flavor of Belgian yeast. Mellow and light, this started the day off on a high note.
Next up was Saison, which tasted a bit fruity (think orange zest) and lightly peppery. It had a dry, crisp finish and was probably about what my ideal for this style would be. I really enjoyed the subtleties of the flavors.
Brew number three, Confluence, was something a bit bolder, a 7.5% Belgian Pale Strong Ale blended with the brewery’s proprietary strain of Brettanomyces. It had a citrusy, funky Brett-influenced taste upfront that transitioned to sweet malts before coming to a bitter, hoppy, and funky finish. The Brettanomyces really asserted itself in this one, but the variety of other tastes blended well with it to create a very complex and interesting beer. This was probably my favorite of the flight though the next beer up was certainly pretty amazing as well.
Closing things out was the brewery’s classic Belgian Dark Ale, simply named Black. It poured a dark black body and had an inviting roasted chocolate smell. It tasted again of roasted chocolate, light roast coffee, and sweet malt. The mouthfeel was soft and silky and brought an outstanding flight of beer to great finish.
Allagash has a top-notch facility and poured some really great beers, both of which can be enjoyed at a price that can’t be beat – free! Any beer lover passing through the area needs to stop in here at least once to check this place out.
Our next stop, across the street, was Foundation Brewing Company, which shares a warehouse unit with a few other breweries. None of these are as big as Allagash so while they do each have their own units and taprooms, they are set up more like adjacent storefronts as opposed to individual stand-alone facilities. Making our way past the cornhole area and long bench outside the front entrance, we walked into a very small serving area where you could purchase beer and merchandise. There was indoor seating in the back among some of the brewing equipment or the aforementioned bench outside. We went for the bench to take advantage of a beautiful day. I, of course, ordered samples of each of the five beers pouring.
To start the tasting, I was poured two golden-yellow saisons, Eddy and Wanderlust. Eddy was 5.7% and featured a whole lot of citrus fruit taste upfront before giving way to a light yeast and more subtle pepper and spice notes. The flavors all came together well for what is probably one of the fruitiest saison I have had the pleasure of drinking. Wanderlust was also very fruity, though a bit smaller of a beer at 4.5%. It was also distinguished by having a bit more of yeast presence and a floral, almost bubblegum-like taste. It was also notably hoppier than Eddy, so much so that this could easily be taken for a Pale Ale.
The next wave of samples presented a variety of colors and flavors. I moved on to Zuurzing, billed as a sour saison. It had a tangy and funky strawberry taste and drank like a tart juice. There wasn’t a lot about this other than a slight dryness to the finish that made this recognizable as saison, but that aside I was a big fan of this one. Moving on, I got to Burnside, a roasty Brown Ale. I thought this beer was about average for the style, but I don’t really have much to say about it. It wasn’t bad, this style just doesn’t usually excite me. Rounding out the flight was an IPA named Afterglow. This is another one that I really enjoyed. It had a nice resiny/piney hop presence backed up by some more bready than sweet malts. All in all this was a very solid flight and I was certainly quite happy a had a chance to stop on by.
After finishing up at Foundation, we went next door to pay a visit to their next door neighbors, Bissell Brothers Brewing Company. You enter their taproom by going past an outdoor seating area (complete with food truck) and are greeted by a serving counter in front of you and an indoor seating area with a few tables and a pinball machine to the left. There were only two beers pouring that day, but they were both exceptionally good.
I started with Baby Genius, a 4.0% American Blonde Ale. As one might expect from the size and style, this was really refreshing and crushable. It poured a cloudy almost nuclear yellow. Taste was piney, almost spicy, tropical hops on top of a yeasty and grainy base. I could see this one tasting kind of odd once the hops start to fade, but it was super fresh while I was there and tasting great. The other beer pouring that day was their popular IPA named The Substance. This one poured a cloudy straw yellow color. The taste was a great mix of juicy fruits and really dank hops. Neither flavor really asserted itself over the others, but rather worked together to form a cohesive and delicious beer. I was super excited to come home with cans of these packaged the day before our visit.
Located in the same building complex as Foundation and Bissell Brothers is yet another brewery, Austin Street Brewery but they unfortunately did not fit into our plans this visit. I had plenty of beer by this point and we needed to get on with our voyage north as evening was rapidly approaching. They’re definitely first on my list should we get the chance to swing by again, which I do hope ends up happening. There’s a lot of great brewing going on down on this stretch of road and any traveling beer enthusiast really does need to take note of this as a destination to hit up. You’ll be glad you did.
Hello to whomever may be reading. Welcome to my little corner of the internet, the BeerRantsAndBooks Blog! As the name suggests I like drinking beers and reading books and want to share my thoughts. These two hobbies will probably be the primary focus but we’ll see what happens. I have two reviews of some great beers to get started so let’s get this thing going:
Beer Name: Nature of the Experiment
Brewer: Night Shift and Bissell Brothers Collaboration
Description: Per the Night Shift website and Beer Advocate, this is a Brett fermented IPA aged in wine barrels with touches of mango and ginger. Hop bill is Citra, Simcoe, Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, and Topaz.
Pour Info: Poured from my trusty 32 oz. growler into my Night Shift Barrel Society teku glass. The beer was released at the brewery on 11/4/2014, growler was filled on 11/6/2014, and the pour used for this review was consumed on 11/9/2014. So we’re talking fresh here.
Price: $14 for a 32 oz. growler fill at the Night Shift Brewery
Appearance: Pours a yellowish orange body with a wispy thin white head that breaks up fairly quickly.
Smell: Smells of muted hops, citrus fruit, and slight bretty funk.
Taste: Slight hoppiness up front gives way to a nice juicy citrus taste midway. The finish hints of red wine and the brett taste comes out a bit more as the beer warms. I found the flavors blended together nicely for a great experience start to finish.
Mouth Feel: I’d call this thoroughly medium bodied and appropriate to style. Just enough carbonation. When allowed to sit and warm up for a bit it bordered on getting a touch syrupy at the end but was good drinking all the way through.
Hype Factor: I’m always excited to try a new Night Shift brew but I would say the hype factor is moderate on this one. I believe it was one of four new beers they had on tap at the brewery when I swung by (aka another Thursday there) and this wasn’t even the one I was most excited to try at the time. Of course it is the one I brought home in my growler so there’s that.
Overall: I found this beer to be very well constructed and satisfying to drink. I hit up the growler both on its own and following a wine tasting and the beer held up nicely on both occasions (the later perhaps due to the barrels involved). At times I felt it almost drank like a type of beer/wine hybrid. Rated purely as an IPA this is not particularly hoppy by some standards but the hops definitely do make themselves known in harmony with the other flavors. I’ve been a fan of Night Shift for quite awhile now but I think this is my first encounter with the Bissell Brothers. Definitely going to keep an eye out for them.
And without further ado, here is review number two:
Beer Name: Citronium
Brewer: Element Brewing Company
Description: Per the Element website, this is a double IPA “blasted” with three citrus flavors. They added kaffir limes and Citra hops during the boil and grapefruit oil prior to bottling. According to the label my bottle was one of only 460.
Pour Info: Poured from the bottle into my teku glass. I picked up the corked and caged bottle on 11/8/2014 at a beer and wine tasting at a local store. Bottled on date was 10/24/2014 (another fresh one!). Consumed for review on 11/11/2014.
Price: $12.99 for 750 ml (not including 10% discount from tasting)
Appearance: Medium copper body with a bubbly white head that slowly dissipated. Bottle conditioned sediment on the final pour that turned into a tasty bonus.
Smell: Strong bitter and citrusy hops. Wow, almost a punch in the nose.
Taste: Again, another punch of bitter citrus hops (as advertised in retrospect). Bitter taste is somewhat oily and resinous. The grapefruit oil they added definitely comes through in the finish and I get hints of the lime sort of up front and toward the beginning of the finish. I would say this is rather bitter but there’s enough interesting citrus tastes going on to compliment that and keep it in check.
Mouth Feel: Medium body. Bubbly but not too bubbly
Hype Factor: I’d have to say low on this one. I’ve never really tried much of anything from Element before prior to running across their Sake IPA at the Gulu Gulu in Salem, MA on Halloween. I’d seen them plenty but just one of those breweries I’d never picked for whatever reason. Between running across them in Salem and then at the local tasting it seemed like a good time to try them out.
Overall: This is a tough beer to categorize for me. By smell and initial taste it seems like it should be too bitter but somehow it works out into a really enjoyable beer. The lime and grapefruit combine to create a very interesting citrus profile that compliments the hops very well. I am tempted to try and get another bottle if they are still available to see how this drinks a month or more out from bottling since this was so intense this time around. I did really enjoy the beer overall and Element Brewing has now officially got my attention.