I arrived on Tuesday night, drove to Cape Ann, and stayed with friends in Rockport. While there, I was able to take a brewery tour of Cape Ann Brewing Company, right on the wharf. Cape Ann has been around for several years now, brewing solid flagship beers like Fisherman's Brew and Fisherman's Ale. Nothing fancy, but good. Their fall seasonal, Pumpkin Stout, is one of my two favorite pumpkin beers of all time (the other one is from Cambridge Brewing Company.) But since I've left the area, they've been branching out into very interesting directions, starting a barrel program and using brettanomyces and lactobacillus. I particularly enjoyed their funky barrel aged Sunrise Saison brewed with strawberries and rhubarb. They didn't have their Pumpkin Stout on draft, but I was able to have a taste of it off the tank, which was awfully nice for the brewers to do.
The first course was a brie-apple-caramelized onion flatbread which paired beautifully with their Belgian-style table beer, Patersbier. The subtle spice and dry finish and the slight funk of the brie, the sweetness of the onion, and the tartness of the apple all worked together, and I was really impressed. The next course was less a course and more a gimmick, albeit one that kind of... worked. The shrimp shooter combined Sebago's hefeweizen, spicy cocktail sauce, and a shrimp.
The third course was a wonderful surprise. The beer, called Citra Saaz Down, was brewed by three local beer bloggers: Carla, Benjamin Moore (Active Beer Geek), and Chad Lothian (If My Coaster Could Talk). It was a light, tropical fruity, hoppy beer, coming in at 4.9% ABV. I was so proud of them as fellow beer bloggers and homebrewers, and so impressed at the high quality of the beer. The Citra Saaz Down was paired with a well executed Maine classic, a lobster roll with tarragon mayo. I enjoyed both components very much, but the combination didn't sing as much as the flatbread-Patersbier pairing. This is more a testament to the high excellence of the first course, though, rather than pointing to anything problematic in the third. It was a highly enjoyable course.
Off to the Thirsty Pig where the Patriot Craft Alliance (a distributor out of Massachusetts) treated us to any and all beer on draft, including several Goose Island special releases. I was still very full from dinner, so I sampled (but could not finish) a glass of Maine Beer's Peeper ale as well as Goose Island's famed Bourbon County Stout. But soon, the call of Novare Res across the street was too strong to resist.
I also had the opportunity to sample Trawlerboys ESB from Green Jack Brewing Company in the UK as well as Crooked Stave's Hop Savant. I had some great conversations with fellow bloggers and writers as well as brewers and other Portland beer folks. Tearing myself away from the good vibes and amazing beers of Novare Res, I returned to the hotel and tried to get as much rest as possible to prepare for the next day- a full day of beer bloggers conference activity.
To be continued...