Friday, July 26, 2013

The Way Beer Should Be

One of Maine's many state slogans is "The Way Life Should Be," and my time in New England so far would bear this sentiment out. The reason I'm here is to attend the Beer Bloggers Conference, held in Boston but with a pre-event excursion in Portland ME and Portsmouth NH.

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.

Thursday was the first day of the Beer Bloggers Conference (for those who participated in the pre-event excursion, at any rate.) I met up with my fellow bloggers in downtown Portland at the Cabot Creamery annex to enjoy the Vermont cheese with one of Maine's oldest breweries, Geary's. After some mingling, sipping, and nibbling, we were led over to Sebago Brewing's brewpub by local beer blogger (the Beer Babe) and all around awesome woman, Carla Companion. Sebago's Kai Adams welcomed us all warmly while we sipped on one of Sebago's flagship beers, the Frye's Leap IPA.

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.

The last course made me so happy - Sebago was generous enough to share their yet-to-be-released fall seasonal, Bonfire Rye. Not only did we get a glass to drink as part of the tasting, we were gifted with a bottle to take with us. The beer was delicious - a great malt base with a prominent rye spiciness. The hop profile lightened the malt bill making the beer incredibly easy to drink. The rye spice was a great complement to the accompanying "pork wing" with a nice spicy sauce. By the time this course was done, I was feeling done as well. However! There was more fun to be had before throwing in the towel for the night.

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.

Novare Res is the area's finest beer bar, with a well curated list featuring many Maine breweries and beers, as well as other American, Belgian, and British beer. I started with a Farmhouse Pale Ale from Oxbow, a brewery in Newcastle Maine founded in 2011. It was flavorful, effervescent, easy to drink, with intriguing notes from the yeast. I followed that up with a Mar-GOSE-rita, one of the best beers of the night, a collaboration between local Maine brewpub In'finiti Fermentation and Distillation and New Hampshire brewery Smuttynose. The gose was salty, quaffable, refreshing, with citrus notes and kefir lime and coriander. I followed the gose up with a cask ale, which was another Maine beer - a saison by Rising Tide Brewing Company called EntrepĂ´t [figue].

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...

1 comment:

  1. Great to meet you at the Cabot Farmers' Annex and later in Boston. It has been an amazing conference with extraordinary people. I just love beer people!