My ongoing quest to taste every single craft beer in America recently brought me to the cozy confines of northern New England. Just outside the criminally underrated city of Portland, Maine, you’ll find an unexpected hot pocket of microbrewing madness–3 facilities within a few hundred yards of one another, each cranking out their own distinct combination of hops, barley and yeast. While two of them are nano-breweries which you’d have no chance of experiencing unless you made the (highly recommended) voyage up to this neck of the woods, the biggest producer here is Allagash Brewing Company–one of the bigger names in craft brewing, thanks in no small part to the runaway success of their flagship brew, Allagash White.
Eager to try some of the other fine beers that brewmaster Rob Tod has been churning out, I signed up for an informative, thirst-quenching brewery tour. Interestingly, the folks at Allagash like to let you sample the goods before you make the trek through their facilities. I was totally fine with this, of course, so long as they are okay with having throngs of mildly inebriated tourists waddling past heavy machinery.
The first beer we tasted was the ubiquitous White. Outside of New England–I was surprised to learn–the state with the highest demand for this Belgian-style wit beer is California. Slightly spicy in flavor, and cloudy in appearance thanks to its unfiltered body, this easy drinking wheat beer is perfect for summertime sipping as it pairs so wonderfully with many seafood flavors. Next up, we moved on to their maltier Dubbel. Dry and nutty, with an impressive 7% ABV, the Belgian yeasts that necessarily dominate this style of beer were on full display. But my favorite sample, by far, was the barrel-aged Curieux. Using their Tripel Ale as a foundation, they age it in Jim Beam bourbon barrels for two months. The result is an 11% behemoth with a dark, golden color and smooth flavor profile, teasing the tongue with hints of vanilla and coconut.
If your travels bring you to Maine, you can schedule a tour at Allagash Brewing Company any day of the week except Sunday. Click on this link to reserve a spot.