November 6, 2016 by Cody
Last night, the 5th annual Portland Beer Week kicked off with their freshmen orientation event at Coffee By Design on the East End. 14 new breweries that opened in the last year in our fine state were present. From Searsmont, to Lewiston, to our own Portland backyard, the brewers traveled far and wide (as far and wide as Maine gets at least) to pour their brews, and give us the low down on their new ventures.
From the opening ceremony to the closing ceremony (and yes, there was both courtesy of Maine Brewer’s Guild Executive Director, Sean Sullivan, in rousing fashion), the atmosphere of the participants and the brewers was really jovial and fun. You could tell that each brewery was anxious, and perhaps a little nervous at times, to have some face time with the people of Maine. Each brewery though, brought something to the table; some adventurous, and some refreshingly traditional, but all were passionate about their brewing, and it actually made me really proud to be a Mainer last night. Alright, enough with the shmaltzy, let’s get to the highlights of the evening!
The most original brew of the evening goes to Gruit, a beer project by way of Urban Farm Fermentory right here in Portland. The fellas at Gruit were serving up what I personally describe as a Christmas gruit concoction. They swear up and down the only thing added to this brew with a Czech Pilsner malt base, was lavender, but I am pretty sure they dazzled us with a lil sum’n sum’n involving holiday pixie dust, because I wanted to open presents after drinking this hot toddy!
I didn’t catch the name of the brew from the guys, but it has a lightly spiced nutmeg and cinnamon flavor, and is NOT a palate wrecker, which I think should be one of the hallmarks of this beer. Very drinkable!
Next up was Mast Landing Brewing, and their peanut butter stout Gunner’s Daughter. Mast Landing describes this beer as a stout with peanut butter, chocolate and coffee, and damn did they hit it out of the park with that description! I have never had a stout that was so easy to identify multiple flavors as this. When asked if they actually added any coffee or chocolate (cacao nibs?) to the brew, the folks at the brewery told me it was 100% malts delivering the flavor. It shouldn’t shock me that malts could pull off this flavor, but it kinda did. This is arguably my favorite brew of the night, but with 14 beers in total, it is kind of difficult to pinpoint just one. Cheers to Mast Landing for the biggest surprise though!
2 Feet Brewing is another brewery that could take the cake with the top stout of the evening with their BO Stout. Aged in oak with vanilla, this otherwise well balanced stout was just overflowing with vanilla aroma! Ironically, despite the strong vanilla aroma, the flavor was not overwhelming at all. The vanilla settled in and really added to the balance of the brew. I am a sucker for vanilla in beer, and BO Stout was no different. This was truly a tasty treat, and I will cease to write the word vanilla from here on out for the benefit of my readers.
Finally, this wouldn’t be a Maine wide tasting event, without the mention of a solid, New England style American IPA. The award for best IPA of the evening must go to Mason’s Brewing and their Ghost Reaper IPA. I was told that Ghost and Reaper peppers were added to this brew to deliver a spicy kick, but I honestly didn’t get much of a spice from it. Instead, I received a mouthful of some of the most overwhelming citrus notes I’ve tasted in an American style IPA, and I think this is due in large part to the sourness lent by the peppers! Who would have thought that adding hot peppers to an IPA would generate MORE complexity in the hop characteristics, instead of just adding additional pepper flavor? Very impressive brew.
Overall, I was happy to have been a part of this event, and get some face time with all of these new brewers. Cheers everyone!
The full list of breweries is as follows:
2 Feet Brewing (Bangor)
Bear Bones Brewery (Lewiston)
Dirigo Brewing (Biddeford)
Gruit (Portland @ Urban Farm Fermentory)
Fore River Brewing (South Portland)
Foulmouthed Brewing (South Portland)
Lone Pine Brewing (Portland)
Mason’s Brewing (Brewer)
Mast Landing Brewing (Westbrook)
Norway Brewing (Norway)
One Eye Open Brewing (Portland)
Saco River Brewing (Fryeburg)
Simplicity Brewing (Warren)
Threshers Brewing (Searsmont)