February 10, 2013

Allagash Brewing Company Tour

We just got so much snow in Maine! Thirty inches is our record-breaking total in Portland. The city was shut down yesterday, and after venturing to Ruski's for my typical snow day breakfast, I stayed in, drank Dark and Stormies, played board games, and ate soup. 

Last Saturday though, the weather was just cold, and the ground was bare. Friends and I scheduled a tour of Allagash Brewing Company, as I've lived in Maine for quite some time and have never been. It was starting to become negligent. 

Allagash is Portland's craft brewing golden child, as one of the most creative, well-known small brews to come out of Maine. (Yes, you may argue that that is Shipyard Brewing, but I prefer Allagash, so I say it's Allagash.) 

Their moneymaker, the White, is a Belgian-style Wheat beer, which then allows them to experiment with smaller batches and different techniques.  

The tour of the brewery starts in their retail shop and tasting room. I love that the tour starts off with the beer, since I knew the business side of the tour would be far more interesting once I'd had a few tastes of beer. 

We sampled the White, the Grand Cru (the Winter ale), the Interlude (a Farmhouse Ale aged in wine barrels), and the Curieux (the Tripel aged in Bourbon barrels). 

Our entertaining tour guide Ashley led us into the brew house with the warning, there's going to be a lot of shiny shit that you're going to want to touch. But don't. 

We stopped first where the tanks are, continued onto the bottling and keg line, and ended in the barrel aging room. The tour script is friendly to non-beer nerds, and our guide was also willing to entertain any questions, no matter how basic, like... what does 'coagulate' mean? (No joke.) I wanted to know why the big bottles are finished with a cork and cage, rather than a bottle cap (because of tradition and in-bottle carbonation). 

The barrel room contains beer aging in old wine and Bourbon barrels, and here we also learned about a process I was really interested in - the Coolship. The Coolship is a process that allows beer to ferment with wild yeast for 24 to 36 hours in an open container. 

The results are unpredictable and different each time. We sampled some, and it was very tart, sour, and fruity (the one we tried was infused with cherries). Coolship beers are available only at the brewery.  

I loved the Allagash tour; you should go - it's free, but you do need to make a reservation, as the tours fill up. The brewery is located in outer Portland, almost Westbrook, on Riverside Dr. It's right next to Yankee Lanes, so we went bowling afterwards, natch. 

In addition to taking a peek behind the scenes of some of the best beer made in Portland, the staff is super friendly, the merch is very cool (Allagash embroidered Patagonia gear, cribbage boards made from old barrels), and beers are for sale that are only available at the brewery. Plus, well, free Allagash beer, duh.