What's Brewing: Allagash Brewery, For One

Photos by Anne Vickman

After finalizing a short notice weekend trip to Portland, Maine, the next logical step was to make sure we hit up Allagash Brewery on the outskirts of town. So after a visit to Duckfat for paninis, their famous fries (cooked in duck fat, natch), and an Allagash White — a Belgian wheat — topped with a fat slice of lemon, we were primed for our visit.

The brewery is currently under construction, adding a new lab, conference room, and employee break room, so things were a bit askew. Not so much, though, that it prevented us from seeing their massive 30-barrel brewing system (the brewery had four when they first moved into the space) or their barrel room, where French and American oak barrels — as well as a foudre (an enormo-drum that holds 80 barrels worth of beer) — housed brews of all different ages, including Curieux aged in Jim Beam barrels, the Vrienden collaboration, Black, and a few experimental brews that have yet to see the light of day. To wit, we spotted several curious names: Zebulon, Ozzmosis, Ozzfest, Smokey and the Band-Aid, and … drumroll … Indigenuts.

Just a few of the many fermenting tanks.

All aboard that's going ashore: the Coolship label.

We also spotted some barrels labeled “C.S.,” which, we discovered, stands for Coolship. A coolship (koelschip) is a large, rectangular, shallow stainless steel vat that allows beer to cool off overnight and maximizes exposure to wild yeasts before barreling. That’s right funky beer lovers, Allagash is brewing geuze. The first batch was made in 2007, and the blending of sequential batches is happening now — three separate variations of the Coolship series (Cerise, Red, and Resurgam) will be released sometime in the next couple of months. Allagash will be announcing the release the day of via Facebook and Twitter and will be selling around 200 bottles to the public in their retail store, with a limit of two per person. While we were sad to realize we’ll probably never get our hands on a bottle of Cerise, we’re happy to see local breweries experimenting with new (old) methods of brewing.

What’s more, Allagash has collaborated with Rising Tide and Maine Beer Company (both breweries are just across the street) to make Backseat Lovin’, a Belgian-style RyePA for the upcoming Maine Brewers Guild craft beer fest in Boothbay on July 30.

Admittedly, we care a great deal for Maine Beer Company’s brews — Peeper, in particular. And because we were already there, we sauntered across the street in hopes of meeting them, too. Alas, no one was home. So we did what any good beer geeks would do: We left a note proclaiming our affinities for their palate-pleasing beers in the door. Yes, Maine Beer Company, that was us. We love you.

So what about you, fellow suds lovers? Would you drive two hours north to get your mitts on a couple bottles of Allagash’s small batch lambic or a taste of their one-off collaboration brew?