Beer Review: Lone Pine Brewing’s Portland Pale Ale

Name: Portland Pale Ale
Brewing Company: Lone Pine Brewing Company
Location: Portland, Maine
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 5.2%

A clean, crisp, and flavorful American Pale Ale that should please almost all beer drinkers.

From Lone Pine Brewery’s beer page:

Our flagship pale ale carries a bright, clean body, with stone fruit and ripe citrus flavors from heavy late addition hopping.

When a new, out-of-state brewery begins distributing to your state, you want to give them a try. I’d been seeing beers from Lone Pine Brewing pop up on my untappd feed from in state friends, particularly Lone Pine’s double IPA Oh-J. However, I wanted something a little lighter and not quite as hop-aggressive. Of the Lone Pine beers available, Portland Pale Ale seemed to fit that bill.

The Pale Ale…not quite as popular as the IPA, but a defining style of American Craft Beer nonetheless. Noticeable hop presence, some malt body, maybe some sweetness from those two elements. What does Portland Pale Ale offer the beer drinker relative to those elements? Let’s take a look…or a drink.

The pop of the can hints at a nicely carbonatied beer, which turns out to be true when I poured the beer into the glass: a pale yellow, not quite clear, beer fills my glass. Topped with a thick white head, Portland Pale Ale is an eye-pleasing beer. A very nice and welcoming citrusy, hoppy aroma wafts from the can and glass.

A beer can look great, but does that positivity flow through to the taste? First sip brings a smile to my face. There’s a crispness to the beer I don’t typically associate with Pale Ales, more so with Pilsners. It isn’t unwelcome, or out of line with full profile of the beer, but a pleasant surprise.

After that first sip, a very nice hop flavor follows, accompanied by a balanced sweetness and a decent amount of body given the relatively low ABV. Lone Pine doesn’t list the hops in the beer, but I suspect there’s a blend of maybe Citra, Nugget, and Azacca? Or at least one of those? The hops give off a fruitiness that I can’t quite pinpoint to one specific fruit, maybe some citrus, or maybe some peach/apricot? That’s part of the fun of this beer is that the profile from the hops ring off some familiar notes, but maybe in a different key than I’ve had before or often.

Portland Pale Ale is quite simply a solid Pale Ale. You get hops, but they don’t bludgeon you. There’s enough sweetness to balance the inherit bitterness from hops, but it isn’t a cloying sweetness. The beer is very clean and balanced. In other words, a very well-made beer. This beer falls into the category of “pleasing to the more discerning/experienced beer, but not too aggressive for the macro-beer drinkers.”

Recommended, link to 4-bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Beer Review: Mast Landing’s Gunner’s Daughter

Name: Gunner’s Daughter
Brewing Company: Mast Landing Brewing Company
Location: Westbrook, ME
Style: Stout – Milk / Sweet | Peanut Butter Milk Stout
ABV: 5.5%

An impressive beer that is immensely flavorful yet sessionable at the same time. An upper echelon Milk Stout.

From Mast Landing’s Beer List:

Our beautifully aromatic and balanced milk stout with delicious notes of peanut butter, coffee, and dark chocolate.

Stout Day is one of those “holidays” to arise in recent years as the internet has looked to celebrate everything. Well, for many beer drinkers, it is just another excuse to have a beer, in this case a stout. For me, I try to have a different stout every first Thursday in November (a.k.a. Stout Day), like this fantastic Milk Stout from Maine’s Mast Landing.

This beer is Mast Landing’s most popular beer and something of a flagship beer and once I tasted it, I could completely understand why the beer is their top beer on untappd and Beer Advocate.

As one would expect, the beer pours out of the 16oz can very dark. It has a perfect khaki, heavily creamed coffee head. This looks like a perfect stout to me. What is unexpected is the aroma. There’s a roasted peanut / peanut butter aroma that encourages that first sip. I asked my wife, who does not like beer, to give it a whiff and she remarked that it smelled less like beer than she would have expected.

The aroma is about 60% of what makes up the taste for a person and that is very true with this beer. It has the main malt/sweet flavors a Milk Stout typically shows, but then hints of peanut butter/roasted peanut show up to the flavor party. Rounding the full profile of the beer are more subtle hints of chocolate. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this beer tastes like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but more importantly, the beer evokes that flavor. In my humble opinion, that flavor evocation is a more subtle and nuanced approach to crafting a beer and the skill of the people creating the beer. That nuanced craft skill are on full display in Gunner’s Daughter.

I don’t know if the fine folks at Mast Landing added peanut butter, coffee, and chocolate to the beer for those flavors or if the complex flavors arose from the nuanced blend of malts. I’ve had a decent share of beers with peanut butter used in the brewing process or even peanut butter powder, some of those beers range from an overpowering unpleasant peanut butter bomb to artificial, powdery false flavor. Gunner’s Daughter is nowhere on that unpleasant spectrum, the beer is delicious worth a slow sip of enjoyment. Despite the sessionable, low ABV of 5.5% this beer is exploding with delicious flavors.

I also really like the can label/art on this beer. Gold and black play off of each other really nicely and are even similar to the colors of the beer itself.

Gunner’s Daughter is one of the best Milk Stouts I’ve ever had and will likely land a slot on my “favorite new-to-me” beers of 2019.

Highly recommended, link to 4.5 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Stout Day 2019

This day is all about the Stout. First brewed in the 1700’s, this style of beer brings us bold and malty flavors, and is well worth the celebration! Thanks for raising a pint of your favorite stout on International Stout Day!

 

Beer Review: Allagash Brewing’s Pick Your Own

Name: Pick Your Own
Brewing Company: Allagash Brewing Company
Location: Portland, ME
Style: American Wild Ale (Beer Advocate’s description American Wild Ale is at the end of the review)
ABV: 6%

“A complex, flavorful fruit forward beer that is artfully delicious.”

From Allagash’spage for the beer:

Pick Your Own begins as a sour red ale that’s aged in an oak foudre with Lactobacillus and Pediococcus for two years. After adding fresh, local raspberries, cherries, strawberries, and blueberries, we age it for an additional three months. The finished beer is a vibrant, ruby red with an aroma of ripe berries and vanilla. As you might expect, berries fill the flavor. Pick Your Own finishes dry with notes of bread crust and a lingering, tart juiciness.

Allagash has done more to push the Belgian art/science of brewing in America than just about any brewery that doesn’t rhyme with dome-nang. But seriously, from their White, Triple, and Saison, to their more “high-end” barrel-aged beers, Allagash is synonymous with quality and Belgian-inspired brewing, which brings me to Pick Your Own, one of their many wood-aged, funky beers I’ve been intending to try for a while.

The first, most noticeable element of the beer is the color. It is a red bordering on purple, or a blue with hints of red, or a deep red edging over into purple. No matter what you call the color, a beer this color is pretty damned intriguing to me. The second, and more overpowering element is the aroma. This beer has a funky aroma to it. As I’ve come to appreciate sour beers over the past couple of years, this aroma, with hints of berry underlying the funk, is very, very appealing. (An anecdotal point – I did *not* like Victory’s Sour Monkey when I first had it a few years ago. I revisited it last year and enjoyed it quite a bit.)

Back to Pick Your Own

The nose leads the taste and I get some funkiness initially that is immediately overtaken by the abundant berry flavors from blueberries, cherries, raspberries, and strawberries. For me, the raspberry and blueberry stand out initially with a wallop of sweet tartness – just a lovely blend of those fruits. I don’t get much strawberry in the fruit flavors, but I’m guessing the strawberry brings it all together since the natural sweetness of the strawberry probably balances out the tartness of both the blueberries and raspberries. I get maybe a hint of cherries on the finish because there’s a welcome smoothing/rounding of the beer on the backend that is absolutely divine.

I don’t know if I get much “bread-crust” on the finish (per the description above), but it is a fantastic smoothness that might be the vanilla hinted at in the description. While the complex beer has such a movement of flavors – all delicious – there’s something about that finish I found my palate chasing each time I drank from my glass. A finish I enjoyed, but was gone too quickly. Stouts are typically thought to taste better as they warm, but the last few sips of this beer were sitting in my glass for a while and were closer to room temperature and the complex flavors came more alive at that point.

Pick Your Own is a delightful beer – one of the most complex beers I’ve had in a while. Readers of this blog know I love a straight-forward pilsner and how deceptively complex a great pilsner can be. There’s nothing deceptive about a beer like Pick Your Own – it is aged for two years in a foudre (barrel), it has multiple potent fruits added, it has beneficial/good bacteria working magic for two years in that foudre before those fruits are added. And you know what? You can taste all of those elements in a progression as it seeps into your palate. In short, it is a wonderful beer to experience.

I know sour beers can be an acquired taste or even a turn-off to some. Hell, I’m living proof. But this is a beer that proves just how complex a consumable liquid classified as beer can be, how so many flavors can amalgamate into a singular goblet of deliciousness. Pick Your Own is a wonderful beer to enjoy as the night winds down, a fantastic summer desert beer. Flat out, it is a sublime and wonderful beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.50-bottle cap rating.

An American Wild Ale, is something like an Americanized version of the Belgian Lambic. According to Beer Advocate: Sometimes Belgian influenced, American Wild Ales are beers that are introduced to “wild” yeast or bacteria, such as Brettanomyces (Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, Brettanomyces Lambicus or Brettanomyces Anomolus), Pediococcus, or Lactobacillus. This introduction may occur from oak barrels that have been previously inoculated, pitching into the beer, or gained from various “sour mash” techniques. Regardless of the method, these yeast and/or bacteria leave a mark that should be noticeable to strong, and often contribute a sour and/or funky, wild note. Mixed-fermentation examples will display a range of aromatics, rather than a single dominant character.

 

Beer Review: Peak Organic Happy Hour Pilsner

Name: Happy Hour
Brewing Company: Peak Organic Brewing Company
Location: Portland, ME
Style: Pilsner – German
ABV: 4.7%

#ProperGlassware

From the Peak Organic’s Landing Page for the beer:

Happy Hour is a masterfully designed pilsner. Built to be crisp, clean and crushable. This beer is easygoing and pairs well with everything, including another beer! With this new pilsner, it’s always Happy Hour.

Over the last year or so, I’ve come to  appreciate the elegance of a well-crafted Pilsner. The style has drawn some bad rap because of mass-produced tasteless light/Lite beers. If you hear from brewers or some folks deeply entrenched in the beer community; however, great Pilsners are held in very high regard.

Peak Organic is based out of Maine and they don’t yet distribute into NJ. I had a couple of their beers (including a fantastic Pilsner) at the Philadelphia Bacon and Beer Festival last year, so when I saw a can of their beer in Wegman’s for a Mixed Six Pack, I knew I had to grab it.

I am glad I did. On the other hand, I’m a little frustrated, because (as I just said) Peak isn’t yet distributed into NJ.

Out of the can, the beer pours a bright golden yellow. If I’m going to be honest, then the aroma doesn’t stand out too much. I mean, it smells like a beer should smell and that just makes me want to drink it.

This is one of the lighter Pilsners I’ve had, but that doesn’t detract from the taste at all. If anything, this beer is full of flavor and wonderfully refreshing. Like the best Pilsners, the malt and hop blend nicely to give the beer a really consistent taste. The first sip is a pop of flavor that, when cold, is extremely refreshing. As the can says, this is a crushable beer, one you can throw back to refresh your thirst with a really straightforward taste with superb, clean finish. This is a beer you’re going to want to finish while cold.

If you want to think of it one way, Happy Hour from Peak Organic is almost an entry-level craft beer. Folks who are usually wary of craft beer because they associate “craft beer” with hopped up IPAs or boozy stouts should give this one a try. Especially given the name, this is a beer that is one you’d bring to a party to share with anybody and everybody. Full of enough taste to please craft beer drinkers, and approachable enough not to deter non-craft drinkers, Peak Organic’s Happy Hour is a winner regardless of how you cut it. As the old adage goes, this beer does exactly what it says on the can!

Peak Organic, as the name implies, uses organic ingredients in the beer and based on Happy Hour and the tastings I had of their other two beers, that freshness really shows. I just hope these fine folks are able to fully distribute into New Jersey.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Beer Review: Allagash Black

Name: Black
Brewing Company: Allagash Brewing Co.
Location: Portland, Maine
Style: Belgian Style Stout / Belgian Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 5.2%

From the beer’s description on Allagash Brewing Company’s Web site:

Technically, there is no such thing as a traditional Belgian stout, but we went ahead and made one anyway. In creating the beer, we took the aspects we loved in Belgian beers and used them to craft a stout. Allagash Black is brewed with 2-row barley, torrified wheat, oats, roasted barley, chocolate malt, black malt and hopped with Northern Brewer and Glacier. A generous portion of dark caramelized candi sugar produces a hint of raisin in the finished beer. The addition of oats lends Black a silky mouthfeel, which is enhanced by rich flavors of coffee and dark chocolate.

Allagash is another American Craft Beer pioneer located in the Northeast, and like Victory, because of their tenure and reputation in the industry, their beers are available throughout a majority of the United States. Their most famous beer is White, the standard bearer for the American interpretation of a Belgian Witbier (despite what you may hear under a blue moon). This beer is it’s opposite? Or cousin? However you would like to map the relationship between the two beers, the simply titled Black is a fantastic and unique brew in the American Craft Beer landscape.

But wait, aren’t there thousands of stouts (which is probably not too much of an exaggeration) on shelves? Aren’t Belgian beers and beers brewed with ingredients and in the Belgian style almost as prevalent? Sure, but as founder Rob Tod posited when he first brewed this beer, there really aren’t any Belgian stouts, so he created this mainstay masterpiece.

The beer pours, in a shocking turn of events, black. There’s a little lightening of the color as the head develops, but the cocoa and roasty aromas mingle in a very inviting way. There might be a hint of the Belgian yeast floating under current of at all in the aroma.

The first up front sip gives the classic stout flavors we’ve all come to expect, dark, roasted malt with a smooth mouthfeel. There’s a slight taste of cocoa and coffee that complement each other nicely; one doesn’t overpower the other.

At the back end of the taste; however, is where this beer stands apart from other stouts and dark, malty brews. The Belgian yeasts come into prominence, transforming those expected stout flavors into something more robust and unexpected.

I’ve been well aware of Allagash’s respected, Belgian-inspired output for years and now I’m kicking myself for not giving this one a try earlier. Although Black is part of Allagash’s year-round portfolio, this one will now be a stout return to regularly; a dependable, well-above average beer that is a nice outside-the-box stout.

The beer’s reputation precedes itself so my endorsement can be added to the many who count this among their favorites. There’s a bourbon barrel aged version of Black I *need* to try.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Iron Man (Level 3):
You don’t have to be a superhero to enjoy a strong beer. Boasting a higher than average ABV, these styles really do pack a punch, so be ready for it. That’s 15 different beers with style of Strong Ale – American, Strong Ale – English, Belgian Strong Ale, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Belgian Strong Golden Ale or Lager – Euro Strong.

The Dark Side (Level 5):
At first taste, dark ales can be overwhelming for even the most skilled of beer drinkers, but your will is weak and with time you will eventually turn to the dark side. That’s 25 different beers with the style of Dark Ale, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Lager – Euro Dark, Lager – Dark or IPA – Black / Cascadian Dark Ale or IPA – Imperial / Double Black.