I was on my way home looking forward to a relaxing Netflix binge when a friend texted me to ask if I wanted to go out for a beer. Looking at the temperature outside (a balmy 17 degrees) I started to type my polite decline when I got the next text.
“Oh, and there’s an Atlantic Brewing beer release at Little Tap House tonight.”
After the quick gathering of my coat, fluffy scarf, notepad and gloves, and I was out the door and walking the few blocks to Little Tap House.
As I walked over the (mostly) clear brick sidewalk I started thinking about how long it had been since I’d had a beer from Atlantic Brewing. My answer? Too long.
With the constantly rotating taps at my favorite spots, as well as the feverish pace of new brewery openings and beer releases, I tend to miss what’s going on Downeast – but that’s likely to change soon if Atlantic has anything to say about it.
Three Atlantic Brewing Company beers were on tap that evening – the Ellen’s Coffee Stout, the New Guy IPA and the limited release that I had left my warm apartment for: Aurora’s Farm Oatmeal Ale. Ignoring my usual trend of drinking from light to dark, I went straight for the Oatmeal, worried that the dense and lively crowd might beat me to it if I waited.
The Aurora’s Farm Oatmeal Ale is a dark red to brown ale that looks, at first glance (especially under low light), like a typical stout or porter. It’s aroma was malt-forward and a little bit chocolatey, but not outside of what I expected. The taste and mouthfeel, however, were a very pleasant surprise. While keeping the characteristics in taste of a well-constructed brown ale – nice chocolate smoothness but not too smoky or bitter – the mouthfeel is thicker that you’d expect. One of the reasons I’m not a fan of some Porters or Brown Ales is that they can be thin, almost watery, which reminds me of when you don’t put quite enough hot cocoa mix in with hot water… just lacking. But this was a melding of the best of both worlds.
After ordering the beer, I struck up a conversation with Alex, a rep for Atlantic, who excitedly rattled off a list of Portland establishments that have or will soon have Atlantic beers on tap. I think, deep down, there’s a recognition that they have a little work to do to squeeze into the crowded tap space in this market, but I don’t think there’s an excess of beer like the Aurora in the current beer landscape.
The beer is a result of a collaboration with Aurora Mills & Farm in Aroostook County – part of an experimental series of draught-only beer releases from Atlantic. Atlantic’s location in Bar Harbor, a tourist-driven town, affords them an opportunity to mess around a little with smaller batches over the winter – and try things out. This beer features Alymer oats added to a malty English ale base that featured Goldings hops.
As the beer warmed up in my hands, the chocolate taste bloomed and delighted me with every sip. This is the perfect beer for winter. It’s somehow thick but not heavy, hearty but not overwhelming.
With a lot of the recent focus being put on hoppy IPAs and pale ales and lighter saisons, wheat beers and pilsners, this is something that just fits – especially on these tough winter nights. The beer will be available on draught at a handful of locations in Portland – check Little Tap House, the Great Lost Bear and look for it around town – starting this week. I think it’s definitely worth the walk.
Have you seen Atlantic Brewing on tap in town? Tell us where in the comments!