Living in the middle of such a productive beer community has it’s benefits and it’s drawbacks. Wherever I go, when I tell people I’m from New England I am immediately asked about The Alchemist’s Heady Topper (a super-hoppy canned Vermont beer), and when I mention I’m in Maine, their first inquiry is about Maine Brewing Company’s Lunch – their west-coast style IPA that has taken the beer trading world by storm. IPAs have enjoyed a sustained popularity growth over the last five years – so the craving for lots of hops in the craft beer loving community is no surprise.
As much as I do enjoy Lunch, I want to tell you about another beer by Maine Beer Company that’s recently won my heart – MO. Named as a nod to brewer Daniel Kleban’s twins Madeline and Oliver – this one is not an IPA but instead an American Pale Ale, and hasn’t reached the level of national fame that Lunch has.
American Pale Ales as defined by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines have, “a moderate to high hop flavor, often showing a citrusy American hop character (although other hop varieties may be used)” and tend to be described as “balanced” with “moderate to high hop bitterness with a medium to dry finish.” However, in practice, beers described as American Pale Ales tend to span a wide spectrum of flavors – from fruity to very bitter. To me, American Pale Ales are usually a safe bet for when I’d like to taste some hops, but am not in the mood to be tasting hops on my tongue for hours after drinking a pint.
MO, with it’s humble and simple white label characteristic of all Maine Beer Company beers can be easy to miss on the shelf, especially from a distance.
In a glass it pours out a yellow to orange color, with a very foamy head that sticks around for quite some time. It’s one of those pretty beers that you just want to admire after pouring. However, just admiring it wouldn’t do it justice. The aroma is fruity and flowery hops, with a really light backbone of malt coming through, too. MO does not have the grassy or particularly bitter hop aromas, but instead presents a fresh snappy assertion of hops.
The taste is impressive. It has all of the zesty hop spiciness to it that the aroma promises, but it’s balanced on a pretty light body and finishes very dry. The combination of the dry finish and the lightness make this one that keeps me going back to the glass. The hops last in my mouth for just a millisecond too short, and it leaves me wanting another sip immediately. The hops are also very well balanced (though there is not really a detectable malt flavor) it just feels like the put the exactly right proportions in.
The hops that Maine Beer Company used are Warrior, Falconer’s Flight, and Simcoe. I love the citrusy flavors that Simcoe can bring, but I’m honestly not familiar with Falconer’s Flight hops. Whatever the magic that creates such a combination, at 6% ABV this could become a go-to beer for me when I want something hoppy, light and flavorful.
Outside of Maine, Maine Beer Company distributes beer to Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland/DC, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Vermont. As a resident of Portland, I can’t help but wonder what the ratio of beers that are shipped “away” are to those that stay in town, and worry a little about this beer’s future availability.
But right now, it’s plentiful, tasty and available right here. I can only hope that it does not become as well known as it’s cousin, Lunch. But just in case, let’s keep MO our little secret, okay?