Sitting on plush leather couches in the back nook of Liquid Riot Bottling Co. on a quiet Monday afternoon, Eric Michaud and Greg Abbot helped me wrap my head around the expansive vision of the Commercial Street brewery, distillery and restaurant.
“Right from the start we had a lot going on. People like to pigeonhole breweries into categories, like this place makes Belgians or this place makes IPAs; we didn’t want to be pigeonholed,” said Michaud, Liquid Riot’s founder and chief executive officer.
It’s impossible to place Liquid Riot into a box. On any given day, the 16 taps at the brewpub are filled with a subject-to-change lineup of house-made beers, from sours to IPAs to stouts to saisons. And patrons can get cocktails mixed with house-distilled spirits, including vodkas, bourbons, rums and Maine’s only fernet.
“Part of the fun of brewing is pushing the boundaries and challenging what is expected,” said Abbot, the head brewer.
I admitted that this ever-expanding beer list and distillery made it hard to fully grasp exactly what Liquid Riot is as a brewery. Michaud laughed.
“I’ve traveled all around the world tasting beers, and I want to bring all those great styles and flavors to Liquid Riot,” he explained.
It’s this breadth of knowledge that makes Michaud and Abbot hungry to brew such diverse styles of beer.
Somewhere in the middle of our conversation, I got it: Liquid Riot is an experimental brewery dedicated to producing high-quality brews that push the boundaries of craft beer.
The best way to experience this vanguard mindset is through its new Small Batch Series, a barrel-aging program that allows Abbot and Michaud to flex their innovative muscles. These are truly beers like no one else is brewing.
Take, for example, the most recent release, Vinlandic, a Norwegian-inspired Brettanomyces farmhouse ale brewed with local grains and juniper boughs, aged in gin barrels. Yeah, it’s all those things, and it’s delicious.
Liquid Riot will release a beer in this series roughly every three months. Michaud explained that they can’t stick to a strict release schedule because the Brettanomyces yeast they use in many of the beers is hard to predict, and also, they want to leave things open so they can be spontaneous with the beers they brew.
The next release in this series is on March 28 with Straight to Black:Out, an imperial stout aged in Liquid Riot’s Old Port Single Malt Whiskey Barrels.
While discussing the Small Batch Series, Abbot wanted to make it clear that, though they are committed to experimentation, they maintain high standards.
“We’re not going to sell something if it’s not good,” he said. “Though we like to experiment, we’re also dedicated to consistency in our brewing.”
The consistency aspect of Liquid Riot can be found in its flagship lineup of cans released every Thursday at the brewery and around town at beer stores.
The sundry canning lineup is dialed in from batch to batch. Their oeuvre of cans is comprised of six regular releases, including Primus, a Belgian-style table beer; Sour Trouble, a sour brown ale; Headstash IPA, a dank, cannabis-forward IPA; and A Beer Has No Name, a juicy double IPA packed with all the sexy hops.
Before leaving, Michaud pointed to the exposed brewing equipment behind the bar. “This is our playground, and we’re going to keep playing,” he said.
Whether you hunker down at the bar to dig into their eclectic draft list, pick up bottles of their avant-garde Small Batch Series or search out 16-ounce cans of their flagship beers, do your palate a favor and experience Liquid Riot’s forward-looking beers.
WHAT: An experimental brewhouse dedicated to high quality beers and spirits of all styles that also has a full kitchen menu. Its new Small Batch Series is a program of experimental, barrel-aged beers, including Straight to Black:Out, released at the brewery on March 28. Every Thursday, its six flagship styles are released fresh at the brewery.
WHERE: 250 Commercial St., Portland
WHEN: Open noon to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and noon to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday
MORE INFO: liquidriot.com
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
Geary’s Brewing Co. under new ownership
Maine’s first post-Prohibition brewery will no longer be run by the Geary family. The Portland Press Herald reported recently that Alan Lapoint of Freeport is in the works of finalizing the purchase of the iconic Portland brewery. Lapoint plans to reinvigorate the Geary’s brand along with its lineup of English-style ales. There has been a boycott of Geary’s beers by some Portland bars as a result of the manner of recent employee layoffs. Nonetheless, this beer writer is rooting for the new ownership to help breathe life into a brewery that helped start New England’s craft beer community in the 1980s.
Brews + Breath at Fore River Brewing
10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Saturday, 45 Huntress Ave, South Portland. On Facebook
This winter, I reported on the growing trend of yoga classes taking place in breweries. The trend continues this Saturday at Fore River Brewing Co. with yoga instructor Kristy Doucette. Celebrate the first weekend in spring by doing your body a favor with some mindful bending followed by a mindful tasting of Fore River’s lineup of beers. Let the craft beer movement bring you another step closer to sensual nirvana.