A few weeks ago, I was taping a spring beer segment on WCSH’s “207.” After the segment, the animated Caroline Cornish admitted to me off camera, “I don’t really like beer, but I liked these.”
When Cornish uttered that phrase, “I don’t like beer,” I jovially told her what I tell all people who make this claim in my presence: “You’re not allowed to say you don’t like beer anymore.”
I don’t just say this because it’s a cute thing for a beer writer to assert. I say this because there are currently endless styles of beers being brewed in Maine. The flavor spectrum of today’s beer market is staggering, ranging from tart to juicy to funky to chocolatey to fruity to salty. And the list goes on. There is a beer out there for everyone; you just have to know what to look for.
Here are six gateway Maine beers that will show you and your palate that you do, in fact, like beer.
Pisces Gose, Rising Tide Brewing Co.
My sister-in-law once stated that she didn’t like beer. Challenge accepted. I’d hand her a can of beer and ask, “How about this one?” She’d scrunch her nose and say, “No.” After dozens of thwarted attempts, I handed her a Pisces from Rising Tide Brewing. As a wine drinker, I theorized that she’d enjoy the subtle tartness of this gose. I was right. Her fridge is never lacking for Pisces cans any longer.
TASTING NOTES: Subtle tart flavors with a briny underbelly from the addition of Maine seawater
ABV: 3.6 percent
AVAILABILITY: Purchase four-packs of cans at local beverage stores and at the Portland brewery
Fore River Brewing recently released two sour wheat beers called Preble Raspberry and Preble Cherry. These beers each strike a brilliant sweet/tart balance that is wildly refreshing and perfect for the upcoming summer months. There are no bitter flavors anywhere near this beer. This is another great gateway craft beer for a wine drinker.
STYLE: Kettle-soured wheat beers
TASTING NOTES: Both beers have nuanced sour notes with natural fruit flavors from the raspberries and cherries
ABV: 4 percent
AVAILABILITY: Purchase on draft and in growlers at the South Portland brewery and on draft at select locations
Dirigo Lager, Dirigo Brewing Co.
Lagers are a great place to start for light, inviting flavors that won’t wallop the senses. The Dirigo Lager from Dirigo Brewing Co. will hit the spot on any palate. While some lagers still impart bitter flavors that turn off non-beer drinkers, the Dirigo Lager, a 4.7 percent Helles-style beer, is incredibly smooth from nose to finish.
STYLE: Helles-style lager
TASTING NOTES: Clean grain notes with a drinkable spiciness from the lager yeast
ABV: 4.7 percent
AVAILABILITY: Purchase on draft and in growlers at the Biddeford brewery, also look for can releases at local beer stores
Similar to the lager, a Kolsch is a great entryway for beer novices. The AOK Kolsch from Orono Brewing Co. is a brilliant example of this style of beer. AOK is crisp and refreshing. Its clean flavor profile has just the right addition of bright flavor notes to entice the palate. I’ve heard a few non-beer lovers say they like this beer.
STYLE: Kolsch-style ale
TASTING NOTES: Crisp, clean grain notes with a soft touch of hops and a smooth finish
ABV: 4.7 percent
AVAILABILITY: Purchase at the Orono and Bangor tasting rooms, as well as on draft at select locations
Peeper Ale from Maine Beer Co. has been converting non-beer lovers since 2009. Peeper boasts a light grain bill and picture-perfect clarity. Though it’s hoppy, there are no bitter pine notes. Instead, the hop profile has alluring hints of grapefruit and lemon zest. While some American ales can be hop bombs, Peeper is all about subtle balance.
STYLE: American ale
TASTING NOTES: Refreshing hop notes of grapefruit and citrus above a clean grain bill
ABV: 5.5 percent
AVAILABILITY: Purchase on draft and in 16-ounce bottles at the Freeport brewery and throughout the state
No beer has proselytized to the unconverted more than Allagash White. This iconic Belgian-style wheat beer is spiced with coriander and orange peel. The blend of soft wheat notes, bright coriander,and lush citrus are a big invitation to every palate. Start off with an orange or a lemon wedge plopped in to help you transition to beer drinking. After a while, pull out the fruit slice and fall in love with this beautiful beer on its own.
STYLE: Belgian-style wheat beer
TASTING NOTES: Clean wheat flavor with spicy notes from the coriander and citrus flavors from the addition of orange peel
ABV: 5.1 percent
AVAILABILITY: Purchase bottles and on draft virtually everywhere throughout the state
Consider this list a starting point. Once you find your gateway into craft beer, consult with brewery tasting room attendants, bartenders, beer store clerks and your beer-loving friends for more recommendations based on your palate’s desires. In this new golden age of beer, beautiful, inviting flavors await.
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
Tributary Brewing hosts Field to Glass: A Look at Local Hops
6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, 10 Shapleigh Road, Kittery. facebook.com
Over the past few years, Maine’s hop production has reached record heights. Not only are Maine farmers producing more hops than ever, the hops they are producing are of incredible quality. On Thursday, learn all about Maine hops at Tributary Brewing. Legendary brewer Tod Mott will talk about brewing with locally sourced hops. Ryan Houghton of The Hop Yard, one of Maine’s leading hop producers, will also be on hand to discuss the farming aspects of hop production. And rounding out the night is University of Southern Maine chemistry professor Luci Benedict, who will school patrons on the science behind hops.
Barreled Souls expands brewing capacity
743 Portland Road, Saco. facebook.com
The Saco brewery, dedicated to making a wide variety of outside-the-box beers like MCAM, a barrel-aged porter brewed with bacon, cinnamon and French roast coffee, is moving its brewing facility to a new location. This expanded capacity means the company can brew larger quantities of its artfully crafted beer. If, like me, you adore the dark, cozy tasting room, fear not, it will remain open; only the brewing is moving. Follow Barreled Souls on social media for updates on the expansion.