Good winter. It’s January, and Maine has already been pummeled with a few feet of snow. The Farmer’s Almanac’s prediction for a snowy winter seem to be coming true.
One of the best ways to embrace this season in Maine is by imbibing the cornucopia of winter beers offered by local breweries. When it comes to winter beers, the Pine Tree State has an embarrassment of riches. Almost all of our 80-something breweries churn out one, if not more, winter beers.
Here are four Maine stouts and porters that will wrap around your core like a finely spun wool scarf.
Gunner’s Daughter || Mast Landing Brewing Co.
The first time I tried Gunner’s Daughter, I swear a choir of angels started singing “Hallelujah” in the corner of the bar. This beer is a triumph. While other peanut butter stouts taste like they’re infused with artificial flavors, Gunner’s Daughter gushes natural peanut butter aroma and flavor above the chocolatey stout malts. The balance between the sweet peanut butter and the roasted malts is remarkable. With acrobatic grace, Gunner’s Daughter walks the razor-thin line between drinkable and playfully innovative.
STYLE: Peanut butter milk stout
TASTING NOTES: Big, yet balanced peanut butter and chocolate aroma and flavor
ABV: 5.5 percent
AVAILABILITY: Purchase 32-ounce “crowlers” at the brewery in Westbrook or on draft at select locations in the Portland area.
Whoopie Pie Porter || Friars’ Brewhouse
This porter gets my pick for the best whoopie-pie beer in the state. Brewed by Franciscan friars in Bucksport, Whoopie Pie Porter pours mocha black with a small head of foam. The nose on this beer is filled with chocolate and espresso coffee notes. Like a good Catholic, I take a big gulp and unleash flavors of dark chocolate, cocoa, roasted malts, currants and even more chocolate, with a subtle hop finish. At 7 percent alcohol by volume, this porter has a full body to give it a creamy mouthfeel.
STYLE: American porter
TASTING NOTES: Loaded with chocolate flavors and notes of espresso coffee, roasted malts and currants
ABV: 7 percent
AVAILABILITY: Purchase in cork-topped, 750-milliliter bottles at beverage stores around the state.
Mr. Grumpypants || Norway Brewing Co.
Mr. Grumpypants is a silky smooth oatmeal stout sure to please even those persnickety beer drinkers who claim, “I don’t like dark beers.” It pours bible black and gives off subtle cocoa and toasted cereal in the nose. The flavor is a careful balance of milk chocolate, roasted malts and peak roast coffee from the addition of Coffee By Design beans. The finish is so smooth it feels like your tongue just put on a velour suit. This is what all oatmeal stouts should aspire to be. The brewery is just off Route 26 in Norway, along the commute from Portland to Sunday River. Stop in to the beautiful tasting room and put on your après-ski Grumpypants.
STYLE: Oatmeal stout
TASTING NOTES: Milk chocolate, roasted malts and coffee, with a silky finish
ABV: 5.5 percent
AVAILABILITY: Purchase growlers at the brewery in Norway, as well as on draft at select locations around Portland.
Chaga Stout || Lone Pine Brewing Co.
Yes, this is a stout brewed with Maine-harvested chaga mushrooms. The fungus adds a delicate earthy underbelly to this stout, playing a supporting role to the chocolate malts and American hops. This is a smooth-drinking stout with more of a citrus hop presence than the other beers above (which is apropos, as Lone Pine brewer Tom Madden is a hop maestro). Taking a swig of Chaga Stout, I get a fascinating interplay between the sweet malts, the understated earthy chaga and a finish of mandarin orange in the hops. Don’t fear the chaga, my friends.
STYLE: American imperial stout brewed with chaga Mushrooms
TASTING NOTES: A balance of sweet and roasted dark malts, earthiness from the chaga and a citrus hop finish
ABV: 8 percent
AVAILABILITY: Purchase 750 milliliter bottles at local beverage stores and the brewery in Portland; also available on draft at select locations around Portland.
These stouts and porters show Maine brewers flexing their muscles using forward-thinking ingredients to make palatable, delicious beers. They are sure to cure what ales you this winter season.
OTHER BEER NEWS
Rising Tide Brewing shifts year-round beers to cans
The East Bayside brewery has decided to transition its year-round offerings from 12-ounce bottles to cans. Owners Nathan and Heather Sanborn tout sustainability, quality and mobility as the foundation for this decision. Ishmael Copper Ale, Daymark American Ale and Zephyr India Pale Ale will now be available in 12-ounce cans at the brewery and stores throughout the state. Cans mean less waste, no chance of UV rays spoiling the beer and the ability to pack them without fear of breakage. And the they look great to boot.
SmartAsset ranks Portland second-best beer city in America
It should come as no surprise that Portland has landed itself near the top of another list of the best beer cities in America. Though Portland was No. 1 on this list in 2015 — it was eclipsed by Asheville, North Carolina in 2016 — our southern metropolis outranked brewing powerhouses like Denver, Pittsburgh and the other Portland. SmartAsset is a personal finance company based in New York. See the website above for the metrics used to rank each city. The takeaway from this achievement is that we live in one of the greatest beer cities in this vast country.