Over the past three and a half years of writing this column, I’ve drank a lot of beer. Like, a lot of beer. I’m afraid to even speculate a rough estimate of the number of beers I’ve tippled as the Beer Muse. For the sake of my mother, I won’t entertain a guess. One need only examine my portly midsection to know that the number is staggering.
I swear my body let out an audible sigh when it discovered that this week’s edition of MaineToday is dedicated to cleansing the body after another indulgent holiday season capped off by — as I can only assume — a gloriously depraved New Year’s Eve.
So, this week I turn to another kind of locally crafted “beer” whose main ingredient is often revered as a cleansing agent — that is, ginger beer. This spicy, nonalcoholic beverage awakens the senses with a ginger kick while offering your organs a chance to recover as you prepare for all the great craft beer that awaits in 2018.
Here are three Maine-made ginger beers to reach for this week, as we all give our bodies a hard-earned rest.
In addition to brewing British-style ales, Portland’s Shipyard Brewing Co. has been crafting a lineup of sodas since 1996 under the brand Capt’n Eli’s. Its Ginger Beer is a great starting point for getting into small-batch ginger sodas. Twisting off the cap of a Capt’n Eli’s Ginger Beer releases an alluring mist along with an aroma of cane sugar and notes of zesty ginger. Sipping this beverage unfurls a nice carbonation and a sugar-to-ginger ratio that makes Capt’n Eli’s more akin to ginger ale than the other two ginger beers on this list. As this ginger beer settles on the palate, however, a pleasing sharp ginger flavor bites into the back of the throat. Made with “natural ginger flavor,” which I’m assuming doesn’t mean whole ginger root, this is the place to start if you’re looking for a ginger beer that will offer a subtle ginger experience.
Like ginger root, locally sourced honey also offers a number of detoxifying benefits. Located in Brunswick, Green Bee marries these two purifying ingredients in Ginger Buzz, a soda made with fresh ginger, honey and coriander. Before opening a clear bottle of Ginger Buzz, the label instructs to gently roll the bottle upside down to allow the bits of ginger to disperse into the entire liquid. (This is actually the same technique Allagash Brewing suggests for enjoying a bottle of the cloudy Allagash White.) After sufficiently infusing the entire bottle with the luscious particulate, I twist off the cap, allowing the sweet honey and ginger notes to waft from the mouth of the bottle. The flavor of Ginger Buzz is akin to the natural honey sticks I used to consume as a kid with a bright, clean ginger flavor roiling beneath the sugars. This beverage is wonderfully refreshing from all the natural, whole food ingredients that go into each batch. The sharpness of the ginger and refined spice of the coriander emerge on the palate as the honey sweetness fades.
The first time I drank a Ginger Brew, I was astounded at the almost reckless amount of spicy fresh ginger bite inside the unassuming green bottle. The flavor is so bold it’s almost irresponsible; I am smitten with each moment of its acrobatic flavor ride. Ginger Brew’s appearance has a gorgeous near-pink glow and emits a piquant ginger aroma. The ginger flavor is sharp — like biting into fresh-picked ginger root. It’s inspiring how daring the brewers at Maine Root are willing to be with the ginger flavor in this beverage. As a sip of Ginger Brew works over the tongue, the ginger flavor is bright, zesty, clean and peppery, all settling toward a euphoric burn in the back of the throat. The undercurrent of cane sugar doesn’t outshine the ginger here. And if sushi is in your near future, know that a piece of salmon sashimi followed by a swig of Ginger Brew is criminally blissful.
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
Matchless firestarting demonstration at Urban Farm Fermentory
1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, 200 Anderson St., Portland. $30. Facebook.com
Probiotic-rich kombucha is another great beverage to reach for during a cleanse, and no one makes better ’booch in Maine than Urban Farm Fermentory. Sip on some chaga chai kombucha this Sunday as you learn the art of matchless fire starting from the earthy crew at Urban Farm Fermentory and Rewild Maine. (Who knows, perhaps we all might need such skills if U.S.-North Korean relations continue on the volatile path established last year.) A cleanse is all about getting back to basics, and learning how to start a fire with a bow drill or a fire thong will certainly connect you with your prehistoric roots. Cost of ticket includes materials and one fermented beverage.
Winter Session: 2018 Maine Brewers’ Guild Beer Festival
Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, Brick South Building, 8 Thompson’s Point, Portland. $49 general admission. $60 VIP. eventbrite.com
The Maine Brewers’ Guild is rewarding this week’s cleanse of body and mind with Winter Session, a winter version of their brilliant Summer Session beer fest. If you want to begin the new year right, Winter Session is your huckleberry. Since nearly all of the 70-plus breweries in Maine are members of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, you can expect the best brewers to be pouring at Winter Session. Right now, think of your favorite brewery in Maine. Good. It’ll be there with kegs of beer. Pick up your tickets this week and expect a full write-up on the event in my column next week, when I’ll lay out all the reasons why Winter Session is the brewfest to attend this winter.