If the American writer, philosopher and wilderness guru Henry David Thoreau still walked the woods of New England, I know which Maine brewery he would frequent.
For Thoreau, the brewery would have to be partially self-sufficient, offer solitude to the brewer and drinker, and be in harmony with its wooded setting.
Gneiss Brewing Company fits Thoreau’s idyllic demands.
Located an hour from Portland, the Limerick brewery is set on a modest working farm where patrons can drink German-style wheat beers while hobnobbing with the half-dozen pigs or walking to the garden where they grow potatoes, tomatoes, and, naturally, hops.
This off-the-beaten-path brewery is a Zen beer retreat. Sitting outside the brewery on a warm afternoon sipping on Gneiss beer while the pigs snort and the crickets chirp will lower your blood pressure. That’s the Beer Muse guarantee.
Enough Transcendentalist reflection on their bucolic setting—this is a beer column after all. So what’s brewing at Gneiss Brewing Company?
Owner and head brewer Dustin Johnson focuses mainly on beers that have at least fifty percent malted wheat in the grain bill. In addition, all of Gneiss’s beers are fermented using a house German Hefeweizen yeast. These two factors impart a very specific flavor profile to the entire lineup of Gneiss beers.
The malted wheat offers mild bread flavors, leaving plenty of space for the sweet banana and clove flavors of the Hefeweizen yeast to shine through. This makes their beer unique in our current brewing landscape where hops have taken center stage.
On my last visit to the pastoral brewery, I had a flight of the five beers they had on tap at the tasting room. Sitting at a picnic table in full view of the mud-covered pigs, I worked my way through the flight.
The two standouts on my palate were their flagship beer Gneiss Weiss and the uncharacteristically hoppy Tectonic Tomahawk.
Gneiss Weiss should be on your radar as a great warm weather beer. This weissbier has the cloudy golden appearance indicative of a wheat beer. There’s a nice foamy head that leaves a lacing down the glass as you drink. You can really taste the Hefeweizen yeast flexing its muscle in this beer with spicy clove flavors. At 4.8 percent alcohol by volume, this beer is drinkable without being bland. The Gneiss Weiss can be found on tap in many Portland area bars, though it tastes particularly delicious at the brewery.
The Tectonic Tomahawk is a beer that encapsulates part of Gneiss’s mission to combine German brewing traditions with modern American brewing innovations. Tectonic Tomahawk is a single-hop white IPA brewed with Tomahawk hops. This beer pours a deep gold appearance with a creamy head of tiny bubbles. The flavor is a complex waltz performed by the interplay of the earthy, citrusy Tomahawk hops and the bright spiciness of the house yeast. The beer finishes with a strong bitter hop bite.
If like Henry David Thoreau you wish to live and drink deliberately in an agrarian oasis, head to Limerick to bask in German style wheat beers done right.
WHO: Gneiss Brewing Company
WHERE: 94 Patterson Road, Limerick
WHAT: German-Style Wheat Beers Fermented With Hefeweizen Yeast
TASTING ROOM HOURS: 2 to 7 p.m. Friday, 12 to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 12 to 4 p.m. Sunday
MY PICKS: Gneiss Weiss Weissbier (4.8% ABV) and Tectonic Tomahawk White IPA (6.7-percent ABV)
MORE INFO: gneissbeer.com
American Homebrewers Association Rally at Maine Beer Company
6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, 525 U.S. 1, Freeport. Free for AHA Members. homebrewersassociation.org/events/maine-beer-co-aha-rally
This is a great event for home brewers, aspiring commercial brewers, and Maine beer nerds. This is an opportunity for home brewers to talk brewing with other brewing enthusiasts and to rub elbows with some of the best brewers in the business. Notable guests include John Mallett of Bell’s Brewing Company (Michigan), Eric Wallace of Left Hand Brewing Company (Colorado), and Maine Beer Company’s own Dan Kleban. Also on hand will be the legendary Charlie Papazian, founder of the American Homebrewers Association and author of The Complete Joy of Home Brewing. This event is free for members. Memberships start at a base level of $38 per year.
Tributary Brewing Company Celebrates One Year Anniversary
12 to 9 p.m. Saturday, 10 Shapleigh Rd, Kittery. Free. facebook.com/events/1456047331389343
When legendary New England brewer Tod Mott opened Tributary Brewing Company a year ago in Kittery, it was big news. Maine beer drinkers immediately became smitten with Mott’s signature beers. Help Mott and the other members of the Tributary team celebrate one year of brewing on Saturday. Expect an array of Tributary beers, good music, and food from Vida Cantina. We’re lucky to have Mott brewing in area code 207. Let’s cheers to many more years for Tributary Brewing Company.