In the past month, I’ve been to several beer stores in Maine to find cases of beer stacked up on the floor in a makeshift additional aisle, and all of it is local. As summer ramps up, breweries are doing their best to get their flagship brands and special releases into the hands of retailers, and ultimately to consumers. I’ve been sifting through some of the new releases and found a few stand-outs that are worth picking up (even if you have to navigate a maze of cases to find them).
The first is a new beer from Barreled Souls Brewing Co. Barreled Souls, based in Saco, has spent the last four years making an almost ridiculous variety of beer and beer styles, including some infused with fruit, barrel-aged or containing strange (but ultimately delicious) ingredients. I keep going back to Barreled Souls because I never quite know what I’ll be able to find in the 10 to 12 taps in their tasting room, but I have faith that it will be good once I choose which to order. On a recent stop, I tried Prerequisite, a double IPA, and as of last week it has been released in four-pack cans (much to my delight).
I know what some of you are rolling your eyes. Another New England-style double IPA? Stay with me on this, though, because this one is exceptional. It is cloudy, but the flavors are clear and well defined, unlike some of the muddled other examples I’ve tried lately. Prerequisite is high in alcohol at 8.3 percent, but doesn’t overdo it. The beer is light and cloudy and does offer up lovely tropical fruits in its aroma, like other beers of the style. Prerequisite, however, manages to do so without leaving behind any of the pith (peel-like) bitterness or any off flavors from stressed-out yeast once you have a sip. The combination of hops and the rather full mouthfeel makes this a satisfying drink that is also thirst quenching, and that’s all we really need in a beer style like that.
For everyday thirst and a more traditional approach to tackling it, there is no better beer style than the Kölsch. This beer style is a little odd, but the results are exceptionally easy to drink. The beer is brewed with top-fermenting ale yeasts, but then treated like a lager and stored cold for weeks after brewing is completed. The result is a clear, bright, flavorful beer that isn’t quite as crisp or dry as a pilsner, but isn’t as heavy as an ale. The hops are a bit of a back seat, as well, and the malts come across (to me at least) as slightly nutty and sweet with a balanced note of bitterness. American craft brewers have been slowing bringing this style into their portfolios, and it hasn’t taken off like some other styles because it can be so subtle. It isn’t an aggressively hopped beer, and it hasn’t been adulterated with other ingredients but is just left alone to be enjoyed in its own right.
The newest brewery at Industrial Way, Definitive Brewing Co., brewed a Kölsch, called Contee, as one of the four beers available at its opening. I fell in love with it at first sip. While not quite as clear (visually speaking) as the German style it emulates, it hits all the right flavors. I think the reason I became such a quick fan of it is the way that the beer finishes. Some beer has high carbonation and finishes in a sharp way that makes you say, “Ahhh” after each sip; others linger in your mouth just a little too long after the swallow, reminding you of that last sip forever. Somehow, Contee is a perfect in-between. The carbonation level is not so high as to be sharp, and the flavor is clean but has a pleasant finish that lingers just long enough to encourage you to have another sip. As a result, I am beginning to think that Contee (named after Cobbosseecontee Lake in Monmouth) is a beer I could picture drinking all summer, either at camp or in my own backyard.
Just down the road, Austin Street Brewery, which recently announced that it will be building out a second location in East Bayside, released a Kölsch in cans in April that is a bit lighter bodied that Contee, but still has that clean finish that will be perfect for enjoying as the temperatures warm. It seems that Maine breweries are starting to slide this style into their portfolio, and I couldn’t be happier to see some of these straightforward beers carve out a place in our palates.
Carla Jean Lauter is a freelance beer writer and blogger who lives in Lisbon. Follow her beer adventures at: