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Carla Jean Lauter

Carla Jean Lauter is a craft beer lover and investigator of all things beer. She started a craft beer website and blog thebeerbabe.com in 2007, sharing her thoughts as she explored what was new in beer, as well as brewery visits, trips and "beer adventures." Moving to Portland in 2009, she found herself surrounded by the Maine beer community and has been exploring it ever since. In her blog, Carla profiles craft beer (and some mead and cider, too) being brewed in Maine, as well as looks into the people, places and stories behind the beer that makes the community so vibrant. Join Carla on her beer adventures and advice on where to get the best, newest, and most interesting fermented drinks around. Carla can be contacted at askthebeerbabe [at] gmail.com or on twitter at @beerbabe. Subscribe: RSS Feed for The Beer Babe

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Posted: April 30, 2018

Surprise! Shipyard’s take on a hazy IPA and Banded Horn’s potato beer aren’t bad at all

Written by: Carla Jean Lauter

Photo by Carla Jean Lauter

Even though I’ve been writing about beer for over 10 years, occasionally a beer or brewery will completely surprise me. This week, I got surprised by two different beers: Shipyard’s Finder and Banded Horn Wheat ‘N’ Potatoes.

First, let’s talk about Finder. I first saw Shipyard Brewing Co.’s Finder on a shelf at my local beer store, and I was surprised by how different it looked from Shipyard’s other beers. It was packaged in four-packs of the 16-ounce “tallboy” cans, and the name and colors were distinct, and it was located next to other New England IPAs, not the rest of Shipyard’s lineup. Before I realized it was Shipyard (because the brewery name and the logo are on the back side of the can), I mistook it for something from another brewery.

I was a bit hesitant to take it home for a few reasons. For most of Shipyard’s beer, they use a yeast called Ringwood that can sometimes contribute a compound to beer called diacetyl. While a little of this diacetyl in beer is desirable in English styles, too much of it can taste slick or buttery. As someone who’s sensitive to the presence of diacetyl in beer (some beer drinkers are completely unable to taste the compound, but not me), I feared I might not enjoy it.

However, I cracked a four-pack open with friends and did a literal double-take. There was no buttery aroma, no slick feeling on the tongue. Instead, there was a bright, well-crafted hazy IPA that was both juicy and light, with all the best kinds of tropical notes going on in it. Shipyard uses a different yeast strain to brew Finder – a rare departure from its house yeast – and did it with striking success.

The beer is hazy, but not muddy in its flavoring – a nice contrast to the sometimes jumbled flavors that plague some of the other New England IPAs out there. It is also very drinkable despite a 7 percent alcohol content, making this a bit more robust than some other session beers in the same style. I have since bought this beer multiple times, and I find myself sharing my surprise with others.

I know that this is probably a result of a heritage brewery trying to chase a trend that’s out there, to bring a broader demographic to its sales. The packaging is certainly meant to blend in with many of the bold, typography-heavy labels of beers like Austin Street and Lone Pine. It also stands out as looking distinctly different from the rest of Shipyard’s offerings, which may be a strategy to get it noticed by people who are not normally fans of its beer. This would vex me, if it not for the fact that the beer turns out to be deserving to stand among them.

Photo courtesy of Banden Horn Brewing Co.

Next up is a slightly weird, yet, not that out-of-character beer from Banded Horn. Wheat ‘N’ Potatoes incorporates Maine’s staple crop – potatoes – into the beer. Further supporting local agricultural efforts, the grain bill also includes wheat that was processed by Blue Ox Malthouse, a Lisbon-based local supplier of grains for brewing.

What made this beer surprising is its taste – or I guess, the lack of potato-ness. I had little to go on for reference points for a potato beer, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The Bag and Kettle Brewpub at Sugarloaf in Carabassett Valley makes a Potato Ale, but any potato qualities in that brew are drowned in its darker malt profile.

What I found when I tried this one was a unique session beer, with all the right flavors of the Citra hops leaping out at the glass, all at a more-than-reasonable 4.1 percent ABV. If anything, the wheat and potatoes add a bit of softness to the beer, but that only contributes to its drinkability.

There are some reviewers online that swear they can taste the potatoes in Wheat ‘N’ Potatoes, but I wonder if they would be picked up without knowing the beer contained them. To me, it is just a great, refreshing beer that also has a smooth finish and supports local agriculture.

What I learned from both of these beers is that it’s sometimes a great idea to leave your preconceived notions about an ingredient or a brewery behind. Craft beer is an adventure, and we can’t play it safe all the time.

 

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