When you’re a beer fan, it’s easy to find yourself in a rut, absent-mindedly coming back to the same styles over and over again. Maybe you’re rotating among five IPAs on tap at a bar or maybe you’ve stocked your fridge with a 12-pack of something you’re mindlessly drinking. It happens to the best of us. When it happens to me, I start looking around for something to snap me out of auto-pilot.
A few days ago,I went beer shopping and managed to talk myself out of getting anything too hoppy or well-known. I put down what I would typically gravitate towards and got a little outside of my comfort zone. The three beers I ended up with are unique in their makeup and tastes. You would be hard-pressed to find other beers even to compare them to – and that’s half the fun of it.
The first beer is a wake up call for your eyes as well as your taste buds. The Tea-56 Hibiscus Ale from Flight Deck Brewing in Brunswick has a beautiful photogenic pink hue, created by the addition of hibiscus tea to the beer. While I’ve tried other beers that use hibiscus in the past, this is the first that I’ve tried that added it as tea. The tea is the trick that takes it to another level. Instead of just floral sweetness, there is a backbone of earthiness that reminds me of gardens and springtime – despite the lack of that outside at the moment.
Luckily, this beer isn’t limited to spring. It has joined Flight Deck’s year-round offerings and was just recently released in cans (along with three of Flight Deck’s other flagships). If you pick this up, don’t drink it straight from the can. Take the extra minute to pour it out, so that you can fully appreciate the color. Flight Deck’s cans are beginning to trickle out to beer stores in the midcoast and Portland, so keep an eye out for them.
When I first saw the label for Vive le Rêve I wasn’t immediately aware that it was from Banded Horn in Biddeford; the branding for the brewery is minimized against a velvety maroon, romantically-styled label, with some magenta metallic accents throughout. Upon closer inspection, these accents are comprised of the brewery’s crossed-horn logo.
Vive le Rêve translates to “live the dream” in French, and the beer was brewed to celebrate the 500th batch of beer from Banded Horn, its way of celebrating “getting to live the dream.” The beer is a French-style Saison brewed with peaches. To me, peaches are the type of fruit that can bring brightness to the darkest days of winter. They bring nothing but memories of sunshine to my mouth. This beer is another beauty, with a clear, bright orange tone that reminds me of a low summer sunset. The aroma has almost a wine-like character to it, with some fruit notes dancing around. The taste of this one is refined; it almost tastes expensive. It is on the sweeter side for a saison (there are no spicy or dry notes in the beer), but that smooth base plays very well with the added fruits.
Probably the furthest outside of my comfort zone is the Baxter Prost Secco. Described as a “kettle sour beer brewed with champagne grapes, peaches and pears,” Prost Secco is the kind of beer that blurs the boundaries between beer and wine.
Admittedly, I’m not a huge wine or Champagne/prosecco drinker, but I decided it was probably time to challenge myself. The beer, when poured, does resemble the beverage for which it is named: It is clear and bubbly, with a little bit of aroma that reminds me of the snap from tannins that you can sometimes smell on the nose of a Champagne. When I first tasted this, I was surprised by how much I found myself liking it. Not cloying or overly sweet or too literal in its wine-like qualities, it is refreshing and enjoyable. The grapes are certainly present, as are the notes from the other fruits, but they don’t dominate. Baxter Brewing can sometimes be a little heavy-handed with added ingredients in beer, but this one is balanced and refined.
For all of these beers, the added ingredients – also known as adjuncts – do contribute to their flavors in a significant way, but in a balanced one. Rather than tasting like a literal peach or a straight glass of Champagne, these beers use their added fruits and spices to enhance the flavors already in the glass. I recommend seeking out this trio if you are in need of a little spring awakening of your own.