There are some changes coming to the Maine craft beer lineup this summer, and I’m not just talking about the new breweries in town. Gorham-based Sebago Brewing Company is continuing its re-thinking of its current beer lineup and forging forward with a new summer seasonal.
The newest beer that’s a result of this effort is the Simmer Down – a refreshingly hoppy summer beer that goes down almost too easily. I was lucky enough to participate in a pilot brew of this beer last year (it was on tap at the Maine Brewer’s Fest under the name “Citra Saaz Down”) as part of Sebago’s sponsorship of the 2013 Beer Blogger’s Conference. At a beer dinner hosted by Sebago, it was paired with a lobster roll and was just perfect – having an almost peachy nose to it and a loveably hoppy, yet mild finish.
The new version – available in 6 packs and in the seasonal mixed 12 packs – has a fruity aroma, a crisp hop profile, and finishes very cleanly, making it something very easy to reach for in a cooler full of cold ones. The hops are slightly different than the pilot batch of last summer – they have gone with El Dorado and Mosaic instead of Citra and Saaz – but if anything, a little bit of added bitterness has made it even crisper and easier to drink. The aroma is still amazingly fruit-like, and the light body makes this – as owner Kai Adams is apt to say -“crushable.”
Released a few weeks ago, this beer is already getting some attention. Because Sebago has been around quite a bit longer than most craft breweries in Maine, they have some long-standing fans, and not everyone was thrilled to hear about Simmer Down replacing the Hefeweizen as the summer seasonal, as Sebago owners commented in a recent Sebago Newsletter.
“It is true that we will no longer be brewing Hefeweizen or Boathouse Brown. This was a tough decision, but in the end neither Hefe or Brown were popular enough with our brewpub guests or those buying Sebago beer on shelf for us to continue to brew it. We’ve made the decision to free up that space at the brewery and let our talented brewery staff stretch their legs creatively. We hope you’ve noticed how much variation our draft lineup is seeing these days and there is more great beer to come!”
Honestly, I couldn’t agree more with their logic. As good as Sebago’s Hefeweizen was, that style in general can be polarizing for beer drinkers – kind of a “love it or hate it” style. The strong yeast and fruit esters that are characteristic of the style make it difficult to have a few in a row – no matter how well made it may be. As for the Boathouse Brown, I am rather ambivalent about Brown Ales as a whole, but I can see why Sebago wanted to aim for something that would be a little bit more memorable and stand out from some of their peers brewing similar styles.
And overall, this is on track with Sebago’s other changes over the past year. The Bump Black Ale (spring seasonal) and Bonfire Rye (late summer / early autumn beer) became the six-packs that I kept returning to – and easily found them not just at the craft beer stores, but also in Trader Joe’s, Hannaford and my local slightly-sketchy-but-kinda-quaint corner store. They stand out enough to be more than just “another ____ ale” on the shelf but are also accessible enough that they can reach more than just the super beer geeks.
Have you had Simmer Down, Bump or Bonfire Rye? Let me know what you thought of them in the comments!