Remember when you were 20? You felt young, virile. Your joints didn’t ache. Sleep was something you vowed you’d only do when you were dead. The world, as they say, was your oyster.
For a brewery, or any business for that matter, turning 20 can sometimes look more like middle-age banality than the vibrant complexion of youth. It’s a challenge for a business to keep its products relevant and inspired as the business and owners age.
In this regard, Rob Tod has discovered a fountain of youth. You know what, “discovered” is too casual a word. The founder of Allagash Brewing Company didn’t merely stumble upon a brewing fountain of youth; he invented his own aqua de vida through unceasing passion, creativity and proudly flying an I-don’t-give-a-damn flag.
On Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m., Tod and the Allagash crew invite you to a street fair in their Industrial Way neighborhood to celebrate 20 years of brewing.
Before laying down the details on this shindig, let me defend my argument that Allagash is as sprightly, if not more, at 20 as it was when Tod rolled out his first keg of Allagash White in 1995.
Allagash White is psychotically popular. It can be found in beer coolers from here to California. In fact, L.A. is the biggest market for Allagash White. And I’m not talking about Lewiston/Auburn. By all means, Tod could sit atop his Allagash White empire and watch the profits roll in.
But here’s why I, along with the rest of the brewing community in Maine, America and internationally, respect Rob Tod and the Allagash Brewing team: They refuse to rest on their laurels.
In one of the boldest moves in American brewing, Tod constructed a coolship at his brewery. A coolship (originally spelled koelschip) is a large shallow pan used to cool wort in an open air shed, simultaneously exposing the wort to naturally occurring yeast in the air.
Tod was told that this process wouldn’t work outside the Belgium breweries that had been practicing this style of wild fermentation for centuries.
Hoisting his I-don’t-give-a-damn flag high, Tod began turning out award winning, line-inducing coolship beers in 2011.
And he hasn’t stopped at avant-garde wild yeast beers.
Allagash has a colossal barrel aging room, and its crew of brewers – most notably head brewer Jason Perkins – continuously look for new ways to boldly take their beers into the future.
So how does such a brewery celebrate its 20th birthday? By shutting down Industrial Way and throwing an old-school block party. Pouring at the event will be Otter Creek (where Tod got his start as a brewer), De la Senne, New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head and Industrial Way neighbors Geary’s, Bissell Brothers, Austin Street and Foundation. I’m looking forward to drinking beer from the much-sought-after Brussels brewery De la Senne.
In addition to great beer, attendees can expect circus performances, pedicabs, two music stages and Pinewood Derby Races. Local farmers and artisans who have partnered with Allagash over the years also will be on hand. And of course, there will be great food from over a dozen Maine restaurants and food trucks such as Eventide, Hella Good Tacos and Mutha Trucka.
It’s been a brilliant 20-year run for Allagash Brewing Company, and expect even more brewing innovation in the years to come. I’ll see you on Saturday at the block party.
WHERE: Industrial Way, Portland
WHEN: 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday
ON DRAFT: Otter Creek, De la Senne, New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head, Geary’s, Bissell Brothers, Austin Street, and Foundation
COST: $10 entry fee includes one drink ticket (additional drink tickets and food available for purchase on site)