The 21st-century beer movement is bringing back old styles of beer and brewing practices in droves. Brewers are now turning to history to find untapped, ancient beer practices to help stand out in a crowded craft beer market.
A good example of this trend is the recent resuscitation of the gose, a beer style that originated over 1,000 years ago in Germany. Locally, Rising Tide Brewing and Barreled Souls Brewing have each found success with this ancient beer style.
The surprising rise of the once-shunned lager is another case in point. If you’d told me five years ago that Maine breweries would offer a dozen brilliant lagers, I’d have thrown a Bud can at your head. But the craft lager is building freight train momentum — so much so that Maine saw its first pilsner-only brewfest this summer.
Another old-school brewing practice being used by the new school of craft brewers is aging beer on wood. This centuries-old practice is so popular, some breweries are even having a hard time acquiring oak barrels.
On Saturday, Maine will hold its first brewfest featuring only barrel-aged beers when Allagash Brewing and BeerAdvocate host Beer Meets Wood.
If the term barrel aging conjures only boozy bourbon barrel-aged stouts in your mind, you’ll be surprised by the vast flavor spectrum on display at Beer Meets Wood. In addition to imperial stouts, the list of beers includes American wild ales, lambics, farmhouse ales, Scottish ales and even pilsners.
“Aging beer in wood is always done in an attempt to improve the quality of beer, whether from contributions from the wood itself, the previous contents of the barrel, or additional fermentation and microbial activity that can occur in barrels for wild beer production,” Tim Adams, owner and headbrewer of Oxbow Brewing, explained.
Adams ages many of Oxbow’s farmhouse ales on wood, both to impart distinctive oaky, vanilla flavors from the wood, but also to give beers brewed with the wild yeast Brettanomyces a place to thrive and age to achieve a complex, drinkable barnyard flavor.
Beer Meets Wood will feature a myriad of sour and wild ales aged in wood barrels. If you’re a sour beer head, your palate will salivate over this list of beers not readily available to Mainers, from breweries including Avery Brewing of Colorado, Breakside Brewery of Oregon and Brewery Vivant of Michigan.
In addition to sour beer, Beer Meets Wood will feature samples from breweries that ferment strictly in wood barrels, eschewing stainless steel fermenters altogether, like Barreled Souls of Saco which uses the wood barrel-fermentation method known as the Burton Union System.
“Barrel aging really brings the beer to another level both in terms of the individual flavors and the aromas it adds,” Barrel Souls co-owner and brewer Chris Schofield said.
The final component to Beer Meets Wood, the pièce de résistance if you will, is the beers aged in barrels that formerly housed spirits like bourbon, rum and gin. Saturday’s brewfest is brimming with these highly complex, often high in alcohol, and highly regarded beers.
In addition to the slew of bourbon barrel-aged stouts, Beer Meets Wood features a gose aged in tequila barrels from Barreled Souls, a saison aged in gin barrels from Four Quarters Brewing of Vermont and a wee heavy Scottish ale aged in Scotch barrels from New England Brewing of Connecticut.
Think of Saturday’s brewfest as a master class in barrel aging. In addition to being able to wrap your palate around over 100 beers, many of the brewers will be on hand to discuss the magical transformation that occurs when Beer Meets Wood.
WHEN: Noon to 3:30 p.m. day session, 6-9:30 p.m. night session Saturday
WHERE: The Portland Company, 58 Fore St., Portland
BEERS: Over 100 barrel-aged beers from American breweries and Belgian breweries including imperial stouts, porters, American wild ales, lambics and farmhouse ales, among others
COST: $55 per ticket
PURCHASE TICKETS: beeradvocate.com/wood/tickets
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, 4 Canal Plaza, Portland
If you want to get your palate ready for Saturday’s brewfest, Novare Res’s Beer Meets Wood Pre-Party is your jam. This event is a celebration of wild ales and sour beers aged on wood and will feature many of the breweries that are in town for the weekend’s brewfest. The pre-party event features more than 30 beers and has the feel of a mini-brewfest in itself. The beers at this event include barrel-aged brews from, among others, Breakside Brewing and Cascade Brewing Barrel House of Oregon, Almanac Brewing of San Francisco and Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales of Denver.
Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, 13-W, 32 Main St., Biddeford. $20 per ticket, $30 VIP ticket. bandedoktoberfest2017.brownpapertickets.com
There’s no beer party like an Oktoberfest beer party. Inspired by the yearly festival in Germany, Banded Horn Brewing in Biddeford is throwing its own version of this fall beer celebration. This event features an afternoon session and dinner session where patrons will feast on pretzels, bratwursts smoked on site, pork belly lardons and a list of inspired sides. Banded Horn is encouraging patrons to bring their own drinking vessels and will pour up to a liter of any of its designated Oktoberfest beers. This beer list includes Marzen Oktoberfest beer brewed in the style of a traditional Oktoberfest beer. Prost!