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Dave Patterson

Dave Patterson is a writer and musician who is thirsty for craft beer. He's been immersed in the New England beer scene for years as a patron and since 2013 as a beer writer. In his attempt to drink all the great beer America has to offer, Dave has become convinced that the Maine beer scene is among the best in the country. He can be spotted throughout the state at breweries, bars, and backyards imbibing brilliant Maine beers. It is his belief that craft beer plays an integral role in bolstering a vibrant local economy, so he urges you do your part by drinking local beer to support your community. Twitter: @PattersonWriter​

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Posted: September 10, 2014

Hidden Cove Brewing in Wells is one of Maine’s best kept secrets

What I love most about these beers is that they are not pale imitations of sours and hoppy ales. They are the real deal.

Written by: Dave Patterson
Courtesy photos

Richard Varano, left, and Gregg Spickler. Dave Patterson photos

Before Hidden Cove Brewing Co. in Wells changed its name from Captain Dick’s Brewing, I would have made a great marketing executive for them. I mean, I could have Don Drapered the heck out of a slogan for Captain Dick’s.

The name change, however, was a great idea; it took the attention off an aggressive name and puts it back where it belongs: on their innovative line of well-crafted beer.

The brewing company is the brainchild of Fire N Brew proprietor Richard Varano and former Fire N Brew head chef Gregg Spickler. Both Varano and Spickler are graduates of the Culinary Institute of America. When Spickler started pouring Varano pints of his outside-the-box homebrew, Varano said, “Let’s start a brewery at the restaurant.”

Hidden Cove is playing around with both brettanomyces yeast and saccharomyces yeast. Without going too Bill Nye on you, just know that the brett yeast is used to create sour beers and the saccharomyces yeast is typically used to brew American style ales and lagers. Spickler uses a blend of both yeasts in his beers, allowing him to pump out brews that will satisfy the sour beer drinkers and the hoppy beer drinkers.

What I love most about these beers is that they are not pale imitations of sours and hoppy ales. They are the real deal.

The Scally Ale is an American ale lover’s dream. It’s got a hoppy bite from the Centennial, Chinook and Summit hops, while being balanced by a nice malt backbone. The A’Rye IPA and the Crowsfoot Black Ale also will satisfy the ale drinker in you.

But the beer that should put Hidden Cove at the top of your ‘to drink’ list is its apricot jalapeño beer, Jali. Spickler brews this beer with jalapenos and apricots that he roasts and smokes himself in the Fire N Brew kitchen. He then ferments it in tequila barrels. Drinking this beer is a symphonic sensory experience. Jali has an immediate jalapeno aroma, but when you take that first drink, you get a bit of the sour from the brett yeast, then a kick of sweet from the apricots. Next comes the smoky flavor, and finally a slight burn from the jalapenos with a dry finish. I typically loathe fruity beer, but I love this beer. Don’t let the ingredients intimidate you. Order one and dive right in.

On my last visit, Varano and Spickler were kind enough to give me a tour of the tightly packed brewery. Spickler even poured samples of sours he’s aging in oak barrels. I prophesize that when these beers are fully aged, they will rival some of the best sours being made in this state.

Make the drive to Wells, weave through the tourists still clinging on to the final days of summer, belly up to the bar at Fire N Brew Restaurant and order yourself a pint of some of the most intriguing beer being brewed in Maine.


Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated that Gregg Spickler is Richard Varano’s son-in-law. The two men are not related.


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