Last summer I became smitten with a beer brewed with brettanomyces yeast, apricots and grilled jalapenos. Jali (pronounced hall-e) is an innovative ale from Hidden Cove Brewing that moves over the tongue in a symphony of complex flavors before finishing with a slight jalapeno burn.
After a visit to the brewery late last summer, it seemed that head brewer, Gregg Spickler, and owner, Richard Varano, were on their way to establishing themselves as a craft brew hotspot in York County.
But this winter, I stopped by Hidden Cove on a Friday night and the tasting room was closed. I was confused, until I saw an advertisement days later announcing that the Wells brewery was looking for a new head brewer. Hidden Cove’s future seemed murky.
A few weeks after the search for a new head brewer began, a surprising announcement hit social media: Richard Varano had hired Kevin Glessing, the head brewer at Maine Beer Company.
This was big brewing news. Glessing was leaving a company where he oversaw the production of some of Maine’s most acclaimed beers (Dinner), to go to a small brewery fighting to regain its footing.
After Glessing had a few batches at Hidden Cove under his belt, along with the creation of his very first Hidden Cove beer, I contacted Varano to see how the transition was going.
Sitting at the bar in their Fire N Brew tasting room, Varano takes me through the difficult weeks after Spickler abruptly left his position in January. As Varano describes the difficulty in keeping production going while searching for a new brewer, I see what I saw in him last summer: a fire-in-the-belly ambition to own a brewery that makes great beer. That fire kept him focused on getting the brewery back into regular production, and it’s what brought him the talented Kevin Glessing, a longtime brewer who has worked at Shipyard Brewing and Sebago Brewing in addition to his tenure at Maine Beer Company.
Varano pours me a sample of Glessing’s first original beer for Hidden Cove, an IPA named Patroon. Holding the glass to my nose, I’m greeted by a bold passion fruit aroma. The beer’s appearance is a light gold with good clarity. Patroon’s flavor has a nice American yeast bite with a bright citrus zest from the Hallertau Blanc and Centennial hops. There’s a fresh lemongrass aftertaste. This is a very good IPA, and a great foundation for Glessing’s new role as head brewer at Hidden Cove.
Kevin Glessing joins us in the tasting room, donning the obligatory knee-high rubber boots and grain-flecked safety glasses. With the pleasant aftertaste of Patroon on the back of my tongue, I ask him why he made the decision to leave Maine Beer Company for a small, lesser-known brewery.
He explains that it was time for a change, and he’s excited to work in a brewery where he gets to play around with creating new recipes.
For fans of Hidden Cove’s Jali, rest assured that it will still be brewed every few months by Glessing. And for those of you, like me, who are dying to see what Glessing will create in his new position, you’ll be happy to hear that bottles of Patroon IPA and their Summer Ale, whose recipe has been newly reworked by Glessing, will be available in select stores starting June 1.
Before leaving the brewery, I tell Varano that I’m sorry he endured such a tough winter. He smiles and tells me that if he didn’t go through all that, he wouldn’t be in the exciting position he’s in right now with a talented brewer and a promising new chapter ahead.
Cheers to that!
WHERE: 73 Mile Road, Wells | www.hiddencovebrewingcompany.com
TASTING ROOM HOURS: Noon to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
ON TAP: Patroon IPA, Summer Ale, Jali Apricot Jalapeno Ale, and other rotating offerings
AVAILABILITY: Look for six packs of Patroon IPA and Summer Ale in select stores starting June 1
FOOD: Fire N Brew tasting room serves brick fired pizza
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS NEAR YOU
Belgian Biere Fest
Novare Res Bier Café, 4 Canal Plaza, Portland
If you love Belgian beers or are curious about this high demand style, get to Novare Res over this three-week period to sample some of the best Belgian beers available. Novare Res has strong relationships with many great Belgian breweries, so expect to have your palate blown. The beer bar promises choice offerings from Cantillon, De Struise, Dupont, De La Senne, De Dolle, Vapeur, De Ranke, Caracole, and many others.
Wild Friendship Celebration
Allagash Brewing Company, 50 Industrial Way, Portland
Session One: 1 to 4 p.m. and Session Two: 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday
If you don’t already have tickets for this event, you’re probably not getting in. However, I’m highlighting this event for two reasons. First, Allagash will be pouring a wild yeast beer made from a blend of beers brewed by Allagash, Russian River Brewing in California, and the world famous Belgium brew house, Cantillon. This beer is a huge deal in the brewing world. Secondly, I want highlight the event, because it’s a fundraiser for Full Plates Full Potential, an initiative to end childhood hunger in Maine. A great beer event for a great cause – it doesn’t get any better than that. Good luck scrounging a last minute ticket.