The twenty-first century craft beer market changes faster than Justin Bieber’s rap sheet. A beer like the fabled Heady Topper, a double IPA from The Alchemist in Vermont, can induce mass hysteria one year, and the next year cause craft beer junkies to shrug their shoulders and say, “It’s good, but have you tried ____.”
Staying relevant to demanding, social-media-savvy beer drinkers in a quick-changing market is a challenge. Over the past year, Kai Adams, vice president and co-founder of Sebago Brewing Company, has been up for that challenge.
Last spring Adams and his Sebago team nixed their outdated summer hefeweizen and brought us the lush, juicy session IPA, Simmer Down. Hop Swap, their experimental IPA line that allows Sebago brewers to play with new hops, has been on point for the past year. And their decision to bag their bottling line and switch to a can-only system proved to be a smart move.
For a brewery that will celebrate their twentieth anniversary in 2018, Sebago works hard to remind us that they’re still here, relevant and brewing good beer.
In a recent phone interview, Adams explained how he realized that, in order to keep talented brewers from leaving Sebago to work at other Maine breweries, he had to nurture creative freedom and encourage innovation. He understood that he wouldn’t hang on to talented brewers if they were only brewing, say, Frye’s Leap IPA all day every day.
The result has been two-fold: Sebago Brewing retains their young talent, and their new beers are delicious and pertinent in the post-millennial beer boom.
Sebago’s latest move to reinvigorate their brand comes in the form of Whistle Punk.
Whistle Punk was formerly known as Full Throttle, a double IPA Sebago has brewed for years. Adams tells me that the Full Throttle recipe had “always been a moving target.” Each batch was slightly different than the last with a fluctuating alcohol content and IBU’s (International Bittering Units).
To bring this beer to the twenty-first century, Adams and company settled on a permanent recipe, gave the beer a new name and packaged the beer in the now ubiquitous four-packs of 16-ounce cans.
But most importantly, of course, we must ask: How does the beer taste?
It’s damn good.
Whistle Punk has a big tropical fruit aroma from a generous amount of dry hopping. The hops used in this double IPA are Simcoe, Amarillo, Citra, and Mosaic. These four wildly popular hops create a flavor profile of pineapple, mango and grapefruit, with just the right amount of pine earthiness at the end. (For a point of reference, three of those hops didn’t even exist when Sebago brewed their first batch of beer in 1998.) Whistle Punk has the big mouthfeel of a double IPA without an overwhelming malt flavor that can be the undoing of imperial IPAs. This beer now weighs in at 8.2 percent alcohol by volume, right around the industry standard of 8 percent for double IPAs.
Look for four packs of Sebago Brewing Company’s Whistle Punk at your local beer stores. When you crack a can, you won’t only whiff tropical fruit aroma; you’ll also catch the scent of a long-established Maine brewery remaining relevant in the ever-changing landscape of craft beer.
WHAT: 16 oz. cans of Whistle Punk
WHO: Sebago Brewing Company
STYLE: Double IPA
ABV: 8.2 percent
TASTING NOTES: Pineapple, Mango, and Grapefruit, with Subtle Pine Earthiness
AVAILABILITY: Purchase Cans at Your Local Beer Store, Also Drink On Draft At Sebago Brew Pubs
Foundation Brewing Tap Takeover at Bao Bao Dumpling House
5 to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, December 17, 133 Spring Street, Portland
Bao Bao Dumpling House has slowly made itself into a craft beer hub over the past year. The Portland restaurant has featured tap takeovers from Rising Tide, Bissell Brothers, and many other Maine breweries this year. This Thursday, they continue this trend with a lineup of beers from Foundation Brewing. The One Industrial Way brewery has a great lineup of staples from their crisp saison, Eddy, to their mouthwatering double IPA, Epiphany. This will be a great event.
Maine Beer Company Releases Dinner
7 a.m. Saturday, 525 U.S. Hwy 1, Freeport. $8 per bottle, one case limit
It’s happening again, Maine Beer Company is releasing the monster that is Dinner on Saturday. Dinner has recently moved up to spot Number 6 on Beer Advocate’s Top 250 Beers page. And deservedly so. This double IPA is a tropical fruit tsunami on the senses. From aroma, to flavor, to finish, Dinner is world-class—and I don’t use that phrase lightly. If you want to procure your case of Dinner, you’ll need to show up to the brewery well before the doors open at 7 a.m. to stake your spot in line.