Local beer is better

Get a taste of summer as spring sets in
By TODD RICHARD  |  April 25, 2007

Mainers know better. With the thaw still a glimmer of hope on the horizon, Maine’s craft and micro breweries are already bringing their summer selections to market. But, the local folks know not to let their guard down. These seasonal specials are meant to tide us over, not lead us to believe that we are in the clear. With a short spate of warm weather ahead, it seemed time to take a look at how this season’s offerings stack up against each other and summers past.

Nothing represents summer in the Old Port better than an afternoon on the Sebago Brewing patio with some pals, a lobster roll and a Hefeweizen. By now, most beer drinkers have at least been aware of the wheat-beer craze, beginning in the late ’90s, and still alive and well today. The brewers at Sebago managed to harness Belgian goodness, and they put it on tap to share with the world.

Recently, Sebago began offering their beers in bottles at retail. This was surely a boon for the beer lovers, as it certainly increased the chances to enjoy their excellence. This year’s Hefeweizen stands up easily up to the legacy, bearing a balanced citrus note with a floral nose of coriander and a slightly creamy mouthfeel. Don’t sleep on this: go immediately to your local Sebago location or good beerseller and buy this. In the time it takes you to consider it, it may be gone.

Another hallmark of summer is the Geary’s Summer Ale. This is always stellar, and possesses a lovely, sunny, light-copper hue and a brightness on the palate. It’s a perennial favorite, in bottle or on tap. (And it’s optimistic: it has been out almost a month, sharing space in some store fridges with the last of the Geary’s Winter Ale.) The Summer Ale is remarkably consistent from season to season, and consistent with the rest of Geary’s impressive line. Geary’s has won a battle that many lesser microbreweries lose horribly: they manage to make all of their offerings taste unique, yet congruous, without being too similar. Also of note: their collaboration with MECA and the resulting scholarship program always yields graphically sexy bottle and package art that stands out easily in the often crowded playing field on shelves and in coolers.

Shipyard has a highly respected and much-envied place in the pantheon of local beers. Their longevity and widespread availability are examples for many up-and-coming breweries in Maine and far beyond. The Summer Ale has a signature taste and easy drinkability. Of all the local beers, this one seems to be on the taps of many Portland-area watering holes and on the minds of patio bar patrons the entire Old Port over.

While Geary’s advances on the public through their bright colors and smart designs, Gritty’s prefers to trumpet the arrival of the summer by taking to the airwaves. Their cartoonish and slightly self-deprecating radio spots are the stuff of legend, whether it be summer or warning of their frighteningly good Halloween Ale. The Vacationland bottles are enjoyable, but absent is the setting of their small spot of prime patio space on Wharf Street. This one might be best consumed on the premises with their barley-coated fried fish sandwich and some sweet potato fries.

Whether you’re heading to the backyard or the boat, enjoying them from the store or patio bar, there are winners here for all tastes. Just don’t wait, as we all know how short Maine’s summer really is.

Email the author
Todd Richard: tmr@maine.rr.com

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