227. Weyerbacher Harvest Ale

This is another beer from Weyerbacher I had high hopes for only to be let down. This one is their Harvest Ale which is supposed to be an IPA brewed using hops straight from their own farm however I am not getting any hop aroma or flavor from it. The only thing I can think is the bottle may be old but I could not find a bottled on or freshness date on the bottle.

Color is typical of a quality IPA with the nice orange color and thin white head. Lacing was good to start but has almost completely disappeared now. Of course I have been drinking the beer for 30+ minutes hoping it would improve as it warms. Aroma and taste are all malt with a very mild bitterness but no hop bite, no citrus or pine notes – drinks more like a red than IPA.

Really hoping this is just an old bottle as I was very disappointed with this option from Weyerbacher.
Alcohol Content:
 6.2% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Rating:  ★★☆☆☆
Brewers Website: Weyerbacher
Brewers Description: Harvest Ale is a 6.2% “wet-hop” IPA made from pale, munich, crystal, and wheat malts. It is hopped with a bounty of cascade hops straight from the brewery’s own farm! The bitterness is restrained to allow the fresh-hop aroma and flavor to shine through.

226. Hill Farmstead Everett

This is the second beer from Hill Farmstead and another excellent choice. Pour is black with a solid tan head that leaves huge amounts of lacing on the glass, a beautiful beer. Lots of aroma including plenty of coffee, cocoa and roasted malts. Exactly what you would expect from a quality porter.

Taste has everything and just does not stop. Robust coffee, chocolate, vanilla, flavors and mild amount of alcohol in a full bodied beer. Smooth going down and one of my favorite porters.

Anyone interested in a road trip to Vermont some Saturday?
Pros: Aroma, tons of flavor
Cons: Only available in Vermont
Alcohol Content: 7.5% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Rating:  ★★★★☆
Brewers Website: Hill Farmstead
Brewers Description: Everett (1908-1939) was our grandfather’s brother; Hill Farmstead Brewery rests upon the land that was once home to him and his 13 siblings. In his honor, this Porter is crafted from American malted barley, English and German roasted malts, American hops, our ale yeast, and water from our well. It is unfiltered and naturally carbonated. Decadent in its depth, with a complex backbone of chocolate, coffee, and malty sweetness, this is the ale that I dream to have shared with Everett.

Ingredients: Pale, Caramel, and Chocolate Malt, Roasted Barley, Columbus hops; Ale Yeast, and our Well Water. 21º P

225. Moat Mountain Scottie’s IPA

Brought this one home from my trip to Moat Mountain Brew Pub in North Conway, NH. This one was not on-tap when we were there and I always like to try new IPAs so I took home a bottle.

Pours a very nice cloudy orange with thin white head, a very nice looking IPA. A nice mix of sweet malts, citrus and pine hops in the aroma. Taste has lots of grapefruit to start, moves to pine and then to some caramel malt. Beer is well balanced and easy to drink even at 7% ABV.

This one was much better than the options I tried in the brew pub and I wish it had been on tap when we visited as I probably would not have drank anything else.
Pros: Appearance, easy to drink
Alcohol Content: 7.0% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Rating:  ★★★☆
Brewers Website: Moat Mountain
Brewers Description: (Corrected Description – Thanks to Moat for reading and providing the correct info) Our version of a West Coast Style IPA. There are 12 pounds of hops in every 7-barrel batch, with a solid malt backbone to hold up to the bitterness and hop flavor. Bright amber with orange hues and a dense rocky off-white head. The nose smells of pine and grapefruit with earthy notes and a hint of tropical fruit. The roundness of the malt carries the flavors through this hop-forward beer. The bitterness is persistent to the dry, clean finish.

224. Blue Moon Summer Wheat

This one looks and tastes like a Coors with some honey added. Nothing special here with only mild aroma and very bland taste. With so many great craft beer options out there don’t bother with Blue Moon.
Alcohol Content: 5.2% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Brewers Website: Blue Moon
Brewers Description: Wheat ale crafted with clover honey for a hint of sweetness and balanced out with a touch of orange peel for subtle citrus notes. Pairs with grilled summer fare like pork with honey mustard sauce.

223. Smuttynose Summer Weizen Ale

Snuttynose is generally one of my favorite brewers and their Big Beer Series has some of my top rated beers. The Summer Weizen did not meet my high expectations of Smuttynose. Still a quality beer but not as good as many others from this brewery.

Color is typical pale yellow of most summer ales. Not a lot of aroma from this one but some bread, mild citrus and even a little spice. Taste is sweet up front followed by a mild hop bite and smooth finish. This is a nice summer beer and quite refreshing.

Pros: Refreshing
Cons: Slightly watered down
Alcohol Content: 5.5% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Brewers Website: Smuttynose
Brewers Description: Light, tasty & full of character, our summer wheat ale is brewed with a combination of domestic and continental wheat and barley malts, lightly hopped & fermented with a Belgian wit yeast, resulting in a delightfully tangy & refreshing flavor.This beer is brewed for warm weather enjoyment. Bring some to your next picnic, barbeque or Frisbee game.

Available in sixpacks and on draft from April through August.

222. Moat Mountain Matildas Red Rage

My quest to find an amber/red ale that stands out continued at Moat Mountain in North Conway however I did not find what I was looking for. I really need to ask a brewer what makes red ales so similar. In almost any other style of beer there are huge variants in the taste however I am not sure I could tell one Amber/Red ale from another if you set them side by side. There must be something about the style that causes this. Generally I like this style of beer but I keep hoping to find “the one” and I have not. If you have recommendations please share.

This one pours a nice red color (big surprise there) with single finger white head that left decent lacing on the glass. Not a lot of aroma but some caramel notes. Taste follows with some caramel flavors and a bit of pine hoppiness in the end. Nothing too exciting with this one but not a bad beer overall. My favorite option from Moat was probably the Tripel.

Cons: Same as all the other reds 🙁
Alcohol Content: ??%
ABV: ???
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Rating:  ★★☆☆
Brewers Website: Moat Mountain
Brewers Description: Does not appear on their website

Sebago Brewing – Brewing for a Cause (4/21/2012)

Each year since 2010 Sebago Brewing Company has opened its doors on a Saturday for a limited number of people to participate in their Brewing for a Cause benefit. Sebago has a team of riders in the Trek Across Maine (click the link to donate) and for a $100 donation you are given the opportunity to “work” in the brewery with the brew staff making their delicious Trekker Pale Ale. I convinced my wife this would be the perfect early Father’s Day present for me and signed up just in time as the event sold out (actually slightly over sold).
Yesterday morning I woke at 5:30 and prepared to head to Sebago’s brew facility located on Sanford Drive in Gorham, Maine. I arrived shortly after 7:30 and the parking lot quickly filled up with other eager participants. For most it was their first time but there were at least a couple that were returning from prior years. We were all encouraged to bring home brew for others to sample however I have not yet tried brewing my own beer so I arrived empty handed.  Shortly before 8:00 we all ventured into the brew facility and found Barnabas and Kevin already hard at work getting the first batch of Trekker in the mash tun.  The Trekker Pale Ale sold out very quickly in 2011 so this year they brewed a double batch.
50,000 lbs silo
Jon Clegg – Brewer / Packaging Manager and host for the day arrived shortly after and gathered us all for a short safety meeting. Everyone was required to wear safety glasses and closed toe shoes. After we all passed the safety check we went to find Barnabas and Kevin to see how things were progressing. The first batch of Trekker Pale Ale was in the mash tun so we went to the grain room to start prepping for the second batch. Sebago has a 50,000 pound grain silo filled with 2-row malt. In addition to the 2-row they use 4 or 5 other varieties of malt for the Trekker Pale Ale and several attendees were able to help pour the additional malts into the hopper. (See more after the break)

High tech malt funnel
The 50 pound bags of malt are poured into Sebago’s high tech system of adding them to the hopper. It is a bucket that has been cut down to work as a funnel and it worked very well. We also had the opportunity to taste the 2-row malt to see how the raw product tasted. Once the malt has been added it is milled, a process that cracks open the husks exposing the inside and it waits to be mixed with the hot water in the mash tun. After we were finished in the grain room Jon, Barnabas and Kevin had to take some time to fix the first problem of the day. The grain mill was not accurately measuring the weight of the malt being added to the mash tun which could cause all kinds of problems with the final product. After some time Jon determined there was a setting that was off and he was able to fix the problem to avoid any issues with the next batch. Brewers often battle with these things during the brew process and this was not the last issue of the day.
Brew system – mash tun on the left and boil kettle on the right
After the problem was resolved it was time to transfer the wert, the hot water that has been steeping in the malt for about an hour, from the mash tun to the brew kettle. Sebago Brewing uses a gravity system from Diversified Metal Engineering (DME) in Canada. Many of the brewers in Maine use a similar system and although the picture does not show this well the mash tun is installed slightly higher than the boil kettle so most of the wert can be transferred by gravity. They do use a pump to get the final bit from the mash tun to the brew kettle. Once the 650+ gallons of wert has been transferred the spent grain is removed from the mash tun and is eventually hauled off by local farmers as feed for their herd. The spent grain looks and smells a lot like oatmeal. I have photos and video of this and have posted them on my Facebook page if you are interested.
Hops waiting to be added to the boil
Once all the liquid is in the boil kettle it is time to add the hops. For the Trekker Pale Ale hops are added at 3 different times during the boil process. First at the beginning of the boil for bitterness, second about 30 minutes in for flavor and finally with about 5 minutes remaining for aroma. All of this may seem like a quick process but by the time the boil has finished the process has taken about 5 hours. For us that means we were quickly approaching lunch time and Jon stepped out briefly to pick up a very nice spread from the Gorham brew pub.  About this time Kai Adams – founder of Sebago stopped by and took the time to speak to each of us. He was also there to help out with the second problem of the day. Seems the boiler was not turning off at the appropriate pressure and after a few phone calls a tech appeared on site to help fix the problem. Like the first problem this one was resolved fairly quickly however we got to experience a true brew day with the minor issues that brewery staff are constantly dealing with.
Tasting room taps
While Jon was gone (or maybe before) several of us found the tasting room which had 7 different Sebago brews including some that were only available during the pilot brew night at the Portland brew pub. The Milk Stout was finished fairly quickly however they had a couple of my favorites; Full Throttle Double IPA and Elegans Saison and another from the pilot beer night The Catch III. Jon made it back with pulled pork, fresh fruit, coleslaw, corn bread and a platter of desserts. The food was excellent and if anyone left hungry it was not because of a lack of food. Also during lunch many of the participants took out their home brews for everyone to sample. There was a wide range of options including a barley wine that did not start out as a barley wine and an IPA from a husband and wife team that was excellent.
Pilot system
During the transfer and boil we also had the opportunity to check out Sebago’s pilot system. This is the brew system they use to test new recipes and give the brewers the opportunity to experiment. Many of the Single Batch Series and the beers available at the Pilot nights were brewed on this system. The homebrewers that were in attendance had a lot of questions about the setup and many of them wanted to take it home with them.  We also had the chance to taste the Porter, Hefeweizen and their first attempt at an Oktoberfest directly from the bright tanks. This is where the beer is held after fermentation until it is bottled and each of these beers tasted wonderful with the Hef having huge amounts of aroma and big banana taste. Even though the beer had not been carbonated at this point in the process it was still excellent.
Yeast in the keg
After lunch was finished it was time to transfer from the boil kettle to the fermentation tank and to add the yeast. The yeast is stored in old kegs and used approximately 12 times before it is retired. This process was fairly straight forward and the primary concern was sanitation. Lots of scrubbing on the nozzles and attention is given to hoses to ensure there is no contamination. The transfer between tanks went fairly quickly and at that point we were ready to start the second batch of Trekker Pale Ale. It may seem like there is a lot of down time while the beer is in the mash tun, boiling or being transferred between tanks but during this time Jon, Barnabas and Kevin were all very busy preparing for the next step, cleaning up from the prior step and at least on this day entertaining 20+ beer enthusiasts. Each of them spent a lot of time answering questions, explaining the process multiple times, giving tips to the home brewers on how to improve their brews and generally entertaining us. The three of them did an excellent job as 8 hours is a long time but the day went by very quickly.
They were not prepared to bottle anything but Jon was kind enough to give us a demonstration of the bottling line including the labeling, rinsing of the bottles and capping. This seems like the a very tedious part of the process and I am sure it gives Jon lots of headaches as the packaging manager. They have a single bottling line which can accommodate both 12 and 22 ounce bottles. Again I have videos and pictures of the bottling line in action on my Facebook page. If you check them out please take the time to like my page to keep up with beer reviews, news and articles.
After the transfer to the fermentation tank was complete and the second batch of Trekker Pale Ale was in the mash tun we had about an hour left in the day. During this time Barnabas, Kevin and Jon answered tons of questions and everyone spent lots of time talking beer. I really enjoyed my time at Sebago Brewing and will certainly plan to attend again next year.
Also towards the end of the day I got another nice surprise. When I registered for the event it mentioned all participants would have the opportunity to bring home some of the beer we brewed. Due to the time it takes to ferment, bottle, etc the beer would not be available on the actual brew day so Jon prepared a list of names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses so he could contact us when the beer was ready to be picked up. I assumed we would each receive a bottle of the Trekker Pale Ale however Jon let us know we could trade our case (12 – 22 ounce bottles) of Trekker for any other Sebago beer so we would not have to make the trip back to the brewery. Fortunately this included their Full Throttle Double IPA. I do enjoy the Trekker Pale Ale but I love the Full Throttle so I took home a case of this as did many others.
I had no idea what to expect when I signed up for this event but for someone that loves Maine Beer and was very interested in learning more about the process $100 was a small price to pay. Also the money was going to a great cause and one that means a lot to me as my grandfather died of lung cancer. At the end of the day the $100 seemed like a bargain for a day spent with great people, tasting great beer and enjoying some great food from Sebago Brewing. If you have not been to this event in the past I encourage you to sign up next year as I am certain you will enjoy it. Also please take the time to sponsor the Sebago team in the Trek Across Maine here as each rider needs to raise $500 and the money goes to a great cause.
Thank you Jon, Barnabas, Kevin and Kai for a great day at the brewery and I will see you all again next year if not before then.

Moat Mountain Brew Smokehouse & Brewing Company (4/16/2012)

After a few hours at Ebenezer’s Pub we headed out to North Conway so the wives could do some shopping while we drank beer. On the way we stopped at The Good Beer Store in Fryeburg because you can never have enough good beer.

Moat has a nice brew pub located on the main drag in North Conway. When we arrived just before 5:00 on Monday the place had plenty of available seating and the bar staff was attentive. We started with the 6- sampler including their; Hoffman Weiss, Violet B’s Blueberry, Czech Pilsner, Iron Mike Pale Ale, Bear Peak Brown and the Square Tail Stout. Of the 6 the only one that stood out was the Bear Peak Brown. The Weiss was light, cloudy and fruity – Violet B was better than many other Blueberry ales with only a very light fruit finish, not overpowering or terribly sweet. The Czech was a traditional pilsner and I do not like pilsners and the Iron Mike was a slightly hoppy pale ale but when you compare it to Maine Beer Company MO or the recently reviewed  Edward from Hill Farmstead this does not even come close.

Bear Peak Brown was a solid brown ale which according to the bar tender sells very well at the bar. Square Tail is a decent stout but the day we visited it was nearly 90 degrees and a stout just was not going to be a good choice. After the sampler I opted for a Matilda’s Red Rage while my brother in law had the Helles Lager. I sampled both and will do a separate review of the Red Rage but the Helles Lager was very simple and only slightly darker and more complex than the Pilsner. Overall a decent beer but not something to get too excited about. Ending the evening we shared a Vintage Triple which may have been the best beer we tried from Moat. Lots of spice, fruit and well balanced. Slight alcohol taste but that is to be expected from a triple with 8.9% ABV. Overall our visit to Moat was enjoyable and while the beer may have been fairly ordinary overall it was all quality stuff and worth trying if you are in the area.

Ebenezer’s Pub Visit (4/16/2012)

I had heard and read great things about Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, ME and finally made the trip on Monday to visit the pub. There were four of us that went; my wife, her sister and husband and myself and the original plan was for my brother in law and myself to stay at the pub while my wife and her sister went shopping but we ended up changing plans as the pub closed at 3:00 on Monday.

It was almost entirely empty when we arrived shortly after 1:00 and while we were there only 2 other patrons visited the pub. This was a great time for us to visit although we missed out on having lots of other beer drinkers in the pub with us. Tap list had 35 different beers including the four previously reviewed; Oxbow Saison Noel – Thornbridge Raven Black IPA – Stone Ruination DIPA  and Rogue XS Old Crustacean.

In addition to these 4 beers I sampled 2 others; not sure the names but the first was a Belgian Sour Ale which was truly sour but still very nice to drink and the other was a Belgian IPA which honestly smelled like a dumpster; spoiled milk, old trash, etc but had a fairly pleasant taste although it was nothing like an American IPA. Overall we had a great time at Ebenezer’s with quality food and prompt service by a waitress that seemed to know her beer. If you happen to make it to Maine and want to go to an out of the way pub and enjoy some quality beer be sure to visit Ebenezer’s.

Location: 44 Allen Rd – Lovell, ME 04051 – Map
Vary by season – please call
Kid Friendly: Yes
Facebook: Page
Twitter: @EbenezersPub
Owner’s Description: We may be located in a small Maine town, but we’ve always dreamed big. From day one, it was our goal to build the best beer pub in the world. So when Beer Advocate Magazine rated us the number one beer bar in America and the world for the last five years in a row, we knew we must be doing something right.

221. Rogue XS Old Crustacean

This was the fourth and final pint from Ebenezer’s Pub and by far my least favorite. I am not sure if this was just too much of a contrast from Stone Ruination (a double IPA) to a barleywine style or what made this one so difficult to drink but I ended up sharing with my brother in law and I am still not sure we finished our glasses before heading out to our next stop.

Deep red / light brown color with minimal head, almost no carbonation. Aroma is all malt as is the taste and it feels like you could chew this beer it is so thick and creamy. Big alcohol taste and as I stated before it was hard to finish. It may have been the combination of beers I had prior to this one but I am not sure I will ever try it again to check out that theory.
Cons: Huge malt flavor and extremely thick mouth feel.
Alcohol Content: 11.5% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): 110
Rating:  ★★☆☆☆
Brewers Website: Rogue
Brewers Description: An unfiltered and unfined Barleywine. Intense, robust, malty and dark. The cognac of beers. 7 Ingredients: Hugh Baird Carastan and Great Western 2-Row Malts; Chinook, Cenntenial, and Perle Hops, Pacman Yeast & Free Range Coastal Water.

Specs: 25º PLATO – 110 IBU – 83 AA – 57º Lovibond

World Class Package: Draft, 750ml