Tag Archives: Allagash

Column: Don’t judge a beer by its label


This past month I have found myself guilty of judging before being fully informed on several occasions – a big no-no for a journalist. I should know better.

I like to think of my self as classy, semi-stylish and refined gentleman and I like my beer to reflect that.

Several times this month I turned my nose up at trying a new beer because I thought the labels looked cheap or gimmicky and boy was I wrong.

The cool art-deco Orval; the painted branding of Stone and Rogue; the classic seafaring nature of Anchor, the rustic artiness of Dogfish Head and Smuttynose; the simplistic nature of Allagash, and South Hampton; the well balanced look of Brooklyn, Avery and Hitachino Nest and most foreign beers especially those from Italy and Belgium have labels that are not over designed and give the impression of something I want to enjoy.

To me there are different categories of labels that turn me off. There is the childish: Clipper City Brewing Co. and Opa-Opa; the amateur: McNeil’s Brewery and Stoudt; the ones with too much going on: Magic Hat and Flying Dog and the corny: Ballast, Unibroue.

Of course this is all clearly subjective and everyone’s artistic tastes are different.

I learned this past month that I will never judge a beer by its label again, not even subconsciously. Of course, we all know it is about what is on the inside that counts but when you are in the beer isle and need to make an impulse buy, a really bad label may get passed over.

This month Clipper City, Opa-Opa, Ithica and Ballast made me realize what I was doing subconsciously. I had passed up buying all three of these beers in the past just by the fact that there was something else to buy that looked more appealing. After it was suggested – through different avenues –  I try all three, my palate was thanking me.

From each of those breweries I found an IPA and really, really like.

No longer will a bad graphic designer fool me. They are just trying to keep all of the good beer to themselves.


What I have had and liked this month


Ballast Point Big Eye IPA — An India Pale Ale brewed by Ballast Point Brewing Company, San Diego, Cal.

I guess I am just a sucker for beer brewed in San Diego. This IPA poured smooth, with a nice looking, two-finger head. It was hoppy and crisp with a slight bitter bite on the palate. I held off on buying this one for a while because I was unaware of the brewery. Won’t make that mistake again.


Reviews: Allagash Dubbel Reserve

An Abbey Dubbel brewed by
Allagash Brewing Company

Portland, Maine USA

Pours a very nice dark brown with a big head. I would say the head is about two fingers, creamy and tan. Be sure to pour slowly. Nice aroma with a bit of nut and dry fruit coming through. The taste was quite satisfying and I was very impressed by Allagash’s effort. A little light in body. Better as it warmed a little as the full flavor and aroma really came out. Again, I was very impressed with this effort. The flavor was a bit nutty and carmel like. I feel the Ommegang Abbey Ale is just a bit better version of this Belgian classic, though by the numbers I rated them exactly the same.

My ratebeer.com score: 3.8

Taking Maine for Granted

I guess I always took for granted the great beer culture I was surrounded by when I lived in Maine for four years while attending college. Well, not any more.I return fresh from my bi-yearly jaunt to the coastal region of Maine, and I return with many flavorful stories.

In the mid-1990s, Allagash Brewing was just getting its start when I was roaming the frosty hills of Portland.

Today they have now grown into one of the best Belgian beer impersonators in the country. I would have to estimate that if you were to rank the top 20 beers in Maine, 15 would come from Allagash.

Each area of Maine — the coast, the mountains, the lake lands — all have their own little beer communities.

All About Beer Magazine just named Portland one of the better beer cities in the nation. Shipyard Brewing Company in Portland is one of the country’s oldest microbreweries and does a pretty good job representing the area. 

Also in Portland is Gritty’s. Gritty’s beers have a distinct flavor that carries through in each of their beers. I’m not sure how they do that from a brown to a summer ale, but they do. Must be the malt backbone.

Way up in Bar Harbor, I find my favorite fruit beer of them all: The Atlantic Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale, made with real blueberries.

A hidden gem is the Sheepscot Valley Brewing Company and its line of brews. They have a tendency to be low in carbonation but non-the-less great.

There are so many great beers in Maine and I could fire them all off (Stone Coast Brewing, Sea Dog Brewing Co., Kennebec Brewing Co., Kennebunkport Brewing Co.) but my editor has me on a tight word count. Must be a wine lover. I regress.

The state of Maine was supportive of prohibition even before prohibition went national, hampering early development of breweries. However, they have made up for all of that in the past 20 years.

What I’ve had and liked this month

Allagash Four — An Abt/Quadrupel –brewed by Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, ME

Poured from a 75cl bottle at a restaurant in Brunswick, ME, at a surprising very good price. It poured amber brown with a small but nice looking head. The head went down quickly after the pour. It was malty on first taste but it was also cold and that seemed to be masking some of the real flavor. As the drinking went on the wonderful bouquet and flavor came through. I picked up raisin, some mild nut and lots of yeast and malt. It really just kept getting better and better and better. Wonderful beer. I was fully impressed by the end of the experience.