Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day Four Report Part 2: Even Lobsters Love Guinness

We made it to Geary's with a bit of time to spare. Curtis was our friendly tour guide. We start the tour with a fresh-as-it-gets glass of Hampshire Special Ale - straight out of the tank!

This tour was by far the best of the trip. We took a leisurely 45 minutes to stroll through the brewing process. Here's bottling. . .

We got to check out the yeast doing it's work in the vats. . .

Curtis gave us every opportunity to ask questions and by the end I felt like I was ready to tote my own brewing kit home and get started. Really fascinating though was the story of the brewery business. Anyone who's been around a while can tell you the story of craft beer. Back in the 80's it was a sad time for American beer. There wasn't much taste to it. (Couldn't that be said for most stuff in the 80's?) Since prohibition, when there used to be breweries on every block in most cities, most never rebounded and instead we had mega companies like Coors and Budweiser adding as much water as possible to make beer as cheap as possible.

The two entrepreneurs to break the trend were Jim Koch, Sam Adams founder, and D.L. Geary. Both brewer's companies started taking off. Then each made a critical decision. Jim invested in marketing, Geary in really nice brewing equipment.

The rest is history. Sam Adams beer is now shipped all over the country and you're lucky to find Geary's at your specialty liquor store. Both beers I really appreciate, but there's something about Geary's flagship pale ale that is just so crisp and flavorful. It is now my go to beer for bringing to parties.

And now for something completely different. . .

Allagash! A Belgian-style brewery right down the street from Geary's. Starting off with a tasting we were led around the brewery (for the first time in safety goggles) to check out their process. I'm a big fan of wit beers, made with wheat instead of barley and it was nice to have a beer so totally different then the other 60 or so we'd had up until this point. (The list was starting to get mixed up in my head.)

Allagash started making Allagash White, Dubbel, Trippel, but now they even do crazy stuff like Belgian-style Porter. (I'm sure the monks would scoff at this.) They encourage their staff to experiment and when a batch isn't quite right for shipping to stores they'll send out an email to their listserv and have a special edition beer sale for one day. Usually its all gone in a few hours!

After all this drinking we were in need of some food . . . and more beer. We headed into downtown and what is apparently a popular hangout, Gritty McDuff's. Solid pub food, a round of beers, including Scottish Ale, of course and friendly people. A little tipsy, I was dropped off at the Portland office of my non-profit and the rest of the crew sobered up for the drive home.

Yes, all good beers come to an end. With 77 tastings under our belt (perhaps literally now, too) I knew that the journey wasn't over. We had just hit up one small corner of the country, there were more beers to be downed. Along the way, we'd discovered that good beer is about good brewers. Its about place, and pride in one's craftmanship. It's about experimenting and taking risks.

And yes, it's about getting drunk. - Cheers!

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