Josh Christie is an independent bookseller, outdoors columnist for the Maine Sunday Telegram, and author of Maine Beer: Brewing in Vacationland. When Josh isn’t slinging books at Sherman’s Books in Portland, he can be found lecturing about Maine’s beer history, sampling local brews, and skiing in the Maine mountains.
Website: Brews and Books
Question 1: What is your all Maine brewery dream team-up? And why?
In the mad scientist vein of throwing together wildly different brewers and seeing what happens, I’d love to see a collaboration between Portland’s Shipyard Brewing Company and Bissell Brothers Brewing Company. More specifically, I’d like to see what the former’s Alan Pugsley and the latter’s Noah Bissell could cook up.
The two brewers are on the opposite ends of the experience spectrum – Alan is one of the longest-working brewers in the country and, at 23, Noah is among the youngest. Or, to put it another way, Pugsley has been brewing professionally since before Bissell was born.
There’s no denying either’s skill as brewers, difference of experience aside. Pugsley helped set up 65 different breweries around the world, and designed New England icons like Shipyard Export and Geary’s Pale Ale. On the other hand, Bissell burst onto the brewing scene with a beer so good, so hyped, so critically acclaimed, that it is already being placed in the league of IPA heavyweights Pliny the Elder and Heady Topper.
I can’t picture what the beer would be, exactly. A unique take on a British-style Imperial IPA, perhaps; something mixing British brewing traditions with an American hop bill. Or, given Bissell’s rumored experiments with low-ABV beers, a collaborative session beer in the tradition of an English mild might make sense.
Maine is one of the few places in the states with a long enough history to have multiple generations of brewers. I can’t think of a better collaboration than one that throws the old guard together with the new.
Question 2: What would your Maine + U.S Brewery Team-up look like?
North Carolina’s Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery notes right on their label that they are the “Dark Beer Specialist.” If you’ve ever had any of their beers, you know it’s no empty claim. Despite the conventional wisdom that their warm location would necessitate lighter beers, Duck-Rabbit has found success with a portfolio of brown ales, stouts, and porters.
While Freeport’s Maine Beer Company has no self-affirmed forte, I’d say they’re a “Hoppy Beer Specialist.” Though the brewers make beer in a variety of styles, their marquee beers – including the super-popular Lunch and flagship Peeper – are deliciously bitter and hoppy. Even some of their darker beers, like the King Titus Porter, are generously hopped.
Given the pair’s areas of focus, I’d like to see them collaborate on a white stout. One of many hybrid styles ginned up by American brewers in recent years, a “white stout” is basically a brew that looks like a pale ale but tastes like a stout. There haven’t been too many released yet, but beers like Night Shift Brewing’s Snow and J.P.’s Casper White Stout have gained attention for their light, pilsner-esque color but roasty, chocolate flavors. I think these two breweries could craft a winner in this unique style. Take Kleban’s experience with bright, hoppy beers, Philippon’s expertise with stout flavors, and throw their brew on some local coffee or chocolate to age.
Question 3: What would your Maine + International Brewery team up look like?
Throughout the United States, it’s exceptionally rare to find a craft brewery that specializes in lagers. With the recent closure of Portland lager maestros Bull Jagger, Skowhegan’s Oak Pond Brewery stands alone as a Maine brewery focusing primarily on lagers. The majority of the brewery’s beers – two year-round brews and both of their seasonals – are different styles of lager. Not only that, but they’re damn fine lagers; lagers which not enough people in Maine know about. Their Storyteller doppelbock, in particular, is a fantastic example of the style, nutty and toasty with a touch of sweetness.
Across the pond, breweries big and small don’t have the same aversion to lagers as here in the states. It’s not all light pilsners, either. Bavarian brewery G. Schneider & Sohn has made a name for itself with a variety of top-fermented wheat beers. Brewed with local wheat and barley and hopped with Halleratau, Schneider’s output ranges from light Weiss bier to dark, rich, malty weizenbock (a bock-style beer made with wheat) and eisbock. Schneider Weisse Tap 6, also known as Aventinus, easily stands among the best beers in the world.
So, I’d love to see this deeply underappreciated Maine brewery paired with one of my favorite breweries in the world. … Now, look, I won’t pretend this isn’t a self-serving collaboration, creating a beer aimed squarely at me. However, I imagine the two could make some magic beer. I’d like to see something along the lines of Storyteller, brewed with a mix of American and German malts, juiced with Schneider’s peppery, clove-tinted yeast strain, and brewed using Oak Pond’s local water. A Mainebock, if you will.
My only caveat? I’d insist that brewery head Georg Schneider and Brewmaster Hans-Peter Drexler come over to the states to brew the collaboration. I think they’d get a kick out of Oak Pond’s unique brewery setup, housed in a repurposed Skowhegan chicken barn.
Question 4: Free for all! Anything goes here as long as there is 1 Maine brewery involved.
Something I haven’t been able to get out of my head since I started studying Maine’s beer history is the number of brewers we lost due to prohibition. Maine was never Brussels, but it certainly gave birth to many brewers in the 18th and 19th centuries. Thanks to Maine’s early tangles with prohibitionists, we don’t even have records of many of these early brewing concerns.
Excepting, that is, the McGlinchy brothers’ breweries. Despite the 1851 “Maine Law” prohibiting the sale of alcohol, the duo of James and Patrick McGlinchy found plenty of profit (legitimate and otherwise) in the world of alcohol. The brothers made a fortune on the sly, running rum and bootlegging alcohol in the face of prohibition. But they also had legitimate ventures. Thanks to loopholes in state law that allowed manufacture of beer to be sold out of state, the brothers found themselves establishing two breweries – the Forest City Brewery in Cape Elizabeth and the Casco Brewery in Portland.
It’s hard to know exactly what the beer brewed at these breweries tasted like. Ads in the Portland paper in the 1860s note that the Forest City Brewery brewed an amber and a pale, which they claimed to be “a perfect beverage as any the market offers.” Likely similar to a traditional English pale, one assumes Forest City’s pale was low in alcohol, with floral hops and some caramel notes.
Since this question allows for breweries past and present, I’d like to see a collaboration between the long-defunct Forest City Brewery with Maine’s first brewpub, Gritty McDuff’s. Many of Maine’s first waves of breweries serve up English-style ales, but none as well-crafted as Gritty’s. I think a collaboration between the two, perhaps on a session bitter, would be a great tribute to Maine’s centuries-long brewing history.
The Maine Dream Team-up Project participants: