An American take on a French classic: ‘Tis the season for Saison

My first exposure to Saison was a 2-liter mini-keg a friend brought home from a trip abroad. I'm not just nostalgic for the punchy, complex flavor, but for the days a 15-year-old boy could walk onto a plane with a leaky, mysterious metallic cylinder filled with booze! My palate wasn't developed and I was more interested in the effect of the beer than the experience of the flavor, but the unique taste stuck with me.

Buzz-free beers: Non-alcoholic options and how they size up

“Vegan chicken.”“Easy listening metal.”“Non-alcoholic beer.”Some phrases seem so stressed by internal contradiction, they're liable to explode if you stare at them too long. For years, I felt this way about non-alcoholic beer. Who wants to chug, belch and urinate without a buzz?

European Saison: Complex and intense, these brews dazzle the tastebuds

This month, we're exploring the world of Saison – a style of beer that evolved for consumption during the hot summer months of farm labor in Belgium and France.First, we tried three Saisons from Maine. All were fresh, punchy and bursting with unique flavor. Next, we branched out to try Saison from other states. With the exception of the Ommegang Hennepin, the Saison from “away” wasn't as lively as those from Maine. This week, we…

Battling the blues: Brewers test subtle charms of blueberries

Vaccinium corymbosum, as our official State Berry is more formally known, is amazing in pie, syrup, muffins, pancakes, or simply crammed into your greedy mouth-hole by the dripping, blue fist-full. Nothing says summer in Maine like a blueberry. Unfortunately, nothing says “blue-tongued hangover” like a blueberry beer.

Ich bin ein Berliner Weisse: Tasting the tart German concoction

Berliner Weisse is an amazing, and profoundly under-appreciated summer beer. This German style of beer is typically cloudy, unassuming in appearance and very low in alcohol – often 3 percent ABV. But what it lacks in appearance and alcoholic heft, it more than makes up for in flavor.Berliner Weisse is one of the most extravagantly tart examples of a sour beer. During the fermentation process, it's deliberately infected with a strain of Lactobacillus bacteria, the…

Tart Weisse: Tasting the ‘Champagne of the North’

Last week, we tasted three examples of a relatively uncommon German beer style that's experiencing something of a renaissance: Berliner Weisse. This cloudy, low-alcohol beer is deliberately infected with a microorganism called lactobacillus, which gives Berliner Weisse a distinctive sour flavor. Some Berliner Weisses are so sour, they border on “enamel-softening,” and are traditionally dosed with fruit syrup.

Season’s lingering flavors: a farewell toast to summer!

Summer in Maine is sublime — the best parts of the year compressed into a manic sun-dappled two-month period. As summer draws to a close, I enter the classic “Stages of Maine Summer.” First — I deny that summer is over. I mean, global warming means summer continues to November? Right? After I see that first red leaf, I lapse into anger. I mean, I had plans to go swimming, dammit! Can a guy get…

How do you like them apples? (In cider, preferably)

Last week, we tasted a few of the last lingering summery beers as a final toast to the season. After that final toast, I'm through my anger and denial and well on my way to accepting the inevitability of Fall.Fall isn’t a bad season, after all. As the nights cool and the leaves turn, apples ripen and give rise to a drink I eagerly await: hard cider!

Going old school: New England cider returns to its roots

I imagine that cider was an important expression of Yankee individualism in ye olde days. The apple trees that dotted New England’s landscape provided bushels of apples, that, when crushed, created a juice filled with both enough sugar and natural yeast to become gently alcoholic after a few days, and profoundly intoxicating after a few weeks. This cider was likely murky, unfiltered, funky from a profusion of natural yeast, and strong enough to deaden the…
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