Drink in the season

A guide to local autumn beers
By TODD RICHARD  |  September 12, 2007
FALL BREWS: Maine selections.

I’m not sure if the days are shortening, but the nights are certainly arriving sooner. The air is beginning to get chilly, but, thankfully, so is the beer.

The Geary’s brewers promise greatness with every season’s new releases and with this year’s Autumn Ale ($6.79), they have bottled a terrific example of a nutty English-style brown ale, while making it appropriate for our season and climate here in Maine. This beer suggests fall rather than insisting upon it, and its subtlety is impressive. The mix of maltiness — thanks to clarity, crystal, chocolate, and wheat malt — and balanced weight on the palate makes it a good match to enjoy with food instead of being the meal itself. Its drinkability extends well beyond the season on its label.

Geary’s Hampshire Special Ale, or HSA as the label states, was seasonal until fans staged an uprising; now it can be enjoyed in the bottle or on tap at select locations year-round. Even though it is now more easily available, its uniqueness has not diminished in the least.

Shipyard, perhaps Portland’s widest-reaching brewery, has offered a fall seasonal unlike many others in the local market. Their Pumpkinhead Ale ($7.49) is everything it claims: a heady ale with the aroma and taste of pumpkin and pie spices. The heavy sweetness of pumpkin and malt mix with nutmeg notes for a rich and substantial brew. Much like dessert, this beer is meant for a single helping, and seconds might be considered gluttonous.

One of the most legendary local seasonals is Gritty’s Halloween Ale ($7.29). Unless you’ve been hibernating, you must have heard the radio spots from Gritty’s in seasons past touting this beer, in which they are proud to state that they use no eye of newt and, thankfully, no pumpkin either. They do, however, use Whitbread Goldings, East Kent Goldings, and B.C. Kent hops to produce a fantastic reddish-brown Extra Special Bitter brew. Its true claim to fame among the locals is its potent 6 percent alcohol content, which is pretty rich in the local-brew category. Several establishments around town will only offer patrons two of these before the dreaded cutoff point. Beer enthusiasts may want to chew this slowly, as it is dense and best when savored.

To join in a celebration of this season’s beers, and all of the local beers for that matter, mark the date of Saturday November 3 on your calendars. The 14th annual Maine Brewers Festival takes place in Portland at the Portland Expo, and vendors include the breweries mentioned above, with other smaller standouts including Sheepscot Valley Brewing Company. This Whitefield-based mini-brewery sells growlers of its Scottish-style Pemaquid Ale at select retail establishments around Portland, and doesn’t seem to need the seasonal sensationalism to put out great beer.

Email the author
Todd Richard: tmr@maine.rr.com

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