Get to know Terrific ‘American’ Belgian ales
on 14/01/12 at 11:40 amBeer
Here’s a beer-related new year’s resolution for you (no, it’s not too late): Get to know Belgian ales. And here’s an easy way to do it: Get to know Allagash Brewing Co.
Allagash’s best-known product also happens to be one of the most popular Belgian ales: Allagash White. But Allagash White, as good as it is, is one of the least interesting beers Allagash makes. It’s a great witbier; don’t get me wrong. But too many people mistakenly think that all Belgians are witbiers. (This was clear to me over the holidays, when I offered a guest a few different Belgian beers. He replied that he doesn’t like light, hazy, white ales that taste like lemons.)
Allagash Brewing Co., just two hours up the road, in Portland, Maine, makes some of America’s best Belgian-style ales, and all manner of them. It brews a strong stable of what one might call “regular’’ Belgian beers – a dubbel, a tripel, and of course its witbier – and packages them in 750-milliliter bottles as well as affordable four-packs of 12-ounce bottles (around $10 each). But Allagash’s premier beers – the more interesting ones – can run far more, from $18 to $23 per 750-milliliter.
Pricey? For beer, yes. But when you consider that a bottle of good wine costs about the same, one could argue that these beers are worth it (once in a while, as an extravagance). In the spirit of discovering Belgian excellence in America, here is a six-pack of my favorite Allagash brews:
FOUR: Allagash Four gets its name from its classification – Allagash considers it a quadrupel – and from its brewing process. It was made with four malts and four hops, and fermented four times. But whereas most quads are nearly black and opaque, this one is translucent burgundy. It looks more like a Belgian strong dark ale; the lines between these styles are blurry anyway. There is no way to avoid pouring this beer with a huge head. You get more head than liquid even when you pour the beer slowly down the side of the glass. A sweet aroma of dark fruit – plums, raisins – emerges from the glass. The taste is deep and complex, with suggestions of dried fruit, spices, warm alcohol, and that distinctive Belgian yeast. It goes down exceedingly easily, which is dangerous for a beer that is 10 percent alcohol by volume.