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Monday, January 16, 2017

Allagash Brewing Company

When heading north to Maine in the winter, I knew our options of outdoor activities were a little limited.  With temperatures hovering in the high 20s, this trip was going to be mostly about eating and drinking our way around Portland.  When the temperatures are below freezing and you want to take off on a foodie/boozie adventure in New England, Portland Maine is the perfect place to go.  

The weekend was a mix of good food and great local beer.  Looking at a map of breweries, the list of local brews in Maine can almost be overwhelming (so much beer, so little time I am afraid).  While the microbreweries are popping up at an alarming rate, there are the big names like Shipyard and Allagash who are well known and have been around for a while.  To start our tour in Portland, we decided to stop into Allagash to see the space and of course, sample some Maine brewed beer. 

Entrance to Allagash Brewing Company

A great and very busy brewery in an awesome space.  On a "campus" or I guess you could call it an industrial area with several other breweries and distilleries.  Free tours, FREE TASTINGS and a really cool tasting room and patio (covered and with heaters in the winter).  I loved that the patio was dog-friendly and I can see how this would be an amazing spot in the summer, making your way through the various breweries, distillery and food trucks.  While here in January, we tasted four beers, all delicious with my favorite being their classic (and first beer!) Allagash White.  Little Brett was a close second and the porter was a delicious winter treat.  White makes it pretty far across the U.S. and it is pretty common to see it bottled at various restaurants in New England. 

While most breweries are just trying to sell beer (and it seems to be all about IPAs these days), Allagash is working on expanding on and perfecting Belgian Ales.  If you like Belgian beers and want to taste and tour the operation, this is a great stop in Maine.  While the tours were booked up, we were told we absolutely have to come back to see the operation.  Tours are free but book up quickly (reserve in advance online).  While the tastings are free, you cannot order a pint at the bar, beer is only sold to go.  They have some various merchandise and snacks available for sale as well.  If you love the local beer scene after your tasting at Allagash, you can turn this into a full out Maine Brew Tour.  Head across the street to try out Foundation Brewing Co, Austin Street Brewing, Bissel Brothers Brewing, New England Distilling and Geary's Brewing. 

Entrance to Allagash Brewing Company
Allagash Brewing Company has been in the area since 1995 brewing Belgian inspired beer.   Founder Rob Tod started the brewery as a "one man show" after he determined there was something missing in the craft brewing movement.  German and British style beers were getting popular in the U.S. but Belgian styles were still hard to come by.  Tod sampled a variety of unique Belgian style beers and wanted to bring these flavors and styles to the U.S. beer movement.  It all started with a small 15-barrel brewhouse started up with used equipment to start his journey into Belgian-style ales.  The first batch of beer, the Allagash White (my favorite) was sold in the summer of 1995.  Since then, Allagash has grown and is available in 17 states.  Despite the growth and increase in demand, they are still brewing beers in that same brewhouse and still aging and bottling specialty beers in the warehouse were the first batches of Allagash white were produced.  

What's in a name? I did a little research and discovered that the brewery was named after a section of northwest Maine (basically the Canadian border, in line with Quebec), a section of the Maine northern woods and scenic area encompassing the Allagash Wildlife Waterway.   "
From the top of Mt. Katahdin, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway stretches northward as far as the eye can see. The river winds through swampy conifer forests and between ridges of hardwoods. This resource includes Allagash Lake, the Allagash River and several interconnecting lakes".

Hours of Operation at Allagash

Allagash Brewing Company is located on 50 Industrial Way in Portland, Maine (04103).  Open from 11 am to 6 pm and tastings are offered up to 15 minutes before closing. CONTACT: 207.878.5385 / 800.330.5385

Allagash is open from 11 am to 6 pm daily for free beers and tours.  Yes, you read that right.  FREE beer and awesome tours.  Allagash offers four 3 oz pours of beer free to everyone who stops by!  While the beer is easy to get, the tours are a little harder to join.  I am sad to say the tours were sold out for the entire day of our visit but if you are more organized than me, you can book your tour in advance online HERE. I hear the tour is a must, just make sure you book it early online as they do book up quickly.  

After parking, we got in line outside for our token into the tasting room.  There is a large tasting room with the main bar and merchandise, as well as a large "covered patio" where more tables are set and dogs are allowed (in the covered patio only, not in the tasting room).  There are heaters to help warm the space but you are still virtually outside.  I can see how this spot is perfection in the summer but I have to admit, quite chilly on a Maine January day.  We traded in our token for a flight of four of their beers on tap.  Starting with their most famous (and my favorite!) the white, working our way down to the stout.  
Free Tasting at Allagash!

From Left to Right:  Hibernal Fluxus, Little Bret, Hoppy Table Beer, and White

Hibernal Flux (8% ABV) A Belgian style stout brewed with figs! A great winter stout with a fun addition of figs.  Definitely a one and done stout but very drinkable. "It's taste straddles the rift between roasty and sweet with notes of bitter baking chocolate, espresso, biscuit malt, and mocha—a chewy, creamy inauguration of a new tradition". 

Hoppy Table Beer:4.8% ABV, with coriander brewed in the Belgian tradition of low-ABV easily drinkable beer while still having a hop forward taste.  While Hoppy Table Beer was inspired by the Belgian tradition of low-ABV, easily drinkable beers, it still occupies a hop-forward spot all its own. Easy to drink but a little too bitter for my taste. In the world of IPA's, I am not a fan of the huge hoppy flavor and prefer the citrusy taste of mosaic hops. 

Little Brett: 4.8% ABV.  This was a favorite right behind their traditional white.  "Much of the aroma and flavor of Little Brett comes from its fermentation in stainless with our house strain of 100% Brettanomyces yeast. One malt, our 2-row barley blend, and one hop, Mosaic, add to its simple, yet balanced characteristics. An aroma bursting with pineapple and notes of bread crust. Pineapple continues through the flavor with additional notes of fresh cut grass. A mild tartness in the finish is rounded out by a pleasant hop-bitterness".  Great crisp beer with the citrusy mosaic hops I love! 
White:  5.1 % ABV.  This has everything I love in a belgian style beer.  Think a blue moon with more complexity and flavor.  Orange peel and coriander make this a refreshing and delicious beer.  "Our interpretation of a Belgian-style wheat beer is brewed with oats, malted wheat, and unmalted raw wheat for a hazy, “white” appearance. Spiced with our own special blend of coriander and CuraƧao orange peel, White upholds the Belgian tradition of beers that are both complex and refreshing".
Little Brett, Hoppy Table Beer and White 
What makes Allagash so rad?  Well, they make some great beers.  They were one of the first to start focusing on Belgian style beers.  Even while they continue to grow, you can tell they care more about quality control more than meeting huge production numbers.  Offering free tastings to anyone who walks in the door is pretty unheard of.  They just want you to come in enjoy the space and try their beer (and take some home of course!).  I also loved their artwork and logos on the various bottles and merchandise available for sale.  It's all about those little details sometimes. 

The dog-friendly covered patio with heaters
Best of all, Allagash is all about giving back to the community.  Allagash tries to buy locally as much as they can in hopes to give back to the state they call home.  They also offer community grants to organizations "who provide basic human needs for the people of Maine". On a smaller scale, the purchase and sale of certain beer will go towards various causes. For example, a portion of the proceeds from Hibernal Fluxus goes to Window Dressers, a local group helping underprivileged Maine families conserve fuel and reduce heating costs through the winter. You can even request a donation of beer for an event (you must be a Maine- based organization with a non-profit 501c3 status). 

At the end of the day, you can't help but love companies like Allagash Brewing.  People creating great beer in an awesome space, running a company with a strong sense of community involvement.  Another gem in Portland, Maine.  Make it a whole day of local beer when you continue on in the industrial park to try out Austin Street Brewery, Foundation Brewing, Geary's Brewing and New England Distilling.  In the meantime, I will be enjoying my new purchases of White and Little Brett.

Katie Wanders 


  1. Oh I love Allagash White! Yum. I also cannot get on board with this "go IPA or go home" thing, so I'll definitely want to stop here this summer! Great review. :)

    1. Me too! Such a great and easy to drink beer. Definitely make this a stop on your list :)

  2. Great writeup! I liked Allagash on a recent visit, too, and the White is a classic now. Yet there’s so much great beer coming out of breweries in Portland, Maine, it wasn't my favorite (the location way out on Industrial didn't help). Liquid Riot, Rising Tide, and Bunker are excellent and make for a good walking-and-drinking tour.

    1. Hi Peter, Thanks for reading! Glad you also liked the White! I agree there are SO many breweries in Portland right now and the location is not ideal. However I thought they were such a breath of fresh air from the IPA scene. Also loved the dog friendly patio and free tastings are hard to beat! I also really enjoyed Urban Farm Fermentory. If you haven't been there yet, I HIGHLY recommend it!


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