Rob Tod had worked in a few breweries before starting his one-man operation, Allagash Brewing Company
, in 1995. At that time, Americans were embracing craft beers, but British and German styles were the main inspiration for brewers in the United States, and most people couldn’t name a Belgian beer, much less say that they had tried one. Tod saw a void to fill, as well as a challenge to be met, since there were few people in the United States that could help them with the finer points of brewing Belgian-style beers, which have specific requirements related to ingredients and processes.
Undaunted, Tod, with the help of friends and family, built a 15-barrel brewery on the outskirts of Portland, Maine and set out to make beers inspired by Belgian brewing traditions. His first batches of Allagash White were available on tap in a few local bars and restaurants and were a hit, so Tod began bottling his creation and making it available throughout Maine. Over the last dozen years he has slowly added new styles while expanding his operations. Allagash has just moved into a new modern brewery, further expanding its capacity by 75 percent. Head Brewer Jason Perkins now turns out five classic styles (White, Dubbel, Tripel, Grand Cru, and Four), three barrel-aged beers, and a tribute series of special beers that benefit various charities, all in a Belgian style.
Have they ever considered branching out and brewing styles more familiar to Americans? Perkins says that it was a slow process educating customers on the beauty of Belgian beers, but the market has continued to expand, and they never get bored with their niche. “British and German beers are great, but they are a bit more restricted in terms of style guidelines. Belgian styles allow for a lot of creativity, and we have done our own interpretations of the classic styles. Our Hugh Malone from last year is a Belgian strong ale with an addition of Simpcoe hops, an American variety. And the Curieux is a tripel that’s been aged in casks of Jim Beam, a classic American spirit.” All of Allagash’s beers are bottle-conditioned, with all but the White being suitable for cellaring. In fact, Perkins recommends putting them aside for 6 months to two years to allow the flavors and alcohol to mellow.
The good news is that Allagash beers are soon going to be available in Georgia. In fact, if you hurry, you can get a special treat at the Brick Store Pub in Decatur, which received a few sixtels (1/6 barrel) of various styles. An oak-aged quadruple is on tap currently. Last week I sampled the curiously named Fluxus, Allagash’s newest beer, brewed to celebrate the completion of its new brewery. The Fluxus is a variation on a Belgian strong pale ale, featuring pilsner and rye malts and flavored with yarrow, a flowering plant used as a bittering agent before the introduction of hops. The viscosity added by the rye and the chamomile-like aroma of the yarrow make for a sticky, potent elixir, perfect for a crisp fall day.
John Schorn at Savannah Distributing reports that the Allagash order is scheduled to ship in early November and should be in stores and on draft in select pubs by Nov. 12. Six varieties will be available, five in cork-and-wire-sealed 750-ml bottles: White, Dubbel, Tripel, Fluxus, and Curieux. The White and Dubbel will also be available in 12-oz. bottles, as will the Grand Cru, a winter seasonal.