Mark this one down in the books folks, for Wednesday December 15, 2010 was an historic day. On that day, the Baxter Brewing Company of Lewiston, Maine held its first public tasting of the brewery’s first beers. And I was there. See, this is a big deal for me. I’ve only been interested in craft beer for a few years, so being able to see an entire brewery being built from the skeleton of an old mill, and then tasting the first (unfiltered test batch) fruits of its proverbial loins…well, that’s just an event you simply do not pass up. While the beers are only part of the first test batch, they are pretty close representations of what will be hitting store shelves and bar taps come early 2011.
Operations Manager and “Beer Babe” Steff (with 2 “effs”) Deschenes took a small group of lucky beer fans on a tour of the brewery that hopes to outgrow its brand new digs within the first few years of operation. After explaining the various parts of the brewery, we were led back into the retail shop/tasting room where with little fanfare, but much anticipation, the beers were poured. After some introductory words from Baxter Brewing founder Luke Livingston, Director of Brewing Operations Michael LaCharite took over to describe how each beer was made and what we should expect from each one. These guys know their beer.
Despite its namesake (Pamola, the Abenaki spirit of cold weather), subtle is the word for the Pamola XTRA Pale Ale. It starts off with a light, flowery bouquet on the nose, quite aromatic. When poured, a beautiful, thick and creamy head forms, which sits for several minutes and never completely disappates. That leads to beautiful lacing on the glass. The head sits on top of an ale that holds a sweet, clear straw color. Pamola XPA goes down super smooth, with a clean, light taste and a slightly hoppy finish. Overall, Pamola XTRA Pale Ale is a smooth and clean beer, and at 4.9% ABV, it ranks in as a pretty decent session ale.
The company describes this one as having, “Bold, complex flavors with a solid malt backbone and assertive hop profile, along with cold conditioning give this beer its crisp, clean finish.” I think that describes the other beer from Baxter perfectly. In the vein of the bold, daring brews from Dogfish Head, this canned beauty’s going to be a favorite among beer-o-philes for sure.
On the pour, you immediately get a whiff of the extra hops in this beer. Stick your nose in the glass, and holy wow, the flowery hops punch you in the nose. Like it’s smoother brother, Stowaway IPA lifts a strong, thick head with rich lacing on the glass, and settles on a rich amber hued liquid. This brew is aggressively hopped, and boy does it show. It’s not for the faint of heart. But it’s the malt backbone (which includes 5 different malts, including one from right here in Maine) that really sets this beer apart. Starting off, the IPA is smooth but strong. As it rolls on your tongue, you’re transported through all five malts before the hops kick in to balance things out. This results in a beer that’s not overly bitter but retains that hop flavor that so many people love. Stowaway IPA sits at a pretty decent 6.9% ABV, and you’ll feel that warmth as it slides down your gullet. I’m not usually an IPA guy, but with this one on the books, I can safely say that IPAs will start making their way into my fridge.
Keep an eye out in the New England states for Stowaway IPA and Pamola XTRA Pale Ale in mid to late January. The first production run is slated to begin next week, so you should start seeing these guys in your beer section or bar taps next month. It’s pretty exciting to see something like this manifest from the ground up, so I’m already a fan. Once you taste the beers, I’m pretty sure you will be too.