Allagash Odyssey is a dark wheat beer in the Belgian Strong Dark Ale style, brewed with Belgian candi sugar and aged in oak. Another way to describe it would be “brilliant.” The nose holds promises of raisins, figs, and ginger. The middle is mellow and muted due to the wheat, with clear and refined flavors of raisins, plums, dates, and a bit of coffee. While the middle is sweet, the finish is dry and flavors that come forward are vanilla, cocoa and tobacco. The body is heavy and the alcohol is an age-able 10.4% ABV. The suggested drinking window is two years, and the example I’m drinking in February 2015 was bottled in January 2014, and it’s clearly still in its prime. My bottom line is that this beer is another long home run from Allagash.
So Allagash is one of my new favorite breweries, and Curieux is a perfect example of why. They’ve started with an excellent-in-its-own-right Tripel Ale, and aged it to perfection in Jim Beam bourbon barrels, then blended with fresh Tripel Ale. Because of that last step, this is not one of the many bourbon barrel ales that come out of the process harsh and boozy, packing a punch but not a lot of sophistication. The nose is light and fruity with banana, peach, a hint of pineapple and vanilla. The middle has some heat from the copious alcohol (this beer is 11% ABV) and notes of coconut, banana, and papaya. The finish has a spicy pepper bite that mellows into a soft vanilla on the back of the tongue. This is a medium weight beer, so the body is not particularly heavy but it’s still advisable to use a snifter or other glass that will allow you to appreciate a smaller pour due to the 11% ABV alcohol level. This is an amazing beer, and it’s available year-round, so if you can find Allagash in your area, look for this one.
Interlude is a Saison style ale from the Allagash Brewing Company of Maine. It’s one of their specialty beers, not a year-round offering, and the version that I’m tasting tonight, bottled in October 2013, is indeed special. Farmhouse ales tend to be complex and interesting, but generally (not always) on the milder side of the flavor spectrum. This is one of the outliers. The addition of wild yeast (Brettanomyces) gives this the brilliant, sharp, tangy, fruity flavor of a wild lambic. One of the first things I noticed about this beer is it didn’t build a particularly large head, and the head that was built dissipated quickly. The nose is mild with pear and apricot, and a tiny hint of the yeast notes typical of a Belgian style. The middle is explosively flavorful and mouth-puckeringly tart. More pear, some raspberry, and a lot of grape here. The tartness fades into sweetness in the finish, with more grape and a bit of sweet bread, with a strong undercurrent of heat from the alcohol, which is a not-insubstantial 9.5% ABV. The body is medium weight, not particularly heavy, but it packs a punch. One of the best beers I’ve had this year.