in which two old friends discuss three beers from Atlantic Brewing Co.
Jake: Atlantic Brewing Company was started in Bar Harbor in 1991 — “on the eve of the microbrewing revolution,” according to their website.
Travis: BAH-HAHBAH DUDE, RIGHT BUCKY?
J: I know, right? Have you spent much time in Bar Harbor? How do you feel about it?
T: Well, Jake, I love Bar Harbor, and all of Mt. Desert Island, to be completely honest. I get the bourgeois and the tourism, comes with the territory with an area that gorgeous. Acadia is the most beautiful place on Earth. Now, you’re a natural born hiker and traditional Mainer. How do you feel on Bar Harbor’s tourism industry?
J: Listen, I can’t knock on the tourism industry in Bar Harbor, because I’m not from there and I know that a large portion of the local economy depends on summer visitors. Like, I imagine driving through there in the winter is akin to being in The Road, if you just replace the radioactive ash with snow and the cannibals with buoys. I don’t want to go on a tirade listing my issues with a certain subject in a hysterical fashion here, to paraphrase Dennis Miller, but there are a lot of places in Maine I avoid in the summer because of the tourists, and Bar Harbor is one of them. The tourists — I’m sure they’re lovely people, but when I can’t drive down a road or walk down a sidewalk because there are hundreds of people in the way who have far more money than I have, wearing sweatshirts that feature a lobster playing cards with a moose in a lighthouse, it makes some part of me wish for a combination land-and-sea border fence that will keep them out of the 23rd state. And how do you feel about revolutions, microbrewing and otherwise?
T: As far as revolutions, I’m glad I have front seats on the indie-brewing front, watching local brewers doing what they do best. On the Robot front, I’m honestly concerned, because the machines will come for us, I just pray I’m dead before it happens. And no, I’m not having kids. I would fear too much for their safety.
J: Atlantic Brewing Company — what do you think about the name?
T: Straight-forward marketing. The creative juices flow a bit overboard when it comes to a title, even with beer names sometimes. I can clearly see ABC (oh my god, that just hit me) got first rights to the key-word “Atlantic.” The salt water is in their blood, and their beer. It’s memorable, and strong, good authority to it. No one else has it.
J: That ABC thing is blowing my mind. I didn’t notice it either.
J: There are a lot of fruity/flavored beers around (these days?): Shipyard’s Blueberry, Applehead, and Pumpkinhead; Sea Dog’s Wild Blueberry, Raspberry Wheat and Apricot; Abita’s raspberry Purple Haze; and Magic Hat’s apricot #9 and elderberry Elder Betty, to name a few. So let’s put this one on front street: Fruit beers. What do you think? Do you like mixing beer and fruit? Are you okay with adding a fruity or vegetabley flavor to the traditional flavors of malt and hops?
T: I feel strongly about this. Fruit beers catch a bad reputation in areas, and there be haters out there who straight disclaim on them. Through personal experience, there is some tension between people who don’t like flavors, and people who honestly enjoy the flavor of apples, blueberries, or pumpkin. This negative connotation must be stopped. I dig on pumpkin beers because I love pumpkins, cider for apples, et cetera. Classic ales will always be there, but for everyone who rejects variety, change or other scary new things: Quit hating. Don’t look good. Just nod and respect, different strokes, you know? This has been a message from Travis Curran, and I endorse it.
J: I’ve got no problem with fruit beers. I’m imagining a strong tradition here — the first brewers, wearing nothing but loincloths and brewing in holes in the ground, just throwing fruit into their beers to see what would happen. I’m not sure this is accurate, but it certainly took place in my brain. I just think fruit beers get out of hand when they try to taste like fruit instead of beer. How do you feel about this one in particular?
T: The Blueberry Ale actually plays the flavor game just right. The bottle will tell you they put blueberries in the mix while brewing it, but the profile of the beer isn’t loaded. I ain’t dropping names, but some other blueberry-types really push it, letting the sugar dominate your senses. Your tongue screams “Holy shit, Blueberry!!” Atlantic lets the blueberry land in the finish, as a sweet afterthought on your palate.
J: You are totally right about how the blueberry taste lands at the end. Like Gabby Douglas on the uneven bars, the real performance is her routine in the air, but if she doesn’t stick the landing it’s all for naught. Atlantic wowed me in the air with a real beer-first fruit beer, then they stuck the landing with that blueberry taste. It’s a beer first, and a handful of blueberries second. Have you ever raked blueberries before?
T: Never with the proper tools (the rake). Only handpicked in the wild, and on acres behind my house in Waterford. Blackberries, too. I would eat blackberries by the quart, which made selling them hard for my mother, because she wouldn’t sell them. I ate them. Love blueberries on pancakes, in my ice cream, showing up on all kinds of levels. It’s a Maine thing, I don’t question why; you can’t ask a fish what type of water it prefers. Or if it ever clocked manual labor in a field for that water, to get back to your question. Do you think Atlantic Brewing helps Maine live up to its national reputation with this choice?
J: Maine is “the number one exporter of blueberries” and “produces 25% of all lowbush blueberries in North America,” according to Wikipedia. From personal experience, I can say that the area of Midcoast Maine where I grew up has a Blueberry Festival and crowns a Blueberry Queen. Blueberries are a Maine thing, and using beer to evangelize our blueberry dominance seems as good a strategy as any.
J: Oh man, I think I’ve found my favorite of the bunch. I’m predicting here, forecasting into the future, but this strikes me as a quality brown that’s tasty and easy to drink. I’m a man who loves a good brown ale — a REAL brown ale, if you will. The Bar Harbor Real is nutty and malty from start to finish, with a little sticky sweetness to let you know you’re having a good time. I reach for a brown when I’m having pub food, and I could drink bottle after bottle of this with steaks and burgers. What are your thoughts on brown ales?
T: Browns speak tradition. Truly a go-to in case some indecision sets within a group. Let the basic ingredients do the talking. Brown ales always have that classic taste. I don’t know how the Smuttynose guys do it but the Old Brown Dog stands out. No frills, no shticks, a brown just does it right. Going with “Real”, I think the Atlantic guys are letting you know exactly what to expect. This is beer. You’re fucking welcome.
J: Yeah, why is this called a “Real Ale?” Let me take a stab at that too. A lot of ales that you encounter these days? Bullshit. Gussied up swill made with subpar ingredients. You’re not drinking it for taste, know what I mean? Those ales are some fake-ass shit, all advertising and girls in bikinis and no substance. Budweiser is a sponsor of the Olympics, and this is almost enough to make me hate athletes. This ale, though, is the Real Deal Holyfield. This ale is a real friend, one that’s there for you. When you’ve had a bad day, the Bar Harbor Real Ale is going to get real with you, and talk about the stuff that matters, maybe on a porch or in front of a grill. The ABC (still love it) website touts this beer’s three different malts and two different hops. Can you taste them all? How refined is your palate? At what point is it too refined? Shouldn’t putting things in your mouth be fun?
T: Try enough caviar and inevitably you’ll pick favorites. Beer tasting gets real refined, reaching extreme through exposure and research, to the point someone can prefer what coast the hops come from. It is appreciation, and preference. I like more coffee malts than ones that taste like hazelnut. But I see what you’re getting at.. some folks get more into it than others, i.e. over 50% of the “reviews” on websites, deconstructing the beer, using acronyms and scientifically removing the concept of fun. You can see the variety of experiences, and with no context, just skeletons they add fancy words too, most credibility is lost… The way they write it, you might even think they actually don’t like beer. Let me put it like this: I can’t stand anyone who brags about their palate, food or beer or wine, with a holier-than-thou attitude. Pretending opinions align on this giant invisible scale of quality ends up either pretentious or redundant. You either like something, or you don’t. Anyone reading this will agree: people are straight-up snobs on certain topics, so have conversational tact in person, and just count on them giving their two cents to the Internet.
J: Existentially speaking, what makes an ale “real” to you?
T: I just ranted about snobs and now you’re all “existentially speaking.” Okay, that’s fine, I’ll play ball. I prefer ale that gets historic. Served in public houses. Shared among friends. My ideal ale is something you pass to an old fellow, off your recommendation, that makes him smile with surprise. “My word,” he says, with a knowing look of common respect. He has a beard. It is salt-and-pepper. Beer should bring you back to a place. And you had a good time. Beer should bring people together. Think campfires. Exactly. Now, this beer was birthed in 1991, and it’s older than most children these days. Did you notice? Call it on its birthday? Will our kids’ kids enjoy it?
J: Can I call this beer “precocious?” This beer is very smart for its age. I think you’re underestimating the ravages of time, though — somebody born in 1991 would be 21. That’s right, there are twenty-somethings running around now who were born in the nineties, that oh-so-recent time when we were watching TGIF and drinking Orbitz. We’re getting old. Now I’m depressed. Hand me another Real Ale, will you? Things just got far too genuine for me.
J: When it comes to a summer beer, I’m looking for something bright and light. Sunshine in a glass. I like wheat beers and hefeweizens, and I’m no expert, but it seems to me like breweries like to draw from these big schools, flavor-wise, when they’re working on a summer ale. It’s like a traditional lager or pilsner, but it’s also got a bit of fruit or wheat, something sweet that makes it light and summery without making it heavier. Listen: They add something, but don’t make it heavier, is what I’m saying. Brewmasters are physics wizards. This ABC Summer Ale hits those light, summery points, with a little sweetness that reminds me of Geary’s or Shipyard’s Summer Ale. Despite the lightness I can still taste the hops… it’s a little spicy, but not as spicy as it smells. That’s not a knock, the spices just leapt at my nose like that shark going for the seagulls in that YouTube video. What do you think is special about summer seasonal beers?
T: Beer labels always throw out the “crisp” and “light” adjectives, if the climate is perfect or not so much these days. Summer brews will always rock the refreshing angle, which includes a lemon wedge (or lime wedge, if that’s your trick). But summer also means a little spice. And I’m not talkin’ HEAT, just a lil’ sumthin sumthin to wake up your taste buds, that you could measure in a dash. I’m crazy on ‘Weizens, so they’re definitely favored in a summer pick over a more watered down lager. I can recognize the need to crack open a cold can and crush it, especially for sporting events. If it’s July-August and even a regular shirt feels like a hot prison, then I’d put my feet up with a white, Belgian-style, and remember why I survived the winter. Atlantic Brewing hits that right on the noggin’.
J: Summer Ale, Summer Olympics. Coincidence?
T: Well, Jacob, I’m a detective, so we don’t believe in coincidences. The Olympic Games are over, but still reside in our hearts. Watching the pinnacle of human achievement does something special to each and every one of us. The same with watching waves crash and roll against the flat, wet sand. Gulls call, children are playing, hey look, bikinis, and you’ve perfectly molded the sand to hold your chilled bottle upright, water precipitates on the glass. I’ll queue up some table-tennis or javelin toss tonight, I’ll drive to the beach tomorrow. Have you seen water polo? That shit is just insane. Do you think Olympic athletes need to unwind with some recreational brewskis too? What about calories?
J: It’s fitting that we drank these while we watched the gymnastics finals, because the Summer Ale is golden like an Olympic medal (USA! USA!). Of course athletes need brewskis. I rarely have the hopes and dreams of a nation resting on my performance at work, and I still feel the need to unwind with a brew, so I can only imagine Olympians feel the same way. I know beer isn’t the healthiest drink, but any calories you get from a cold hoss are going to be burned off in your first triple-rotation breaststroke hurdling javelin toss anyhow, so why not live a little? There’s no “Gatorade Summer.” Leave it to microbreweries to create drinks specifically geared towards the changing seasons. This brew was engineered for summer games, built for track and field, constructed from the ground up to accompany a dip in the pool. I guess what I’m saying is that McKayla Maroney is counting the days until she can have one of these babies legally, calories be damned. From the Atlantic Brewing website: “This ale is light and crisp, yet retains the body and character of a microbrew.” What are they getting at with that “character of a microbrew” line? What does that even mean?
T: I think that copy is really aiming for the cheap seats, some dudes all picking it up because they don’t want to be the third guy to show up with Coronas. “Hey, we’re like other summer beers, but we’re a bit better, cool?” is all I’m hearing. And I believe. Geary’s Summer is spicier, Shipyard is too bland, I would grab a Brooklyn Summer before any of them. And not just to be that guy at the party. If you were to show up to a pool party, with a sixer of Atlantic Brewing Summer Ales, and a pretty girl wanted one, but asked first, how would you describe it?
J: “Hey girl. Let me pop that for you — but don’t bite in just yet. Take a sniff. That’s the smell of summer. That’s the smell of freedom and good times, girl. Now take a taste. Isn’t that sweet? Isn’t that summery? Don’t look at the pool. Close your eyes. That sound, that’s not a pool. That’s the ocean. We’re on a beach, and the sun is shining. I don’t care about the past. The future is laid out in front of us like a blank canvas. Paint with me, girl. Paint the summertime.” I should also note that the entire time, I’m flexing. Was that not clear? It should be, because I’ll be flexing, like, wicked hard.