When it comes to beer, I feel pretty damn lucky living in Portland.
It’s no secret that Maine in general, and Portland in particular, has a high concentration of breweries and brewpubs for such a small population. More importantly, these breweries are producing some super high-quality beer. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of awards that our friendly neighborhood brewers have brought home.
This reputation for world-class beer has drawn folks “from away” to Maine to collaborate with local breweries. Peak Organic‘s Maple Oat Ale, for example, is brewed with maple syrup from Vermont’s Butternut Mountain Farm. Shipyard famously uses Ringwood yeast, a privately-owned English strain that they are allowed to use due to founder Alan Pugsley’s relationship with the Ringwood Brewery.
However, the boys from Belgium’s De Struise Brouwers likely hold the record for longest-distance collaborators. During a trip to Maine last summer, De Struise brewmaster Urbain Coutteau, brewers Carlo Grootaert, Phil Driessens and Peter Bruin, homebrewer/chef Sean Paxton and Allagash brewmaster Jason Perkins worked together to create the Allagash Fedeltá. The five worked as a team to brew the Belgian-style blonde, a version of a recipe De Struise Brouwers had brewed back in Belgium. At his website homebrewchef.com, Paxton has a recap of the brewing of Fedeltá, with tons of absolutely gorgeous photos.
Although the Fedeltá has been kicking around New England since last fall, I didn’t have a chance to try it until this weekend. The brew was is on tap at the Great Lost Bear as part of their dedicated “Allagash Alley“, and goes for $6 for a 13.5 oz pour.
From the Allagash website;
Fedeltá, 8.2% Blonde was brewed using a selection of imported Pilsner Malt, Domestic Pale Malt as well as 15% Wheat Malt. American Cascade and Amarillo Hops were also selected resulting in 35 IBU. Also added in the boil was Cane Sugar and Honey. Fedeltá was fermented with our house Belgian-style strain, producing a subtle ester profile. The result is a smooth beer with subtle flavors of spice, honey, and vanilla as well as citrus hop flower notes. Fedeltá will be available in limited markets, draft only in the fall.
Served in an Allagash tulip glass, the Fedeltá pours with a thick, foamy white head. The look of the beer in the glass is simply beautiful – kind of a honey yellow, but with some orange and gold speckled through as well. The brew isn’t clear or cloudy, but just has a slight haze that keeps it from being transparent. The aroma really feels like an authentic Belgian, with spice and clove rising above a solid base of toasty wheat. There is a lot more going on behind these maquee scents as well, with citrus, pepper and vanilla sneaking around in the background.
On a taste, the first impression that comes through is the fruity tang of green apple and Belgian estery yeast, with that wheat backing that there was a hint of in the nose. There is so much going on, it’s hard to put a finger on all the flavors that parade around in the Fedeltá. With the aforementioned few, there are whispers of vanilla, honey, American hops, lemon and candi sugar. The strength and complexity is really something, and the brew really lends itself to sipping and savoring. The finish is crisp and dry, much like a sweet white wine. The aftertaste lingers for a long time, and the alcohol is definitely noticable, but not abrasive.
Although I’m glad I live close enough to get this beer again on tap, it is a bummer that Allagash isn’t bottling the Fedeltá for distribution. Even in a spectacularly strong lineup of beer, the Fedeltá stands out as a great Belgian-style ale from Allagash. The brewery’s reputation as possibly the best American brewer of Belgian ales is well-deserved, and this collaboration with De Struise will only strengthen that reputation.