I tasted a lot of craft beers from the United States in 2013, from the wares of new breweries in the south and Pacific northwest to old favourites from across the land, in Wisconsin, California, Pennsylvania, Florida and everywhere in between.
There was one brewing company, however, that consistently impressed me, to the point that by the late summer I had scheduled a visit to the recently and spectacularly expanded facility. That brewery was Maine’s Allagash Brewing Company.
Now, I’ve been fond of Allagash for some time – who wouldn’t like a brewery that makes such a damn fine tripel? But in 2013, almost every bottle I opened from the brewery had me sitting back and staring in amazement at my glass. A few examples:
– Coolship Red, made in the fashion of a Belgian lambic fruit beer, but with Maine yeasts rather than Belgian ones effecting the fermentation, was simply spectacular when I tasted it in August, with a bewitching maturity that had lingering notes of sweet fruit blending seamlessly with the citrusy, horseblankety, hay and funk of the body, along with a very soft spiciness.
– Curieux, the always illogically delightful product of Allagash Tripel having been aged in Jim Beam barrels, reached a new level of complexity in 2013, and scored a half-star higher in my revised rating for the next edition of The Pocket Beer Guide.
– Confluence, described on the label as “ale fermented with Brett and dry-hopped,” achieved the seemingly impossible, with a funky, hoppy character that should please lambic lover and IPA aficionado alike.
– Prince Tuesday, a beer made in collaboration with Rising Tide Brewing, offered one of the finest aromas I nosed all year, mixing carnations and passionfruit, lemon and key lime, or as my wife so astutely put it, “smelling like happiness.”
Of course, there were others besides, many of them, but these “Best of…” posts aren’t supposed to be about the qualities of individual beers. No, they are meant to highlight the brilliance of a single brewery over the course of a calendar year, and in that regard Allagash achieved in spades, making it my no-doubt pick as U.S. Brewery of the Year for 2013.