With brewpub locations in Portland, South Portland and Gorham and a 6,000 barrels-per-year production facility in Gorham, we’re guessing that many of you have yet to taste–let alone hear about–anything from Maine-based Sebago Brewing Company. Hopefully this will change for beer lovers in Massachusetts, as Sebago has been making a push in the Commonwealth. Within the past year or so, they’ve made strides with notable brews Frye’s Leap IPA and Boathouse Brown Ale, both of which seem to fare well with beer geeks.
This week we’re tasting one of their fall seasonal offerings made with wild blueberries, Maine’s official state berry. Bypassing the cute play on words, Bass Ackwards Berryblue Ale is crafted in small 20-barrel batches. With over 420 pounds of freshly harvested Maine blueberries per batch, it’s quite unlike many fruit-infused beers that use flavorings, syrups or extracts. The base is a pale ale brewed with American 2-row barley, caramel malts and Northwest hops. Let’s give it a try …
Pours a deep ruby, purple-hued brew. A head of red-tinted white foam drops to a semi-translucent lace. In the nose there’s a big blast of fruit, fresh blueberries and a dose of buttery diacetyl. Body is light, leaning toward a malty medium, with a smooth and even feel on the palate. Carbonation seems a bit flat, producing a slight creaminess, but adding to the thin feel. Malty, moderately sweet, with a semi-slick buttery caramel note that hogs all of the attention. A bit metallic with a very thin fruitiness, mild blueberry notes and faint hop spiciness. Finish is dry and lackluster with husky tannins, which is not overly pleasant.
Not impressed, on many levels. First, that diacetyl has to go. This is a blueberry ale, so the focus should be those fresh Maine blueberries, not an overwhelming slick and buttery caramel. Second, the beer is flatter than expected; a dialed-in carbonation would help bring fruit to the front and provide a quenching crisp edge. Lastly, there’s surprisingly very little blueberry flavor. With the amount of blueberries used per batch, we expected to get hit over the head until stained blue.
Available August through October in 22-ounce bombers (Maine and Massachusetts only) and 4 percent alcohol by volume. Plan on paying under $5 per bomber–or even better, plan a road trip to Maine, visit one of their three brewpubs and check out their current beer offerings.