Regulars and craft beer lovers alike gathered at SideDoor in Corona del Mar Thursday for Allagash Brewery's Tap Takeover event. The Portland, ME brewery is renowned for their high-quality Belgian-style beers and offered California a special taste of several beers that rarely make their way out to the West Coast. Even beer snobs who've tried it all had opportunity for surprise last night.
SideDoor, the atmospheric English-style pub attached to Five Crowns, cleared nine taps for the event and stocked them with some of Allagash's more experimental brews and secured a limited quantity of two specialty bottles for the event: the Fluxus 2012 and the FV 13. The brewery's more traditional brews such as the White, Black and Triple were available in bottles as well.
Hallie Beaune of Allagash was there, mingling and offering a well of knowledge about the featured brews. We asked her about some of the more unique beers available for the evening and here's what we found out:
The FV 13 is rarely available for sale outside of Allagash's Maine brewery but SideDoor was lucky enough to score a few bottles for the night. Released in February, FV13 is the result of their first attempt at a foudre beer, or a beer aged in a giant oak tank. The end result is a fruity, tart beer with an 8.9% ABV. It was sold in 375mL bottles for $35.
The other specialty star of the evening was Fluxus 2012. The recipe for Fluxus changes yearly, usually brewed by different Allagash employees. Each year it is re-released to celebrate their anniversary. The 2012 edition is a golden ale, characterized by its spiciness with a hint of mango. The beer has a 7.7% ABV and was available in a 750mL bottle for $40.
Two of my personal favorites were available on draft: Victoria Ale and Interlude. While I'm admittedly more of a beer drinker than a wine gal, I enjoyed both of these unique play-on-wines. Victoria (9% ABV) is made with over 200 pounds of chardonnay grapes which they crush themselves at the brewery and then blend with the mash. The end result is a medium-bodied ale with a taste surprisingly complementary to white wine grapes. A bold, but worthy experiment. Proceeds from Victoria Ale sales go to the Victoria Mansion in Portland, ME, built in 1858, and the site of the brewer's inspiration for a beer-wine fusion.
The Interlude (9.5% ABV) also flirts with wine: the farmhouse ale is partially aged in French Merlot and Sirah oak barrels. The ale itself has pear, graham cracker and bread crust flavors, but the wine barrels give it a great taste, reminiscent of a crisp wine. It's only released in limited quantities once a year.
We tried a flight, available as four four-ounce tasters for $22, of the some other drafts: Yakuza Triple, Victor, Grand Cru and Midnight Brett.
Yakuza Triple, named after the Japanese Mafia, is a strong golden ale, only available in very limited-release kegs. It has 9.5% ABV, despite being chock-full of Sorachi Ace and Cascade hops, it's light in color not overly hoppy at all. Of course, Allagash is not one to lean toward ultra-hoppy beers, despite their popularity.
Victor Ale (just like its sister beer Victoria Ale) adds crushed grapes, this time cabernet franc, to the mash. The profits of Victor Ale go to charity as well with proceeds going to the St Lawrence Art Center in Portland, ME.
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Grand Cru (7.2% ABV) is a spiced winter ale, released once yearly. The golden ale is lighter than most winter ales but full-flavored with orange peel, coriander and anise.
Beaune, the Allagash rep, brought in a very rare keg of Midnight Brett, a palatable sour blend. It's tart with sour cherries but balanced with a fruity taste from fresh berries. The 7.3 ABV brew was released in May and is made with Allagash's house strain of Brettanomyces (a yeast native to nearby Brussels, Belgium). The special yeast and the dark, deep color of the beer gives it its name. Seeing as it's only available via limited edition kegs, it seems as if you'll be lucky to try this again locally any time soon, but it's well worth seeking out.
SideDoor will continue showcasing great craft breweries, the next Tap Takeover hosted by Firestone Walker Brewing Company on July 31.