ALLAGASH ODYSSEY

As there is already plenty of information on this site about the Allagash Brewery in Portland, ME, I don’t think any further detail is necessary.  Just to refresh the memories of our devoted folower(s) though, this tasting is in response to the heated debate between myself and Brother Barley over the  merits of the Men from Maine.  I for one never found them all that appealing, Senor McHops however wanted to make their little corner of Portland a suburb of Bruxelles.   Let’s just say my friend thinks Allagash puts out some pretty good Belgian style ales.  I first re-tasted one from their regular lineup, the Double, which I quite enjoyed.  If people are talking up the virtues of Allagash though, I’m sure it’s not the Double and the often-exalted White they’re referring too.  I give you, the oak-aged Odyssey.

Odyssey is described on the brewer’s website as a “Dark, 10% ABV Wheat Beer”, so I’ll throw it in the Belgian Strong Ale category.  Call it a Belgian Style Dark Ale and I think you’re fine too (One, because it describes the beer.  Two, because I don’t really care).  They age some of the beer in toasted American oak and some of it in stainless steel, and I’m sure  a few years in the bottle would do this brew wonders.  Regardless, this tasting is from a “Fresh” bottle from their most recent vintage.

Poured from a 750ml corker, Odyssey shows a deep amber color with a massive head that never dissipates until the finish (Actually, there’s still plenty left at the bottom of the glass when you’re done).  On the nose there’s plenty of Belgian candy sugar, molasses, and just plain old fashioned sweet notes.  I get the same sour smell, albeit a very good sour, from every Allagash beer I open.  I don’t know if it’s the particular yeast strains they use or something else but I really like it.  Mouthfeel is a little syrupy up front but has a nice dry finish to it.  This is where I think a year of mellowing in the bottle would push the beer to another level (Level 11, if you will).  For a 10% ale, you really don’t notice much in terms of heat on the tongue.  It’s almost dangerously smooth with just enough of a bite to balance out the heavy use of fermentables.  I wouldn’t call it akin to a good German Dunkelweizen, but it has many of the same flavor profiles.  Sweet, nutty, dry – Many contrasting flavors that complement each other almost perfectly throughout.  Superb.

Once again, my perceptions on Allagash have changed for the better.  This is a gorgeous brew and one that any lover of traditional Belgian and even German beers should try. Maybe when I taste the other bottle I bought in a year I’ll move it up to the highest rating, but right now I’ll stick it in for 3.5 hops (I’d say 3.9, but I think half-hop ratings are plenty).  The only knock on this beer is that it needs time, which is absolutely no fault of the brewer.  If you can find it, this is a must try.

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7 comments

  1. Love that beer. It’s funny how our perception of breweries is so heavily dependent on their flagship offerings. I’ll admit the Allagash White is probably their worst year-round brew. It’s just too bad that most people are introduced to the brewery through that one. It’s actually not bad for the style (Belgian White), but when your main competition is a beer served with a slice of orange, you should probably pick a different style to market.

    What major breweries do you think have the best flagships? Sam? Sierra? Anchor?

  2. Good point about the flagship bias. I happen to like the Belgian White style and I don’t think Allagash stands up to many of the finer examples out there. Like you said, my perception of that one beer caused me to pass off everything else they had to offer.

    For major breweries with the best flagship, I think I have to go with Sierra’s Pale Ale. Sure, it’s one of my favorite beers of all time, but I think it fairly represents everything else that you’ll find from that brewery. Sam’s Boston Lager is pretty cool since it’s rare that a good brewery will pass off a lager for their flagship. Although, if you look at Victory and consider the Prima Pils their flagship, that would be a good exception (I like to think of the Hop Devil as their flagship though, just my opinion). I love Anchor Steam as much as the next guy, and that’s the flagship of all flagship beers since half the people out there call the brewery Anchor Steam, but it doesn’t hold up to some of the competition. I’m clearly rambling on so maybe you can get some sort of Bill James statistical analysis going and tell me what flagships are worth keeping in my lineup.

  3. I’m curious…when was the last time you had the Allagash White? I thought you were more like me and just didn’t “love” the style because of personal preference. Now that I know you like Belgian Whites, I wonder if it’s worth revisiting the Allagash. On BA, it’s one of the highest rated Whites…with a A- from the masses and a straight A from the Bros.

    Of course, you may well have had it recently and just didn’t like it…if that’s the case, ignore this comment.

  4. Did a little research, HopDevil actually IS Victory’s flagship…it comprises 52% of their total output. So that’s a GREAT flagship…

    I guess in terms of popularity, Fat Tire would certainly be up there.

  5. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the Allagash White. I’ve already submitted to trying all of the better beers from Allagash so let me at least have this one victory and claim that the White sucks. I know if I re-taste it I’ll probably change my mind. Maybe wait until we’re in Philly for the next Brew Crew trip and you can sneak one of these past me.

    I’m ecstatic that the Hop Devil is the flagship for Victory. I’ve already gushed over them for months so this really just pushes them over the edge for me. I was actually thinking Fat Tire when I mentioned that people think Anchor Steam is the name of Anchor’s brewery. I can’t imagine too many powder bunnies coming back from Aspen could tell you that they drank New Belgium’s flagship. They would definitely know Fat Tire though.

    I think it’s just about time for a “Worst Flagship Beer” post. #1 on this list for me will be Magic Hat #9, but I’m curious what else you’d put up there. It has to be a brewery that puts out other quality offerings though. I don’t think we need to afirm that Blue Moon and Coors Light are poor flagship beers.

  6. I submit Otter Creek Copper. It’s a fine beer and I certainly wouldn’t turn it away, but OC’s championship series are just so, so much better. The brewmaster said as much the last time I visited Middlebury, VT, where Otter Creek is located. He pointed to a bottle of Imperial IPA at the tasting counter and said “try this one last… if you try it first everything else will taste like water.” Fair ’nuff.

  7. […] ranks the state #4 nationally.  I’ve had plenty of Maine brews in the past, mostly from Allagash and Shipyard, but to get a little perspective I grabbed three very different beers to see what the […]

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