Allagash is trying to break our hearts. And it’s not gonna apologize.
Long a darling of the American craft beer scene, Allagash Brewing unites both novices and the most jaded of beer geeks in a kind of giddy adoration befitting junior high crushes. With its near style-defining White, its steadfast avoidance of the hazy juicy hopfest of recent years, and its vibe-inducing social media channels, Allagash exudes brand confidence in a seemingly effortless manner. The brewery’s same breezy on the surface approach to its new beer releases belies a smart, focused effort to connect consumers with the essence of Allagash.
Every few months, Allagash’s limited release series drops a new beer or two, often with little fanfare. Allagash’s new beers create excitement among the lucky few that try them. But then, like meeting a fascinating stranger on a plane, they disappear into the ether, almost never to reappear. This is all part of the Allagash vibe, hard work and focus on creating the best possible beers but with little time for nostalgia.
Allagash’s employees develop these new beers in secret with everyone pitching in ideas in a blind process. As part of Allagash’s pilot brewing program, every staff member can anonymously propose a new beer. The pilot brewery team then gets together and decides which beer ideas to develop into recipes and eventually test brew on the brewery’s tiny 10 gallon batch system, which was custom built to mimic the brewery’s larger 30 and 60 barrel brewhouses. Only after a beer is selected does Allagash reveal the submitter. And Allagash turns a lot of these ideas into actual beers, having brewed hundreds on the tiny system. To date, more than a dozen of the employee suggested test beers have graduated into full production releases. These include Two Lights, a lager brewed with sauvignon blanc must suggested by Allagash’s sales coordinator, Mariah, Haunted House, a dark hoppy ale derived from the mind of Seán, the engineering lead at Allagash, and World on a String, an interpretation of an Old Fashioned cocktail thanks to Heather, a Quality Control Specialist in Allagash’s lab.
If the pilot batches make it into full production on the larger systems, they’re still only meant to be temporary, ephemeral beer drinking experiences. With Allagash’s one-off specialty releases, you always want them to stage a comeback or linger a while, but they never do. Well, almost never. You can occasionally find a new batch of an old favorite on tap in Allagash’s tasting room in the beer friendly city of Portland, Maine, such as recently happened with Two Lights, but it’s pretty rare.
Floating Holiday is one of the newest pilot batch offerings. It’s a saison in character but branded as a Blonde Ale as the brewery famously known for producing Belgian style beers admits it’s hard to sell a saison. Brewed with flaked oats, lemon peel, and sea salt, the aroma fills with lovely Belgian yeast notes, phenolic like a spicy wit, with a nice balance of underlying malt. Medium bodied and easy drinking, Floating Holiday sweetens a touch as it warms while still maintaining a lovely saison, ahem, Blonde Ale character.
Floating Holiday is joined in the recent rotation by another classic style, this time a Czech inspired lager called Seconds to Summer. Brewed with Belgian pilsner malt and Czech Saaz and Kazbek hops, the aroma fills with notes of light corn and bright, grassy notes. As with Floating Holiday, the beer sweetens a touch as it warms, with the flavor remaining slightly bitter as a balance, including a surprisingly lengthy stretch through to the finish. In the middle, it’s a touch earthy and biscuity at times but remains dry.
The can art for both brands is fun, light, colorful, and almost impressionistically cartoonish, in the best way. The Seconds to Summer can depicts a dock on a Maine lake, one that actually belongs to the employee who suggested the beer.
But try not to fall in love with either beer. Because when they’re gone, they’re probably done for good. Allagash out here just straight breaking hearts.