Curieux, To Say The Least

Allagash Brewing, Portland, Maine

Even if you don’t like beer, you owe it to yourself to try a Belgian brew (and if you do like beer, make it a double). The Belgians brew such fantastically flavorful and endlessly varied versions of the stuff that they really need a distinct classification to set them apart. Calling them ‘beers’ is just too limiting. But whatever you call them, Belgian beers are some of the best in the world.

What makes them so good is hard to say. It could be because they’ve been brewing beer seriously since the middle ages. But more likely it is because they’re not governed by some requirement or orthodox notion about what beer should be, they experiment with just about any combination. They add spices and sugars. They bottle them using the same methods applied to high end champagne and age them in oak like wine. If you can think of it, they’ve probably done it. After several hundred years of such experimentation, you’re bound to create something special. And they do.

So it was with great anticipation that we visited Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, ME. Allagash was one of the first artisan breweries to spring up in the 1990s that dedicated itself to the Belgian style of beer making. We had the opportunity to taste their original beer, Allagash White, a traditional Belgian wheat beer that is unfiltered and spiced with Curacao orange peels, and coriander. If that combination of spices makes you think we’re in an entirely different universe of brews, it’s because we are. But surprisingly, the spices are so well balanced and subtle that all you notice is that this golden hued beverage is deliciously different from what you normally get from similar looking beers. White is what we consider an everyday drinking beer; something refreshing on a hot afternoon or with a meal. It is a bit expensive to fill that purpose, but it would be nice to have a couple of bottles around for a change of pace every now and again.

Allagash Brewing, Portland, Maine

Barrel aged beer! Curieux?

Then we moved on to tasting the Dubbel and the Triple, which are heavier, more flavorful, and sweeter beers. We think of these as “dessert brews,” to be savored slowly and deliberately for their own sake. The mahogany-colored Dubbel knocked our socks off with its rich malty flavor and hints of sweet chocolate. We picked up a couple of four packs and have been doling them out sparingly like fine truffles. The Triple was also excellent, with a fruit and honey flavor, but we were more intrigued by a beer we didn’t get to taste, Allagash’s Curieux.

The name, Curieux, means ‘curious’ in French, which couldn’t describe our reaction any better. To make Curieux, Allagash cellars their terrific Triple in oaken Jim Beam barrels for eight weeks, a process that has us ‘curious’ to say the least. We know what oak does to wine, softening Chardonnay and giving it a buttery vanilla flavor. But we’ve never experienced it in a beer before. We imagine the Triple picks up hints of vanilla and bourbon from the casks, but at this point, we can only imagine.

We were curious enough about this brew to snatch two 750ml (wine sized) bottles without ever sampling it. So far we’ve remained disciplined and haven’t yet gobbled them up. We don’t have a special occasion in mind to crack them open, but eventually our Curieux will get the better of us, no doubt.

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40 Comments on “Curieux, To Say The Least”

  1. G-LO September 8, 2010 at 9:25 am #

    Brian,

    Allagash White has become one of my go-to beers lately. I just can’t resist ordering it if it’s on tap. Even great in the bottle! I have yet to try the Dubble and Triple. They sound awesome! Belgium makes some funky and fabulous brews. Beer, mussels, chocolate, waffles… gotta love that country!

    Cheers!
    G-LO

  2. sainteterre September 8, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    Brian-

    For several years Belgian Trippels have been the the apogee of beers in my experience. And once I tried Allagash’s, there was no turning back. Last year vendors stopped distributing Allagash to Denver, Co. When I found this out, I searched out the last case in my area and bought it. I now have 12 bottles in a wine cellar. I enjoyed your post and the enthusiasm you have for this awesome brewery. Enjoy it thoroughly!

    Cheers,

    ST

    • Brian September 8, 2010 at 10:31 am #

      I’m envious of your wine cellar. We can only carry a little bit with us; such are the trade offs of a vagabond. The Triple is a beer that you can actually age like wine, which you probably know. Have you compared different vintages to see how it develops over time? That would be a neat thing to do over a dinner party.

      Enjoy,
      Brian

  3. ryoko861 September 8, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    Wow, that’s very interesting. My friend and I visit a pub in Easton, PA that serves a vast array of import beers. My friend insists that the Belgium beers are her favorites. Not being a beer connoisseur, I’m on the fence with the imports. But this has been very enlightening! Thanks!

  4. The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife September 8, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    This is the second time I have heard about Portland, ME today. Never before today. Must have a lot to offer.

    • Brian September 8, 2010 at 10:32 am #

      Portland is a great city. We only spent a couple of days there and could have used some more time. If you like food and drink, definitely put Portland on your destination list.

  5. She.Is.Just.A.Rat September 8, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    I’m one of those people who is not a beer drinker. Perhaps this is something I’ll seek out to try…

    • Brian September 8, 2010 at 11:37 am #

      I’m of the view that it is perfectly O.K. not to like something once you’ve tried it, and that everything should be tried at least once. So give it a whirl, what’s the worst that could happen?

  6. Olive Tree September 8, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    Can I get your permission to put a link of your blog on mine?

    • Brian September 8, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

      You have a fine blog, and are an excellent poet. I’d be delighted if you’d link my blog on yours.

  7. Acai September 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    Thanks for the great post! Always looking for a great new beer!

  8. lbwong September 8, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your tasting experience at the Allagash Brewing Company. I enjoy beer, especially on a warm sunny day shared with some friends! It’s been awhile since I’ve visited a brewery and your post has prompted me to start thinking about planning a visit to one soon (preferably one that carries Belguim beer as a tribute to your very well written post!) Congrats on Freshly Pressed! LB

  9. Dan Allen September 8, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    I live in the Greater Portland area and I have got to say that we have a great selection of microbreweries, and Allagash is definitely one of my favorites! Sebago Brewing Company, Seadog Brewing Compnay, Gritty’s and Shipyard are a few other great local microbrews! Its great to see a post about good beer (especially great Maine beer!) on FP. Congrats!

    By the way Man Vs. Food’s new episode tonight will be in Portland Maine for those interested in the good eats downtown!

    Dan

    • calogeromira September 10, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

      And how is the Greater Portland area?

  10. Seth A. Bishop September 8, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    Dan beat me to the punch regarding what Portland has to offer in beer and food. Allagash is amazing; I’ve yet to try one of their beers that I didn’t like. My personal favorite is Allagash Four, which is hard to find out on the town but worth inquiring about. The Great Lost Bear in Portland (one of our many fine restaurants) has it from time to time (plus another 100 or so beers on tap). It’s pricey (around $6 or $7 a pint) but amazing.

    When I eventually move out of Portland, the region’s microbrews will be what I miss most.

  11. Andrea Little September 8, 2010 at 8:03 pm #

    Great to see this post- I just took a tour of Allagash this past Friday! Everything we sampled and bought was delicious, really liked Portland. Are you taking your RV anywhere else in Maine?

    • Brian September 9, 2010 at 8:45 am #

      We’re traveling a portion of the coast. We hit Ogunquit and the Kennebunks on the way up. We’re spending a week and a half in Bar Harbor (partly interrupted by hurricane Earl) and we’re going to stop in Camden on the way back. We’re having a great time in Maine. It’s a beautiful state.

  12. victor1993 September 8, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    Congrats on making freshly pressed it’s a great post. You’ve made me thirsty to try this beer now, but I’ve never seen it in any stores before!

    • Brian September 9, 2010 at 8:47 am #

      The brewery tour was our first experience with Allagash too. Apparently they ship to something like 21 states (all the East Coast, except FL, if I remember correctly) and some others. I don’t recall seeing it anywhere either, but yesterday in Hannofords here in Bar Harbor they had the White on the shelves. So maybe I didn’t see it before because I didn’t know what to look for. Thankfully now I do . . . and so do you ;-)

  13. Dino September 9, 2010 at 2:18 am #

    I had for a long time been completely against beer and even in recent times despite enjoying it I have been avoiding it for fear of the cursed beer belly. I now curse you because I really do want to taste this beer. Please do let us know when you do finally open em up

  14. Meghanbird September 9, 2010 at 3:33 am #

    I love Allagash, and Portland ME! We were just there, drinking their delicious micro-brews and eating their lobsters. I’ve had the priviledge of trying the Curieux. We sell it in the wine and beer bar that I work at in Chicago. It’s divine. I know it seems cheesey, but drink it out of stemware. This excellent beer has a great nose and it just seems respectful to drink it out of a nice glass. Great post!

    • Brian September 9, 2010 at 8:51 am #

      Thanks for the tip.

      Most of our bar-ware collection (which was pretty extensive) didn’t make the trip in the R.V. (for obvious reasons). We did, however, bring wine glasses. Maybe it’s snobbery, but I just can’t bring myself to drink wine out of plastic cups. So although we don’t have the proper curved beer glasses, we’ll take your suggestion and respect our oak aged brew by drinking it from proper glasses.

  15. free online train games September 9, 2010 at 4:14 am #

    thanks for sharing

  16. eurybe08 September 9, 2010 at 4:58 am #

    Great Post! The topic seems perfect specially since October is just around the block which spells beer fest in our place.

  17. thelocalguide September 9, 2010 at 5:55 am #

    I have a friend working in Belgium… maybe it’s time to pay him a visit

    • Brian September 9, 2010 at 8:53 am #

      Oh, oh, oh . . . don’t delay. Any excuse for a trip like that is a good excuse. And travel, especially foreign travel, is so much better when you know a local who can show you all the great stuff that doesn’t make it in to guide books.

  18. Jornal do Whisky September 9, 2010 at 7:04 am #

    8O I liked your WordPress template, inspires me to change mine :idea:
    http://jornaldowhisky.wordpress.com/
    Cheers!

  19. Old Hindi Songs September 9, 2010 at 8:12 am #

    Nice post,

    thnx for sharing

    see mine too they are about old hindi movies and mp3’s

  20. ajaychandrad September 9, 2010 at 8:14 am #

    mostly i like ur wordpress themes,its good and inspiring

  21. gopal September 9, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    Great love too!

  22. Dan Allen September 9, 2010 at 10:51 am #

    while your in the state you should check out The Lions Pride in Brunswick Maine, they have a huge selection of Belgian brews that you can’t find many places.

  23. sayitinasong September 10, 2010 at 1:44 am #

    I have been to Belgiuim and tasted many of their brews… most are wonderful…cherry beer- not so much…

  24. oghex September 12, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    Great post..thx for sharing

  25. David Halliday July 8, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Lived in Belgium for four years. They have a different beer brand for every day of the year. I love their beers. But the best beer I ever drank is an English beer bottled in the Netherlands. It is called “Martin’s Pale Ale”. Its like heaven. Beware, there is a Martin’s beer/ale in some liguor stores but that ain’t it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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