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A few brand-new brews in Bangor

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A weekend adventure with new releases from area breweries

BANGOR – This past weekend saw a wealth of new brews hit the Bangor area beer scene.

It’s no secret that beer is thriving here, but the past few days have been busy even for a sudsy sphere as robust as ours. An enterprising imbiber could experience brand-new brews at three different breweries if he or she so chose.

And I so chose.

My first stop was the Orono Brewing Company tasting room in Orono. On Nov. 10, OBC released Bog Monster DIPA, a double IPA brewed in part to raise money to support the Orono Bog Boardwalk – one dollar from every pint purchased is donated to the cause.

Next was Bangor Beer Company. While the tasting room at BBC has been open for a while, this weekend marked the first pours of their in-house brewed beers. There were three in all – Catchphrase, a New England IPA; 10-2, a more traditional West Coast IPA; and Oddball, an American stout.

Finally, we’ve got Mason’s Brewing Company in Brewer. The gang at Mason’s had two new beers to offer – both collaborative efforts. There was IV Norsemen DIPA, a double IPA brewed alongside the crew at Banded Horn, and #99 Black IPA, created in collaboration with the Black Ale Project; proceeds from all sales of #99 are donated to support veterans’ charities Salute of Service and Pets For Vets.

Quite an impressive six-pack, no? As a beer lover, I considered it my duty to experience them all.

(Note: I am not going to be sharing my timeline with you regarding precisely when I enjoyed all of these beers. Suffice it to say that I was responsible in my consumption, as we all should be. I will say that trying to do the whole bunch in a single evening might be a bit much; these are brews to be savored. However, I’m also not your dad, so do what you want. Just make sure there’s a DD.)

Let’s start with OBC’s Bog Monster. I’m generally a fan of IPAs – I do like me some hops – but I’ll freely admit that I’m not always as enthusiastic about DIPAs. They can be a bit too syrupy for my taste and sometimes present a lack of balance in terms of intensity of flavor.

However, anyone who has experienced one of brewmaster Asa Marsh-Sachs’s beers knows that there’s never any need to be concerned about balance. His work on Bog Monster is as delicately precise as ever; the hops are present and bold, but not overwhelming, while the mouthfeel is ideal for those like me who don’t care for thick DIPAs. A delicious beer whose drinkability belies its 8.3 percent ABV.

Next, we hit up Bangor Beer Co. Those who appreciate the difficulty of craft brewing understand that a new brewery might need some time to find its feet. There’s an art to it; one should never assume that the necessary rhythms will be immediately and easily tuned into. But while this is brewmaster Jared Lambert’s first experience working at this scale, you’d never know it from the results.

Catchphrase – the New England IPA – is the kind of juicy, hazy IPA that has become a staple of the New England beer scene. I personally love them, so I was eager to try this. It did not disappoint. It’s on the sessionable side with an ABV just a touch over five, but it’s still very hop-forward and flavorful. Hazy and tasty, it’s a beer that invites repeat investigation.

While I didn’t dig it quite as much as Catchphrase, 10-2 is a darned good beer in its own right. This one is a more traditional IPA, driven by some classic citrus hop flavors. It’s a bit heftier than its East Coast counterpart, but it’s plenty drinkable all the same.

Full disclosure: I don’t care for stouts. And yet … Oddball kind of worked for me. A brief conversation with Lambert revealed that there was some improvisation in the brew’s malt and grain profile; the result is a stout without the usual thickness and with some surprising flavor combinations. A beer that lives up to its name – in a good way.

Finally, we have Mason’s Brewing Company. It’s hard to believe that Mason’s has only been around for a little more than 18 months; they’ve quickly become a mainstay on the local scene. They’ve also made a habit of collaborating with partners near and far over the course of their relatively brief existence. These next two beers are great representatives of that habit.

With IV Norsemen IPA, we get another New England-style IPA – something I was clearly broken-hearted about. The Banded Horn collaboration is lovely – hazy and juicy. The flavors are bright, with plenty of hoppy goodness; it might also be one of the best-smelling brews I’ve encountered in a while.

As for #99 Black IPA, I was a little skeptical. Not in terms of quality, of course – these guys know their business. But I’ve never been able to get into the black IPAs; they’ve just never resonated with me. This is a really good one, though – packed with a rich flavor that demands to be savored. And considering that buying it also supports a good cause, it’s a win-win.

So there you have it – one weekend’s beer journey. Of course, you’re not going to get the chance to experience a half-dozen new local brews every weekend. But just the fact that such a weekend is possible speaks well of the breadth of the still-burgeoning beer scene here in our area. And the fact that all six are GOOD, well … that’s just showing off.

Get out there and try one of these beers. Or go to any one of the dozen other nearby breweries and try one of their delicious products. We’ve got a lot of talented folks producing some exceptional brews right in our backyard – we’d be fools not to take advantage.

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