Grape Expectations

grape expectation

I love it when I find a great new-to-me brewery, and Allagash Brewing Company just might fit that bill. I’ve seen the big bottles on the shelf before but it wasn’t until Kevin, a local beer guru, gave them a hearty recommendation that I really took notice. I decided to start with their Victor Ale. I picked it mostly because it had a fancy top hat on the label and it looked to be a lighter beer, and I already had several dark beauties in the cart. Plus it’s brewed with grapes, so why not? Real scientific, I know.

It was with some anticipation that I opened the bottle, as there was a lot riding on this beer. Would Allagash make the short list of my favorite breweries or would I have to keep searching for the next great thing?

allagash victorThe Allagash Victor Ale has a really pretty pour, with a pale golden-red color and a medium foamy head. It’s opaque in the glass, and according to my wife, it smells just like a bunch of grapes. I detected some other notes as well, such as sweet malt and maybe a little spice, but mostly she was right – it smelled like grapes. And it tasted just like it smelled. The bulk of the flavor was a gush of white grapes complimented with some malty notes and a touch of spice. It was sweet, bright and juicy. Weighing in at 9% alcohol by volume, it had a warm finish, but wasn’t heavy.

So this crisp and tasty beauty is a really nice, unique brew. It didn’t blow me away, but I don’t think it was brewed to. Rather, this is a fine beer you can put in the middle of the dinner table in the place of a sweet Chardonnay and everyone will enjoy it. You can’t say that about too many big corked beers.

So, delicious? Check. Unique? Check. Unexpected? Check. So far Allagash has me intrigued. I look forward to exploring some of their other offerings. Any and all suggestions are welcome.


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Categories: Beer


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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8 Comments on “Grape Expectations”

  1. Don
    September 29, 2009 at 1:30 pm #

    Is it aged in old wine barrels? That can account for the grape flavor.

  2. September 30, 2009 at 6:50 pm #

    Many Belgian yeast strains are also vinous in their qualities, so that also could account for the grapes. Believe it or not, I’ve never tried anything from these guys. I’ve seen it countless times and just keep passing it by. Time to try some.

  3. Jim
    September 30, 2009 at 7:21 pm #

    I was in the same boat, Mike. I’d seen Allagash a bunch of times, but it struck me as backwoods-y. Maybe I was confusing Allagash for Appalachia? I dunno. But now they’re on my radar and I’m looking forward to digging in. Their Tripel just won Silver at the GABF in the Abbey Ale category, so that’s probably a good place to start.

    This Victor Ale is actually brewed with grapes. They crush over 100 pounds of chancellor grapes into the mash when they make it. And you are correct, the yeast they use is a wine strain. It adds up to a very refreshing and interesting beer.

  4. September 30, 2009 at 8:28 pm #

    I’ve been noticing that the stuff (like victor) from allagash’s tribute series and their barrel aged series has been getting good reviews. I’m just waiting for it to hit my area.

    I have been thinking of incorporating grapes into my next batch, since my dad’s property has been yielding tons of mature grapes this batch. I love incorporating home grown produce!

    • Jim
      September 30, 2009 at 8:36 pm #

      The only thing cooler than tastefully adding things to make a beer more interesting is tastefully adding things your dad grew. I bet it would make an awesome gift for him, a beer his son brewed from the bounty of grapes he harvested. Unless he’s saving them all for wine!

  5. September 30, 2009 at 8:48 pm #

    Actually Jim you nailed it: I am making a big bold beer for Christmas presents this year…that’s the batch I want to use the grapes on. He did make wine this past weekend, but has plenty of grapes. After 15 gallons of wine he’s probably only used 1/3 of the fruit on the property.

    • Jim
      September 30, 2009 at 8:58 pm #

      That sounds like a terrific gift and a lot of grapes. I wanted to get brewing soon to make Christmas gifts, but I think now the plan is to bone up on brewing knowledge and let my family spoil me with brewing gear for the holiday. I figure we’ll make our first batch right before the new year.

      Maybe by the holidays of 2010 I’ll be good enough to create beer people actually want as a gift. Or I could just do what Stone does and tell people not to open it for 3 years. Maybe by then they’ll forget where it came from!


  1. Beer Vs. Wine: A Love Hate Relationship? | Thank Heaven for Beer - October 28, 2009

    […] (including myself) have begun experimenting with grapes and even wine yeast.  Case in point, Allagash Victor Ale.  I don’t suppose that you’ll find Allagash heckling a wine connoisseur any time soon […]

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