Allagash Brewing: Like an Unsexy Supermodel

Sometimes you know something is excellent, but it does absolutely nothing for you.  Take Victoria Secret supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio.  Many fellas think she’s a goddess, but to me she has the appeal of a 12 year old boy (insert Catholic priest joke here).  Don’t get me wrong –  I can look at her and intellectually understand her appeal, but she does little to stir my inner caveman.  She is too refined, too manicured and too “packaged” for my tastes.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the beers from Allagash Brewing fall into this category as well, at least for me.

Let me start by saying that, like Alessandra, I think Allagash makes beers worth lusting after, and I often recommend their stuff to folks who are just discovering how refined beer can be.  Allagash Victor is my go-to selection for wine folks who are starting to explore the world of craft beer.  But if I’m being honest, their stuff does absolutely nothing for me.  

This came into sharp focus on Sunday night as I sat down to enjoy a bomber of beer and watch my new addiction, HBO’s Game of Thrones.  I like to drink a dark and hearty beer as I watch this show, usually out of a goblet.  It goes with the vibe of the show almost as well as rolling a 20 sided die to see how many hit points Ned Stark suffered at the hands of Jamie Lannister’s goons.  Whoa – D&D flashback – sorry about that.  Anyway, a show this satisfying demands a toe curler, and I always go with a stout or a super-hearty ale like New Holland’s Dragons Milk (after all it has “Dragon” in the title!).

This past Sunday it was Allagash Black, a stout fermented with Belgian yeast.  I figured a little extra earthy funk would go well with the rough-hewn nature of Thrones.  Unfortunately, I knew I had made a mistake upon taking the first sip.  The first thing I thought was “it’s watery.” The mouthfeel is very refined for a stout.  The flavor is dainty as well, with a bit of roastiness, a bit of smoke and a touch of sour at the end thanks to the Belgian yeast.  All in all, it was a disappointment, a beer far too refined and modest for the job at hand.

And that was the moment that I realized all of the beers I’ve had from Allagash have struck me the exact same way.  Each has been artfully crafted and refined, and each has made me think of another beer I’d rather be drinking.  This is a personal preference thing for sure, as I know many folks covet Allagash’s stuff – it’s just lost on me.

But before you call me a cro-magnon with a calloused palate, I do enjoy some refined and fancy beers.  The best example is the stuff from a brewery that I often lump together with Allagash in my head – The Bruery.  So far I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve had from them.  They are clever and artisinal in the way they craft their brews, but each is satisfying to me on a level that the stuff from Allagash simply cannot match.  Perhaps it’s the fact that they paint in broader lines or that Patrick Rue and I share a similar sensibility when it comes to beer, but I connect with the Bruery’s stuff – Allagash, not so much.

It’s a little frustrating to have people rave about something that you just can’t get into, but to each their own.  The great thing is that we have so many excellent choices, our glasses never have to be filled with beer we don’t adore.  Just like in the world of supermodels – if you’re not into Alessandra Ambrosio, there’s always Kelly Brook.  Now that’s more like it!  🙂




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32 Comments on “Allagash Brewing: Like an Unsexy Supermodel”

  1. June 2, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Hey Jim,

    Well presented opinion and interesting observations. I do like some Allagash brews (Hugh Malone in particular) but I’ve never gotten terribly excited about most of them. After reading your post, I think I know why. The comparison with The Bruery is also spot on. My take is that The Bruery walks a bit further down the plank than Allagash and does it with more swagger.


    • June 2, 2011 at 10:25 am #

      Hmm…you might be on to something there, Mr. Monger. I like confident flavors and risk taking and always applaud breweries that “swing for the fences,” even if they strike out. I think you concept of “swagger” is much the same thing, and you’re right that the Bruery has it. Good call!

  2. Evan
    June 2, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    You and I are in the same boat. Allagash epitomizes this concept for me when it comes to beer. I especially get this way when it comes to music; there’s dozens of artists that I think are excellent at what they do, but it doesn’t mean I want to listen to it.

    • June 2, 2011 at 10:44 am #

      Music could’ve worked here as an analogy as well, Evan. Guess I blew it going with hot women instead. 🙂

      • Evan
        June 2, 2011 at 10:55 am #

        You made the right choice

  3. June 2, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Cro-magnon with a calloused palate!

    There, I said it.

    But now that I’ve seen the Kelly Brooke site, I retract it.

    That is all.

    Oh, and now I don’t know if I should open my bottle of Allagash Black or pass it of on someone as a ‘gift’!

    • June 2, 2011 at 10:48 am #

      Allagash brews are like those fancy chocolates you buy in the mall at Christmastime. They look good and are expensive but a little underwhelming when you actually eat them.

      I’d say it was made for gifting!

  4. Dave
    June 2, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    Must…resist….juvenile….”tap jokes”

    Jim, oddly enough Allagash White was one of the first beers that introduced me to the vast world of microbrews, and is still one of my favorite beers. But with so many other great beers out there to try, given the choice of Allagash White and “something new” I’d probably opt for the latter almost every time, as Allagash White is now somewhat ubiquitous (which is good for them, I suppose).

    Now, as for Alessandra, she looks very sweaty and is presumably quite thirsty. If her favorite beer was Keystone Light with Lime Extract, I wouldn’t try to talk her out of it. “Alessandra, how do you say “Beer Bong” in Brazilian?”

    • June 2, 2011 at 10:52 am #

      I think Allagash makes excellent “gateway” beers, perfect for introducing folks to what beer can be, so it makes sense that you fell in love with it early.

      And I’m not knocking them for everyone, just for me. Their near-ubiquity shows that I’m probably in the minority here.

      As far as translating goes, you’re better off skipping the Brazilian and going with the International Language of Love!

  5. Rob Crozier
    June 2, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Spot on with your analogy and I do agree with Dave that their White beer is very good and one for which I set my bar for to compare other wit beers. The problem for me with Allagash is that there beer doesn’t stand out and its pricier than other beers so I tend to pass it over when making a purchase because I can always find something less expensive with more “wow” factor.

    • June 2, 2011 at 11:50 am #

      Yeah, I think the lack of “wow” factor is what I’m missing, Rob, especially at that pricepoint.

  6. Marvin
    June 2, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    Anymore, I feel this way about Rogue. I like them, but for the price they just do not stand out. I have not had much Allagash to make a decision about them though.

    • June 2, 2011 at 11:51 am #

      Well at least Rogue mattered for a while. I see them like a 90’s grunge band – highly influential but a bit past their prime. And at least no one OD’d on heroin!

  7. June 2, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    Wow I was just about to put up a review of Allagash Black today. Small world. Allagash makes some very good brews but all their stuff is way to expensive and it makes me walk right past their bottles 100% of the time. Except for Odyssey, which I’d pay anything for maybe. Well maybe not anything but you get the idea.

    • June 2, 2011 at 11:52 am #

      I haven’t had all of their stuff, and I’m sure they probably make something that would knock my socks off. Unfortunately I’ve had enough of their stuff to make it hard for me to pay to find out.

      Maybe I’ll get lucky at GABF and find the “wow!” from them.

  8. johnking82
    June 2, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    I’ve had a few Allagash’s and have yet to be impressed.

    The chic above is hot…hands down.

    • June 2, 2011 at 11:54 am #

      I agree about the beer, but not the girl. There’s something about her that just “misses” for me, like Allagash. Of course I wouldn’t refuse sitting down with her and an Allagash White!!

      • Evan
        June 2, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

        Agreed on the womens. Super generic, super skinny, no personality (in their appearance. yes, an apperance can have a personality.). I prefer REAL girls.

        • June 2, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

          Agreed – gimme curves, and perhaps an unabashed love for craft beer and Murder She Wrote!

      • June 2, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

        I dunno man the girl is pretty hot.

        • June 2, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

          Yeah, but you like an Allagash beer, too! 🙂

  9. June 2, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    That segue/intro/transition is some good writin’ right there.

    • June 2, 2011 at 11:54 am #

      Thnak yew – sumtimes I write teh good.

  10. June 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    I know what you mean about Allagash in general, and Black in specific. Black made me want to have either an Imperial Stout or a good Belgian Strong Dark, not a combo of the two.

    I think a lot of it has to do with the pricepoint though – their specialty brews are quite expensive, and usually quite good, but they never seem to live up to the price. I’ve only had one that I thought was really amazing (Fluxus 09) and they don’t make it anymore. I still want to sample more of their stuff, so I’m not in quite the same boat, but I can see why you feel the way you do…

    • June 2, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

      I remember Fluxus being pretty good – that was the sweet potato beer with black pepper, right? Funny thing is, I placed it second to the Bruery’s Autumn Maple as far as potato/yam beers go. Kinda sounds like the post, right?

      • June 2, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

        Yep, that’s the one. I think part of my enjoyment was that I wasn’t expecting that much out of it, and I really enjoyed it. I have yet to find a bottle of Autumn Maple though, so I could very well end up on the same page as you (every Bruery beer I have managed to find has blown me away).

        • June 2, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

          It’s a good boat to be in. 🙂

          EDIT: It’s a good page to be on!

          What a moron I am!! 😦

  11. Heather
    June 3, 2011 at 8:26 am #

    All I can think of after reading this is how sad I am that I don’t have HBO and I’m missing Game of Thrones. I’m currently reading the third book of the series and I love it! Yes, a *hearty* stout or even a scotch ale would pair nicely with it. Anyway, I really like Allegash, especially Hugh Malone, but I like the way you described your dissatisfaction for them. It’s fair and well written. As for the chick, you’re nuts! She’s hot!

    • June 3, 2011 at 9:32 am #

      Thrones is really good, but I haven’t read the books so I don’t know how it stacks up. Those who have seem pretty satisfied.

      I’ll have to keep an eye out for Hugh Malone – it keeps coming up here as Allagash’s best and I’ve never had it.

      • June 3, 2011 at 9:36 am #

        I’m enjoying the show a lot more than I ever expected to, which sort of says something because I’m not really into the whole fantasy/D&D/LOTR thing in any sort of significant way.

        /end digression

        • June 3, 2011 at 9:54 am #

          Yeah, I thought it would give me those Ren Faire douche chills I get, but it doesn’t. I think that says a lot about the writing (and Tim Van Patten’s tone-setting talents).

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