2016 Maine Madness Beer Tournament Beer List

mainebeermadness_brackets1Here is the official list of the beers for the 3rd Annual Maine Madness tournament. Much discussion goes into crafting this list of Maine beers. We tried to include brews that are brilliantly crafted, available to try during the tournament, and/or popular in Maine and New England. It’s a tough job, and we had to make some difficult choices to leave beers off the list that we love.

You will notice that Rising Tide’s Maine Island Trail Ale is not on this list. After its second victory, MITA has been retired from the competition and now holds the distinction of Maine Madness Champion Emeritus. (All champions will be retired after garnering a second championship.)

We encourage you to give feedback if you feel we have made any egregious oversights in beers that were left off this list. Please make comments below and we’ll try to accommodate your suggestions.

Once the list is set, the match-ups will be chosen at random this Sunday at Rising Tide Brewing Company.


  1. 20 Gauge IPA // Marsh Island Brewing
  2. Allagash Black // Allagash Brewing
  3. Allagash White // Allagash Brewing
  4. Allagash Saison // Allagash Brewing
  5. Baby Genius // Bissell Brothers
  6. Blackfly Stout // Gritty’s Brewing
  7. Blueberry Ale // Sea Dog Brewing
  8. Brett Loves Hops // Austin Street Brewing
  9. Burnside Brown Ale // Foundation Brewing
  10. Cadillac Mountain Stout // Bar Harbor Brewing
  11. Cant Dog // Marshall Wharf Brewing
  12. Calcutta Cutter // Rising Tide Brewing
  13. Coal Porter // Atlantic Brewing
  14. Crystal Persuasion // SoMe Brewing
  15. Curieux // Allagash Brewing
  16. Cypher IPL // Bunker Brewing
  17. Daikaiju IPA // Banded Horn Brewing
  18. Daymark Ale // Rising Tide Brewing
  19. Dexter ‘Rippa’ Red IPA // Boothbay Craft Brewery
  20. Dinner // Maine Beer Company
  21. Epiphany Maine IPA // Foundation Brewing
  22. Export Ale // Shipyard Brewing
  23. Farmhouse Pale Ale // Oxbow Brewing
  24. Fresh Cut // Peak Organic Brewing
  25. Frye’s Leap // Sebago Brewing Company
  26. Grizacca // Oxbow Brewing
  27. G-String Pale Ale // Funky Bow Brewing
  28. Hampshire Special Ale // Geary’s Brewing
  29. Headstash IPA // Liquid Riot Brewing
  30. Jailbreak Chocolate Chili Stout // Bigelow Brewing
  31. Jali Apricot Jalapeno Ale // Hidden Cove Brewing
  32. Jamaican Stout // Sunday River Brewing
  33. Lunch IPA // Maine Beer Company
  34. Machine Gun Czech Pils // Bunker Brewing
  35. Midnight Special Porter // Funky Bow Brewing
  36. Mo Pale Ale // Maine Beer Company
  37. Mockingfish Gose // Rising Tide Brewing
  38. Mott the Lesser Russian Imperial Stout // Tributary Brewing
  39. Norweald Stout // Banded Horn Brewing
  40. Ozone IPA // Orono Brewing
  41. Pale Ale // Geary’s Brewing
  42. Pale Ale // Tributary Brewing
  43. Pamola Xtra Pale Ale // Baxter Brewing Company
  44. Paper Planes // Barreled Souls Brewing
  45. Patina Pale // Austin Street Brewing
  46. Patroon IPA // Hidden Cove Brewing
  47. Peeper Ale // Maine Beer Company
  48. Pemaquid Oyster Stout // Marshall Wharf Brewing
  49. Pepperell Pilsener // Banded Horn Brewing
  50. Phantom Punch Stout // Baxter Brewing Company
  51. Primus Belgian Table Beer // Liquid Riot Brewing
  52. Pumpkinhead // Shipyard Brewing
  53. Quadricentennial Pale Ale // Monhegan Brewing
  54. Simmer Down // Sebago Brewing Company
  55. Smiling Irish Bastard // Geaghan Brothers Brewing
  56. Space Gose // Barreled Souls Brewing
  57. Stowaway IPA // Baxter Brewing Company
  58. Substance // Bissell Brothers
  59. Super Fresh // Peak Organic Brewing
  60. Swish // Bissell Brothers
  61. Tectonic Tomahawk White IPA // Gneiss Brewing Company
  62. Wanderlust // Foundation Brewing
  63. Window Seat Porter // Baxter Brewing Company
  64. Whoopie Pie Porter // Friars’ Brewhouse

Official 2015 Maine Madness Beer Tournament Bracket

Official 2015 Maine Madness Beer Tournament BracketWe present to you the official 2015 Maine Madness Beer Tournament Bracket. Click on the document to get a better look at the match-ups. It’s clear that the early rounds are going to be tight with some amazing brews in head to head battles early on.

Remember, the purpose of this tournament is to celebrate Maine beer. We’re Jali Beer 2 Hidden Covelucky to live in such a fecund beer mecca. Go out and find the beers on this list you’ve never tried and toss ’em back. Support old favorites and seek out new beer companions.

Voting begins a week from today on March 26th through MaineToday.com. Like Maine Madness Beer Tournament on Facebook to get the updated voting links. Until then, print out the bracket, digest the match-ups, make your picks, and drink Maine beer!


The Official List of Beers for the Maine Madness Beer Tournament

Rising Tide Maine Island Trail AleWe are so happy to announce the participants in the 2015 Maine Madness Beer Tournament. What we’d like to ask of you is that you peruse this list and see if there are any Maine beers you dearly love that are not on this list. We are going to finalize the list in the next day and this weekend we will have “Selection Sunday” when we randomly choose our head-to-head match-ups for the first round. Last year we divided the bracket into categories, but we felt that it would be most democratic to randomly pick the match-ups.

This tournament is a celebration of the glorious Maine beer landscape. If you see a beer on this list you’re unfamiliar with, track it down and toss it down your grocery hole! Our motto at the Maine Madness Beer Tournament is: To Drink ME is to Love ME.

The 2015 List (in Alphabetical Order)

Ace Hole Pale Ale // Marshall Wharf Brewing

Allagash Black // Allagash Brewing

Allagash White // Allagash Brewing

Bissell Brothers Brewing CompanyAngels With Filthy Souls // Bissell Brothers

Baby Genius // Bissell Brothers

Blackfly Stout // Gritty’s Brewing

Blueberry Ale // Sea Dog Brewing

Bonfire Rye // Sebago Brewing

Brett Loves Hops // Austin Street Brewing

Burnside // Foundation Brewing

Cant Dog // Marshall Wharf Brewing

Calcutta Cutter // Rising Tide Brewing

Coal Porter // Atlantic Brewing

Coolship Resurgam // Allagash Brewing

Crystal Persuasion // SoMe Brewing

BunkerCurieux // Allagash Brewing (2014 Runner Up)

Daymark // Rising Tide Brewing

Dinner // Maine Beer Company

Eddy // Foundation Brewing

Epiphany // Foundation Brewing

Export Ale // Shipyard Brewing

Farmhouse Pale Ale // Oxbow Brewing

Fresh Cut // Peak Organic Brewing

IMG_20130816_121823Frye’s Leap // Sebago Brewing Company

Grizacca // Oxbow Brewing

G-String // Funky Bow Brewing

Halloween Ale // Gritty’s Brewing

Hop Swap // Sebago Brewing Company

HSA // Geary’s Brewing

King Titus // Maine Beer Company

Lobster Ale // Belfast Brewing

London Porter // Geary’s Brewing

Lunch // Maine Beer Company

Machine Gun Czech // Bunker Brewing

Maine Island Trail Ale // Rising Tide Brewing (2014 Tournament Winner!)

McGovern’s Oatmeal Stout // Belfast Brewing

Mean Old Tom // Maine Beer Company

MBC Leaning LunchMo Pale Ale // Maine Beer Company

Norweald Stout // Banded Horn Brewing

Pale Ale // Geary’s Brewing

Pale Ale // Peak Organic Brewing

Pale Ale // Tributary Brewing

Pamola Xtra Pale Ale // Baxter Brewing Company

Paper Planes // Barreled Souls Brewing

Patina Pale // Austin Street Brewing

Peeper Ale // Maine Beer Company

Pemaquid Oyster Stout // Marshall Wharf Brewing

Pepperell Pilsener // Banded Horn Brewing

Phantom Punch Stout // Baxter Brewing Company

Pumpkinhead // Shipyard Brewing

Real Ale // Atlantic Brewing

Salad Daze IPL // Bunker Brewing

Sea Belt Scotch Ale // Marshall Wharf Brewing

Simmer Down // Sebago Brewing Company

So Folkin’ Hoppy // Funky Bow Brewing

Stowaway IPA // Baxter Brewing Company

Summer Ale // Geary’s Brewing

Summer Ale // Shipyard Brewing

rising-tide-ursa-minorSubstance // Bissell Brothers

Swish // Bissell Brothers

Ursa Minor // Rising Tide Brewing

Veridian IPA // Banded Horn Brewing

Wanderlust // Foundation Brewing

Whoopie Pie Stout // SoMe Brewing

A Reader Demands that We Stop Being Beer Elitists

Glass of Maine Beer Company DinnerHere is a comment a reader recently left on my post ‘Always Remember, It’s Just Beer.’  In my post, I lament the oft nauseating approach some beer drinkers take to craft beer.

There is a reverence given to certain bottles and cans of beer that makes us forget that it’s just friggin’ beer.  I, too, have been guilty of being a didactic beer zealot in the past.

Let’s keep the preaching and drinking separate.

Here’s the letter:


Read your ‘It’s Just Beer’ piece. Boy, can I relate. I wanted to scream this out at the top of my lungs while at my favorite craft beer joint a few weeks ago.

I am not a hop head and I can’t believe how I almost have to apologize for loving Marzen styles, wheat beers, Kolsches and Scotch and Old Ales.

One young bartender, she was about 22 years old, about as old as I have been brewing my own beer, told me that ‘it’s drinkable’ when referring to my choice of a Great lakes Oktoberfest, which I totally look forward to every year. She then suggested I drink it accompanied by salted chocolate.

Jesus Christ! We’ve become France, or something.

MBC Leaning LunchDrinkable? A classic beer style done just about every way right can be is barely drinkable to these elitists? Salted chocolate? This food pairing stuff is getting real old too. Like you can’t enjoy a beer without a little cherry-smoked quail breast on the side.

I’ve had bar owners and other bartenders make ‘clicker’ sounding noises with their tongues to the roofs of their mouths to indicate their disdain for sticky maltiness when I’ve ordered some fine Mai Bocks and other more malty seasonals.

I’m also tired of all the B.S., that’s Beer Sniffers, waxing eloquently and endlessly about a drink that was once the beverage of “every man” or “every woman,” a populists drink, it truly was. There was a time when the man or woman on the next bar stool engaged in small talk with you not big talk about ‘Big’ beers. Or worse, using their phone to look up AND READ ALOUD the profiles of every damn beer in the place.

It’s to the point where I’m tempted to go out and buy a cheap six pack of low-end beer, good ol’ belch propellant stuff. I think I’ll pair it with a bag of pretzels, the all-time food partner of beer.

Ein Prosit.


Maine Beers to Drink This Fall

Shipyard Geary's Gritty's Fall Seasonals

(Originally published in Maine Today Magazine on September 18, 2014.)

Things change quickly in the modern world.  The computer you’re reading this post on will be obsolete in a mind-numbingly short amount of time.  Your cell phone?  You might as well exchange it for a new one the day you bring it home.

But not all change is bad.  And in this beer revolution we find ourselves in, the change is downright euphoric.  New breweries pop up weekly in Maine and outside-the-box beers are being concocted at a staggering rate.

The fall beer offerings in Maine are no exception.  Mainers are no longer limited to the old guard offerings that were once the only options in the fall season.  Don’t get me wrong, I tossed back my fair share of Geary’s Autumn, Shipyard Pumpkinhead, and Gritty’s Halloween back in the day.  I would never tell a beer drinker not to revisit these old friends—they’ve stuck around for a reason; however, it’s time we look beyond the OG’s and see what else is out there.

Here are a few beers you should put on your radar this fall.

Sebago Bonfire RyeBonfire Rye Ale, Sebago Brewing Company

In their quest to keep forging forward into the great beer future, Sebago introduced this rye ale last fall.  For me, a fall beer needs to have a strong malt foundation without crossing the line into the heavy stouts and porters indicative of winter beers.  Bonfire Rye has that perfect malt character for a fall beer.  To balance out that vibrant malt flavor, this beer has bright hop notes from a bounty of American hops.

Zoe Amber Ale, Maine Beer Company

This is another great example of a malty ale that is superb for fall nights when the air is crisp.  Zoe pours a dark amber color and has the hop quality that is emblematic of Maine Beer Company brews.  The beer starts off with a pleasing citrus aroma, and the flavor contains a wonderful symmetry between the malts and the citrus fruit hops.  At the end of the tasting experience, you’re left with a subtle pine bitterness from the hops, but your tongue remains pleasantly coated in malty sweetness.

Rising Tide GrowlerArmada Brown Ale, Rising Tide Brewing Company

A brown ale is another good fall beer choice, but the only problem is that brown ales can be a bit bland for my taste.  The Armada Brown Ale from Rising Tide, however, has just the right balance of brown ale maltiness and clean hop notes to satisfy the palate.  Rising Tide beers have a signature freshness imparted from their American ale yeast, and the synergy between the malt, the hops, and the yeast makes for a great fall brew.  This limited edition beer is only available at the brewery in growlers.

Allagash Black, Allagash Brewing Company

I know I said earlier that I’m not ready for stouts and porters before the first snowfall, but this Belgium style stout from Allagash drinks more like a dark ale than a stout.  Think of this beer as a dark, strong ale.  Like most beers from Allagash, the Black has a refined flavor and shouldn’t be feared by people who claim not to like dark beer.  It’s brewed with chocolate malts and caramelized candi sugar.  Unlike the beers above, Allagash Black doesn’t have a strong hop character, but that lets the chocolate and toffee malt flavors really shine.

Hop Harvest Beers

With the burgeoning hop farm scene in Maine right now, you need to be on the look out for Harvest Beers from the countless breweries up and down this state who are brewing with local hops this fall.  The Hop Yard in Gorham alone sourced hops to fifteen breweries in the area.  On October 25th, In’finiti in Portland is having their Hoptoberfest featuring Harvest beers from fourteen different breweries.  Though these hoppy beers might not be what we normally think of as fall beers, they are a must try for a true taste of Maine.

Cheers to a fall filled with tasty Maine beers!

Get Yourself to Hidden Cove Brewing

Jali Beer 2 Hidden Cove(Originally published in Maine Today Magazine on September 10, 2014.)

Before Hidden Cove Brewing Company in Wells changed their name from Captain Dick’s Brewing, I would have made a great marketing executive for them. I mean, I could have Don Drapered the heck out of a slogan for Captain Dick’s.

The name change, however, was a great idea; it took the attention off an aggressive name and puts it back where it belongs: on their innovative line of well-crafted beer.

The brewing company is the brainchild of Fire N Brew proprietor, Richard Verano, and his son in law and former Fire N Brew head chef Gregg Spickler. Both Verano and Spickler are graduates of the Culinary Institute of America. When Spickler started pouring Verano pints of his outside-the-box homebrew, Verano said, “Let’s start a brewery at the restaurant.”

Hidden Cove is playing around with both brettanomyces yeast and saccharomyces yeast. Without going too Bill Nye on you, just know that the brett yeast is used to create sour beers and the saccharomyces yeast is typically used to brew American style ales and lagers. Spickler uses a blend of both yeasts in his beers, allowing him to pump out brews that will satisfy the sour beer drinkers and the hoppy beer drinkers.

What I love most about these beers is that they are not pale imitations of sours and hoppy ales. They are the real deal.

The Scally Ale is an American Ale lover’s dream. It’s got a hoppy bite from the Centennial, Chinook, and Summit hops, while being balanced by a nice malt backbone. The A’Rye IPA and the Crowsfoot Black Ale will also satisfy the ale drinker in you.

Gregg Spickler in BrewhouseBut the beer that should put Hidden Cove at the top of your ‘To Drink’ list is their apricot jalapeño beer, Jali. Spickler brews this beer with jalapenos and apricots that he roasts and smokes himself in the Fire N Brew kitchen. He then ferments it in tequila barrels. Drinking this beer is a symphonic sensory experience. Jali has an immediate jalapeno aroma, but when you take that first drink, you get a bit of the sour from the brett yeast, then a kick of sweet from the apricots, next comes the smoky flavor, and finally a slight burn from the jalapenos with a dry finish. I typically loathe fruity beer, but I love this beer. Don’t let the ingredients intimidate you. Order one and dive right in.

On my last visit, Verano and Spickler were kind enough to give me a tour of the tightly packed brewery. Spickler even poured samples of sours he’s aging in oak barrels. I prophesize that when these beers are fully aged, they will rival some of the best sours being made in this state.

Make the drive to Wells, weave through the tourists still clinging on to the final days of summer, belly up to the bar at Fire N Brew Restaurant and order yourself a pint of some of the most intriguing beer being brewed in Maine.


The Beer World Goes Sour

(Originally published in Maine Today Magazine on September 3, 2014.)

AllagashSourBottlesIf you’ve read my column, you’ve gathered that I’m a hop head. Heck, I even shave with soap made from hoppy beer. As the Beer Muse, I’ve mostly steered the Maine drinking community towards local brews awash in hops.

But it’s clear to me that the next big beer movement in this country is going to be sour beer. This trend has been underway for a few years, and it’s starting to come to the forefront of the beer renaissance.

Quick lesson. While hoppy beers like American-style Pale Ales and India Pale Ales get the brunt of their flavor from hops, the intense flavor of sour beer is derived from yeast such as Brettanomyces or from bacteria intentionally introduced to the beer such as Lactobacillus.

The result is a brew that tastes like Sour Patch Kids or a really tart Granny Smith apple. My face is puckering just writing these sentences.

In an attempt to understand this beer movement, I enlisted the help of some sour-loving friends to give me a crash course in sours. Nick, who works at Novare Res Bier Café (one of Maine’s sour beer epicenters), suggested that we meet at the Bier Cellar in Portland to have owner Greg Norton help us choose a lineup of beers that would be a good introduction to the world of sours. Eight different sours were purchased, and we were off.

BierCellarA solid entry-level sour we tried in our tasting was a Gose style beer called Döllnitzer Ritterguts out of Germany. A Gose is a sour beer brewed with salt. Sounds strange, but the salt cuts the intensity of the tartness. It has almost a lemon Gatorade flavor.

Another beginner sour we popped was a saison from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales out of Michigan called Bam Biere. For a sour, it’s crisp and easy to drink with a subtle tartness.

As we moved from the training-wheel sours into the heavy hitters, a name that came up over and over was Allagash Brewing Company. Allagash is becoming a leader in sour beers with the innovative work they’re doing with wild yeast in their Coolship series.

By far, one of the best beers we tried in this tasting was a bottle of Allagash Coolship Red. Matt, another Novare Res hand, had been holding onto the bottle for a few years, and he graciously uncorked it for our tasting. This beer is made with Maine raspberries and aged in oak barrels. It has a fresh raspberry nose and a nuanced tartness. After my first sip, I commented, “I love this beer.”

Nick turned to me and said, “Funny, we’ve been around the world with this tasting, and arguably the best beer we’ve had is made in Maine.”

We laughed at the irony, our palates tingling from our tart tasting, our heads light from beer.

In the end, I wouldn’t call myself a sour beer zealot, but I do understand why this craze is sweeping the beer world. So pucker up and get sour.