Barb's Beer Emporium 249 Sheep Davis Road Concord NH 03301 603-369-4501
It’s not technically winter until Dec. 21, but everyone has their unofficial start date for the next season. For some, it’s winter as soon as it starts getting dark at 5 p.m., or when we have to pull out our scarves and mittens. For others, it’s when the stores prematurely put out their Christmas decorations.
For people like me, I know something different is in the air when the local breweries swap their fall beer for its winter brew. Last Thursday, Maine’s Sebago Brewing Company switched out its Local Harvest Ale for their Slick Nick Winter Ale. But unlike how you never see Clark Kent and Superman in the same room, I witnessed the two seasonal brews side-by-side. This rare occasion occurred at Barb’s Beer Emporium’s weekly beer tasting.
Barb’s, which recently moved from Main Street to 249 Sheep Davis Road, may have a new storefront, but the specialty beer shop is still up to its old tricks. For starters, Barb’s is still carrying around 300 different micro and craft brews, but now its space is less cramped. Free beer tastings are still held every Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m.
At the tasting I attended, Sebago’s sales representative Joe Moran poured out samples and happily talked shop with anyone interested in doing so. The beer company’s Saddleback Ale, Frye’s Leap India Pale Ale, Boathouse Brown, Slick Nick Winter Ale and Local Harvest Ale were also available.
While Moran told others to start with the Saddleback Ale (the company’s lightest brew), I went for the Slick Nick Winter Ale first. According to Sebago’s website, the Slick Nick is its best-selling seasonal. And with good reason – the ale is a perfect blend of caramel, malts and hops, making it sweet but with a bite. “It’s a little sweet, a little malty,” Moran explained. “It will surely warm you up.”
Next up was the Local Harvest Ale. Brewed with Maine hops and barley, the ale tasted super fresh. The addition of lemongrass, citrus and pine made it a little too bitter for my taste, but not everyone favors a heavy, sweet beer like I do.
I definitely dug the Boathouse Brown. Brown ales are notorious for being almost candy-like in taste. Sebago’s was nice, though, because it wasn’t too thick or toothache inducing. The beer was smooth, subtle and surprisingly light.
The award for most unpredictable, though, goes to the Saddleback Ale. I was reluctant to try this one since Moran described it as the lightest of the bunch. I watched him pour sample after sample, and couldn’t get over how the color too closely resembled Bud Light. I learned quickly, though, not to judge a beer by its color. The ale had plenty of flavor and a pleasant crispness to it.
The Frye’s Leap India Pale Ale packed the most punch. It was super hoppy and tasted like I was sucking down grapefruit juice spiked with alcohol. While not my cup of tea – er, beer – others samplers seemed to like it. “I’m a hop head, I love my IPAS,” one man told Moran. Moran told me that the IPA is easily one of their best sellers and has a soft spot in his heart. I was slightly frightened to learn that Sebago has an even hoppier beer called the Full Throttle Double IPA. I can’t imagine how hopped up hop heads get over that one.
Bitter beers aside, I left Barb’s with a few new beers to add to my repertoire. If you missed the tasting, but want to try one of Sebago’s brews, Barb’s sells both six-packs and variety packs.
My only complaint about the tasting is that I was a little disappointed with the lack of women there. I only saw one other female present during the hour I was there. Ladies, don’t be timid. You know you have love for beer, too. Plus, if you’re single and ready to mingle, there were plenty of fish in the Barb’s sea, if you catch my drift.
(For a schedule of upcoming tastings, visit barbsbeeremporium.com or call 369-4501.)