After a brief drive across the street from Allagash Brewing Company, I arrive at Foundation Brewing Company. A bit of a departure from Allagash, this brewery is under construction while they are open. This is a much smaller operation than Allagash, but they benefit from a fantastic location. What I have come to know about Maine craft breweries is that sometimes success is more about location than how good the beer is. Luckily for Foundation, they have both.
The brewhouse has a couple tables for seating, but otherwise, most of the seating is outside today. Since the temp is getting up there, I am sitting inside next to the kettles and fermenters. Foundation has a mix of offerings ranging from a 4.3% Best Bitter to an 8% Double IPA called Epiphany. I can say that, on average, the five beers at Foundation rate extremely high in my book. The brewers here know what they are doing, for sure.
The Best Bitter is a small batch experimental brew and it really hits the mark for me. It has such a wonderfully bready malt character that infuses so much richness in flavor and mouthfeel into such a small beer. The Wanderlust Hoppy Farmhouse Ale has the soft and delicate nature of a Saison with a noticeable hop presence of piney and fruity flavors and aromas. The Burnside is a Brown Ale that I cannot get enough of. This caramel, toffee, and roasted malt amalgamation transcends what this style can be. For me, Brown Ales often get lost in the shuffle among other complex and more interesting styles. A Brown Ale is often missing the unctuous and deep roasted malt flavor that I long for. Burnside is the Brown Ale that everyone needs to try because it is an immaculate example this style. The next beer is Afterglow, an American IPA which packs lots of juicy and piney hops into each sip. Despite the fact that it is loaded with hoppiness, there is balance and the malt gives it a nice smoothness. The coup de grace is the Epiphany, their Double IPA. My loins will yearn for this beer for many moons. My goodness, if every DIPA could be exactly like this, I wouldn’t be distraught about my unibrow making it tough for others to maintain eye contact with me. What a delight for my palate. This beer truly lives up to its namesake. The Epiphany is not a heavy DIPA and awakens your tongue with its fruity hops. This is a bright and lively beer that will make a believer out of anyone who thinks that they like an IPA, but aren’t sure that a DIPA is their thing. After tasting my way through their beers, I am ready to hit the road. I am wishing that I could go around to the other side of the building to Austin Brothers, but time is running out and I have to ensure that can really relax and take my time at Bissell Brothers.
Back in the planning stages of this trip, Bissell Brothers was located next door to Foundation. However, they are now in a fabulous new monstrosity of a facility that will allow them to meet the feverish demands that their craft beers excite in the masses of Maine craft beer aficionados. If Allagash is the grandfather of Maine craft beer, then Bissell Brothers is the angst-filled teen who rides around on their skateboard giving atomic wedgies to unsuspecting Pokemón Go fanatics. Everything about this place is modern, colorful, and brash. I almost turn around and leave because I don’t feel cool enough to set foot in this hip place. Then I look around; there are people of every age, gender, and ethnicity here.
Luckily, the only restriction here on what you can order is based on what is still available. I go right in for Substance, their flagship, an American IPA with a lovely color that is cloudy and a nice white, thick head. It has a wonderful bouquet of aromas from grassy to fruity aromas. The anticipation for this beer is on par with a 5 year-old the night before Christmas. Instead of opening up a tablet or a Bag O’ Glass, I got a five ounce sampler of perfection.
The next beer for me is the Dangol, an adjunct lager which is very low in ABV. It is refreshing and crisp, with maybe a slight hint of citrus to it. Dangol is straight-forward and a nice break from the hop marathon I’ve seemingly been on since last week.
Next up, an American Blonde Ale, Baby Genius. This bad boy clocks in at a very moderate 4% and has a nice crisp and refreshing feel to it. I like that it has a decent punch of Citra hops to give it a fruity and crushable element.
My last sample is Reciprocal, another wonderful American IPA resembling a fresh-squeezed glass of orange juice. If Bissell Brothers added an all day breakfast they could print money. I feel like a lucky winner of a tropical fruit and aroma give away, “And you get some mango, and you get some peach, and you get some . . . ” you get the picture.
As I am savoring these bubbly works of art, a gentleman across the table from me reading the paper. I asked him if I could sit and he obliged. Sometimes there is a spot at a table open for a reason. We start talking and it turns out that this person, whose blue eyes and kind face could belong to anyone’s uncle or grandfather, belong to Allen Wicken.
Allen is waiting to head to the baseball game with some friends that he used to work with at the hospital in town. We start off with small talk and he asks me what I am doing. I tell him that I am from MN and on a beercation. That is when Allen first cracks his glowing smile. He says that he is also from MN, Alexandria to be exact. I ask him what brought him out to the East Coast. He proceeds to enchant me with the story of his life.
It all starts when he is in college and the Vietnam War starts. He knows that he will eventually be drafted so he decides to enroll in graduate school to become a teacher. For his first job, he chose to go to an all-black high school in Virginia to get a better understanding of what that experience would be like. That decision is ambitious given the era and what was going on in our country racially at the time. He goes on to say that he loved his time teaching and really connected with his students in a meaningful way. Soon, his number is called to join the Army and instead of going into the infantry, he is sent out to Maine as a researcher. Well, long story short, he met and fell in love with his wife and has several kids and grand kids. He worked at the Maine Medical Center for many years and even in retirement does a bit of consulting for them.
My conversation with Allen is mesmerizing and enjoyable. He is also an editorial columnist for the Rangeley Highlander, a newspaper. He is excited about an upcoming political column that will shake things up as he puts it. Let’s just say that Allen is not as excited about building a wall. He is curious about blogging and getting into that medium, too. Time is flying by as time always does when I find myself engrossed in great conversation and Allen has to head to the ballgame. We shake hands and I thank him for shooting the breeze with me. It’s time to head onto my next destination to sit down with Carla Jean Lauter, a craft beer blogger.
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