The blueberry challenge: three beers, one winner
Though shorter than its competitors, Seadog offers the closest thing to the taste of Maine blueberries in your cup.
- Chef at home on the Hill
- Hiding in Hallowell, Slates is a restaurant offering creative atmosphere and delicious dishes
- Beer cocktails provide creative alternatives to the hard alcohol ban on the Hill
As the official state berry, the wild blueberry has become one of many classic symbols of Maine life, and with no surprise the fruit has become the object of many culinary manifestations that include ice cream, muffins, teas, pies, jams and other sweet-tooth products.
While any chef or foodie can tell you that there’s no taste quite like a blueberry, beer lovers, too, have come to see the fruit as a key ingredient on their quest for the perfect brew, realizing that the berry’s sweet and murky flavor—its tendency to favor subtlety over richness—lends itself quite well to a light-tasting ale.
As fruit-infused beer increases in popularity, Maine has the distinct advantage when it comes to handcrafting blueberry beers. Along with toothpicks, Maine is the largest exporter of blueberries in the world, and it currently produces a quarter of the blueberries consumed in North America.
My interest in blueberry beer was first piqued when my roommates Chris Kasprak ’12 and Austin Hoag ’12 and I visited the Seadog Brewing Company, a popular pub-style restaurant overlooking the Androscoggin River in Topsham, Maine. Among the 10 varieties of beer on tap was its blueberry Blue Paw Wheat Ale, and I could tell it would be the beginning of a journey to find a weekend fix for something similar. A couple of weeks later, while perusing the aisles of Jokas’ Discount Beverage store, my roommates and I wanted to see how different brews stacked up when it came to the blueberry challenge. We picked up three Maine blueberry brews and invited our friends to our Dana five-man.
Our group started with Seadog’s Blueberry Ale (4.7% ABV)—the market version of our restaurant favorite and the source of all our hype. Once we popped the cap off, the smell of wild Maine blueberries was instantaneous. As a light ale, Seadog married the blueberry and beer flavors seamlessly with a fruity body, a sweet finish, and a golden color. While most of us rather liked the taste, Coline Ludwig ’12 was not a fan. “It’s like blueberry Natty Light—like beer with Special K cereal,” she said, emphasizing what she thought was the overbearing flavor of the berry. The rest of us could hardly agree.
Next on our list was the Atlantic Brewing Company’s Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale (5.2% ABV). Danny Chin, a visiting student from Bowdoin, noted the popular perception that the berry flavor was much less apparent than with Seadog’s ale. “The flavor’s too subtle—it’s very easy to mask,” he said, though as we continued tasting, the blueberry became a little more apparent. Perhaps the strongest contrast with Seadog with the ale’s dark caramel color and tart finish, both of which factored in our general less-than-favorable reaction.
Our final brew was the Bar Harbor Brewing Company’s True Blue Ale (5.2% ABV), which was neither blue nor true to the taste of our state’s official berry. Of the three beers we tried, this one garnered the least amount of support from our reviewers because of its bitter and hoppy taste as well as its particularly harsh after notes. “It’s cringe-worthy,” said Chris Kasprak ’12. While Hoag generously first described the small-batch brew as “unique,” he later noted, “It was bad on all accounts—it wasn’t a high quality beer, and it didn’t taste like blueberries either.”
When it came to the final judgment, it was clear as to who stole the top honor of the best blueberry beer. While nothing beats a cup of wild Maine blueberries, Seadog came closest to capturing the taste in ale form.
“Seadog danced on my tongue,” said Anika Lindemann ’12 after grimacing from the True Blue Ale.
“Woof, woof! Seadog, Seadog!” joked Zoë Danto, a visiting Bates student.