Libations

Maine Beer Company Lunch

M. Sheppard

July 13 2014 - 11:20 PM

Recently at Millennium Park I saw a rock show by legendary punk-pop rocker Bob Mould which made me think about the concept of excellence.  Despite his age of 53, Bob, wielding a sea-green Stratocaster, tore into his first song on the evening-sunlit stage and powered through the remaining, blistering guitar-filled songs, one by one, until set’s end.  This was clearly an artist still at the top of his form.  Similarly, but within the brewing world, Maine Beer Company has also proven to be a top performer.  Although, unlike Bob, the five-year-old brewery is new to its respective game, Maine Beer has entered the Chicago stage like seasoned professionals.

So far, the portion of Maine’s lineup that I have tried has tasted very accomplished.  Maine’s beers tend not to be overly bold or aggressive but stress subtlety and restraint.  Their beers tend to have an elegant taste and feel.  Take for example the highly coveted Maine Beer Lunch.   I was fortunate to obtain a bottle of this from a Chicago friend who happened to be traveling to Maine for a college reunion at Bradley in ME.  For his sake, I won’t provide the anniversary date being commemorated, but it wasn’t number ten.  That didn’t deter my friend from making the short and easy commute from Bradley to Maine Beer’s home in Freeport to score me a bottle of Lunch and also a King Titus porter which I had already sampled at Local Option.

With Lunch, brothers and co-founders David and Daniel Kleban have created a slightly-more-elegant take on a West Coast IPA.  The beer’s carbonation is tight, its hop profile is potent but not overwhelming, and its mouthfeel is stern but light.  Lunch sharply attacks the palate but not with broad strokes.  It’s powerful but elegant.  In other words, it drinks more like a BMW of IPA’s than it does a Porsche.  Its mouthfeel is akin to champagne and in fact it might be the true champagne of beers!   I can see why it’s so highly sought after.  Unlike its West Coast inspirations such as Pliny the Elder and Stone Ruination – plus, the endless IPA’s served at the constellation of breweries surrounding San Diego – Lunch is far more delicate and nuanced. This 7%-ABV combination of Warrior, Amarillo, Centennial and Simcoe hops stresses IPA citrus flavors more than it does resiny pine flavors.  It’s marked by a beautiful, hazy, almost-straw color that entices summer-afternoon drinking.  This is truly a winner, but I could see myself not being in the mood for it if I was looking for something bolder with more in-your-face hops.  But I wouldn’t ever dare turn down a free Lunch.

Lunch is very hard to find in Chicago and quickly stocks out here, although Local Option often seems to tap it frequently.  If you can’t find Lunch, which you probably cannot on most days, Maine makes a similar IPA called Another One which might prove easier to find until people figure out that its a fairly close facsimile.  It’s kind of like listening to Bob Mould’s solo records if one is in the mood for Sugar.  It’s not quite an equal but still superb.

Right now, Lunch receives a 97 at Beer Advocate. I really want to try Maine’s double IPA, naturally called Dinner, which receives a 100 rating.

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