From 500 yards away, I’m watching the hikers cautiously climb Beehive Mountain at Acadia National Park in Maine and wondering why anyone would want to walk its narrow pathways and scale its iron rungs, always one swift wind from being thrown off the mountain.
But an hour later I’m tenuously grabbing a rung, pulling myself to another dry plateau in the simmering August sun, and cursing myself in between deep, deliberate breaths.
Everyone else is doing it, too. The hike is only 0.8 miles long, but I’m still pausing every 30 seconds as another tourist in sandals quivers above. I begin counting the DSLR cameras. Now I’m jumpy, sweaty and tired.
Upon noticing a boisterous group of tourists snapping selfies, I’ve realized I’ve reached the top. Acadia is an archipelago off the east coast of Maine, a forgotten national park 1,200 miles and a couple hundred years from the rootin’ tootin’ stars-and-bars, fog-and-smog carnival of Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
And from the top of Beehive Mountain – only 520 feet up but smack against Frenchman Bay – the water is a delicate backdrop of slate that has collected pocket islands and inviting sandbars, which tourists can walk on during low tide. Acadia is peaceful land, respectful of its nature while still offering just enough adventure.
Acadia is peaceful land, respectful of its nature while still offering just enough adventure.”
Mountaintops are perfect spots for a toast, and Allagash Saison seems most appropriate while de-stressing from the Beehive. A year-round offering from the Portland, Maine, brewery popular for its White witbier, Saison is in the Belgian farmhouse ale style with an alcohol by volume touching just above 6% – a sessionable beer best enjoyed in warmer months, or after strenuous activity with a little more work ahead.
The smell of orange and banana explode from the bottle immediately, a perceived sweetness crucial to the farmhouse style. As the fruit dissipates from the aroma, pepper and coriander take over. This is necessary – the peppier the beer, the more it can dance and surprise, keeping any cloying sweetness at bay. I’ll have cloying sweetness with my late-night tripels and quads, thanks, but give me pepper on a summer afternoon.
When poured in the recommended goblet, Saison is a sparkling gold, a thin line of head hanging out for a while, a sufficient amount of carbonation swirling about in the body.
Before drinking, I might think I’m about to wrestle with my insides, choking down the yeast, but all worries dissipate at first taste. It starts with a funk of mango, lemon, even ginger, before turning awfully herbal – pepper, coriander, star anise – then, without much warning, drying out with just a hint of a lingering herbal bite. The dry finish stays for a long time, fading slow like a Sauvignon Blanc. I think I would’ve enjoyed a second more of spice.
But I don’t get very picky on mountaintops. Reaching a plateau means there’s more hiking to go, so I’m glad to be drinking an herbal beer that finishes dry, even if it’s not the perfect bite or the most full-bodied summer session.
In fact, gazing out onto the islands and sandbars in the nearby Atlantic Ocean, Allagash Saison is a lot like Acadia: respectful of its nature while still offering just enough adventure.