The Maine coastline is an endless series of rocky edges, inlets and picturesque homes. The fir trees appear to rise out of the ocean as each peninsula craters out into the great Atlantic. Even in the winter, with a chill that can shatter glass, the green peaks from pine trees poke through the snow. The farms go dormant. Wood is piled high and burned in the stove. It’s old New England. It’s classic, harsh and the year-long residents wear their hardworn wrinkles with pride.
Allagash Brewing Company’s Hoppy Table beer lives in that Old World landscape of Maine. Even though it says “Hoppy” in the name, it’s far from the gut-busting and pallet-shattering effect that has come to rule craft beer in America. Instead, Hoppy Table Beer blends herbal elements with understated notes of fresh stone fruit skins and pine resin.
The history of table beer dates back to Medieval times, when beer was not just a drink for pleasure and libations. It was a necessity. People drank table beer at the table, of course. It was the drink of choice in Belgium and in parts of France during the 16th Century. It was a replacement for water, which wasn’t always safe to drink. The beer was low alcohol, often below one percent, and tasted bready with a touch of sweetness, light carbonated and dry finish.
Table beer’s style didn’t translate well, though. It didn’t make its way to bars and pubs or large scale breweries. In theory, it was boring and time-consuming in a way that didn’t warrant the effort once water treatment and sewage became common practice. It became a footnote until the craft beer movement exploded and brought the beer back from the crypt with typical American abandon.
It was rustic and modern at the same time.”
It’s no surprise that Allagash was one of the early adopters of Americanizing the table beer. Allagash has made its bones on revamping and recreating old world styles with a distinctly American approach. First brewed in 2017, Hoppy Table Beer is the brewery’s first year-round beer that carries the weight of hops in the name and flavor profile.
The first time I drank Allagash’s Hoppy Table Beer, it was a warm summer day in New England. The beer poured a hazy gold color with a firm white head and smelled a touch piney and like the skins of fresh peaches with a lingering of spice, thanks to coriander. A bit of earthy funk carried over into the first sip. It finished with a subtle dry snap and some lingering bitterness. As the beer warmed, it opened up to expose some barnyard tones. It was rustic and modern at the same time.
The four-pack had no chance of lasting the night on the table. It went faster than anticipated, but with its 4.9% ABV, I was able to avoid the sluggish hangover that awaits after a night of bombastic beers. The only lingering feeling I had was that I left the bottles out on the table and knew I’d be in trouble in the morning for leaving a mess. I was right. Breakfast was in order and we needed the table.