Helena (Allagash Brewing Company)

Style: American Flanders-Style Red Aged in Oak Foudre

7.1% ABV

From: Portland, ME

Grains: Allagash 2-row Malted Barley Blend, Munich Malt, Raw Wheat

Hops: Hallertau

Barrel: Finished in an oak foudre

Yeast: House

Bacteria: Lactobacillus and Pediococcus

Brewery’s Note: “Helena is modeled after a traditional Flemish- Style Sour Red. It opens with aromas of apple and pear, imparts flavors of caramel and fruit, and is followed by a clean, assertive tartness. We brew Helena with Special B, Munich, Raw Wheat, and our 2-row blend. Hopped with Hallertau, we ferment this beer with our house yeast strain in an oak foudre and finish with Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. It’s clean fruity flavors and tartness makes it an excellent base for many of our sour fruited beers. This time around we are letting it be savored –pure and simple, all on its own. Enjoy.”

The beer pours a murky, rosy amber with caramelized hints, almost like a dark maple candy. It pours with a small cap of creamy, off-white bubbles, which fade to a plump, inner-tube like scrim around the glass. When you swirl it, the beer leaves a drizzly wash of thin lacing that slips back into the glass like some unknown leviathan’s unholy tentacles. The body of this beer is murky and dark. A cloud hangs through the center of the beer, but if you bring it up to eye level you can get hints of the other side of the glass. It moves in the glass with an easy medium weight, sloshing and pulling with some structure. On the nose, the beer is beautifully redolent in some of the best elements of a Flanders red. Think: Tart green apple, slight caramel bread crust, sweet cherries, raw oak slats, tart cherries, smooth lactic sour notes, some pineapple juice, almond paste, and beautiful blossoming Flanders scents. The sip yields fresh acidity, smoothly lactic with a subtle acetic bite that rounds the edges of the acids while the lactic acid smooths across the middle tongue. Raw green apple tartness also nips along the edges, but the acidity is wonderfully balanced by bread crust sweetness with hints of caramel and a middle and finish of dry bitter woodiness with slight herbal grass and oak slat richness that dries out the cherry pie sweetness and acidity. This is my second time drinking this beauty, and again I am very taken with how integrated and balanced all of the best parts of a Flanders Red are in this beer. No one note rains supreme, and instead we are left with a very balanced, Old World-style Flanders Red that is a pleasure to sip. The finish and aftertaste ring with slight notes of apple crisp, toasted oak, subtle cherries, and a sticky saliva that carries wisps of caramel. Malt vinegar grows in the flavor as it warms, but is well integrated and ends up coming off more like sweet balsamic as you sip. The feel in the mouth begins effervescent with acidity and bubbles before smoothing into rich lactic acid fluff with a structured oakiness sveltely tucking in this beer’s belly and leaving it on the lighter side of medium bodied. The beer is very drinkable, but carries the right amount of snap and quench to slow the sip down and allow you to properly enjoy the style.

Allagash hit another one out of the park in my book. Perfect New World examples done in an Old World-style. Their barrel cellar is a powerhouse, and even their regular beers are a force to be reckoned with in their respected styles. This hits in the upper echelon of my Flanders Red experiences, somewhere in the Oude Tart and Vintage Rodenbach realm. Delicious beer from an American classic in Belgian-style Ales.

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