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Peter LaFrance

Monday, June 30, 2008

A taste of... Federal Jacks

“She’s over on the other side… Want to leave a message?”

“Here’s my card. Just tell her I stopped in. I’ll be back… Thanks.”

The bartender slid my business card into the ledge of the cash register along with a number of others and returned to stacking pint glasses on a shelf beneath the bar.

The remnants of my “flight” of tasting glasses sat where I left them, on the laminated beer-menu that briefly explained each of the seven beers brewed there. A selection of two or three ounce samples of the pubs brews not only allows the customer to feel like they can make an informed decision about which beer to order a full pint of, it also puts the house beers in context. In many cases just one sip of a particular beer might not be enough to appreciate all its nuances. When tasted in context with darker or lighter brews the nuances become more noticeable and picking a favored brew is easier. In this case I was more than familiar with the Ringwood yeast flavor profile common to all the Federal Jack’s brews because Alan Pugsley was once the brewer at a small brewpub in lower Manhattan. Ah, those were the days! Manhattan once had six brewpubs to choose from. That is no longer the case. Today, not even a six-pack. But I digress…

The main reason I found myself sipping a flight of samples at Federal Jack’s was because a college classmate of mine contacted me about getting together when he visited family in Kennebunk, Maine. It was determined that the ideal place to meet was Federal Jack’s, for two reasons. The first was because I have had the pleasure of working with the general manager on an article about romantic brewpub events. (No… Not me and her… folks who visited the brewpubs.) The second was because we could coordinate my five hour drive from Brooklyn and his plane trip from Texas and rendezvous at 1900 on a Friday evening.

My preferred method of visiting a brewpub is to sit at the bar, preferably, and sample one or two pints with one or two bar-snacks, an initial reconnaissance. On my return there are interviews to be arranged with the usual suspects… manager, brewer and chef. This, however, was not a traditional visit to a brewpub. This was a sentimental journey so my persona as journalist took some time off. Nevertheless the following notes and photographs give a general Idea of a taste of Federal Jack’s

It’s not a small place…

Federal Jack’s Beer Menu

Menu text and “My notes”:

The ales you are enjoying are the creations of Alan Pugsley, Brewmaster of the Kennebunkport Brewing Company (KBC) and Shipyard Brewing Company of Portland, ME. Alan is an experienced British Master Brewer and brewpub consultant who has designed breweries and formulated beers for over 90 microbreweries and brewpubs throughout Britain, the United States, Europe and Asia.

The Shipyard English-Style ales require time honored traditional brewing methods. The hops for the beer comes from the Pacific Northwest; the barley and yeast from England; the spring water from the lakes and rivers of Maine.

It takes eight hours to brew a batch of our ales and eight days before the beer is ready to be served in our brewpub. Try the sampler and find just the right style & enjoy!

Goat Island Light: A very light, low alcohol beer with its own distinctive, light flavor. (It is) Named after the Goat Island Light House in Cape Porpoise, ME. 3.8% ABV

My notes: Yes, it is a light beer… with a slight metallic after-taste.

The Shipyard Export Ale: Full bodied, yet lighter in flavor. A great malty balance followed by a subtle hop taste. Styled after the Canadian ale of old. 5.13% AVB

My notes: Light it is, with a slight phenol presence in the nose.

Taint Town Pale Ale: Classic style of a British Bitter. (This brew has a) Clean, crisp and aromatic with a subtle balance between malt and hops – a local favorite. 4.75% ABV

My notes: A pleasant light beer with a light hop flavor and crisp finish.

Brown Ale: Just like Maine’s moose, this ale is brown and beautiful. A much more pronounced malty flavor with just the right amount of hops for flavor. 3.88%ABV

My notes: Very similar to the Taint Town with a sweeter, less dry finish.

Old Thumper: 1985 British Grand Champion Beer, Old Thumper is a non-traditional English Bitter now brewed by KBC and the Shipyard Brewing Company. 5.75% ABV

My notes: A brown ale with fruit esters in front and at the finish.

Fuggles IPA: Feeling hoppy? Fuggles is a single-hopped ale that satisfies many an India Pale Ale enthusiast. A wonderful balance and deceptively smooth. 5.75% ABV

My notes: This brown ale has a noticeable citric flavor that I associate with Cascade hops.

Blue Fin Stout: This is the classic Irish stout. Full bodied, yet soft, and spectacular in appearance with it’s black body and creamy head. A wonderful stout. 4.88% ABV

My notes: Stout? It seems to be more of a Porter with a long lusty, slightly astringent dry finish.

Below: The proper use for the Federal Jack’s beer menu.

Just a glimpse into the brewery.

Important information:

As I noted previously, this was not a proper investigative report. It was a sentimental journey and a chance to just enjoy good beer and lobster, mussels, clams, the view of the boats, the fresh air and the opportunity to swap lies and swat flies and have some fun.

I will note that I had a very good brown ale with my "Lobster Feast"... Solstice Ale. It was a brown ale but had a less aggressive hop presence together with a less emphatic sweet malt flavor. All the flavors were in the right place and the balance was the key to making it a great pair with the rich lobster.

Also of note is the distinct "Ringwood" (yeast) house flavor that is either appreciated or not. I appreciate it.

Mission accomplished… for real.


Peter LaFrance

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