What I learned from Allagash Brewing
This past summer, in the heat of August, we made a pilgrimage north. We headed to the magical land of Portland, Maine after having heard about the amazing sites, food, and beverages. We were only there for two days and needed to make the most of our time, so we planned much of our visit around the hours of neighboring breweries (it’s all about priorities).
On our way to Maine, we quickly stopped at Smuttynose, which is located in Hampton, New Hampshire (also where Hampton Beach is located...make a note of that if you elect to travel there during the summer as you’ll likely get stuck in beach traffic). We were surprised by the variety of beer offerings at Smuttynose and thoroughly enjoyed our time visiting. I hope to visit them again when we travel nearby again and give them the time that they deserve.
After checking into our hotel, we set off again for all things food and beer related. We settled upon a local pub, said hello to people walking their pups, visited small, family owned businesses and enjoyed the feeling of a soft ocean wind kissing our cheeks. The next day, we had some serious beer missions and thus, settled on a quiet evening in preparation.
We woke up to bright sunlight, and knew that after a delicious breakfast, Allagash was calling. An important public service announcement for those of you wanting to visit Allagash at any point. Brewery tours are free, but they do recommend reservations. When any business states in their literature/website that reservations are recommended, it’s their nice way of saying “don’t be an idiot, make a reservation.” We reserved a spot on a brewery tour two weeks prior to our visit. It was completely booked the week prior to our arrival. You can still enjoy a tasting without a tour, and their tasting room is beautiful, but I encourage you to try to arrange for a tour if you’re able.
Allagash, at this point, is now a commonly referred to beer when magazines, and brewers list their “top brews.” It’s hard to believe that the brewery did not find immediate success when it opened in 1995. At that point, its founder Rob Tod was passionate about an underrepresented style of beer on the market at that time, Belgian style. The hints of spice, the unfiltered murky yellow hue, the lack of a strong hop presence were a new idea to many, and it was not welcomed with enthusiasm.
Tod was known to order pints of his beer at local establishments in an attempt to drudge up excitement about his new type of beer from patrons and also ensure restaurants that had his beers on tap to continued to use his brewery. He ceaselessly trudged forward for close to a decade before the beer he cared so strongly about finally caught on.
Why am I writing about this? In an era where craft breweries seem to pop up in every available old factory building, many of whom find quick success, it’s important to remember that instant success does not always occur. It is, in fact, more rare than it is commonplace. In order to reach prosperity, it’s important to also face failure and keep on moving forward.
The other piece I took home from the brewery tour was the founder’s desire empower his staff to use their own creativity by allowing them to create their own beers with his support. Being confident enough in your own business to be able to step aside and allow young staff to learn from their own trials and errors is telling of the founder’s character. I’m thankful for having had an opportunity to learn more about this brewery’s backstory and I hope that I remember the brewer’s perseverance should I encounter trials when establishing this blog.