A few weeks ago a friend and I decided to escape the cold, snowy city of Albany, NY for… a potentially even colder and snowier Portland, ME in search of the best brews the city had to offer. The weather gods smiled upon us and our honorable quest as we were greeted with a mild, sunny weekend. We set off to explore the Portland beer scene, and our first stop was to Bissell Brothers, just outside of the old port district. I’d been lucky to score some of this brewery’s offerings in previous beer trades, and knew that I could expect great things from them.
We entered the brewery shortly after they opened, and were met with two lines: one for cans, and the other for samples/full pours. There were four can offerings available that day. We were eager to try all four, so we jumped in the can line first before grabbing some tasters. This turned out to be a smart decision because shortly after we sat down, the line for cans exploded.
Despite the crowd, there was plenty of space to sit down and sample the on-tap offerings. There was also a food truck at the brewery that day, offering Korean and Mexican fusion, although I did not partake. The brewery had quite a few on-tap offerings that day, ranging from DIPAs to barrel aged stouts. I immediately knew that I had to try “Swish”, a Double IPA that I have heard people rave about. I decided to balance that out with a sample of a darker offering, “Resolve”.
“Swish” poured a hazy gold with a creamy white head. This beer is full of juicy tropical fruit flavors from the Mosaic and Citra hops, with a pleasant bitter bite thanks to the additions of Simcoe and Apollo. The mouthfeel is soft, with a medium body, and at 8% ABV this beer is dangerously easy to drink. “Resolve”, a dark ale, poured a murky, muddy brown but had a surprisingly clean taste. While their website describes the dark ale as “hop forward”, I found the taste to be dominated by the flavors of roasted dark malts. The mouthfeel is pleasantly smooth thanks to the oats in the malt bill. All in all, I was impressed by both beers, and was grateful to see the range of styles being offered by the brewery. I was able to bring home cans of three other IPAs, as well as an oatmeal stout.
The Substance Ale:
Bissell Brothers Flagship IPA has the trademark hazy appearance of a NE IPA, but packs a bitter bite thanks to its unique hop bill of Falconers Flight, Centennial, Apollo, Summit, and Chinook. The beer pours a creamy, matte light orange, with a thick white head. The taste is piney, grassy, and citrusy, with a soft mouthfeel. This is an impressive flagship offering that can be found both on tap, and in cans at the brewery most days. “Substance” can also be found on tap in many local bars and restaurants throughout Portland.
I’ll be honest, I almost passed over this one. I often get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of IPAs I encounter during my beer trips, but I’m so glad I picked up a 4-pack of this IPA with ginger and rice. The beer poured like many IPAs; an opaque golden yellow, with a thin lacy white foam. The flavor, however, was such an unexpected surprise. It had an amazingly creamy and smooth mouthfeel, with a slight sweetness, subtle ginger spiciness, and light citrus notes. This beer features two of my favorite hops, Sorachi Ace and Lemondrop, which complemented the ginger spice so beautifully. I literally cannot wait to get my hands on this beer again. Seriously, can someone send me some…?
A double dry hopped imperial IPA featuring Australian hops, “Reciprocal” is an impressive offering with a taste unlike anything I’ve had before. “Reciprocal” pours a hazy yellow, with a thick white foam that leaves behind an impressive lacing. The hop bill includes Ella, Summer, and Vic Secret to create a flavor of sharp, tangy tropical fruits, and citrus. The juiciness is balanced by a dank, resinous bitterness making this beer layered and complex. The mouthfeel remains soft and creamy, with just a prickle of boozy heat.
There’s something about a good oatmeal stout that just makes me warm and fuzzy inside. This beer does just that (that may be the 7.5% ABV talking) and I could drink this beer all winter long. “Umbra” pours a jet black, with a tiny tan head. The mouthfeel is silky smooth, and the taste is of roasted malts, coffee, and a hint of chocolate. This is definitely a beer worth seeking out.
I was impressed with my trip to Bissell Brothers, not only by their IPAs, but by their darker offerings as well. I look forward to my next visit to spend some time in their hip taproom and sample more of their brews and indulge in some food truck offerings.