Over the past few months I’ve become a very big fan of Maine Brewing Company‘s Peeper Ale. Introduced to me initially by Chad Northrup, it’s going to be a go-to (when I can get it) this summer. But this review is not about that beer. I only share it as a pre-amble to how I found Zoe.
Maine Brewing Company’s beers don’t attract much attention to themselves on the shelves.
They’re all in unremarkable brown bottles with pulpy white labels which look like they’ve been made out of 100% post-consumer L.L. Bean catalogues. The printing on said labels is almost entirely (or in the case of Zoe, completely) monochromatic with minimalist (and I mean minimalist) graphics. To wit: the labels of the two MBC beers I’ve tried feature a smiley face (not surrounded by a circle, mind you; that’d be showy) and a jazzercizing stick figure. If you didn’t know to look for them you’d probably walk right on by.
But that would be a mistake.
As a Peeper devotee, when I spotted their Zoe amber ale on the shelf, my first (and as it turns out, correct) instinct was: *yoink!*
Now, if you are only a fan of extreme beers which kick down your door with 463 IBU’s, punch you in the face and leave your palette a scorched wasteland which you can brag to your friends the next day about surviving, then you will likely not appreciate what MBC is doing here.
Zoe pours a rich reddish-brown color with a frothy head which over the course of enjoying it, stuck to the sides of the glass looking like dishwashing soap rather than the delicate lacing you often see. The smell was hoppy with pine and grass notes poking through. Not overpowering, but fresh and inviting.
The taste is reasonably balanced by malt, but hops definitely are in the driver seat here with a hoppy bitterness which runs the length of each sip. The initial mouth-feel is slightly oily (but not in a bad way), followed by piney resin, and a hint of caramel (which I had to hunt for a little). The individual flavor notes are there, but they’re subtle. A slight warming effect from the alcohol at the finish. This bottle was lot 042811, so it doesn’t get much fresher than this.
Vitals: Poured from 1 pint .9 fl oz bottle into a pint glass. 7.2% ABV.
Taste: A- Really nice hoppy beer, balanced by just enough malts with a few interesting flavor notes to discover. I’ve seen it compared to Troeg’s Nugget Nectar, and I’d say this one might be better. I think a side-by-side may have to happen with the CBS crew.
Drinkability: B. If enjoyed between 45-50 F, it’d hover closer to a B+. I let what didn’t fit into the glass warm above 50, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the bitterness became more pronounced. This beer doesn’t betray too much of the 7.2% ABV, so watch your step, but I could’ve gone for another one when this was done.