|Brewery:||Maine Beer Company|
|Hops:||US Magnum, Centennial|
|Malt:||American 2-Row, Midnight Wheat, Roasted Barley, Caramel 40L, Chocolate, Flaked Oats|
|Appearance:||Deep Mahogany, Smooth Tan Head|
|Aroma:||Sweet Malt, Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Molasses & Spiced Sweetness|
|Flavor:||Subtle Coffee; Bitter Chocolate frolicking with Sweet Malts|
|Pairs With:||BBQ & Smoked Meats, Gouda, Rich Chocolate Desserts|
After a rather busy in-house week finishing up the American Brewers Guild brewing course I am back reviewing. I’ll be up here in Vermont for five weeks, which has made a whole new selection of beer suddenly available to review. Makes things fun and I get to try stuff I’d never get my hands on back home. So, with much excitement and some passing trepidation (where to start)… I dip my toes.
The Maine Beer Company started out small. I mean really small. David and Daniel Kleban started with just a one barrel system (a barrel is 31 gallons), and this was before the term “nanobrewery” was a common part of brewing language. They grew fast, pushed hard by an ever growing tailwind of outstanding small-batch recipes and word-of-mouth praise.
The Maine Beer Company label is what caught my eye first and probably part of the reason I picked it up. All their labels are classy, clean, and very understated when compared to the garish wash of color and artwork that confronts you when standing in front of your local beer selections. This one stands out because it is neither garish or colorful. It is simple.
Mean Old Tom has a cranky looking face drawn on a pristine white background and the name of the brewery and beer presented in simple font. The backside of the label gives a little note about how they came up with the name. That’s all there is to the label. Nothing else. And this simplicity makes their beers easy to recognize and find on the shelf.
Mean Old Tom is an American Stout aged on vanilla beans. Vanilla pairs well with the dark malts used in stouts and porters, but is easily overdone, and if overdone it comes out chemical and artificial. But the label statement “aged on real vanilla beans” intrigued me and I thought I’d give it a whirl.
The Pour and Aroma
Pours very dark with only the smallest amounts of light cracking its edges to leak around and show as deep mahogany. A tan head rides to about a fingers width above the dark liquid. Tight, heavy and smooth the head drops slow as molasses, leaving a series of sticky laced steps to mark its decent.
The nose is as decadent as a dessert chief’s prized special. Aroma is one of sweet malt, coffee, dark chocolate, molasses, and a sense of spiced sweetness. The vanilla perhaps? I say “a sense” here because I’m not entirely sure if I’m actually picking up on it or if my imagination is sticking it in just because it believes it should be there. After all, it’s aged on the stuff, right?
Mouthfeel and Taste
Medium-thick and mouthcoating, this one hits the palate with no sharp corners, it’s all a show of round smoothness.
Rich malt forms a high-walled backbone of sweetness around this dark castle. Vanilla skips along, nicely noticeable, but not overdoing its welcome. Roasted malts, coffee, and bitter chocolate notes play across mid-palate bringing a balance of bittering notes to the party. Some hop bittering finds its way out, pops up on the swallow and continues through to the aftertaste, helping to even the keel of this sweet ship even more.
Finishing The Impression
This one is sticky-sweet, and smooth. Everything a good stout should be. The added hints at vanilla up the intrigue and make this beer well worth a try.
In the end Mean Old Tom comes off more as the gruff, slightly intimidating, but ultimately sweet grandfather with the deep, rich baritone laugh. It’s actually so rich I had trouble getting though the whole bottle in one sitting. This is definitely another of those lovely beers for an evening when you’d like everything to just slow down a little. Times when you can breathe, sit quiet, and really delve into the rich dark tapestries of a stout, but this one doesn’t just play its stoutness well it adds to it, carefully and unobtrusively. The vanilla remains a team player to the whole, only hinting, without knocking you on the head and dragging you off.