Inspired by Belgian brews, Allagash Brewery began producing beer in Maine in 1995. Over the past several decades, the once small-scale brewery founded by a recent college grad has transformed into an icon of the East Coast craft beer scene. Allagash White, the brand’s flagship wheat beer, is truly a gold standard for the style in the U.S. and has led the brewery to garner massive popularity as well as several prestigious awards.
While Allagash has remained true to its signature brew, it has expanded its lineup over the years with some seriously creative beers as well, often leading the charge in experimental techniques previously uncharted in the U.S. Through this strategy, Allagash has grown from a one-man company to the 23rd-largest craft brewery in America, with about 160 employees.
Even though Allagash White is likely already a mainstay in your local bar or one of your go-to beers to grab at the store, there is a lot more to learn about this quintessential Maine brewery. Here are 10 things you should know about Allagash Brewery.
A job as a keg cleaner changed the founder’s career trajectory.
When Rob Tod graduated from Middlebury College in 1993, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go back to school for geology or follow another path. While deciding on his future, Tod took a temporary job as a keg washer at Otter Creek Brewing in Vermont. Through a year working at the brewery and learning the ins and outs of brewing, kegging, and bottling — as well as trying a diverse range of beers he had never been exposed to before — Tod developed a passion for beer. This experience led Tod to decide to pursue beer full-time, starting Allagash brewery in 1995 in a corner of a warehouse on the outskirts of Portland, Maine.
Its flagship beer was inspired by a fabled Belgian brewer.
In his time exploring different types of brews, Tod was particularly taken by Belgian styles. One day, he tried a Belgian witbier called Celis White created by Pierre Celis, who is thought to have single-handedly brought back this style of beer from obscurity in his hometown of Hoegaarden, Belgium. The beer’s complex spice profile with subtle notes of citrus and clove impressed Tod and sparked the inspiration for Allagash’s first beer, Allagash White. The now award-winning signature recipe is brewed with oats, malted wheat, and raw wheat — which gives the beer its hazy “white” appearance — and is spiced with Allagash’s special blend of coriander and Curaçao orange peel.
Allagash is a highly decorated brewery.
Through the decades, Allagash’s brewery and team have been recognized for their stellar Belgian-style brews and contributions to the world of beer. Allagash White won its first gold medal at the World Beer Cup in 1998 and went on to win gold again at the Great American Beer Festival in 2002. In 2016, the Brewer’s Association presented Allagash’s brewmaster Jason with the Russell Scherer award for innovation in craft brewing. Allagash White continued to win medals in several competitions, and in 2017, the beer won its first gold medal at the European Beer Star awards.
Showing no signs of stopping, the accolades escalated in 2019 when founder Rob Tod won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits professional for exceptional skill and consistency. In 2021, Allagash Brewery finally won the coveted grand prizes of Brewery and Brewer of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival.
Allagash celebrates local farmers.
Allagash’s Sixteen Counties golden ale honors the tradition of farming throughout the 16 counties of Maine. The beer is brewed with grains exclusively grown and processed in Maine, making it a uniquely local beer. To further support local farmers and businesses, Tod pledged in 2017 that, by 2021, the brewery would use 1 million pounds of Maine-grown grain per year. Allagash achieved that goal in 2021, and in 2022 the brewery used over 1.5 million pounds of Maine-grown grain.
Sometimes, Allagash beers can get wild and spontaneous.
After the success of the classic Allagash White, the brewery decided to start experimenting with some unconventional brewing techniques. In 2005, brewmaster Jason Perkins started a wild fermented beer program starring Interlude, a mixed-fermentation ale aged in wine barrels.
Then, a trip to Belgium in 2007 inspired Tod to try and brew a traditional Belgian lambic-style beer. This type of beer, made with spontaneous fermentation, had never before been brewed in America. Allagash successfully brewed the first beer of this kind in the U.S., and after aging it for three years in barrel, it was released as Coolship Resugam — a vibrant and complex beer that’s still produced to this day.
Its stout is inspired by the local Dark Sky Certified woods.
Did you know that 80 percent of the world’s population has an obstructed view of the night sky due to light pollution? A local 76,000-acre area of Maine woods, protected by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), was recently recognized by the International Dark Sky Association as an official International Dark Sky Park. This means the area is one of the best places in the world to see the night sky scattered with beautiful stars. Allagash celebrates the natural beauty of its home state with its North Sky stout — a velvety Belgian-style stout that aims to balance the typical darkness of a stout with light notes of fruity sweetness. This beer is meant to evoke the feeling of a late evening spent around a crackling campfire and looking up at the sky.
All Allagash employees are involved in the process of creating new beers
Allagash loves to take creative suggestions from its employees. Anyone who works for the company — from accountants, to brewers, to lab workers — is allowed and encouraged to submit a pilot beer idea. Some of the brewery’s favorite beers including Two Lights brewed with Sauvignon Blanc must and Champagne yeast, Ganache dark ale aged with raspberries, and Sun Drift brewed with lemon zest, started as suggestions from employees in the pilot system.
If you work at Allagash for five years, you get sent on a trip to Belgium.
In 2010, founder Rob Tod and brewmaster Jason Perkins decided that when an Allagash employee reached their fifth anniversary at the brewery, the company would send them on a free trip to Belgium. This beer-focused pilgrimage has since been dubbed “Bellagash.” The company tradition started with its inaugural journey in 2011; 24 employees went on the trip in 2022. Initiatives like this make Allagash a great place to work. The brewery was voted one of the Best Places to Work in Maine for seven consecutive years, and the company is B Corp certified.
Allagash is great at giving back.
Through all the years of growing and becoming a larger company, Allagash has continued to prioritize its local community. In addition to many other philanthropic pursuits and donations, in 2019 Allagash pledged to give 10 cents for every barrel of beer produced to Sebago Clean Waters, a collaboration between nine conservation organizations working to protect water quality and wildlife in Sebago, Maine. These efforts are helping to preserve the quality of drinking water in Sebago Lake.
After decades at their home in the Portland area, Allagash is making major moves to expand. In 2022, the company purchased over seven acres of land in nearby Scarborough, Maine, where it is developing a new custom-designed tasting room. The space is projected to open in 2024; the current tasting room in Portland will remain open until the Scarborough project is complete, and brewing operations will remain at the original location.
Allagash also opened a new experiential tasting space at the brewery called The Cellars. An educational meets sensory experience, The Cellars allows guests to sample, and learn about, small batch beers, and will complement Allagash’s new off-site tasting room.