Curieux Experience

Apr 13, 2017

Curieux Experience

Allagash Brewing Co. invited Wine Warehouse to Portland Maine for the Curieux Experience.

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Eli, Valleys Beer Specialist:

Curieux is one of the only Belgian style Tripel aged in Jim Beam Bourbon barrels. Allagash Triple, 9% ABV, is the base beer of Curieux which finishes around 11% ABV after months long aging in the Bourbon oak barrels. After the Triple is conditioned the beer is put through a few tests. most importantly, checking the ABV. By law the packaging on the label needs to be accurate within .25% of the alcohol level. This level is then put into a mathematical formula to see how much fresh Allagash Tripel needs to be blended in with the barrel aged Curieux. The average blend is from 15-30% fresh Triple, as the amount of alcohol from the whiskey varies from barrel to barrel.

This trip for me was most amazing because it was a very hands-on experience.

We got to stand side by side with the Brewers making the Triple adding ingredients and feeling the heat and aromas coming from the brew kettles. We were able to fill Curieux barrels, empty Curieux barrels and I even got to pop the bung off of a fresh Jim Beam barrel.

Our friends at Allagash Brewing Company were the most gracious hosts. They arranged several beer dinners with some extremely rare Allagash beers at the top rated restaurants in Portland, Maine.

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Bobby, San Jose Beer Specialist:

Walking out of the warm Portland Airport awaiting my Lyft ride, I had no idea how cold Maine’s “spring season” was going to be… It was like stepping into a fridge. Luckily, there was a tall 750ml Curieux in my hotel room, waiting for me to drink every flavorful bourbony ounce. After warming up from consuming the rich golden ale, I realized there were other parts of this trip I was not expecting to occur…

This may sound weird, but Portland has ruined lobster for me. I love lobster, especially visiting the restaurants in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, or near Pacific Beach in San Diego. Lobster is life. When we arrived at Allagash Brewery’s Curieux Dinner, a lobster roll was served right to me. With my cold hands, I brought the small roll to my mouth and took a small bite. That first and last piece I consumed was without a doubt, amazing. To reemphasize the word amazing, I must bring in the definition: “Causing great surprise or wonder; astonishing; startlingly impressive.” The buttery roll matched the texture of the lobster within. You could eat this without your teeth as it melts in your mouth full of heavenly essential flavors. Lobster will never be the same for me as I live all the way on the other side of the country, far away from this delicacy.

The following day, we were given multiple tours of the brewery and the process of making Curieux.

From how the base Tripel is brewed, to collecting the Belgian style liquid from the barrels, the step by step procedures is not simple nor careless. As we gathered together into one room, there displayed in that room were multiple glasses and measuring cups. It was our turn to blend Curieux with Tripel. Science time! It was quite interesting to try the beer straight from the barrel as that’s not how I remember tasting Curieux in the past. The sweet addition of Tripel helps ease the strong bold flavors of the raw barreled ale to create a balanced yet complex beer. With the proper blend, which each batch requires different measurements, the vanilla and light bourbon nose certainly is evident coming from the glass.

There was a lot of information to process. From having the best damn lobster, to noticing that I was the darkest guy in town. But the biggest, and most important thing I took from this trip was how the people at Allagash Brewery are extraordinarily professional with their brewing and hospitable to their guests. Incredibly nice and humble folks who give the best guided tours and provide lovely beers. Whether it is for work or vacation, I will be back soon!

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Brian, WW Marketing Manager

I’m not even going to talk about the two incredible dinners that we had while we were out in Portland Maine visiting Allagash Brewing for the Curieux Experience.   Let’s talk about our day in the brewery “helping” the brewers brew, age and blend Allagash Curieux.  

While we worked the process a little out of order, these are the parts of creating the brew that we participated in.  

First up, brew the Allagash Tripel that is the base of Barrel-aged Curieux.  We were there when for the hop addition, Bobby even got to shoot a snippet for his “Beer Bae” character (google it) while up on the brew kettle landing.  

After that we moved to the part of the brewery where the freshly delivered Jim Beam Bourbon barrels are delivered.  They process 200 of these every time they produce Curieux.  First the bung is removed from the barrel and barrel is spun over to dump any remaining Bourbon out, then the barrel is flushed with water from a giant hose and big nozzle.  At this time, all the loose bits of charcoal from the barrel are flushed out.  The barrel is then spun back to where the bung hole is facing just off from straight up.  Then comes the filling of the barrel with fresh Allagash Tripel, again with a giant hose and a big nozzle, when it’s all full a new bung is hammered back in and the full barrel is sent off to rack for six weeks.  

From there we went to a conference room where Zach explained the quality control process and led us while we experimented with the blending of the Curieux.  Each of us had a set of beakers, a pitcher of hazy Curieux straight out of the barrel and a 12oz bottle of Allagash Tripel.  We blended the mixture at 75, 80 and 85% Curieux to Tripel in our beakers and tasted the results, I prefered the 75% blend as it eased the booziness of the beer.   The ultimate goal is to get both the alcohol by volume within 0.3% of the 11% stated on the bottle and to get the flavor blended to taste like everybody perceives Curieux to taste.  The brewery has a highly trained sensory staff with over 40 active members that decide this for the production releases.

All in all, I’d have to say it was one of the great brewery experiences I’ve had in my life.

The brewery is gorgeous, the hospitality is unequalled, the people are truly down to earth, the food and beverage were astonishing, the city is so beautiful. The only thing that went wrong was that I cut the trip a too short.  I should have stayed through the weekend like Eli and Bobby did, I would have gotten to add a New England snowstorm to my Curieux Experience.

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