Vignette 23: Perkins and Tod (Allagash)

Way back in 2008, I visited Allagash to learn about their recently-launched coolship project. I spoke with head brewer Jason Perkins and founder Rob Tod. At the time, neither man was sure the project was going anywhere--though of course time has resolved the uncertainty.

Perkins: “Basically, our confidence came from a couple things. One, our house Brettanomyces we discovered here. It infected one of our beers in our old facility. We really liked the character, said this has got to be Brett, it's got a Brettanomyces-type character to it. Wyeast Labratory isolated it for us and now banks it for us and we now use it in many beers.  It was not a strain they’ve ever seen before, different character, so it’s resident to this area, certainly. Of course Brettanomyces is a huge component, probably the biggest microbial component to lambics. And then just talking to these brewers in Belgium. You know, they say in the books or whatever, this can only be done in the Zenne Valley but when you ask them point blank they say, no you can do it anywhere in the world. I'm sure you can spontaneously ferment anything anywhere--it just might not taste very good.”

Rob Tod: “I was adamantly against it. When I went over to Belgium with a few other brewers two years ago, I was like, we gotta do this, we gotta brew these beers. [But] when I got back I thought: it’s too much work, it’s too risky, it’s too risky having all those microbes in the brewery. Let’s just focus on the other Belgian-style beers we do. But then one morning we all just looked at each other and we’re like Fuck it, let’s build a coolship. That was basically what it came down to.”

But then one morning we all just looked at each other and we’re like, ‘Fuck it, let’s build a coolship.’

Perkins: “The first time we brewed was November 29th, 2007. The second beer was in December [and after that it was too cold].  Even as it was, the second brew was 27 degrees when we brewed--hich worked out fine. We bring it into the building based on the temperature or the wort. So batch number one, we went in here at 4-5 at night, the next day we waited until about noon to bring it into the building. The next brew, when it was 27 overnight, we brought it in at eight in the morning. It was already 58-60 degrees. And that’s when we would like to bring it in.”

Tod (L) and Perkins (R). Photo: Nick Hines

VignetteJeff Alworth