My love affair with Allagash White can be directly traced back to Harpoon UFO White – a definitive gateway beer for me. When I was in college, beer runs to Wegman’s consisted of a suitcase of Rolling Rock or Miller High Life and a mixed six pack of craft. Those six beers, typically chosen for their label artwork, were oftentimes made up of 50% UFO White. Fresh squeezed lemon, a hint of biscuit, and orange peel. It was simple, refreshing, approachable, and perfect for the golf course (which was free to play with my student ID when/if Syracuse, NY weather allowed for it).
UFO White, alongside Sierra Nevada Torpedo, opened the rabbit hole of beer to me, and I fell deeply and quickly. Not being one to tip-toe into things, a ‘best brewery in the world’ Google Search query led me to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, and less than a year after ‘discovering’ craft beer, I was driving 3+ hours to Hill Farmstead. American iterations of Witbier and West Coast IPAs were quickly forgotten in the hunt for the next New England Double IPA, Barrel-Aged Stout, or American Wild Ale aged in Wine Barrels on apricots.
I still do enjoy those big, palate-bending flavors from time to time, but more often than not, I’m reaching for beers that I want to have more than one of throughout a night. It’s a cycle that many drinkers have experienced as craft beer has grown into a mature industry. You start at American adjunct lagers, end up all the way on the other end of the spectrum with huge flavors and high abv, and eventually come back around to craft Helles and Pilsner. These days, in my fridge you’ll almost always find Notch Session Pils, Zero Gravity Keller, Rothaus Tannenzäpfle Pilsner, and next to all of that Lagerbier, in what is probably a subconscious nod to those UFO days, Allagash White.
In my mind, Allagash White is Belgian-Style Witbier perfected. Allagash’s 2-Row malted barley blend, red wheat malt, raw white wheat, oats, and carapils contribute the delicately hazy, pale yellow appearance. The head is a pillowy off white that feels like cream on the palate. It’s spiced with a blend of coriander, Curaçao orange peel, “plus a secret one, just to keep a little mystery”, according to Allagash founder Rob Tod. There has been plenty of speculation on what that secret ingredient could be: grains of paradise, anise, black pepper, chamomile, etc. Whatever it is, it plays it’s part in a masterful flavor experience that is both somehow simple and complex all at once.
There is a refined elegance to Allagash White, yet it is a beer that can be found at almost any bar, restaurant, and package store here in Boston. It’s enjoyable at any point in the year – refreshing in the summer, with a spice character and silky mouthfeel that stands up throughout the winter months. White is one of my favorite food pairing beers. Salad, white fish, chicken, oysters, lobster, mozzarella – it enhances a huge variety of dishes.
Over the past year, we’ve sold Allagash White at a pace of nearly 18 bottles per day (0.75 cases/day). Those numbers, for a bottle shop of our size, means that this beer is easily one of our top selling beers. That shouldn’t be surprising, for all of the flavor that this beer offers, it’s extremely approachable. Minimal bitterness, combined with a creamy experience on the palate and familiar flavors of orange peel, black pepper, and coriander allow for this beer to be perfect for newcomers to craft and experienced vets alike.
It’s basically all I drink. I love our other beers, but I just always seem to gravitate back to White. Every once in a while, I still discover an aroma or flavor I’ve never gotten before.
– Rob Tod in Downeast Magazine
Belmont, MA is certainly not the only place on Earth where White is enjoyed. That beer currently makes up roughly 80 percent of the brewery’s total annual production; something like 74,500 of 98,000 bbls per year. A good chunk of that consumption may be due to Rob Tod himself. He’s often been quoted stating that he will seldom drink anything other than White. With the vast variety of offerings that Allagash puts out annually, the quality of which are nearly unmatched, it says something when the founder of the brewery almost exclusively drinks the flagship beer.
We live in the era of one-off can releases and infinitely rotating draft lines. It’s exciting – there’s always a new beer to try and a unique flavor experience to be had, but in my opinion, we should all be a bit more like Rob Tod. Variety may be the spice of life, but the secret spice in Allagash White has me going back time and time again.