Reviewed: Allagash River Trip
Official description: A companion to backyards, backwoods, and balconies alike. River Trip is a Belgian-style session ale with hop-forward grapefruit and stone fruit notes. It’s brewed in the table beer style with local grains and spiced with coriander for an extra hint of citrus. Dry hopping with Comet and Azacca contributes to the mix of melon and grapefruit notes in the beer’s aroma. Low-ABV and available in 16 oz. cans: so it’s good for any adventure. Grains: Local Pale Malt, Local Raw Quick Oats, 2-Row Base Malt Blend, Munich Malt. Hops: Nugget, Cascade, Comet, Azacca.
Allagash Brewing Co. – Allagash River Trip Belgian-Style Session Ale – 16oz can served in stemless snifter – 4.8% ABV
River Trip is an all-new beer for 2019 that joins Allagash’s year-round lineup. It’s been heavily promoted on social media in part because it comes in cans, a first for Allagash. Earlier this year, Allagash started canning its flagship beer, Allagash White. As far as I can tell, these are the only two beers currently in cans from the brewery. I was quite sad, though, to see that Allagash retired Hoppy Table Beer, which was a phenomenal light farmhouse ale. It’s my impression that River Trip is meant to take its place as the two have nearly identical recipes.
I’m sampling River Trip from a 16oz can that I picked up on a recent trip to Vermont. (Note that River Trip is currently only available in New England, New Jersey, and Western/upstate New York.) On the bottom of the can is a somewhat difficult-to-read packaging date of 6/20/19 – about 9 weeks old at the time of review.
Into my glass, River Trip is a gorgeous, glowing pale straw color with towering foam that sticks around for well over three minutes. This is one of the most impressive beers I’ve seen in a long time. It’s worth noting that this beer is can-conditioned, something I rarely see, which involves a decent amount of yeast sediment settled on the bottom. Swirling this up and tossing it into the glass does cloud it up a reasonable amount.
Bringing up the glass, you are rewarded with a delicate aroma of angel food cake, lemon squares, and faint esters like unripe pear. It really nails the subtle but still yeast-forward aroma expected in these pale farmhouse ales. Given the age of this can, I’m guessing most of the dramatic aroma hops have faded.
Taste-wise, this beer is super light-bodied – very rarely do I get to mark a zero on the sweetness chart for my reviews. This has no perceivable sweetness, which gives it a seltzer-like mouthfeel. But it’s by no means weak or thin-tasting. A soft array of fruity and grassy hops come front and center with no maltiness or alcohol to contend with. There’s a touch of minerality too, which compounds the sparkling water analogy. As it warms up, soft baguette flavors peek through. But make no mistake this is a hop-forward, ultra-dry beer. Usually, that combination makes for an astringent mess, but Allagash has fine-tuned this recipe and made it work miraculously well. It isn’t bitter or biting on the palate but rather snappy and zingy with a refreshing quality. It could be renamed Hop Gatorade.
In the finish, River Trip evaporates off the palate, leaving you wondering if you drank anything at all. This is a superlative summer session beer that is boundlessly drinkable. If I lived in the Northeast, this would be a fridge staple.
Perceived Specs for Allagash River Trip
River Trip is a very special beer. This is an ethereal farmhouse ale in cans at under 5% ABV. Just a few years ago, excellent saison and grisette were only available in corked and caged 750ml bottles – usually imported from Belgium. These were and still are cost-prohibitive for session beer and unportable for summertime activities. Even though you would not think that great Belgian farmhouse ale comes from a can in Maine, I believe River Trip captures the original purpose of farmhouse ales better than most Belgian varieties today. It is light-bodied, quenching, and most of all accessible.
Table beers are rare. Most table beers available (and other farmhouse ales like saison and grisette) come in large format bottles. Moreover, American craft brewers still struggle to brew authentic-tasting renditions. Jester King’s Le Petit Prince is excellent, but again, comes in 750ml bottles. The gold standard is probably Dupont’s Avril, but that’s imported and in large format bottles – too pricey and unwieldy for an everyday beer. That puts River Trip in a league of its own.
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