Experimentation has always been in Peak Organic’s DNA. The urge to continuously tinker with recipes is what led home brewer Jon Cadoux, back in the 1990s, to discover that his best beers were those made with organic ingredients. In 2005 he opened the Peak Organic Brewing Company in Portland, Maine, and that same spirit of exploration has resulted in the production of 20 unique beers, all of which use locally sourced, organic ingredients to the extent possible. Jon’s love of craft beer, passion for sustainability, and determination to remain innovative merged with Boston cocktail culture last Thursday at “Farmed & Fizzed,” an event hosted by Somerville’s Foundry on Elm and featuring cocktails made with Peak Organic beer. I spoke with Peak Organic’s Director Communications, Brendan Gangl, who explained that the brewery sent Foundry a bunch of ingredients they use in their beers, like hops, espresso, cacao nibs, and ginger. They challenged the bar to create cocktails using Peak brews and the locally grown products that distinguish the brewery’s beers.
Four Peak beers got the cocktail treatment, and they were available in full-size version or in flights composed of two cocktail samples served alongside the beers that featured in the drink.
First up was Fresh Cut, a crisp, dry-hopped pilsner made with three types of hops. True to its name, it summons all the freshness of a newly mown lawn on a warm, spring day. In the Fresh Cut cocktail, the beer combined with GrandTen Distilling’s Angelica liqueur, yellow chartreuse, dry-hopped simple syrup, and lemon for a complex but refreshing herbal cocktail. I was expecting something sharp and bitter on account of the hops and chartreuse, but the flavors were surprisingly soft and well balanced. Mixing it with the GTD Angelica was smart; the aromatics and botanicals in the liqueur complemented the hoppiness and the herbal elements of the chartreuse.
If the Fresh Cut cocktail captured the essence of a spring afternoon, the Summer Session cocktail was all about summer. Summer Session is a dry, citrusy wheat beer, and its namesake cocktail featured Ford’s gin, Orleans bitters, Cynar, and lemon. The result was a bright and crisp drink with a blend of herbal and citrus notes.
“I was curious if maybe the flavors of the lighter-bodied Summer Session and Fresh Cut might get too muddled in cocktail form,” Brendan remarked. “But I thought the bartenders…did a great job accenting the fruit notes in the Fresh Cut and the citrus notes in the Summer.”
On the other end of the spectrum was the Espresso Amber. One of Peak Organic’s boldest beers, this malty, coffee-forward brew was mixed with Vermont’s Silo bourbon, St. George’s NOLA coffee liqueur, and Bittermens bourbon bitters for what seemed like an espresso-infused Manhattan. “It was almost as if we had taken our Espresso Amber and aged it in bourbon barrels,” Brendan said, clearly impressed with the cocktail. “It was just a touch and the right amount of heat to bring all the flavors together.”
Rounding out the evening’s selections was the Ginger Saison cocktail. Peak’s Ginger Saison is a vibrant beer, with clear notes of spicy ginger and the unmistakable flavor of Belgian yeast. In the cocktail version it combined with Riverboat rye whiskey, raisin syrup, and Meletti amaro. This was a beer-forward cocktail with a prominent ginger flavor, and the raisin syrup gave it a boost of sweetness.
Peak Organic head brewer Jon Cadoux made the drive from Portland to see what Foundry had done with his brews. Admitting that he was beer-focused and not much of a cocktail guy, he seemed genuinely impressed with the variety of spirits behind Foundry’s bar. That makes sense; given the character of Peak’s beers and the brewery’s tendency to experiment with flavor combinations, it’s easy to imagine a brewer’s gears turning at the sight of such a broad toolkit of flavors and styles.
I’ll be honest and say I’ve never been a big fan of beer cocktails. I’ve always found that they taste like two drinks uncomfortably occupying the same glass. The cocktails at Farmed & Fizzed didn’t completely change my mind, but I appreciated Foundry’s focused approach and ability to choose spirits and mixers that complemented the flavors – obvious and subtle alike – in Peak Organic’s brews. And while Farmed & Fizzed was just a one-time event, cocktails that incorporate beer are likely to become increasingly common.
“I think it's certainly something that we'll start seeing more and more as the beverage culture continues to develop,” Brendan said. “People will look for new ways to differentiate themselves, and beer cocktails could very likely be that new genre that people explore.”
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