Lunch -- this is no hyperbole -- is one of the best IPAs I've ever had, right up there with Pliny the Elder, which I wrote about yesterday. (And no, wise guy, I'm not going to say that every IPA is "one of the best IPAs I've ever had.")
Before I go on, don't rush out to the store looking for Lunch at the moment. There's none available, except in Portland, Maine, where rumor has it you can still find a few bottles on shelves. In most places, it sells out immediately. I'm telling you about it now -- when it's not available -- so that you'll be prepared for the next time it's released. When will that be? Good question. Even its maker, Maine Beer Co., doesn't know.
So far Lunch has been brewed only twice. When the first batch hit shelves early this year, word spread quickly about how good it was. That created huge anticipation for the second batch, which was released in July. As soon as it arrived in stores, it was gone.
The mania is deserved.
Very, very hoppy without much bitterness, Lunch (7 percent alcohol by volume) is a West Coast-style IPA, and one that straddles the line between IPA and double/imperial IPA. Hazy golden-orange with a big head of foam that lingers and lingers, Lunch (named for a whale spotted off Maine, not a midday meal) bursts with a huge citrus nose, as though grapefruit juice were spewing from the glass. With its aggressive approach and dry finish, Lunch sits squarely in the upper echelon of IPAs. It's no wonder people from as far away as California try desperately to trade for it online.
In fact, it can be difficult to find any of the four beers brewed by Portland's Maine Beer Co. Zoe, a hoppy amber ale, went fast in the spring, and Mean Old Tom, a stout, will surely sell quickly when the next batch hits. The flagship beer, a hoppy pale called Peeper Ale, is the only one brewed year round and the only one that can be readily found.
Peeper (5.5 percent alcohol by volume) is way more hoppy than most pale ales; it's about three-quarters of the way to an India pale ale, along the lines of Oskar Blues' Dale's Pale Ale. Zoe (7.2 ABV), translucent brown with a cafe latte head, is at once hoppy and spicy, with more of a malt backbone than Peeper has. (I haven't had a chance to try Mean Old Tom.)
Because they are brewed in tiny batches, Maine Beer Co. cost more than many other craft beers. They come in 16.9-ounce (500-milliliter) bottles that run about $6 to $8 apiece.
I recently visited the Maine Beer Co. brewery and will have more on the company, its owners, and its beers in my next 99 Bottles column, appearing in Saturday's Globe.