The good people at Banded Brewing have proven to be great partners of Maine Audubon. Our relationship began in 2019, when Banded hosted our Friends of East Point Audubon Sanctuary group for several nights at their Biddeford brewery. The idea was hatched during that time to collaborate on a beer commemorating one of Maine Audubon’s properties, but COVID forced a pause.
The grand opening of Banded’s new tasting room in Portland was an occasion to revive the idea: could we develop a beer flavored with native plants from our Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth?
Banded’s team, led by General Manager Tony Lynch, met Maine Audubon staff in early August to explore Gilsland Farm and identify plants that might work well in a beer. After pondering a variety of plants we settled on Staghorn Sumac, a plentiful native plant with edible red berries long used to flavor drinks. Plus, as luck would have it, Maine Audubon’s Property Manager James Kennedy was just about to harvest some Staghorn Sumac in order to make room for our new outdoor classroom building. James harvested the berries from the sumac and brought them down to Banded’s Biddeford brewery to start the beer.
(I want to mention here that Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina, is harmless and widely used in traditional flavorings, and while related is completely distinct from Toxicodendron vernix, commonly known as Poison Sumac! No need to worry!)
Several Audubon staffers toured Banded’s impressive brewery, and then got to work on brewing. The plan was to create a gose, a lemony, slightly sour type of beer originated in Germany. Banded felt that the natural strawberry-lemonade flavor in Staghorn Sumac berries would be an appropriate replacement for the lemon in a traditional gose. Banded’s team began brewing a beer, and we added the sumac berries straight from Gilsland Farm.
At long last, the beer was ready. It was worth the wait. The lemon-y flavor of the native berries produced a smooth, easy-to-drink yet flavorful beer. The can, designed by Banded’s Tory Gordon, is a work of art in its own right, and both the beer and its packaging were big hits at the official release of Gilsland Farm Gose at Banded’s Portland tasting room on September 16.
If you want to pick up your own cans of Gilsland Farm Gose, the best places are Banded’s tasting rooms in Portland at 82 Hanover Street or in Biddeford in the Pepperell Mill downtown. Banded is generously donating a portion of the sales of Gilsland Farm Gose to Maine Audubon, so stock up! Cheers!