A good game of cross-culinary telephone is being played by several Brunswick food and beverage businesses as I write these words. It’s a movement that highlights the fun-loving cooperation that arises out of celebrating locally sourced food and drink.

Dog Bar Jim owner Ben Gatchell made the first whisper into the line when, in March 2018, he put Café Nico on the menu of his then-brand new Union Street coffee house. A tribute to an espresso drink he first met on the West Coast, the Dog Bar Jim version is a slightly frothy macchiato flavored with house-made vanilla and orange syrups and a dusting of cinnamon.

Spring of 2018 was also when Moderation Brewery owners Matthea Daughtry and Philip Welsh were in the throes of launching their own business on Maine Street. They were tasting many batches of beer, and – tired out from all the work it takes to start a new business – they were drinking a lot of coffee. Café Nico was a favorite in their rotation. “One morning we were sipping away at our Café Nicos, when I said, ‘Hey, we should make a beer based on this flavor profile!’ ” Daughtry recounted.

Gatchell, a gregarious guy whose coffee house quickly became a community hub, took the idea and ran with it. He envisioned enlisting a mixologist to make a cocktail based on Moderation’s beer, then a chef to create a dish based on the cocktail, and then maybe another beer maker to create an ale based on the dish, and so on as any game of telephone progresses. “And the idea is to have a big party at the end of the process to see how all of the interpretations of the same flavor combination relate, if at all,” Gatchell said.

Iacono’s cocktail, Marikoriko Marge, made with Large Marge stout, at Vessel & Vine in Brunswick. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Daughtry and Welsh released their beer in December. It’s called Large Marge, named by Gatchell, in reference to a character in the 1985 film “Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure.” Large Marge, the character, is a ghostly truck driver who travels the same stretch of road picking up and dropping off hitchhikers and telling each of them the same story. Large Marge, the beer, is a slightly sweet, pastry stout with an 8 percent alcohol content made from dark roasted Maine grains, Gatchell’s coffee, organic orange peel, vanilla and a few cocoa nibs.

Large Marge is currently on tap at Vessel & Vine, a bar/retail space on Pleasant Street serving whimsical cocktails and small plates and selling wine, beer and vintage glassware. Nikaline Iacono is the third participant in what has become known as the MetaMarge project. Marikoriko Marge, which Iacono debuted on March 1, is a Tiki-style cocktail comprising rye, Cappeletti Sfumato (a smoky rhubarb amaro), Campari (which is where the bitter orange comes in), lime and Large Marge simple syrup. It’s served chilled in tall, stemmed vintage glass, garnished with coffee beans.

“As business owners in Maine, we all get so frantically busy in the summertime. But in wintertime, it’s fun to have these interesting ideas to help build experiences for people who are here year-round that are based on local foods and local business,” Iacono said.

Flight Deck brewery is on tap to take Marikoriko Marge and transform it back into an ale that will debut on May 1. From there, Enoteca Athena Executive Chef Ali Waks Adams will create a savory dish based on Flight Deck’s product and offer it as a special come July 1. And finally, Black Pug Brewer will taste Chef Waks Adam’s dish and add its interpretation to the MetaMarge line. This conversation is certainly not a closed one, organizers say. If you have a commercial product or create a homemade one like the MegaMarge brownies below, inspired by these fun and games, let them know about it by posting on social media and tagging your photos with #metamarge.

MegaMarge Stout Brownies with Coffee Orange Frosting. Staff photo by Derek Davis

MEGAMARGE STOUT BROWNIES WITH COFFEE ORANGE FROSTING

Since Moderation Brewery’s Large Marge was a limited release, I adapted this recipe using their Box Shop Girls breakfast stout. If you have only plain stout on hand, add an extra half-teaspoon of espresso powder to the brownie to achieve similar results.

Makes 16 small, 12 medium or 9 large brownies

FOR BATTER:

1 (12-ounce) bottle coffee stout beer

3/4 cup (175g) unsalted butter

4 ounces (113g) semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

4 ounces (113g) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 cup (200g) granulated sugar

1/4 cup (50g) packed dark brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

FOR FROSTING:

1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2 cups (240g) confectioners’ sugar

2-3 tablespoons reduced stout syrup

1 teaspoon espresso powder

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

To make the batter, reduce the beer to 2/3 cup in a small saucepan over medium heat, 20-22 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes. You will use 1/2 cup in the brownies and the rest in the frosting.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9- by 9-inch pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to easily lift the finished brownies out. Set aside.

Combine the butter and both chocolates in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir continuously as the ingredients melt and combine. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in both sugars and then the eggs, 1 at a time. Whisk in the 1/2 cup stout syrup and the vanilla extract. Finally, whisk in the flour, salt, espresso powder and cinnamon. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 24 minutes. Use a toothpick to test for doneness, inserting it into the center of the pan. If wet batter clings to it, return the brownies to the oven. If only a few moist crumbs stick to the toothpick, the brownies are done. Keep checking every 2 minutes. Remove the brownies from the oven and cool completely.

To make the frosting, add butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat it on high until it is smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, beating on low at first then increasing to high speed. Once they are combined, add 2 tablespoons of the stout syrup, the espresso powder, orange zest, vanilla and salt. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon reduced stout if the frosting is too thick. Frost the cooled brownies, and cut into squares.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer and tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport based on these columns. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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