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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It's Almost June, and I'm still IPA Free for 2017!

Notch "Session Pils"
OK, I can't lie, it's getting hard to keep up this whole "IPA FREE 2017" thing. As the weather warms, those dank, luscious, hoppy, bitter beers call to me. And it is getting harder and harder to resist.

But so far, I can still say that I am IPA Free for 2017.

And honestly, it's been worth it- very, very  much so. I've had many beers that I would NEVER had tried otherwise. Also, some great beers that I have had previously are getting more attention, like Notch Brewery's excellent "Session Pills".

I cannot overly state how absolutely EXCELLENT every single Notch beer IS.

But as they really only have the one IPA (Left of the Dial, which is great, incidentally), and specialize in true, low ABV session beers, they don't get the attention in a craft beer world that far too often gravitates to the new, overly hyped, 10% ABV, "juicy" IPA. (Also, I loath the term "juicy" when describing a beer. If you want juice, you are drinking the wrong beverage folks). But if you truly love great beer, and not just IPA, you need to experience Notch Brewing's beers.

Exhibit A's "LeitMotif"
I've also partaken heavily of sours. I was never a fan of sour beers. Not even remotely. But I gave in and have been trying them frequently lately, and there are some truly excellent ones out there. I won't lie, I haven't enjoyed them all, but I have liked far more than I expected. Had I not given up IPA's, I doubt I'd ever have ventured down the sour path.

My favorite sour right now is from Exhibit A brewing in Framingham, their rotating "Leit Motif" sour series.  This particular version is  #03, is made with Cara Cara Oranges and is outstanding. With a low abv and superb refreshing taste, this is go to summer brew if ever there was one.

Of course I've had other beers as well, but no IPA's!

I have been really enjoying this little experiment in beer. I do love IPA's, I really do. But sometimes we need to try new things. We are living in the golden age of beer, don't limit yourself to one style all the time.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

New Brewery Alert- CraftRoots Brewing in Milford, MA

 CraftRoots Brewing opened in Milford in March.

We now have another great brewery for the amazing craft beer scene we have here in Massachusetts. Founded by Brewer Maureen Fabry, CraftRoots is "passionate about connecting craft beer back to local agriculture and crafting superfresh community-inspired brews" (this is taken straight from their web site).

I tried stopping by on opening day, but the line was very long and I was sorta pressed for time, so I had to bail. Turns out the long lines were very much justified, as I learned when I stopped in just after opening on the Sunday right after opening day. 

CraftRoots Brewing "Dry Irish Stout"
As it was nearing St Patrick's Day, I (of course) started with the Dry Irish Stout. 

Served on Nitro, this beer was excellent! Smooth, roasty malts, with hints of cocoa. I may have had another, and I may have taken two squealers home. After all, it was almost St Patrick's Day.

After the stout, I moved onto the Pale Ale. There were two versions available, one with Apricots, and one straight up. So of course I had both. 

The regular Pale was great, the apricot was as well, but the apricot was very, very mild, so much so that it almost got lost. Still a great brew, but not much apricot comes through, and as this was a one time brew, don't expect it on tap should you visit.
CraftRoots "Blonde" Ale

Next I moved onto the Blonde, which was excellent. 

There were a variety of IPA's on tap as well, but.... as I'm still trying to go "IPA Free for 2017" I had to pass on them. 

I'm betting they are excellent, judging by the crowds, people were really enjoying the beers. From my seat at the bar, I heard a lot of IPA's being ordered by the same folks over and over, and I spoke to a few folks who spoke very highly of the IPA's.  

So do yourself a favor and head on over to CraftRoots Brewing in Milford. Tell 'em Bill sent you! (I'm kidding, they'll just look at you funny. But do go and enjoy some great beers!)

CraftRoots "Pale Ale "
CraftRoots Brewing
4 Industrial Road, 
Milford, MA 01757

Hours of Operation:

Wednesday - 5:00pm - 9:00pm
Thursday - 5:00pm - 9:00pm
Friday - 4:00pm - 10:00pm
Saturday - 12:00pm - 10:00pm *
Sunday - 12:00pm - 6:00pm

* Brewery Tours will be held on Saturdays at 1:00pm

Cheers! MDB

Friday, March 31, 2017

"IPA Free 2017" Update- It's March, Still IPA Free!

My quest to go "IPA Free" for 2017 has successfully progressed through March!

Sure, the unseasonably great weather has made this a major challenge, I mean, who doesn't love an IPA on a bright sunny day (even it is, say FEBRUARY)? And we've had quite a few recently. But I made it through.

The secret to my success? Pale Ales, Pilsners and Stouts. There are a lot of them around right how, and they are a great alternative. Add the recent, wonderful addition of New Belgium Brewing to Massachusetts, and there is a bounty of great, Non-IPA options to meet your beer drinking needs.

Here's some of what I was drinking in February:

Mo' Pils
Castle Island Brewing
4.7% ABV

I finally got around to visiting the new brewery in my old hometown, and boy am I glad I did. Even if I did lock my keys in my car. No full pours yet, but the samples were all top notch, and this pilsner is excellent. I nearly drank the 4 pack while waiting for Triple A in the parking lot. But they got there too fast, I didn't even have time to open one. Good stuff happening in Norwood folks, get on down there.

Voodoo Ranger 8 Hop Pale Ale
New Belgium Brewing
5.5% ABV

My first ever New Belgium beer, and it will not be my last. I loved this beer, great citrusy hop flavor, almost an IPA, but no bitterness. Can't wait to try more from New Belgium.

Saxony Lager
Jack's Abby
5% ABV

The crew over there in Framingham simply does not make a bad beer. The overall quality and consistency of their entire portfolio is insane. Saxony Lager is no exception. Light, uber flavorful, low abv, its just a superb beer.

So yes, I am still "IPA FREE" for 2017. No regrets at all.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

IPA Free 2017- January Update- Still IPA Free!

I am happy to report that I am still IPA Free as of January 29, 2017!

I am less happy to report that I am also suddenly, unexpectedly unemployed. Yup, I got laid off a little over a week ago, along with several of my co-workers. It was not expected, I was a bit surprised, but I'm moving on!

So, what have I been drinking if I haven't been drinking IPA's? The answer is... a lot of stuff.

Jack's Abby's House Lager has made a triumphant return to the rotation, and we are very happy about that. The day I got laid off, I was given the ax just before lunch, so I headed straight to Jack's Abby for lunch and a Framinghammer Baltic Porter (OK, so it was two, c'mon, I just lost my job!)

Nightshift Brewings great coffee porter, Awake, has made several appearance's in my fridge.

And to the joy of craft beer lovers in Metrowest, another brewery received their full pour permit and began serving full pours last week, so of course I had to be at Start Line Brewing's ribbon cutting ceremony last Thursday! In my glass is their excellent hazelnut coffee stout, which was of course followed by the great Homestretch Chocolate Stout.

So to sum up, 2017 sucks so far, but I am still IPA free. I am enjoying the heavier, darker beers, which of course are perfect for the season and weather.

How is your 2017 going?

Monday, January 9, 2017

IPA Free 2017- Week One

I survived my first week IPA Free.

It wasn't easy. I honestly nearly caved on January 1st. We ordered pizza for dinner, and we wanted beer to go with it (of course!) and my normal beer shop was closed. So I ventured into a new shop, and the craft beer selection was...well, lets just say slim pickin's. But I found something good....(read on! )

For those who may be new here, some background-  in hopes of expanding my beer experience, I am going "IPA Free" for 2017. (not a typo)

I love IPA's, I really do. But I do also think that we as craft beer fans drink them too often, and often at the expense and detriment of ourselves, as well as the many other excellent styles being brewed right now. This is the golden age of brewing, why let your experience be dominated by one style? 

Anyhow, here's the run down of excellent, local, non IPA's I enjoyed this past week:
  1. Newburyport Brewings wonderful "Plum Island Belgian White".- This beer saved my new years day. We need more Belgian's brewed locally. 
  2. Notch- "Session Pils"- One of my goals for 2016 was to drink more session beer. Accordingly, I told myself I would drink more Notch. I didn't. In 2017 I will make up for this in spades. This is the poster beer for session beers. I intend to drink a ton of this in 2017. It's excellent. I'm becoming more and more convinced that the measure of a great brewer is if they can make a truly excellent pilsner. Notch does this and makes it look easy. 
  3. Spencer Brewery "Imperial Stout"-Americas first Trappist Brewery (and the only one outside Europe!) makes a great stout! No special aging, no barrel aging, just a great, roasty malty stout.
  4. Jack's Abby- Pilot Pilsner- from a growler provided by my lovely wife. This reminded me a lot of the Saxony Pilsner Jack's brewed when they opened. I was a big fan then, and I'm a big fan on this pilot brew. I hope it makes the cut and gets a name!
This first week was a big challenge. Looking in the cooler and seeing all these great IPAs just staring back at me, it was second nature to want to grab one. I had to be very, very deliberate when shopping for my beer. I checked shelves I don't usually look at, which was fun. It was also the point of this experience. Normally there would be 2 or 3 IPA's on this list. Removing that as an option forced me to think more about what I was buying and forced me to look at brands and styles that I might not normally consider. It made me uncomfortable, to be honest. Who wants to buy a beer and not love it? Heck, that's why we have "go to" beers. But for me the "go to's" always seemed to be IPA's. Maybe I'm an abnormality, or just a bad, undisciplined beer geek. I guess we shall find out...

On two week #2.....Cheers!


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Making 2017 "IPA Free"

In pondering the year in beer for 2016, I was scrolling through my twitter feed when I found Norman Miller's "THE BEER NUT: Three Wishes for 2017" column from the Metrowest Daily News.

Now if you are a craft beer fan, you are probably familiar with The Real Beer Nut. I typically agree with most of his beer thoughts, but one of his wishes for 2017 really hit home, and it was this: "Appreciation for other styles" the third wish in his column. 

IPA is the undisputed king of the beer world in New England, and as far as I can tell, everywhere else in the USA. And for good reason, its a great style with many wonderful brewers putting their own spin on it.  India Pale Ales (and Lagers, looking at you Jack's Abby..) are widely available, and more than one brewer and bottle shop owner has told me that "IPA's pay the bills".  Heck, I love IPA's.

So why give them up at all, much less for a whole YEAR???!!!

Because it is my opinion that we as craft beer drinkers drink far too much of this one style. Check the cooler at your local craft beer shop and calculate the ratio of IPAs to all other style combined. It may shock you.

We are literally living in the golden age of beer in the USA, we have more brewers making more great beer than ever before. States are updating old laws to allow brewers to sell beers for consumption on site! Do you know how crazy this thought was just 15 years ago, when I could count on one hand the number of places where this was possible? Why deprive ourselves of the joy of discovering these other great styles! More porters, pilsners, bocks and saisons for all! More Hefeweizens! More Stout! 

I had a major beer revelation recently at the Springdale Barrel room, the great new spot operated by Jack's Abby in Framingham. Springdale was opened to allow the talented staff at Jack's  Abby to move beyond lagers and into the world of sours and ales and age them all in a massive collection of wine, bourbon, sherry, and god only knows what other kind of barrels. 

Now, I am not a fan of sour beers. In fact, I hate them. I'd never had a single one I even remotely liked. But, being the huge fan of Jacks Abby that I am, I had to try out Springdale on opening night. I did two flight that were masterfully prepared and guided by the woman running the bar ( I am really sorry I cannot remember her name, she was just awesome.) I made my choices, including sours, and she arranged them in a specific order, based on the characteristics of each beer. Slanting Light was first. Wallace IPA was last. In between I had Kreik Mythology, and something else I can't recall.

Let me just tell you, it was eye opening. Not only did I find a sour or two that I really, really liked, but having the IPA as the last beer in that flight really made it stand out for its heaviness and uber strong flavor. It was great, but compared to the relatively delicate and light flavors of the sours, the IPA came down like a hammer on my palate. I immediately began to wonder what I was missing by not trying beers outside my normal comfort zone. I loved the Kreik Mythology, and Single Shot Sherry on my second flight was equally amazing. Had I not ventured outside my comfort zone, I never would have discovered these great beers.

And that's a really long winded way of saying that I am going to give up IPA's in 2017 and explore all other styles of beer. Bring me your bocks, porters, stouts, pilsners and saisons! Dubbles, Tripples, and Quads, come forth! 

And should I fail, well, the penalty is likely a very public mocking while I drink an IPA, so really, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain!

I will try to post weekly updates on this experiment. 


Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Brewery Alert (sort of)- Springdale Barrel Room

Springdale by Jack's Abby
Opened on December 15, 2016
Re-opens on January 14, 2017

Regular Hours
Thursday  4 – 10 PM
Friday  4 – 11 PM
Saturday  11:30 AM – 11 PM
Sunday  11:30 AM – 6 PM

The newest adventure in beer by the team at Jack's Abby opened on December 15th, right next door to Jack's Abby's Beer Hall- welcome the Springdale Barrel Room to the Massachusetts craft beer scene!

What is the Springdale Barrel Room? It's the largest barrel room in New England, where the skilled brewers from Jack's Abby work with their collection of over 1,000 barrels to create barrel aged ales, sours, and everything in between for your beer drinking pleasure.

Jack's Abby built its reputation on brewing the very best lagers anywhere. With the creation of Springdale, the team is now free to expand into ales and all other variants of barrel aged beers not currently available in the Beer Hall. Ever wonder how Jack's Abby would brew a cloudy, east coast IPA? Well, wonder no more, because they have one at Springdale! 

Are sour beers your thing? Then come on down, because they have a half dozen, and more on the way. 

I made sure to visit Springdale on opening night, despite not being a sour fan at all, I had to see what they were doing. I did something I rarely do, I order flights and sampled basically the entire menu. Here are my 4 favorites, in no particular order:

  1. Kriek Mythology- this oak aged sour beer was aged in bourbon barrels with huge amounts of cherries. It was fantastic- not being  fan of sours, I feel that this beer really didn't present the funk as strongly as other sours I've had. Plus, I love cherries, and the bourbon barrel aging seems to have mellowed it some. Great brew, can't wait to have another. 
  2. Single Barrel Sherry- I don't know exactly what this is, except it was aged in sherry barrels and was absolutely stunning. Strong and sweet, this is a supper for sure. This beer does not appear on the web site, maybe it's just too damn good to promote. Oh well, more for me!
    Walk On Porter, enjoyed at the Springdale
  3. Walk On Porter- Not a sour or barrel aged, just an amazing session porter. I could drink this all day. My only full pour of the evening, and its was the correct choice!
  4. Wallace IPA- This is the Springdale take on the East Coast style, Hazy IPA. It is awesome. Big, tropical, and juicy, this was my 4th beer on my first flight. Let me tell you, after tasting the delicate flavors of the sours, this beer was a massive punch in the face. And I mean that in a good way, the bartender did a great job or arranging the tasting. It really made me understand just how heavy IPAs are. Very eye opening.
In summary, the Springdale Barrel room is awesome, and you and all of your friends should go. It's a huge open space, with old school pinball, video games, and corn hole. 

Due to paperwork issues with some permits, Springdale is temporarily closed and will reopen on 1/14/17.