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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!

Bill
aka
MDB




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. 

Cheers!







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.



Monday, December 5, 2016

New Brewery Alert- Start Line Brewing in Hopkinton!


I have the distinct pleasure of living right in between Boston and Worcester. So when a great new brewery opens in either one of these great cities, I can get there relatively easily. But these days, the breweries just keep getting closer and closer.


I was thrilled when Jack's Abby opened in Framingham in 2011. Then Exhibit A Brewing also opened in Framingham.

And now the breweries are getting even closer! Welcome Start Line Brewing, now open in Hopkinton! (and frighteningly close to my house...great for beer, bad for my wallet!)

Start Line Brewing opened about two weeks ago inside Waterfresh Farm on Hayden Rowe Street.

I wandered in one Friday after work and sampled a few brews. They were all good, some VERY good. So, of course I took  home a few crowlers. Here are my thoughts on several of the beers being served up by Start Line.

Dark Chocolate Stout
6.2% ABV

This was my absolute favorite, although all of the beers are rock solid. Big roasty aroma, nice tan head, and a super velvety body from this Nitro infused (Nitro is tap room only, for now) stout. I got bitter chocolate and coffee notes, big and tasty but not overpowering. Ty, who was working the bar when I was there, told me they were still playing around with the gas mixture, but that they had introduced nitro to this brew and were still refining it a bit. I thought this was a top notch stout. The crowler did have some issues with pressure loss (remember, new brewery, still learning), but it was still very good.  I'll absolutely be back for more of this bad boy.
Hop Load IPA
6.2% ABV

IPA's pay the bills, I've had more than one brewer tell me this. This one will be paying them for Start Line. A clear, honey colored ale with a sweet, hoppy aroma that elicits tropical fruit, this IPA brings the hops but with a reasonable abv. I found this beer to have a light to moderate feel on the palette, and a resiny hoppy flavor that was nicely balanced with a malty sweetness. A strong debut IPA. 

Night Run Black IPA
6.3% ABV

I wrote a piece several years ago praying for the death of the Black IPA fad. 

No one listened.

And for once, I'm glad. This is a damn good beer. And I don't like black IPAs. At all.

Pouring dark black with an aroma that is as equally malty as it is hoppy, I found this beer soft in mouthfeel, with an earthy malty taste up front followed by a bitter, hoppy finish.   

There are more beers to sample at Start Line, but I'm not going to spoil it for you. Go check them out and tell me what you think.

Cheers!



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

My Growler Problem


Hi, my name is Bill and I have a growler problem.

The problem is, I love them.

I buy them constantly.

And I have no space for them.


Mind you, this little issue doesn't stop me from buying them. But they are starting to pile up in my basement.

How bad is my problem?

I once ordered a six pack of growlers from the Fenway Boston Beer Works.

Yup. A six pack of growlers.

It was 1995, I think. A Friday night in early spring. I waltzed in after work and calmly ordered 6 growlers, including one of a cask beer that had to be hand pumped. (This was all for a party I was throwing that night, not all for personal consumption.)

In my defense, I was a regular there at that point of my life, the staff knew me (and my drinking buddy, Daupha) very well. We drank a lot, but we always tipped well, and we weren't demanding. But still, a six pack of growlers on a Friday night at 6pm is not a bar tenders favorite order.

I am "that guy". I love carrying around a big ass glass jug of fresh beer.

I do not know why.

But what exactly is a "growler"?

Well, as you might have gathered from the photos here, its a big glass jug of beer, typically 64 or 32 ounces- usually filled directly from the tap (there are special growler filling machines, but they are not widely used around here at the moment. Harpoon has one, it's pretty nifty to watch). A growler is best consumed within a day or two of purchase, as most are not flushed with CO2 priors to filling.  If you do purchase from a brewer who has a special filling machine, you can keep an unopened growler in the fridge for a few days.

According to The Oxford Companion To Beer, growlers came to be back  in the late 1800's, early 1900's when men sent their kids to pubs to fetch a bucket of beer for them to have with lunch. Why buckets? Because most beer back then was only avalable on draft. Pubs of the day apparently catered to the growler trade, often having a "family entrance", aka a window near the entrance where one could pick up the beer without entering the bar! These buckets had lids to prevent spillage, and apparently they made a "growling" sound created from the carbonation escaping from the beer sloshing around in a covered bucket being carried by a running child. (all so his/her father could enjoy a beer with lunch. Why didn't they teach this stuff in history class? THIS is what made America great- buckets of beer for lunch! But I digress....)

So, in closing, I like growlers.

Do you like growlers? How many are cluttering up your house?







Monday, April 25, 2016

ManDrinksBeer Turns 5!

It all started 5 years ago with this short little post.

I started this blog for two reasons:

  1. To learn about developing web content and driving traffic to it. I thought this would help me with my job in retail marketing/advertising. (It didn't. Mostly because I ended up drinking a lot of great beer, and the "content" often ended up as drunken typo filled reviews of beers that I thought were great.)                                      
  2. To give me an excuse to buy new beers. (This was a rousing success!)
I also thought that maybe I could educate people about craft beer. 

Turns out I didn't know nearly as much as I thought I did. 

In these past 5 years I have learned far, far more than I've "taught". For this I am grateful. 

And I've met some truly wonderful people in the craft beer world- brewers, bloggers, bottle shop owners, other craft beer fans. "Craft beer people" are some on the nicest, kindest, friendliest people I've ever meet. For this I am also grateful.

The glass I bought on the day Jacks Abby opened in 2011
I've seen the number of local breweries positively explode. 

I remember walking into the brand new Jack's Abby brewery on Morton Street in Framingham on the day it opened in 2011.  There were two beers on tap, and Hoponius Union was NOT one of them. You could only get a sample. I recall it was Red Tape Lager and Saxony Pilsner.  I liked them both. I bought a pint glass, which I still have.

Today, a mere 5 years later, Jack's Abby has a huge, beautiful new space on Clinton Street, with 24 beautiful, full size beers on tap. And a restaurant. I go there often, and I love it.

Recently we've made some long overdue changes here at ManDrinksBeer, finally trying to spruce up the site a bit. I hope you like it. Let me know what you think.  

Thank you for reading. Here's to the next 5 years!

Cheers!

Bill 
aka ManDrinksBeer