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Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Pretty Things" do come from Somerville....

When I think of Somerville, MA, I don't think "pretty". Let's face it, it isn't the most picturesque of places.

But it is home to the Pretty Things Beer and Ale project.

The brewer behind the project is Dann Paquette. I didn't know the name, but the web site says Dann has been around the local beer scene for some time, having put in time at John Harvard's, Ipswich, Pilgrim, Haverhill Brewing, and most interestingly (to me), he was also at The Northeast Brewing Company. (This was a great little brew pub in Allston in the 90's that went down way too soon. I spent many a night there by the fireplace enjoying their great brews, and I always regretted that I never got around to getting my mug club Membership.)


Suffice it to say, this guy knows good beer.

I had been given a gift of a Pretty Things Barley wine for Christmas, well before this blog was even a concept, and I thought it was great. As I perused the shelves of a local craft beer shop Friday night, I stumbled across a few bottles of Pretty Things on the bottom shelf. Friday was cold and drizzly, and the EIP- East India Porter- seemed an appropriate fit for an unseasonably cold and wet June night. 

This beer is a historical recreation, part of a series of beer recreations that Pretty Things does. The naming convention, in this case, uses the date that the recipe was first brewed in London...


December 6th, 1855 East India Porter
A part of the "Once Upon a Time..." series from 
Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project
Somerville, MA
6% ABV

East India Porter, explains the bottle, was actually the majority of beer that was brewed in London and sent east. It was not IPA, as commonly believed. The IPA was sent in small batches and drank by the officers in the British Military, while the porter was drank by the soldiers.


This beer appears to pours black, but when held up to intense light it reveals itself to be a deep, dark caramel color. It gives a thick, creamy, brown tinted head.


The smell is malt, malt and more malt. Which shouldn't suprise, as the recipe calls for pale malt, brown malt, black malt, and amber malt. There is slight hop hint as well, and a surprising alcohol presence for a 6% abv brew.

Mouthfeel is warm and alcoholy- full bodied, moderate carbonation.

Taste is... deep and earthy, the roasted malt really stands out. The alcohol seems to warm the palate and intensifies the malty goodness. There is a surprising hops bitter finish that fights through the deep malt backbone of this beer. Its really different, and its fantastic.  Hoped with Kent Goldings & Spalt, it really compliments the malt beautifully.

I loved everything about this beer. It taste great, and it imparts a piece of beer history that I found fascinating. The guys at Pretty Things clearly take beer seriously- this porter shows it. I give this beer a 4 out 5 rating.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Caught Whitey

And by that, I mean a Haverhill Brewery Whittier White Ale.

Oh, you thought I was talking about the other "Whitey", the guy from Southie who is all over the news right now? Sorry, I was talking about beer.

I was drawn to this beer by the graphics on the bottle. Haverhill appears to have an attractive woman on all its bottles, a not so subtle marketing ploy. This particular beer being a Belgian Style White Ale, it has a woman in a white dress walking a white dog. Odd, but it got my attention.

Whittier White Belgian Style White Ale
Haverhill Brewery
Haverhill, MA
4.6%ABV

I had seen Haverhill beers in the store for a few weeks now, but I've avoided them.

Why?

Honestly, its the girl on the bottle.  I just didn't trust her. It really felt like she was trying too hard to get my attention, and that set off some warning flags.

The bottle says this about the beer-"There are no regrets with Whittier White. This wheat beer with citrus undertones is a cool breeze on a hot day. You will want to keep this taste of summer even when ou are snowbound"

The beer pours a nice hazy/cloudy deep yellow/orange, with a thin head that quickly vanishes.

Nose is all Belgian- Fruity, cloves, banana, and wheat.

Mouthfeel is very light, which you expect from a wheat. Its crisp and bubbly.

Taste is ....interesting. Spicy from the white pepper, ajowan seeds and coriander seeds, and I very distinctly get wheat (from the raw wheat added to the kettle and yeast in suspension) and cloves and a nutty taste as well. There is a lot going on here

(Malts used were 2-Row, Wheat, Acidulated Malt; Hops: Centennial)

Finish is slightly sour, with an unpleasant pepper aftertaste that is very light, but perceptible.

Overall this beer is exactly what it says it is, which seems to be the melding of wheat, white, and Belgian styles. I'm not so sure it worked.

Admitting that Belgians are not my favorite, I give this beer a 2.50-3 on a scale of 1-5.

But don't take my word for, try it for yourself, let me know what you think. Pick up a 6 pack for yourself and support local craft beer!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fried Kool Aid and a Mayflower Pale Ale

I admit that I am not a foodie, and that I am not ever going to be up to date on the latest and greatest in culinary achievements.

But Fried Kool Aid?

Apparently this is a big trend right now at the San Diego County Fair. I just don't get it. I like Kool Aid. I like fried food. But dumping a jar of Kool Aid mix into a fryolator and eating the resulting ball of fried sugar and fat doesn't appeal to me, sorry.

What does appeal to me is good beer, and have I got a very good one for you today- Mayflower Brewing's Pale Ale.

I first tried a Mayflower brew last summer. The brand name was new to me, and when I asked the guy at the register about their Golden Ale, he raved, saying I was buying the best beer in the store. So I brought it home and tried it, and lets just say I wasn't raving about it. So I summarily dismissed Mayflower as a brand.

Flash forward to this year, and I read rave reviews online about Mayflowers seasonal ales, and my #1 drinking buddy, Chris, says he recently tried a Mayflower (I don't recall which one) and he raved about it as well.

Was Mayflower worth a second chance? No one likes spending money on beer they don't love, and I am certainly no exception. Notice how most of my beer reviews are positive? I do attempt to only buy beer I think will be good. Seriously, who has time for inferior beer? But the positive reviews for Mayflower were piling up, so I had to give them a second chance.

I went to Julios Liquors in Westborough and picked up a bottle of...

Mayflower Pale Ale
Mayflower Brewing, Plymouth, MA
4.9% ABV

The bottle simply says "try our English Style Pale Ale and taste the history". OK

The beer pours a nice bright orange, but settles to a lighter orange/amber shade. Head is thin and wispy and dissolves quickly, leaving light lacing on the head and glass.

Smell is malty, alcohol, and very slightly hoppy. Nothing over the top but enjoyable.

Mouthfeel is more than expected- medium bodied, thicker than a pale ale or summer beer but not heavy.

Taste is another big surprise- hoppy (slightly flowery from the Nugget, East Kent Goldings hops ), malty (Two-Row Pale, Caramel Munich 40, and Victory malts), alcoholy, in that order. Extremely well balanced.

Finish is crisp, bright, mildly bitter, but in a pleasant way.

The label calls this an English Style Pale, but its almost an IPA. I loved it. I give this beer a 3.75. Awesome beer, and more proof that just because you had one particular beer from a brewer and you didn't like it , it doesn't mean you shouldn't give them another chance. Breweries make many styles for a reason.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's the First Day of Summer, Celebrate With a Summer Ale

I've been trying to review Brooklyn Brewery's Summer Ale for the better part of the last month.

Remember that nice streak of good weather we had a few weeks ago? It felt like the perfect time to break out the summer ales.  Something about that first summer seasonal ale really signifies that summer has started. Its sort of a momentous thing. 

Then it started raining, then it got colder, and then one of my regular packies was out of stock the day I went to pick it up. Stuff happens. But finally the stars aligned, I had a day off, some free time, and a few bucks, and I now proudly present, for your drinking and reading pleasure, my review of ..

Brooklyn Summer Ale
Brooklyn Brewery
Brooklyn, NY
5% ABV

The brewery's web site describes this beer as a "modern rendition of the light dinner ales brewed in England through the 1800's right up until the 1940's." (hmm...England in the 1800's doesn't really concur up images of awesome beer. Does it? )

The beer pours a healthy golden color. Head is thin, white, grabs the glass.

Smell is surprisingly muted- very mildly bready and yeasty, with the faintest hint of citrus. A few swirls to release the aromatics doesn't really bring much else out.

Mouthfeel is light, somewhat bubbly. Appropriate for summer.

Taste is very good and matches the smell profile to a T- Very mild, modestly malty, with bread notes and the faintest ever suggestion of some kind of remote citrus bitterness, but its barely perceptible. The blend of two row British malts and German Perle and American Cascade, Fuggle, and Amarillo Hops really creates an awesomely understated yet balanced malt/hop taste.

Finish is clean and crisp and refreshing. A great summer brew.

Unlike many summer brews, there is no gimmick with this beer. No lemon, orange, blueberry, etc, etc. It's just a rock solid light ale brewed for summer drinking. This is also a great entry level beer for a craft beer beginner. I give this beer a 3+, maybe 3.5. Its so understated in the flavor profile, but so solid in construction, I found it hard to limit it to one number.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

From Larry- Happy Fathers Day!

Happy Fathers day to all the dads out there!

I spent my second fathers day at home, in the yard, running after my two year old. When she went down for her nap, I managed to sneak in a quick run, shower and then I reclined in an adirondack chair to enjoy this awesome weather with my wife by my side and a 22ounce bottle of....

Larry Imperial IPA
Wachusett Brewing Company
Westminster, MA
7% ABV

Wachusett Brewing is quickly earning a permanent place in my beer fridge. These guys might be the best brewery you've never heard of, located in a Massachusetts town few us can find on a map.

I had read about the legendary Larry IPA for some time. First brewed for the Publick Houses annual Hop Head throwdown, this beer is 22 ounces and 85 IBU's of pure hop heaven.

This beer pours a beautiful hazy orange/burnt amber color. Due to careless pouring I got a nice three fingers of head, light and wispy, off white, that eventually settled down to a manageable lacing on the glass.

The smell is modest- hoppy, though not overly flowery or perfumy. But the hops-Amarillo, Chinook, Simcoe, Magnum, Centennial- are most definitely present.

Mouthfeel is great- light body, a little tingly on the tongue (85 IBUs of bitterness will do that)

Taste is awesome. Hoppy, but more piney than flowery, and perfectly balanced by the American Two Row, Crystal and Munich Malts . Totally unexpected for an Imperial IPA. This is the most drinkable Imperial beer I've ever had.

If you're a hop head like me, this beer is must drink. Find it , buy it , hoard it, but most of all, enjoy it. I give this an easy 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Stanley Cup Caliber Summer Beer

How about 'dem Bruins!  What a series, what a team! I haven't watched that much hockey since Bourque and Neely were roaming the ice for the black and gold, and it feels damn good to have a reason to watch them again. June hockey rules, especially when it ends with a big silver cup in Boston!

About that cup- I think the guys might want to drink something out of it.  Champagne? Nah, its been done. How about something local? How about something lighter, more refreshing, and perfect for summer duck boat rides from the North End to Copley Place? You guys worked hard, you deserve a high quality, locally brewed summer beer to quench that Canuck kickin' thirst. How about this-

Wampatuck Watermelon Wheat
Blue Hills Brewery
Canton, MA
4.8% ABV
This beer is a classic German heffewiezen, or wheat beer, and is a great style to try if you're a a first time craft beer drinker/Stanley Cup winner. Its lighter on the palate, and the low alcohol content allows you to really pick up the true flavors of the yeast and wheat used to brew the beer. This particular beer also has a watermelon extract added to give it a special kick.

This beer pours a deep cloudy yellow, with a nice wispy head of foam on the top.

The smell is profoundly watermelon and citrus of some type (I think lemon), and, as is common with well made wheat beers, you get a banana and clove smell as well. Its an awesome smelling beer.

Mouthfeel is light and smooth on the tongue and palate.

Taste is exceptional- watermelon dominates but doesn't overpower, and you get the earthy notes from the wheat and bavarian yeast. Its beautifully balanced and smooth. One of the bottles I sampled did have a tangy, sour aftertaste (or maybe that was just the taste left in Roberto Luongos mouth after game 7, I'm not really sure).

I give this beer a strong 4+.

This beer is sold in 22 ounces bottles, and is available at most local liquor stores in eastern MA. You can also stop by the brewery in Canton and pick some up at the gift store.

Support your local craft brewer and pick up a bottle (or 2, or 3) today.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer Ales

In the real world, I work in advertising. I read several trade newsletters, and one of them recently had a great article on Breckenridge Brewery. Unlike most craft brewers, Breckenridge had taken the unusual step of advertising on televsion locally, in Colorado. Their ads were over the top mocking of what the big mass brewers were promoting. Here's a sample below.

"Gravity Activated Pouring"

"Truth in Beervertising"

"Lucky U IPA"

Given this awesome response to the inane and annoying ads visited upon us by the mass brewers, I felt compelled to try the beer. So I went out and puchased: 

Summer Bright Ale
Breckenridge Brewery, Denver CO
4.5% ABV

This label says "honest and solid in construction. Malt beverage brewed with orange and lemon peels. Complete and satisfying in drinking"

The beer pours a nice yellow orange color, with a thin white, wispy head. Smell is yeasty. My wife said is smells like a Bud, and it does have a similar yeast scent. But I also found the orange and lemon notes, and I thought the yeast smell was fresher and deeper than a Bud, which tends to smell stale and skunked (at least to me).

Mouthfeel is light, carbonation is apparent, and taste is pleasant- the orange and lemon peel taste and bitterness are obvious, but not overpowering. You get a yeasty essence on the finish, maybe a bit sour, but subtle, not overpowering.

This beer was a perfect summer drink. Light, refreshing, and only 4.5% alcohol make it a great back porch with friends and family brew.  I give this brew a 3 out of 5.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why craft beer?

We had my daughter's second birthday party a few weeks ago. It was small, mostly family, a few friends. As always, I tried to select a beer selection that would appeal to the craft beer drinkers and the non-craft drinkers. We had a small guest list, and limited budget, and I really wanted one mix case to please them all. This is more easily said that done.

Craft drinkers are fairly easy to please- they have more... lets say "promiscuous" beer drinking habits. They, excuse me, "we" .. like to drink around. We're basically beer sluts, let's be honest here. We'll give most beer's a try. This is probably why when I asked my brother in law why he brought his own beer, he said, rather succinctly- "you always have some weird crap lying around". And he's right, I usually do, although I prefer to think of it as good stuff and not weird crap...although sometimes it is really weird stuff,  like Dogfish Heads Palo Santo Marron (which , franky, taste like wood. Profoundly like wood).

Non craft drinkers are really very monogamous to their beer of choice. They rarely stray from the major brands, the Budweisers, Miller, Coors products. Why is this?

Here's what I think. While I don't prefer Bud, their brewers are widely respected in the industry for maintaining amazing consistency from batch to batch. I saw an interview with a Belgian brewmaster once who sang the praises of the Budweiser brewers, saying he wished he could have their consistency. You buy a Bud, its gonna taste like the last one, guaranteed. I think sometimes that's all people want. I had a Bud yesterday, it was good, I want another tomorrow. Why try something else?

While I applaud the quality control and consistency in the product the mass brewers produce, I just don't like the taste. Honestly,  I find it rather bland. It has no aroma. Shouldn't food and drink smell like something? It has a weak, unhealthy pale color. This is because the mass brewers use more adjuncts in their brews- rice, corn, barley, wheat- than craft brewers, who use mainly malt, hops, wheat.

Why do they do this? Cost. Craft brewers put their money into making the beer. The mass brewers put the money into advertising it.

And good craft brewers put money into both so the can mock the big guys. Gott love the folks at Breckenridge...(I'll post more of these, but there are more on you tube)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Technical difficulties...

Quick note to my awesome readers- I compose this blog using Fire Fox as my browser. It has come to my attention that not all the images I am posting are showing up if you use Internet Explorer. I am working to correct this issue.

In the meantime, I recommend giving Fire Fox a test drive. I recently started using it, and I love it. Viewing this blog in FireFox should allow you to fully enjoy all the pretty pictures...

Thanks for reading!

Bill

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ramblings of an annoyed beer blogger

The freaking Bruins are driving me to drink. Its the truth. Down 0-2 is not a good place to be in the Stanley Cup finals. It's starting to feel like those Cup finals against the Edmonton Oilers in '88 and '90. I'm not optimistic, I gotta be honest. This series is not going according to plan.

And neither is this blog lately.

The last two weeks I have been intending to review a specific summer brew, which for various reasons, I cannot get around to purchasing. One weekend was my daughters birthday. Last weekend the half marathon and that special IPA 12 pack distracted me.

But today takes the cake. I was intending to redeem several months worth of empties at a liquor store I patronize almost religiously.  I cleaned the bottles, pack the car, drive the store, only to be told "Sorry, the machine is broken, no returns today". My response? F You (no, I did not say to this to the clerk at the register, despite an overwhelming desire to do so). I'm thinking this-So what if the automated machine can't break the bottles for you. I paid the deposit on these, I bought them here, and you refuse to redeem the deposit? Seriously? Can you not count the bottles and do the math? But I calm myself, walk to the register,  and ask why they aren't taking redemption's today. Oh, I see you "have no room to store them'. Uh-huh? I did say this- "Do you have a stock room?" (Odd silence from the clerk at this point). Rather than argue, I just left. But I didn't purchase anything. Money is tight, and I wasn't going to patronize this establishment after they couldn't be bothered to redeem my bottles.

Now I have a problem. This beer I am hoping to review isn't widely available in my area. I have very little money. I drive to a small package store in my tiny town, and I find this, for about $4.50 in a 22ounce bottle...

River Ale- Dark American Wheat Ale
Berkshire Brewing Co, South Deerfield, MA
7% ABV

In the interest of complete disclosure, I have to say I only bought this because it was very cheap, and I do like to support local brewers. I really didn't want to stray north of 6% ABV, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

The label describes it as "a dark American wheat beer, single hopped with Willamettes...with notes of nuttiness, fresh baked bread, and a light spiciness of the wheat".

This beer pours a dark, cloudy brown color. Head is light and thin, very wispy.  
Smell is nice- alcohol, yeast, malt, a slight sweetness-great combination.

Mouthfeel is rather thin, as you'd expect from a wheat beer. The carbonation is apparent, and the feel is light.

Taste is complex for a wheat- I get malt, yeast and sour dough bread right away, and very clearly. Usually it takes my less than precise palate several tastes or even pints to pick out flavors, but the characteristics of this brew are very easy to find and make friends with. They step up very politely and say hello, and its great. I'm curious if they used a yeast that used in sour dough bread, because I get the same type of slightly sour finish, which is really pleasant. 

This beer was an unexpected delight, and at less than $5 for a 22 ounce bottle, its budget friendly. I give this 3.5 out of 5.

SPECIAL NOTE- I'd like to congratulate my friend Chris, who ran in his first 5K this weekend! He's been training his butt off, and ran an awesome race! Awesome accomplishment my friend, looking forward to running more with you!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Half marathons, free beer, and blogs, (Oh my..)

The title to today's entry should give you some idea of where I've been, and why I haven't been posting new reviews as I should.

Sunday morning I ran in my first ever half marathon, Bostons Run to Remember. It was 80 degrees. I finished in 2:02:59, just over my goal time of under 2 hours. My legs gave out just after mile 12, seizing up in cramps for the first time in my running life, forcing me to walk most of the last mile. Despite that little hiccup in the plan, it was a great time, and I'll definitely do it again.

Sunday afternoon I purchased the new: 


Sam Adams Latitude 48 IPA Deconstructed 12 pack.
Boston, MA  6%ABV

I totally stole this idea from Steve Greenlees 99 Bottles blog on Boston.com. I am a total hop head. I love them. Love the taste, the aroma, the bitter finish. This 12 pack gives you the chance to sample and isolate the 5 hops used in the traditional Latitude 48 IPA in 5 new brews that highlight an individual hop in each bottle. An awesome concept if ever there was one!

I start with the traditional Lattitude IPA, with all 5 hops and malts. Its a lovely brew, nice hops aroma, not overly citrusy, but very floral. Color is a nice dark copper. Taste is bitter, maybe orange peel-ish, the 5 hops -Hallertau Mittelfrueh, East Kent Goldings, Ahtanum™, Simcoe® and Zeus- from regions all falling within the 48th latitude line- nicely balanced by the 5 malts. There's a lot going on, but it's all good and hoppy.

Next I reach for the Hallertau Hop IPA. The label says these hops "create soft bitterness along with delicate lemony citrus and resinous pine notes". I smell citrus, and taste it, but I don't get any pine. Color is basically the same, nice dark amber. Hop presence is there, subtle by comparison to the original, but its good. Not as complex, its an interesting comparison. While there is a difference to the original, its supper subtle. I was hoping for dramatic. So far its not.

Next up is the Ahtanum. Label here says: "Ahtanum™ hops [Yakima Valley, WA] contribute a very balanced and typically “American” orange peel, piney and floral flavor and aroma to this brew, tempered by a slight sweetness and full body". Smell is more pronounced floral here, not sure I get any pine scent, and definitely get some orange peel bitterness in the taste. This beer has more character, but again its not a huge departure from the original.

Recall how I ran a half marathon in the morning? As I reach for bottle #4, the fatigue is starting to set it. I grab the East Kent Goldings IPA. The label says: "East Kent Goldings [East Kent, UK] add a mellow bitterness  with earthy, floral and apricot notes, offset by a slight sweetness and full body." Scent here is mellow, lightly hoppy. Taste is mellow, I think. I do get some earthiness, some very mellow floral characteristic, not a ton of bitter though, and no apricots. Maybe my pallet is done, as this is beer# 4 after 13.1 miles.

Despite the fatigue, I grab a bottle of  Zeus next. Probably best to not go to battle with Zeus when you're as tired as I was, but after 4 beers and 13 miles of running, clear, logical thinking are not my strong points. The label here says: "Zeus hops [Yakima Valley, WA] contribute bitterness and an intense, pungent resinous pine flavor." Pungent? Uh-oh.

I pour, smell and drink. Scent is not so pungent. Stronger than the others? Maybe. Nicely hoppy. Piney? It doesn't smell, or taste, like my Christmas tree. Bitter, yes, very. I like this version, but perhaps my pallette is ruined from the previous 4 beers, or maybe I'm too tired to pick out the distinguishing characteristics of the hops at this point of the evening. I decide to go to bed. The Simcoe hops has to be reviewed another time

That was Sunday.

Monday was Memorial Day.  I washed my cars.

Tuesday evening found me at the Harpoon Brewery, with my friend Chris, for another Harpoon 100 Barrel Series tasting.

As a Friend of Harpoon, I get invitations to these special free tastings they do at the brewery. I highly recommend joining this program. Why? Free Beer. You also get to meet and ask questions of the folks who brewed the beer. In this case, Rich Doyle and Dan Kenary, the Co-Founders who teamed up to brew Harpoon 100 Barrel Series #37- Rich and Dan's Rye IPA.
Harpoon 100 Barrel Series Island Rich and Dan's Rye IPA

This IPA was brewed to celebrate the breweries 25th Anniversary. Its awesomely hoppy, with subtle spice notes. They told a great story about the "research"  they performed to determine what style they would brew. Rich also explained to my friend why this beer appears clear when the label says its "unfiltered". They centrifuged it, and it sounds like that wasn't the intention, but we can't argue with the results. It was an awesome brew.

Before the tasting Chris and I met at the new Legal Seafoods on the waterfront for a beer or two. I'll spare you another beer review, but the restaurant is amazing, I recommend checking it out, but beware crazy prices at the bar on beer. Food seemed more reasonably priced.

Anyhow, that's what I've been up to, and why the blog entries have been delayed. Thanks for reading.

Cheers!