Monday, December 30, 2013

2013- The Year in Beer

As 2013 comes to a close, I want to once again say "Thank You" to everyone who has taken the time to read this humble beer blog.

The past year saw this humble blog break the 1,000 unique visitor barrier, which is pretty cool, and I think speaks to the continued rabid growth of craft beer culture. Reading wonderful compliments from people who have stumbled upon Man Drinks Beer when searing for local Massachusetts beer info online is extremely rewarding, and I thank everyone who took the time to comment and give feedback.

The year was, for me, personally, a year of change and challenges. Laid off from a job of 15 years in February, I embarked on a new job search, and landed a new job- in a new and very different industry- in April. I can't lie, it cut into the blogging- and related activities- big time. This was supposed to be the year I started publishing on a regular schedule. This did not happen. I was supposed to attend the beer blogger conference, which was in Boston this year. This also did not happen. I was suppose to expand content beyond reviews. We all know how that turned out.

Hey, life happens. We deal with it. And- sometimes- beer helps. And running. But that's a blog for another time...

And now for a look back at my favorite local beers from 2013. There were a lot of good ones, but here are the ones that really stuck out.

1. Trillium Brewing- "Pot and Kettle Porter"- I finally made it into Trillium-located in Boston, in Fort Point- in July, and damn was it worth the drive in (and terrible parking). Since opening in early 2013, Trillium has become the darling of the Boston beer scene, and it's earned the reputation in a massive way.This porter is fantastic, made with more malts than I can count (or feel like typing) and Columbus hops, it's a dark, robust, malty, flavorful and luscious porter. They now offer this in a whiskey barrel aged version. Sadly, I have not yet procured a bottle.

2. Wormtown Brewery- "Sweet Tats"- Wormtown is one hell of a brewery, and this is one tremendous stout. Incorporating locally roasted coffee, its got an amazing coffee nose- with hints of vanilla- and tons of flavor. Fresh roasted coffee notes up front, super smooth, malty, with a nice subtle alcohol burn finish, one of the best stouts I've ever had, bar none.

3. Jacks Abby- "Second Anniversary Lager"- It's a double India Pale Lager from Jack's Abby. Need I say more? I hear they tweaked this recipe and renamed it "Mass Rising", so if you find a bottle, grab it and enjoy the rarity and deliciousness. (and I am sure "Mass Rising" is awesome as well. It did win a gold medal at the GABF this year. I just haven't had it yet :( )

4. Foolproof Brewing Company- "Backyahd IPA"- I debated putting a Rhode Island Brewery on this list, but frankly this beer was just far too good not to include. An excellent IPA, loaded with tropical fruit notes and hoppy brightness, this is the best kept secret in local beer. Foolproof also offers an Imperial version of this, called "King of the Yahd". I haven't had it, but it's on my "to drink" list for 2014.

5. Blue Hills Brewery- "King's Kolsch"- Nobody brews a kolsch these days, and it's a shame. I love Blue Hills take on the style, which works beautifully with their distinctive house yeast. A crisp, lighter style with lots of flavor, I want to see more kolsch's on the craft beer store shelves in 2014.

There were some other local notables as well, like Mayflower Brewing's one time "5th Anniversary Double India Pale Ale", as well as out of state "WOW" beer's like Anderson Valley's "Bourbon Barrel Stout", which I highly recommend to all.

What does 2014 bring for the craft beer world and this blog? I don't know. But I'm thinking more change is probably in the air, so I'm not making predictions today.

Happy New years all! Have a safe and happy New Years Celebration.


Bill aka ManDrinksBeer

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Stout Weather- Wormtown "Sweet Tats"

One benefit of the cold weather is that it allows us to break out the thick, dark, hearty beers that pair so well with the blithering, freezing cold. I love curling up in my recliner by the fire, with a good book and a locally brewed stout or porter. Even better if its barrel aged or imperial, to add just a touch of extra warming alcohol burn.

We here in Massachusetts reap the benefits of living in a climate where the brewers know how to blunt the absurdity of our weather with equally absurdly and awesome beers.

Wormtown Brewery's "Sweet Tats" stout is one such absurdly awesome beer. An oatmeal stout brewed with locally roasted coffee, cocoa nibs, and vanilla beans, this beer is an absolute must have in the fridge for the cold winter nights. I was fortunate enough to have my wife bring me home one from the brewery recently. We both agree that we need more of this beer in our fridge.

Sweet Tats
Wormtown Brewery, Worcester, MA
9% abv

Sweet Tats pours thick and black as night, with a strong, stubborn, tight two inch tan head that refuses to quit. Awesome head retention on this beer.

Fresh roasted coffee beans and vanilla aromas immediately present themselves for your approval, the vanilla very mild, the coffee slightly more pronounced. It is great.

Mouthfeel is soft yet full and creamy and super smooth. Superb body and perfect weight and carbonation. It's positively luscious.

Malty as all get out on first sip, with the malts, coffee and vanilla all playing on the palette. There's a nice balance here, and the 9% alcohol content is hidden well, with only a slight alcohol warmth on the finish betraying it's presence. My impression here? Put it this way, in my notes, I wrote this under taste- "WOW".

Sweet Tats is about as perfectly executed a beer as I've ever had. The coffee and vanilla combo work better  here than I've ever experienced before- both are actually noticeable and contribute in a meaningful way to the flavor profile, something I rarely find when vanilla is involved.

Find this beer, open it, and enjoy it. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving! Three Great Local Beers for Your Thanksgiving Meal...

Happy Thanksgiving!

I had intended to post earlier this week with beer recommendations for your Thanksgiving meal, but I got delayed by work, and in the interim it would appear that every other beer blogger has already posted these thoughts. And while it is Thanksgiving eve, and most of you have already bought your turkey day brews, I'm gonna plow ahead and say drink local and seasonal and still give you my thoughts on three great, local beers for your Thanksgiving holiday festivities.

Thanksgiving Ale
Mayflower Brewing, Plymouth, MA
8% abv

I love seasonal Ales that are NOT spiced. This is one such beer. It's brewed in the style of an old English Strong ale and aged on oak.

This beer pours a very dark brown- maybe ruby red when held up to strong light- clear, with a low, white head. Hints of oak and fruit are immediately noticeable on the nose, but it's not overly sweet. There is a strong,earthy maltiness as well.

This is a full bodied beer- thick and chewy, with mild carbonation.

The first sip produces expected notes of oak up front, and a strong malt profile. There's a nice alcohol warmth also, but its not overwhelming. The finish is clean and crisp.

This is a great beer for a heavy thanksgiving meal- its got a lot of flavor that won't wilt under the assault of gravy and turkey that greets most of our palettes on Thanksgiving. It also won't overpower the meal or knock you out with an absurdly high alcohol content- this beer checks in at a moderate 8%.   It reminds me a lot of Greene King Brewing's "Crafty Old Hen", an English Ale blend of a Strong ale aged on oak and a young ale.

Grateful Harvest Ale
Harpoon Brewing, Boston, MA
5.9% abv

A portion of the sales of each six pack of Grateful Harvest go to a local food bank. How cool is that?

This is billed as a cranberry ale, but I think it more accurate to describe it as an Ale with cranberries. Its not a lambic style, where the cranberries are front and center. In Grateful Harvest, the cranberries are clearly a supporting actor, bringing a very subtle sweetness to robust and malty red/brown ale. It's lighter than the Mayflower Thanksgiving Ale featured above, but still has enough flavor to stand up to a hearty meal. I love this beer, and its social conscience.

Hoponius Union
Jacks Abby Brewing, Framingham, MA

My thoughts on Jacks Abby are well known- I love their beer- and their flagship Hoponius Union IPL will be in my glass on Thanksgiving afternoon. Hop Union has an amazing aroma and a bright, clean taste that will cut through the heft of any meal. If you haven't tried it, what are you waiting for?

Happy Thanksgiving all! On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all of you that read this humble beer blog! Cheers to you!

aka MDB

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Post #100- Half Marathon Outcome/Clown Shoes "Vampire Slayer"

This is post number 100 on Man Drinks Beer!

When last we met, I wrote about my training for the Ashland Half Marathon at the end of October. To the right here is yours truly, finally crossing the finish line after a pain filled 13.1 miles.

Why pain filled you ask? Because I ran the dumbest race of my life (and that says something!).

First off, the event was very well organized- plentiful and easy to access free parking, easy "day of" number packet pick up, and reasonable lines at the porta johns. The field wasn't too huge, but it was packed at the start.  The course itself was beautiful- lots of trees and woods- except for all those hills! I honestly think they should call this the "Ashland 12 miles of Hills and 1 Sorta Flat Mile at About Mile 9 Half Marathon."

So, the race itself. I ran stupid. Despite a very good training lead up and a good strategy, I ran poorly. Mostly because I abandoned my strategy of going out slow and running consistent splits at about 500 yards. Why? Adrenaline, I guess. I felt great. Thought I could sustain my pace. I felt so good I skipped water stops. Then I hit the hills. And more hills. So I shouldn't have been surprised by the sudden, paralyzing leg cramps I suddenly got at mile 10 (at which point I was still on pace for a sub 2 hour finish, by the way). As the cramps intensified, I hit Green Street, which I learned is also called the "Green Monster" because its a sharp, blind, left hand turn that shoots you straight up the worst hill on the course. Everyone in front of me was walking. Everyone. So I stopped and walked. I thought I'd start running maybe halfway up, but the legs vetoed that action with more massive calve cramps. So I walked.

What you see in the picture here is me after a 47 minute, 3 mile walk/run/limp/curse-fest over the final miles of the course. Thank God the last mile or so is downhill, or I might still be out there! After finishing, I was very concerned over my body's ability to make it home, so I very sadly skipped the Long Trail beer booth, limped to my car, and drove home.

When I did finally feel well enough for a beer, I decided that I needed a strong one to purge the taste of failure from my mouth. Here's what I chose.....

"Vampire Slayer" (Smoked Imperial Stout)
Clown Shoes Brewing, Ipswich MA
11% ABV

Sadly, the cool name of this beer will be discontinued. Get the story here and understand why some lawyers are scum.

The good news is that the beer itself will remain on shelves, albeit under a new name, but with the same awesome recipe!

From the bottle:

"In a world full of uncertainty, hardship, and people trying to hold us back, do we need Vampires, too? Clown Shoes says, “No! Die, monsters, die!” 

Our second anniversary ale incorporates signature dark malts, holy water, and malt smoked locally with hickory, ash, and vampire killing stakes"

History has taught me that Clown Shoes Stouts are outstanding, so it was with eager anticipation that I popped to top off my bottle of Vampire Slayer.

Vampire Slayer pours thick, oily and pitch black into the glass, with a healthy two inches of tan head.

This is an imperial smoked stout, so I expect some smokiness on the nose. What I get is more akin to roasted coffee and cocoa, deep and robust.

Mouthfeel is creamy and thick, with low levels of carbonation, and also reveals the first characteristics of smoke. The body on this beer is wondrous!

Taste is where the smoke really presents- immediately I get smokey peat and roasted malts, profound and tasty, earthy and intense. Boozy at 11% alcohol, the wood smoked malts- over hickory and ash- really stand out in the first few draws from the glass. Resinous hops and bitterness cut the richness of the coffee and burnt cocoa flavors, giving it an amazing balance. Finish is shockingly clean, with a touch of alcohol burn for good measure.

Vampire Slayer is an excellent, excellent stout. The alcohol hits hard, which is my only complaint. The tastes here are amazing, intense and well balanced. Highly recommended.

I would love a version of this at 5% abv.

Have you tried Vampire Slayer? Tell me what you thought of it.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Post #99- Half Marathon Training and Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin

So I've been training for another half marathon this fall-The Ashland Half Marathon and 5K- (which is this Sunday, btw), and I've pretty much cut out beer while I train.

Now I am certainly not a threat to win this race. I am not fast (think 9 minute miles here), or small (220lbs+). So why did I cut out beer? Simply, its because I feel that I run better when I haven't had a beer or two the night before. And despite my destined middle of the pack finish, I still like to train hard and try to maximize my performance for these races.

     It's a lot of fun to train for an event, I've always felt that way. I feel like it gives you an entry into this great  fraternity of crazy people- who have trained for months, running long distances, willfully subjecting themselves to sore muscles, chaffing, occasional joint pain and exhaustion- all in the hopes having a good race- and I love that connection. Lining up at the starting line of a race with hundreds of total strangers, I always have this feeling of "these are MY people. They get me. Lets do this!". Just thinking about it now makes me want to get to the starting line!

Or maybe its partly a pending mid-life crisis. I do turn 40 fairly soon. But I don't think that's it. I've always been competitive and enjoyed challenging myself physically. Running is a great way to focus that energy and channel it in a positive way. And if there's a post run beer in it for me, whats wrong with that?

Anyhow, before I went beer free, I did allow myself to try a new pumpkin beer. Here are my thoughts on ...

Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin
Harpoon Brewery, Boston, MA
10.5% ABV

The bottle tells the tale about how the brewers at Harpoon were improvising a new beer in their 10 barrel kettle last fall and tossed in some pumpkin, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, a "touch" of ginger, and a "dash" of cloves. To quote Harpoon- "This Imperial Pumpkin Stout is big, rich, and spicy. Enjoy!"

Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin pours oily black, with a dark brown head that has almost no head retention, save for a thin Bavarian ring and some delicate lacing on the surface.

Smell is intense molasses, ginger and pumpkin spice, all equally represented and pungent. It's got a great aroma-  like a pumpkin pie baking in your grandmothers oven on a cold fall afternoon.

Mouthfeel is creamy and rich, extremely pleasing on the palette.

Taste is...... a holy spice overload. It's like biting into a ginger root and then shoving a spoonful of nutmeg in your mouth. It's absolutely palette wrecking to this drinker. The molasses and pumpkin are lost under the intensity of spice in the first sip.

As labeled, this beer is big and intense in flavor. Personally, I found it too strongly spiced, but for those of you who like spiced beers, this beer will be a real gem. Definitely a sipper due to the ABV and intense flavors, I can imagine it being great on a cold night by the fire.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Night "The Kids Are In Bed" Beer- Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada "Rhizing Bines"

It's Friday night, the kids are in bed! What beer are you celebrating with?

Tonight I'm going with an outstanding collaboration brew- Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada's "Rhizing Bines". This is described as an "east meets west imperial IPA" on the Dogfish web site.

Rhizing Bines
Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada Collaboration 
8% ABV 70 IBU's

The bottle tells the tale of the beer-" Rhizing Bines is a collaborative IPA using the best of both coasts: Carolina-grown red fife wheat and Dogfish Head's continual-hopping from the East and Sierra Nevada's estate-grown caramel malt and Torpedo dry-hopping from the West"

Rhizing Bines pours an orange amber hue, with a HUGE, airy white head.

Immediately you're greeted with massive amounts of hoppy, sweet fruit aroma, wafting out of the glass with purpose. There are underlying hints of spice and sweet fresh baked bread.

Mouthfeel is moderate yet soft. It's very smooth, almost creamy.

Taste if pronounced, fruity sweet hops up front, just like the smell. (It's brewed with Bravo and an experimental hop so new it only has a number- 644). It's got that distinctive bitterness that you expect, reminiscent of Sierra Nevada's "Torpedo Extra IPA". And of course there is the subtle spice, which creates a dry, bitter, hot and spicy finish.

I love, love, love this beer. It's exceptional. The flavors are extraordinarily clean and distinct, and work absolutely perfectly together. I highly recommend this beer! A true "WOW" beer.

What beer are you enjoying on this Friday night, now that the kids have gone to bed?


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

First Pumpkin Ale of the Season- Dogfish Head Punkin' Ale

I typically gravitate to Octoberfest beers this early in the fall. I love the style, the simplicity, the super smooth, mellow flavors, even the color. I find them an excellent transitional beverage from the brighter, hoppier summer ales that are enjoyed before their arrival.

But, oddly, I was in a pumpkin mood this week.

No idea why. Maybe seeing pumpkin beer on the shelves for the last TWO MONTHS finally wore me down. Maybe the pumpkin glitterati finally succeeded in turning me. Maybe its because my wife went to Syracuse and I've been programmed to love Orange. Whatever the reason, I caved and went pumpkin.

But which pumpkin to choose? There's, like, 10,000 different pumpkin beers on the shelves right now- pumpkin ale, pumpkin stout, pumpkin spiced, imperial pumpkins, pumpkin lagers! It's too overwhelming.

In times of trouble (or in this case- a time of wicked indecision)- stick with
what you know- I went with a Dogfish Head Punkin'. Dogfish rarely lets you down as a beer drinker. They brew outstanding beers in a wide variety of styles, and nine times out of ten I've loved the Dogfish beer in my glass.

So it was with eager anticipation that I poured my first pumpkin ale of the season.....

Punkin' Ale
Dogfish Head Brewery
Rehoboth Beach, DE

Punkin' Ale pours a brilliant reddish brown, clear, with a strong 3 fingers of puffy white head.

Punkin' Ale is a spiced pumpkin ale, which is abundantly clear from one cautious sniff.  I get a spicy nose full of nutmeg and allspice. Subtler notes of cinnamon and malts are brought out with a gentle swirl of the glass.

Body is on the moderate side, almost full. And bubbly.

Taste follows the nose- lots of nutmeg and allspice again, with the pumpkin worked in underneath in a surprisingly understated manner. Hops and malts are hard to find here, there is so much spice that it's a bit overwhelming.

Finish is mildly hop bitter- the first clear evidence of a hop presence in this brew, albeit awash in pie spices.

I want to love this beer. But I don't. It's a good beer. But I personally found it over spiced for my particular taste. Too much pumpkin spice and not enough of the pumpkin itself. A decent enough beer to be sure, but I prefer my pumpkin ales either sweet or savory. The spiced variety just doesn't do it for this drinker.

How do you like your pumpkin beer? Spiced? sweet? Tell me about it- leave a comment!


Monday, September 9, 2013

Fall Beer- Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout

It's finally fall, and that means cold weather, baseball playoffs (God willing around Boston for the first time in 3 years), and football.

It also means break out the fall beers- Octoberfest, Pumpkins, and all kinds of stouts and porters. Thick, rich, flavorful beers, often higher in alcohol content, that can keep you warm on a cold Fall night.

Typically in fall I gravitate immediately to Octoberfest as my first beer, quickly followed by a pumpkin or two. But this fall a newcomer caught my eye- a barrel aged stout by Anderson Valley Brewing Company.

Aged in Wild Turkey Barrels, this was just something I couldn't say "no" to, especially after a month of IPA's. I had finally tried Anderson Valleys IPA as part of IPA Month, and found it to be excellent, so I couldn't resist this barrel aged stout. Barrels often do great things to stouts and porters, and when the opportunity came to try a new one, well, I just couldn't pass it up. And boy an I glad I didn't..

Bourbon Barrel Stout
Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Boonville, CA
6.9% ABV, 14 IBUs

Bourbon Barrel Stout pours like a great stout should- dark black, viscous, with two inches of thick, tight brown head.

Smell is Earthy, smokey peat and malt, with a touch of wood. There is no noticeable alcohol character in the nose, which is a surprise given where it was aged.

Mouthfeel is of moderate weight, creamy, with a luscious, super silky swallow.

Taste begins with lots of wood with hints of vanilla up front- Oak, I think- transitioning to a nice, alcohol bourbon warmth and taste, which is surprisingly restrained. A malty smokiness follows this, with note of burnt coffee and chocolate. It finishes with a subtle hop citrus bitter, which nicely complements and  balances out the complex elements of this beer.

There is a ton of complex and delicious flavor in this beer. Brewed with a huge malt bill- Pale Two-Row, Crystal (40L & 80L), Roasted Barley, Munich, Chocolate, Oats, and hopped with Columbus, Northern Brewer, and on top off all that aged in Wild Turkey Barrels. I expected a much more "in your face" alcohol burn, but its wonderfully modest in that regard. The alcohol warmth is there, but it's not a burn as you'd expect. This is what I love about barrel aging a beer- and this beer was aged for 3 months in the barrels- the wood mellows everything, and this allows the flavors of the bourbon to come through and incorporate so well with the malts and hops.

This is an excellent, excellent beer- a true "WOW" beer. Perfect for cold weather, sitting in the recliner by the fire, or sitting outside by the fire pit. I highly recommend it, if you can find it. It tends to fly off store shelves, be warned.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

King's Kolsch- Blue Hills Brewery

Welcome to September!

Yes indeed its Fall again, time for cool weather, baseball pennant races, football, and Octoberfest and Pumpkin Beers galore.

Having spent the month of August celebrating the art of the India Pale Ale (and denying the impending end of summer), I have to admit that I'm ready to move on to a different style. I love IPA's, but a whole month of them is rough on the palette.

Before diving into the predictable pumpkin/Octoberfest beers, I'm going to start the Fall Beer drinking season talking about a personal favorite style of mine- the "kolsch".

I first discovered the kolsch style in 1995 at the Kenmore location of the Boston Beer Works. I was celebrating a friends 21st birthday between classes at BU with lunch at the Beer Works. The beer was their "Kenmore Kolsch". I loved it. It was a lighter, super tasty, golden ale. I had never heard of the style, and the name stuck with me. Since that day, I've always associated the style with a simple, golden, super flavorful beer.

But what is a "kolsch"?

As defined in "The Oxford Companion to Beer" by Garrett Oliver,

"kolsch" is a top-fermented local beer style from Koln (Cologne), Germany. Kolsch beers are characterized by a lightly fruity yeast note in aroma and taste, as well as a pleasant hoppy bitterness.  The history of kolsch beer goes back to 874 AD..." 

It seems kolsch style beer was developed as a response to the pilsners being imported to Cologne from Bohemia. The Germans created a similar yet more flavorful style of beer. From what I've read, it worked.

The "Oxford Companion to Beer" also says of the Kolsch-

"In 1986, the brewers of Cologne renewed the convention that defines a true kolsch (a light-colored, highly fermented, strongly hopped, bright, top-fermented Vollbier) how it has to be served (in the famous 0.2-liter (6 oz), tall, straight kolsch-"Stangen" glass) and especially who is allowed to produce it- only the brewers of Cologne. A bright yellow Vollbier (beer with original gravity of 11%-12%), kolsch has a prominent hoppiness and is predominately brewed with barely malt..... The original gravity is 11.3% on average, while alcohol by volume is 4.8%"

King's Kolsch
Blue Hills Brewery
Canton, MA
7.2% ABV

King's Kolsch pours a clear golden yellow with a tight, frothy head of white.

Smell is wonderfully, mildly fruity. I get bananas, some citrus, and some mild, bready, yeast funk that I've come to expect form Blue Hills distinctive house yeast.

Mouthfeel is light and crisp. Very smooth.

Taste is mild bread and fruit upfront- similar to the nose, but more subdued- I do get some bright citrus hops, with an underying malt sweetness. Less yeast funk than normal from a Blue Hills brew, but it works for this beer and you don't miss it. Finish is mildly hoppy and bitter.

This is an excellent beer. Super smooth and flavorful. Flavors are at the same time distinct and moderately understated. Its everything you've always wanted in a beer. I highly recommend this beer.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Great Divide Brewing Company- Titan IPA

Great Divide Brewing Company of Colorado is one of those rare breweries that only brews GREAT beers.

I've had a lot of Great Divide beer, and I've never had a single one that wasn't absolutely GREAT.

Not "good".

I mean GREAT.

I am truly amazed by the overall super high quality of the Great Divide portfolio of beers. The only other brewery that I can say this of is Somerville's own Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project. This is the only other brewery that I can honestly say that I've never had a less than excellent beer from.

And I drink a lot of beer.

This is not to speak ill of the many great breweries here in Boston. Harpoon for example, has an equally impressive line up of great beer. But, I've probably had 40 different beers from Harpoon over the years, and there were one or two that I didn't love. That's a pretty solid batting average. Its just that I haven't had quite as many beers from Great Divide or Pretty Things. These are smaller breweries, and I've just not had the opportunity to try quite as many beers from them. But I digress...

Titan IPA
Great Divide Brewing Company
Denver, Colorado
7.1% ABV

Titan pours a dark burnt orange, with a low, tight off white head.

Smell is malty sweet at first, followed by a big whiff of citrusy hops.

Mouthfeel is light to moderate, with a touch more carbonation that I'd prefer, but its not objectionable by any means.

Taste follows the smell, but in reverse- Big fruity, citrusy, bitter hops up front- grapefruit and grass- followed by a candy like malty sweetness in the finish that balances it out nicely

The flavors are awesome, clean, distinct, balanced and I love them. I was horrified by the "bottled on" date on the bottle though- 10/26/2012. I can only wonder how much better this beer would have been fresh. And I really have to stop shopping at certain liquor stores.

Anyway, I recommend this beer, and this brewery. If you haven't tried Great Divide Brewing Company beers yet, do yourself a favor and do it soon. These folks brew amazing beers,



Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Big Hoppy" Double IPA

Today's IPA Month brew is a totally new one to me- "Big Hoppy" Double IPA from Cambridge House Brewing in Connecticut.

I've never heard of the beer or the brewery before stumbling upon it in a cooler at a local liquor store. The name caught my eye, "Big Hoppy", and immediately made me think of the Boston Red Sox "Big Pappi", David Ortiz. My mind often obsesses over things baseball and beer related, so this beer was a must buy. (Even if there was no actual connection between the two in this case)

I have found info on Cambridge House Brewing difficult to find. But, from what I gather, its a brew pub in Granby, CT that also bottles their beer for sale off site.

Big Hoppy Double IPA
Cambridge House Brewing
Granby, CT
9% ABV

Big Hoppy pours a dark, hazy brown, more like a brown ale than any IPA I've seen, with a nice frothy head of tan.

Smell is intense- Tons of dark fruit, raisins, plums, and lots of hops greet the nose with a wallop. Its nice, but it brings to mind a classic Belgian Trappist Style Double much more than an IPA. There's a mild boozyness in the nose as well.

Mouthfeel is super soft and creamy. Great body on this beer. Velvety smooth, like a great stout.

Taste is.....ahhh.... now THERE's the hops! Bitter, intense hop flavor greets the taste buds immediately, very abrasive at first, like biting into an over ripe grapefruit. Citrusy bitter is the focus here- the initial insanely intense grapefruit, along with strong orange peel and then grass. The flavors are strong and intense, and the dark fruit that is so pervasive in the nose is totally absent, (or perhaps overwhelmed by the citrus), from the taste.

Finish is wet and relatively clean given the intense flavors at work here.

An odd- but good- IPA. This is the polar opposite from most IPA's on the market. Where the current trend is West Coast Style bright, floral hoppyness with clean and crisp flavors, this one goes the other way. Intense dark fruit and a much more muddled taste, where the flavors are harder to pick out and there is no citrusy brightness to it, just the intense bitter wallop.

I liked it, and I do recommend it as a change of pace IPA. Very curious to try more from these guys.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Aprihop- Dogfish Head's IPA with Apricots

Aprihop- IPA Brewed with Apricots
Dogfish Head Brewery, Rehoboth Beach, DE
7% ABV, 50 IBUs

Now, this beer is brewed in March, and should really only be on shelves through May. I was lucky enough to get a few from my mother  in law who visited the brewery in April and brought back a few. These were outstanding. The ones I found on a local store shelve in August? Not so much.

Lesson- Seasonal beer should only be on shelves in season. Good bottle stores usually don't have out of season beers on the shelf. Clearly, I was not shopping at a good store. But that is a post or another day, trust me.

Aprihop pours a dark, almost reddish amber with a low, tight white head.

Smell is hoppy and fruity sweet. Apricots are clearly noticeable, but not overwhelming.

Mouthfeel is soft and smooth. Very smooooooth.

Taste is very much IPA like up front- bright hoppy goodness, floral almost, with a sweet apricot tartness along side. The flavors are clean and crisp and work extremely well together. The is also a strong malt backbone on this IPA, although its not quite as strong as the 60 or 90 minute IPA's Dogfish does so well. Finish is mildly bitter.

I love this beer. A clean, fresh hoppy IPA with Apricots incorporated perfectly. Lots of flavor and very refreshing. Highly recommend when in season. Out of season, it may not be quite up the normal standards.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

IPA Month Rolls On With Sam Adams "Whitewater IPA"

Continuing IPA month with my first post vacation entry. Today's beer is a local from Sam Adams- Whitewater IPA- from their "Brewmasters collection".

This beer is a blend of a Belgian-Style White Wheat Ale and and American Style IPA. Typically blend's of this nature are called "White" IPA's, although to my knowledge there is no formal style guideline or definition for a "White" IPA. Its got a lot of ingredients- apricots, orange peel, coriander, five varieties of hops, white wheat, and Sam Adams blend of pale two row malt.

Boston Beer Company-Samuel Adams
Boston, MA
5.8% ABV, 61 IBU's

Whitewater IPA pours a dull orange brown, with a white, lose head of foam.

Smell is complex- piney hops and apricots hit the nose first, followed by teasing wafts of bready wheat that quickly vanish and are followed by more citrus.

Mouthfeel is moderate and bubbly. This beer has a strong body and good carbonation to match.

Taste is equally as complex as the smell. Tangy wheat greets the palette immediately, followed by orange, citrus, and piney hops. The flavors here are so totally and fully integrated that nothing is clean or easily identifiable. In addition to the wheat and fruit flavors, there is a peppery spiciness (its gotta be the coriander) that permeates everything. The hops here are really secondary- despite the Topaz, Chinook, Cascade, Simcoe, and Citra used in the brew. Finish is bitter and wet and spicy.    

All things considered, I was disappointed in this beer. It wasn't really bad, but I didn't think it was great either. I was intrigued by the style, but disappointed in the execution. I feel like there was just too much competing for my attention and I couldn't enjoy it. I prefer clean, crisper flavors in my IPA's, and this beer- while loaded with flavor- missed the mark in that respect. 

Beers I'd compare to this:

Harpoon White IPA is the single best White IPA That I've ever had, and is also one of my all time favorite beers, period. Its also a blend, but lacks the coriander and spice, really features the hops, and delivers strong, crisp, distinct flavors. I am desperately trying to find a bottle to write about for IPA month.

Haverhill Brewery, now The Tap- Whittier Wheat- This is a straight up Belgian Wheat interpretation loaded with spice and citrus. I similarly didn't care for this beer, but its very much in the same style as Whitewater IPA.

Monday, August 12, 2013

IPA Month Continues with Oskar Blues "Deviant Dale's" IPA

Continuing IPA Month with another fine IPA in a can- Oskar Blues "Deviant Dales" IPA.

I don't know much about Oskar Blues Brewing. I've only had one of their beers- Mamas Little Yella Pils- and I wasn't a huge fan. But one thing I've learned is that you can't judge a brewery by one beer.

Trying to find new and different IPA's to write about for my self created "IPA Month" endeavor can get difficult. As many variations on the style as there are, finding them can be a challenge, and then tasting them all is another challenge. I probably only write about 50% of the beers I drink, because some I just don't like even a little, and sometimes I just want to sit in my recliner and enjoy a beer without taking freaking notes.

I selected Deviant Dale's IPA for three reasons:

  1. I am very unfamiliar with the brewery, so it was an opportunity to learn about them
  2. It comes in cans, and I think I need to drink more from cans. I sometimes think I have a subconscious prejudice against cans, and that's just wrong. 
  3. It comes in 16 ounce Tall Boy cans. And that's just cool. 
Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, CO
8%ABV, 85 IBU's

Deviant Dales pours a dark reddish orange, with a nice off white head. Not a lot of obvious bubbles in the glass.

Smell is nice- lots of bright, citrus aroma-and pine-and a underlying sweetness as well.

Mouthfeel is heavy- this is a chewy IPA. Lots of body to it, and it leaves a nice textural feel on the tongue, almost velvety smooth.

Taste is in line with the nose- strong, bright citrus up front, very grapefruit centric and bitter- with not so subtle notes of resiny pine as well. There's also a nice malt character and sweetness here that helps balance out the 85 IBU's of bitterness. Its not balanced per say, but its not an over the top, super bitter, west coast hop bomb either. Finish is very wet and only mildly bitter.

I liked this beer a bunch. Great flavor to it, and I love that they sell it in 16 ounce tall boy 4-packs. I recommend this beer.

Do you have a favorite IPA? Want to share it with the the world? Leave me a comment, or send me an email at


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Vacation Beer- Cape Cod IPA

Tonight's IPA Month beer is Cape Cod Beer IPA.

Why Cape Cod Beer? Because I'm on vacation, on the Cape, and I am a firm believer in drinking local whenever possible.

The problem is there isn't a lot of brewing happening on the Cape proper these days, or so it seems. So I was thrilled to find this growler at Kappy's Liquors in Falmouth, post road race.

I first experienced Cape Cod beer a few years ago while camping on the Cape with my wife (this was pre-children). It was a rainy day, and the wife I sought shelter in a little out of the way restaurant on the side of the road in Brewster. They served Cape Cod beer. I had several pints, although this was pre-blog and I wasn't taking notes, but I recall thinking "this is good stuff. I never knew there was a brewery on the Cape".

So here I am again, on the Cape, on Vacation , with wife and kids, but in a house. With Wi-Fi and a laptop. And a fresh growler of Cape cod IPA.......

First off, I love that the beer is simply called "Cape Cod Beer IPA". Its simple and straight forward. The label also says "Its got a bite!". Hmmmmmm....And I equally love the "A vacation in every pint" tag line on the bottle label.

Cape Cod Beer IPA
Hyannis, MA
6% ABV, 70 IBU's

Cape Cod IPA pours a dark reddish gold, clear, with a nice frothy head of white foam.

Smell is strong citrus with equally strong earthy malt sweetness. It's a robust nose.

Mouthfeel is moderate, crisp, with equally moderate carbonation.

Taste is strong- wicked bitter citrus packs a wallop immediately- think grapefruit shoved in the eye, nose and throat simultaneously. And wicked, wicked freaking bitter. 70 IBU's? I think you guys forgot a "1" in front of that 70.  This must be that "bite" that they were referring to on the label. There is an equally formidable malt bill on this brew, which does it best to counteract the indecent assault of citrus, and it almost succeeds in balancing it out- there is a noticeable earthy malt sweetness that cuts the bitter, but doesn't eliminate it completely. Finish is wet and- you guessed it- BITTER.

I liked this beer. Its a good IPA, and unique in its approach to the style. Its got strong character and flavor, which is really all I need to recommend a beer, which I do with this beer.

Beers similar to this:

Tough to really identify, but it did remind me a bit of Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA- both have a strong malt bill against an assertive hop profile, and an attempt at balance, but without sacrificing that huge hop taste and focus. Biggest difference being that Dogfish 90 has a cleaner flavor profile and is a bit more polished- the flavors are more distinct and therefor have more of a punch. Cape Cod IPAs flavors are more muddled, but that's not a bad thing, just different.  

Friday, August 9, 2013

IPA Month Day 9- Sixpoint Brewery's- "Resin"

Today's IPA Month beer is a double IPA, "Resin", that comes to us from good old Brooklyn, NY and Sixpoint Brewery.

I've been dying to try Resin for a while now. Its one of those IPA's that, while not necessarily limited in production, never seems to stay in stock long.

On the liquor store shelf, Sixpoint beers stand out due to the packaging- they are only available in tall, skinny cans, with bright, bold colors. They also have a very distinct logo, the six pointed star. Click here for an explanation of the logo. And their tag line, "Beer is Culture", has also always caught my eye. This is a bold statement that I agree with, and it succinctly contextualizes beers rightful place in the world (far better than, say, "cold activated" cans).

And, of course, I'd heard that Sixpoints beer tasted pretty darn good. They should, given how deeply these folks think about beer and its historical lineage.

And now for my Resin tasting notes...

Sixpoint Brewery, Brooklyn, NY
9.1% ABV, 103 IBU's

Resin pours a bright amber with a nice, tight white head. Strong head retention on this beer. Always a great thing.

Smell is all hops- resinous and piney and strong. There's an underlying sweetness as well, candy-like almost.

Mouthfeel is soft and light, with nice carbonation levels.

Taste is super hoppy- no, check that- its super HOPPY! Yes, that's more accurate. Super HOPPY upfront, STRONG, piney, pungent, bitter and spicy. This transitions to a fruity sweetness that is more restrained and delicate, with a hint of toffee as well. Finish is very wet, bitter.

Great beer- bold, flavorful, with a touch of alcohol burn that's very welcome. Highly recommended.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Backlash Declaration- Belgian Style IPA

Tonight's IPA Month beer is Declaration, a Belgian Style IPA from Backlash Brewing of Boston.

Backlash Brewing, in their own words, from their web site:

"Founded in July 2011, we brew beer the way it was intended to be brewed – flavorful, gimmick free, and not produced in ridiculous quantities. We know you’re not impressed by spiral necked bottles or labels that change colors when they’re so cold you can no longer taste their contents. You have hands (probably). You’re familiar with how temperature works (…right?)
So, instead of bringing you more swill, we brew our small batch beers right here in Massachusetts. We’re a contract brewery (transparency, ooh la la) which means we make our beer at Paper City Brewery in Holyoke.
Stand up with us and reclaim beer. Join the backlash."

I had always wondered about the name- "Backlash". Join the Backlash. I freaking love that concept. Don't mind if I do! 

I equally love the bitch slap to big mass brewers and the idiotic "cold activated" bottle, which I've been raging about for a while now. It's a post in the making, don't worry. But for now, lets talk about this beer, because it's good one.....
Declaration (Belgian Style IPA)
Backlash Beer Company
7.2%ABV, 47 IBU's

Declaration pours a hazy amber with a fluffy white two fingers of head. Great head retention, it just won't go away.

Smell is restrained- equal parts sweet fruity yeast and and spicy hops Very intriguing.

Mouthfeel is soft and light, texturally very pleasing.

Taste is hop forward citrus- grapefruit at first, and bitter. The fruity Belgian yeast characteristics follow, culminating in a nice IPA bitter finish.

Interesting beer. I really enjoyed it. It really is a unique take on the style, with the fruity Belgian yeast and strong hop flavor combination. I'd drink it again, and I recommend you give it a try.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hop Ottin IPA- Anderson Valley Brewing Company

Today's IPA month selection hails from Boonville, CA- Anderson Valley's "Hop Ottin" IPA.

I've seen Anderson Valleys beers on the shelf at Julio's for years now, and I've always been intrigued by the label, but I've never taken the plunge. I thought it was time to change that.

Hop Ottin IPA
Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Boonville, CA
7% ABV, 78 IBUs

Hop Ottin IPA pours a dark, hazy burnt organge, with a loose, healthy head of creamy foam.

Smell is juicy, piney hops and grapefruit. It smells wet and fresh.

Mouthfeel is soft and smooth, with good, moderate carbonation levels.

Taste is bitter grapefruit rind up front, strong but not lingering. This transitions to a more floral, pefumey hop character. There's a subtle malt backbone (its brewed with Pale Two-Row, Crystal, and Munich Malts) , but it really gets lost behind the strong hop personality of the Columbus and Cascade hops. Finish is bitter and wet.

A nice IPA. Complex in flavor- the floral nature of the flavors caught me off guard. Its not as "bright" and crisp and better known west coast IPA's. However, its still hop centric, and I do recommend this beer.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Foolproof Brewing Company- Backyahd IPA

I recently learned about a brewery in Pawtucket, Rhode Island that I had never heard of before- Foolproof Brewing Company.

I don't know how long Foolproof Brewing has been around, but after sampling their beer, I am confident in saying that they will be around for a loooong time.

IPA Month- day 5- is being celebrated with an IPA from this great, "new to me" brewery....

Backyahd IPA
Foolproof Brewing Company, Pawtucket RI
6% abv

Backyahd IPA (no, its not a typo, that's how its spelled on the can. And I totally dig it) pours a deep golden orange, with a nice lose white head.

Smell is sweet and hoppy- almost sugary, but not quite. There's a distinct fruity sweetness here, and its really nice.

Mouthfeel is soft, smooth, and silky. It's texturally excellent, with absolutely perfect carbonation.

Taste is hoppy up front, but only slightly bitter. Sweet, tasty tropical fruit notes of grapefruit and mango greet the palette. This sweetness is then balanced out with a nice, restrained hop bitterness. Finish is mildly bitter and a touch dry. 

I love this beer.

I love the hops, love the texture, and love the balance. Backyahd has superb balance- but it's not achieved by balancing out the malt bill with the hops, really. It's very much a hoppy IPA. They achieve this great balance by balancing the hop bitter and delicate hop sweetness. I feel this makes the beer overall texturally softer and more sessionable than most IPA's, even at 6% ABV.

I gotta say this was an awesome IPA, and a nice surprise. I will definitely be drinking more Foolproof beer this summer. Maybe I'll even make it down to the brewery for a tour.

I highly recommend this beer to all beer drinkers.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Slumbrew "Flagraiser" IPA

Today's IPA Month beer is Slumbrew "Flagraiser".

I always wondered about the name- "Flagraiser". What's up with that? 

Turns out the answer was no further away than the Slumbrew web site.


"Flagraiser IPA is a big, hoppy tribute to the unfurling of the Grand Union flag atop Prospect Hill in Somerville, MA on January 1, 1776."
Flagraiser IPA
Somerville Brewing Company aka "Slumbrew"
Somerville, M A
7.5% ABV, 80 IBU's

As I pour Flagraiser into my glass, I can't help but notice how dark it is for a non-black IPA. This might be the darkest non-black IPA that I've ever had. A hazy, deep, dark Ice tea color with a nice 2 fingers of off white head.

Smell is sticky, resinous hops. Lots of them- Columbus, Crystal, MT Hood, Galaxy. Its very sweet and pungent.

Mouthfeel is moderate, with nice carbonation- very smooth on the tongue.

Taste is very hop forward and bitter. Grapefruit hop intense at first, transitioning into a tropical fruit sweetness. This is balanced off by a very sweet- almost like caramel/toffee- malt character that really creates an odd, but extremely successful contrast to the hops profile. Finish is fairly smooth, with a mild hint of bitter.

I found this to be a very nice, very complex IPA. Its got great, strong flavor, but its not over the top or palette wrecking in any way. There's an excellent balance here that I'm impressed by greatly. It reminds me very much of a trappist style double, but with lots of hops.  One of the most original- and tasty- IPA's I've had in a long time, and I drink a lot of IPA's.

Definitely recommended.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

IPA Month- 21st Amendment "Hop Crisis"

 IPA month on Man Drinks Beer continues with another one of my favorite brewery's- 21st Amendment from San Fransisco.

Great beer often comes in a can these days, and when you purchase a beer from 21st Amendment, you get a can with attitude, both inside and out.

 These guys take beer seriously- from whats in the can,  right down to the packaging. Adorned with cartoons and captions that are great reads, a can of 21st Amendment provides both a meal and entertainment.

Honestly, I have long felt that commercial art- product packages, CD cases (does anyone actually buy cds anymore? Really? Anyone remember LPs and the great art you got on those? * sigh*..but I digress) etc- is a dying medium, and God Bless these guys for taking it seriously while keeping it fun and engaging.

Hop Crisis- Imperial India Pale Ale aged on oak spirals
21st Amendment
Part of the "Insurrection Series"
9.7% ABV, 94 IBU's

First, read the story on the can about the "hop syndicate" "hoarding hops"...its great, and explains the origin of the beers name. Seriously. Read it!

Hop Crisis pours a cloudy yellow orange with a healthy two fingers of foam. Head retention is excellent and appreciated by this drinker.

The smell is hoppy citrus at first, mild, then come some sweet cereal notes. There's a hearty malt bill on this Imperial IPA, and its obvious from the nose.

Mouthfeel is moderate, with mild carbonation. Almost chewy, but definitely not too heavy.

Tasting finds generous notes of oak induced vanilla up front, followed quickly by an orange citrus hoppiness, rounded out by a sweet caramel malt to balance it all out. Finish is slightly bitter, with a nice warming alcohol sensation. (Ah- there's the booziness I was looking for!)

This is definitely not a traditional west coast style Imperial IPA. It has far, far more balance than a typical west coast hop bomb. But, it shares some characteristics with the classic west coast Imperials in that it has HUGE flavor and is surprisingly smooth for 9.7% abv. That's what aging a beer on oak will do for- mellow it out, smooth out the aggressive flavors, and take off the edges.

I loved this beer. I love the character brought out by the oak aging, I love the supreme balance they achieve with a super strong malt bill- Pale, Munich, Dextrose- against what is a very assertive hop profile- Columbus, Centenial, Cascade. I highly recommend this beer, but be warned, it doesn't taste like a 9.7% ABV beer, so drink responsibly. 

Similar beers that compare to this beer:
Dogfish Head Burton Baton

Friday, August 2, 2013

Hopulence DIPA- Wormtown Brewery

Continuing IPA Month with a brewery that is fast becoming one of my local favorites- Wormtown Brewery of Worcester.

Today's IPA Month beer is a double IPA dubbed "Hopulence".

From the Wormtown web site:

"Brewed with an abundance of hops. Once we started hopping this beer stopping was impossible. Emphasizing Amarillo, Horizon, Summit, and Glacier hops with support from 5 other American varieties. Hops were added in every conceivable part of the brewing process. Whole leaf in the mash, hop forwarded (lautered through whole cones), hop backed, first wort hopped, kettle hopped with pellets and extract, and dry hopped in the fermenter and brite tanks. No expense was spared to bring you HOPULENCE!"

Hopulence Double India Pale Ale
Wormtown Brewery, Worcester, MA
8.5% abv, 120 IBU's

Hoplence pours a hazy ice tea color, with a low tan head. Lots of bubbles appear on the sides of the glass.

Smell is resinous, piney hops, STRONG, almost pungent, which gets substantially sweeter and more tropical fruity as it warms.

Mouthfeel is substantial, chewy, with much less carbonation that one would have thought based on the bubbles.

Taste a word- BOLD. And bitter. There is a massive wash of abrasive bitterness immediately as it hits the tongue, which fades into a spicy hoppiness. Not getting a lot of citrus, but there is a very mild sweetness present. This beer is more on the bitter and spicy side of the IPA spectrum. Clocking in at a massive and bordering on insane 120 IBU's, bitter is what you should expect. Finish is- can you guess?- Bitter. And the alcohol sneaks up on you, hiding in the shadow of all the hops. Its not boozy, but at 8.5%, its strong.

Lots of bitter to this beer. Its an absolutely unbalanced orgy of hops, and it works. Malt characteristics don't stand out- nor should they, that's not what this beer is about- but they are there, and they are well incorporated. Hopulence is an excessive celebration of all that is great about Hops, and I love it. Cautiously recommended for hop heads, as this beer is not for the meek.  


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Happy IPA Day! IPA Month Begins with Founders "All Day" IPA

Happy IPA Day all! 

And Welcome to "IPA MONTH" here at Man Drinks Beer!

August marks my annual revolt against the increasingly annoying seasonal creep of fall beers into our bottle stores. I do this by celebrating- all month long- the wonderful, summery IPA. August is still summer, its still hot, and to me, and many others, it means IPA time. 

No Octoberfest or Pumpkin beers in August please. I love these styles. When its cold outside. Not when its 90+ degrees. 

We kick off IPA Month with what seems to be the "hot" new entry into the IPA category- Founders Brewing's "All Day" IPA Session Ale.

This brew was introduced in early 2012 (although a version of the recipe won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Fest in 2010), but was not then available year round. However, due to extreme demand, they've decided to roll it out as a full time, year round offering.

And, it will be the first Founder's beer to be canned, showing the increasing acceptance of cans in the craft beer world. Look for cans to start hitting shelves in late August/Early September

Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI
4.7% ABV, 42 IBU's

All day IPA pours a deep dark golden, with a vibrant 3 fingers of foamy white head.

Smell is..all dank, wet hops. It smells wet and sweet. There is some detectable malt sweetness as well.

Mouthfeel is light an bubbly, more than expected, but not at all excessive.

Taste is not quite as hoppy as the smell, but very close. Lots of luscious hop citrus- grapefruit, pineapple, and only a little bitter. Getting just a touch of malt sweetness as well. Very Dry finish, but I'm ok with it. Not at all balanced, but it works.

A very nice IPA. Strong hop character, but very low bitterness, and low abv. I'm loving the dry finish by the time I'm done with the bottle. "West coast" in style, but without the big boozy alcohol wallop or scorchingly abrasive bitterness. It actually reminds me a lot of Jacks Abby "Hoponius Union" IPL.

I found "All Day IPA" to be a suberbly drinkable, delicious, IPA.  Definitely a wining entry into the IPA session beer category, and potentially a big entry beer for non-craft drinkers. Enthusiastically recommended.


Got a differing opinion on this IPA? Have another IPA you want to share during IPA Month? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mystic Brewing's "Hazy Jane"

So, Beer Bloggers Conference 2013 kicks off tomorrow in my home town! As a lifelong Bostonian and craft beer drinker, I am thrilled to have the beer community coming to my city for this great event. Welcome, my fellow brothers and sisters of beer blogging!

Boston is a fitting choice for #BBC13. Home to the God Father of craft beer- Sam Adams- and also to the outstanding Harpoon Brewery, one of the often overlooked pioneers of craft beer. In fact, did you know that Harpoon owns brewery permit #1 in the City of Boston? Yup, they were brewing in Boston even before Jim Koch! You'll get to experience both these great breweries first hand during the conference, and I hope to raise a pint or two with as many of you as possible during the festivities!

Some events not included on the BBC13 agenda that you may be of interest:

  1. Jacks Abby Brewing's 2nd anniversary party at the Sunset Bar and grill on Friday night. (The event is in Boston, but the brewery is in a suburb about 20 minutes away)
  2. The 10th Annual hop Head ThrowDown at the Publick House in Brookline (this is right on the city line with Boston, easy to get to)
 As the two events above indicate, there is great beer to be had outside of Boston as well. There are dozens of outstanding breweries operating in cities bordering Boston.

One of them is Mystic Brewing in Chelsea. Here is my review of one of their new summer saisons. 

Hazy Jane, Summer Saison Farmhouse Ale
Mystic Brewery, Chelsea, MA

Hazy Jane pours a beautiful hazy (shocking!) ice tea color, with a tall, vibrant white head that collapses from several inches to a  healthy cap of tight froth.

Bringing the glass to my nose, I get a wheaty, citrusy aroma- Orange, maybe lemon. The aromatics are strong but clean and not at all overpowering. It smells great.

Mouthfeel is light, appropriate and expected for a summer saison, with equally appropriate carbonation for a warm summer evening. 

Taste, initially at least, reminds me of a classic great hefeweizen - banana and cloves up front, and kind of spicy. I'm surprised. Notes of bitter citrus follow, more orange peel along with less pronounced fruity notes that you expect to find in a Belgian style saison. There's a lot of flavor here, but none are overwhelming, and they all work in a complimentary fashion to craft a really unique, tasty interpretation of a summer saison. It tastes very much like a summer beer, which is its purpose. Call it Hefeweizen meets Belgian saison, and the love child gets the best qualities of each. Finish is mildly bitter.

I highly recommend this beer. I found it very complex and difficult to describe accurately, but its a great summer beer, and I guarantee you'll love it.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Jack's Abby 2nd Anniversary Larger- Double IPL

Jack's Abby Brewing of Framingham celebrates its second anniversary this July with a special new double IPL (India Pale Lager) appropriately named "2nd Anniversary Lager".

In the Jack's Abby tradition, its a lager, in this case a double IPL that will remind loyal Jack's Abby drinkers of their excellent Kiwi Rising Double IPL that they served up last year.

Additionally, on Thursday, July, 18th they will be celebrating with a 2nd Anniversary celebration at the Framingham British Beer Company. There will be 10+ Jacks Abby beers on tap! I'll be there, you should be too! 

If you haven't tried Jacks Abby's beers yet, what are you waiting for? This brewery is quickly gaining local and national notice for its outstanding brews, winning a bronze medal at this years Great American Beer Festival for their Smoke and Dagger black lager. The brewery itself is expanding dramatically to keep up with demand. If you love good beer, take the time and make the drive to Morton Street in Framingham. Don't live near Framingham? Ask for Jack's Abby beers at your local bottle store and bar.

2nd Anniversary Lager
Jack's Abby Brewing, Framingham, MA
8% ABV

This beer is an absolute hop bomb, brewed for the hop head devotees that have been following Jack's Abby since they opened the doors in July of 2011 and released their outstanding "Hoponius Union" IPL. When I say "hop bomb", I'm referring to the fact that this is Double India Pale Lager is brewed with Mosaic, Amarillo, Apollo, Citra, Calypso and Simcoe hops.

Hoppy enough for ya?

Second Anniversary Lager pours a hazy sunshine yellow, with a vibrant tight, dirty blonde head. The head retreats some to leave light lacing and a glossy sheen on the surface.

Smell is dank, deep, wet from the rainforest hops. Tons of fruit on the nose, with massive doses of grapefruit taking center stage, and slight hints of pine following the barrage. The aroma is strong, almost pungent, and awesome.

Mouthfeel is substantial, very full, not quite chewy, with lots of bubbles. Very active.

Upon tasting, bitter grapefruit assaults the tongue. Its not quite palette wrecking, but its intense. I get a hint of resinous pine, and a touch of spice from the Amarillo. There is no balance here, the malt characteristics didn't stand a chance against all those beautiful hops. The taste really follows the nose, all dank and hop bitter. Finish is bitter and wet and I want another...

Jack's Abby's 2nd Anniversary Lager is an intense celebration- and triumph- of hops, bitterness, and great brewing. It's delicious, and strongly recommeded by this humble blogger.



Friday, July 5, 2013

Trillium Brewing- Pot & Kettle Porter

I finally made it in to Trillium Brewing this past week.

I have been trying to sneak into the city for months now, in large part to visit my old neighborhood in Southie, but also to try to stop by Trillium to pick up some of their well reviewed brews. Living in the suburbs now, its difficult to get into the city, and as Trillium's distribution doesn't yet extend to my neck of the woods (Metro West), I've only been able to enjoy their beers through the posts of others, like this excellent review of Trilliums super-saison- "Sunshower" by the Boston Globes Gary Dzen.

With a rare day off on Wednesday, I headed in to the city, straight to Fort Point. When I was finally able to find free, on street parking near the brewery (no small task mind you, even for someone who used to live nearby), I picked up two growlers- one of Sunshower, and one of Pot & Kettle, a porter.

I brought the Sunshower to my family's Fourth of July party, and the consensus among all who sampled it was that is was excellent. I didn't take formal notes, as it was a party. But I will say that I agree with Gary Dzen, this is a great beer. Reminded me a lot of a IPA/saison blend, taking the best attributes from both styles. I loved it, and will be returning to Trillium for more (any chance you guy's can save me a parking spot? please?)

I did, however, take the Pot & Kettle home to enjoy and write about. Here's my review..

Pot & Kettle Porter
Trillium Brewing, Boston, MA
7.5% ABV

Pot & Kettle pours a deep dark black, with a low, thin brown head. Aromas of roasted malt greet the nose first, followed by dried dark fruit- raisins, plums- and chocolate sweetness. Hints of hops round out the robust nose of this beer.

Mouthfeel is moderate, what I'd expect from a good porter, and the carbonation is very active, most likely because the bottle tipped during my long drive home. But I didn't find it overly carbonated, it settled nicely after being allowed to breath a few moments.

Lots of earthy, deep, dark roasted malts greet the taste buds on first sip. Not smokey, just perfectly dark toasted malts. The sweetness present on the nose wasn't noticeable in the taste, but I didn't miss it at all.  The flavor profile here is very deep and full, but not complex, exactly what (I feel) a great  porter should be. The finish left me with a hint of dank hops, but no bitterness.

I loved this beer. I found it refreshingly simple- no gimicks, no mocha, no vanilla, no barrel aging- just an old school, kick ass porter, brewed about as perfectly as I've ever had. I highly recommend this beer.

If you have a chance, visit the brewery at 369 Congress Street in Fort Point. Be advised, the city is currently prohibiting them from serving samples (more on that later), but do yourself a favor and grab a growler- they offer 32 and 64 ounce sizes, its well worth the trip.



Have you tried Trillium's Pot & Kettle? What did you think?

Friday, June 14, 2013

I'm a Craft Beer Lover and I Like Fruity Beer! Deal With It!

This image of a beer seems to offend some people, and I just don't get it.

What is it about fruit in beer that offends some beer drinkers?

Fruit is perfectly acceptable in mixed drinks. In Sangria. Why not beer?

I love a good fruity beer. The Boston Beer Works Watermelon Ale pictured at left here is one of my all time favorite beers, period- fruit or non-fruit. On a hot summer day, this beer is an amazing, refreshing blast of cool watermelon brew deliciousness.

Fruit has long been used in the brewing process, this isn't new. Pumpkin Ales are among the most popular fall beers. Peppers- Jalepenos, Habeneros- in IPA and Stouts are popping up more and more. (Yes, peppers are a fruit. Look it up)

Perhaps its the addition of an actual garnish that offends? Do "they" think that a garnish tips off others to the fact that they are drinking a frilly, less manly, fruity beer?

Oh no, the HORRORS!

To those with reservations about fruity beer, I say relax. Fruit and beer have been sleeping together longer than chocolate and peanut butter, and I think most would agree that the fruit and beer combo is far more appealing on a hot summer day.

Here are some more of my personally recommended, favorite fruit beers to enjoy during those hot summer days-

Boston Beer Works also brews an amazing Blueberry Ale, picture here at right. Note the blueberries are actually in the glass, not just affixed to the top for affect. No, the berries are in the drink, and let me tell, you'll be happy they are there when you get to the bottom of that glass and get to gorge on beer infused blueberries!

But you don't need actual fruit in the glass to enjoy a great fruit beer. Try another local great- like Blue Hills Watermelon Wheat, pictured here at left- a heffewiezen style beer brewed with watermelon.   No actual fruit in the glass, but you still get awesome watermelon refreshment.

Wanna be more clandestine? Try Wachusett Brewing's excellent Blueberry Ale- in a can!

There are far too many great local fruit beers for me to mention them all, and there are even more if you look nationally. Blueberry and Watermelon Ales are the kings (most common), but you can also find great beers brewed with Apricots, Raspberries, Grapes...among many others. You get the idea.

What's you opinion of fruit beers? Have a  favorite? Leave me a comment!


Try Great Beer from Battle Road Brewing Company @ Hyper Local Beer Fest in Somerville- June 14-15

       One of Massachusetts newest brewery's, Battle Road Brewing Company will take part in the Hyper Local Beer Fest, on June 14th and 15th in Somerville. They will be offering a tasting of their three beers- 1775 Tavern AleLexington Green East India Pale Ale (IPA) and Barrett’s Farmhouse Ale.

Battle Road Brewing Company takes its name from the history surrounding Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Battle Road refers to the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.  These battles showcased the perseverance and resistance against tyranny that were the hallmarks of the American Revolution and marked the beginning of the War for Liberty. 

  Barrett’s Farmhouse Ale is the latest beer from Battle Road Brewing Company.  This  straw-gold rustic ale evokes memories of a time long ago with a robust yeast strain, a vigorous top-fermenting classic that provides some of the best food pairing flavors. Battle Road’s signature beer, the 1775 Tavern Ale is a light to medium bodied dry, unfiltered pale ale hopped with a single varietal -Slovenian Styrian Goldings.  Finally, the Lexington Green IPA is dry and crisp, with a clean malt delivery and a burst of hop flavor, and even more aromatics of Chinook, Centennial and Cascade hops added from first wort to the last possible moment before fermentation.

Battle Road Brewing Company was founded in 2012 by Jeremy Cross, a graduate of the prestigious Master Brewers Program at the University of California Davis and Scott Houghton, recipient of multiple Gold Medals at the Great American Beer Festival and a graduate of the Master Brewer’s Association of the Americas “Malting and Brewing Science” program at the University of Wisconsin.              

Hyper Local Beer Fest info:

WHERE:               The Armory
191 Highland Avenue, Somerville, MA

TIME:                   Session 1: Friday, June 14 - 6:30p.m. – 9:30p.m.
                              Session 2: Saturday, June 15 - 3:00p.m. – 6:00p.m.
                              Session 3: Saturday, June 15 - 7:00p.m. – 10:00p.m.

Battle Road Brewing Company is currently brewing its beers through Mercury Brewing Company in Ipswich, MA. The beer is currently available in locations across the Commonwealth.  For more information or to find a location, please