Most craft brewers are constantly experimenting with new beers. Some never make it past a test batch, others become one-off releases, and a few favorites become part of the regular brewery rotation. While brewers love to experiment, they can also be perfectionists. Occasionally a beer is brewed and released that is good, but not exactly what the brewer had in mind, which leads to a conundrum. Do they keep the recipe the same and decide it’s good enough, or change it up? If you change it do you keep the same name and hope your customers don’t notice, or give it a new name? Jack’s Abby ran into this issue with their first lager wine, Baby Maker, similar to a barleywine but brewed with lager yeast. While the beer was well received it wasn’t exactly what the brewers had in mind, so they re-worked the malt bill and Bride Maker was born. While I’m disappointed that the name changed (I thought Baby Maker was a brilliant name), I understand the reasoning. Still, wouldn’t it have been fun to name it Baby Maker 2.0, or Baby Maker Take 2? A little late now. Jack’s Abby Bride Maker is a big and boozy lager aged in bourbon barrels, and is available on draft and in 500 mL bottles.
Jack’s Abby Bride Maker pours a deep amber red with a minimal off-white head. The scent starts with some deep and dark malts followed by some bourbon and booze. The malts lead off the flavor as well, notes of milk chocolate, honey, grainy bread, plum and raisin. The flavor from the barrel aging really comes through, vanilla, oak and a little whiskey. There is no noticeable hop flavor as the malts dominate along with the additional taste added by the aging process. The booze is noticeable, but not as strong as you might expect from a beer with 13% ABV! You need to be careful with this beer, it’s a full bodied sipper but still goes down pretty easy. The finish has some malt sweetness and a pleasant warming burn on the tongue. I can safely say this is the first lager wine I’ve ever tried (it might be the only lager wine that exists) and I enjoyed it, but it put me on my ass a little. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Jack’s Abby Reviews:
Jack’s Abby Brewery/Hopstitution BAM, Jack’s Abby Copper Legend, Jack’s Abby Session Rye IPL, Jack’s Abby Mass Rising, Jack’s Abby/Evil Twin Jack’s Evil Brew, Jack’s Abby Wet Hop Lager, Jack’s Abby Pro-Am Pilsner
I have no idea how some people can drink beer while they’re sick. I’ve been fighting a nasty head-cold and I haven’t even felt like writing about beer, let alone drinking any. How can you enjoy the full sensory experience of a great beer when you can’t smell anything and your tongue is numb from cough drops? Fortunately I tend to drink a week or so ahead, so I have beers I drank last week (when I was healthy) to review this week. I’ll get caught up this weekend when I am feeling better. I had no idea when I sampled Long Trail’s new “Sick Day” IPA last week that I would get sick afterwards, (and not from the beer) so it seems like an appropriate beer to review considering my current circumstances. The “Sick Day” moniker is clearly a little tongue in cheek, referring to all the people who call in sick from work to go skiing in the winter. Long Trail is releasing “Sick Day” as their new winter seasonal, replacing their old winter beer Hibernator, a Scottish ale. This seems to be a trend, where many craft breweries are replacing malt-forward seasonal beers with hoppier offerings. Long Trail “Sick Day” IPA is available on draft and in 12 oz. bottles during the cold winter months.
Long Trail “Sick Day” IPA pours a deep amber with a mild white head. The smell is hop-forward, floral and foresty. The hops also lead the taste, with notes of pine, grass and earth. This hoppiness is balanced by a solid dose of malt, hints of caramel and whole grain bread. The beer is smooth and drinkable, with a full body and a pleasant bitter bite. The finish is clean with some pine and grass flavor in the aftertaste. While Long Trail’s Limbo IPA is more of the American/West Coast style citrusy hop-bomb, this beer is more of the English style IPA, hop forward with a solid chewy malt backbone. I actually prefer these heavier bodied and malty IPAs during the colder months, so this fits the season. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Long Trail Reviews:
Long Trail Harvest Barn Ale, Long Trail Limbo, Long Trail Ramble, Long Trail Double Bag
The final beer of Hoppy Boston’s Dopplebock Week is Bocky Bier from Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project. I’m cheating a little, this beer is technically listed as a bock but at 7.5% ABV it is right on the bock/dopplebock borderline. I was very excited to try this beer! Pretty Things is a master of extracting bold malty flavors from grain, so they should have a field day with this malt-forward lager style. This is actually this first time I’ve written a Pretty Things review since the Pay-to-Play controversy (if you didn’t hear about that, I have a summary and some links HERE). The most ridiculous accusation to come out of that back-and-forth was that Pretty Things makes an inferior product. In my opinion they remain one of the most consistent and highest quality breweries in New England. Pretty Things had a tongue in cheek response, advertising their 6th anniversary party as a celebration of 6 years brewing an “inferior product”. I really think they should brew a special beer named “Inferior Product”, not sure if enough people would get the joke though. Until that happens I’ll keep buying and trying the beers they do release. Bocky Bier is one of their newest fall-to-winter beers. It is a tribute to malt flavor and to their friend Jim “Bocky” Barnes, who is featured on the label. Pretty Things Bocky Bier is available for a limited time on draft and in 22 oz. bombers.
Pretty Things Bocky Bier pours the color of black coffee with a minimal tan head. The scent is all malty goodness, coffee and chocolate. The malts sing in the flavor as well, notes of espresso, mocha, dark chocolate, grainy bread and roasted malt. There is just a touch of hops that dries out the finish a little, but this beer is clearly a tribute to malt. The beer is very approachable, at 7.5% ABV it is a full beer without being overly boozy. The finish continues with the malty theme leaving a touch of malt sweetness on the tongue. This beer is amazing, one of the best malty lagers I’ve ever tried. I really hope this is a regular product on the Pretty Things rotation. It is definitively a superior product. Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.
Previous Pretty Things Reviews:
Pretty Things/Naparbier There’s No Place Like There, Pretty Things Grampus, Pretty Things Barbapapa, Pretty Things Meadowlark, Pretty Things/Yeastie Boys Our Turn, Your Turn.
Everyone has been wondering why Trillium has been closed for the last couple weeks. JC from Trillium just posted this on a message board on Beer Advocate (HERE). I copied and pasted his message if you don’t feel like scrolling through the thread:
We’d hoped to have resolution before making a statement, but feel like we need to shed some light.
Our 2014 license renewal application was never processed. Nobody was aware of this fact until recently, the timing of which was unfortunate given the holiday. We’ve provided all documentation and complied with every request. We had a hearing today to approve or disapprove our 2014 license. We haven’t received a decision yet.
The reason we haven’t responded to rumors until now is because we honestly didn’t have all the information up front, and didn’t want to fuel any fires. While the issue is pretty simple, it’s also quite serious. Everything is when dealing with the government. We didn’t feel that the situation could benefit from social media and, to be honest, it’s painful enough to live through not to mention continue talking about it every day we’re closed.
While we’re incredibly appreciative of your desire to help, please don’t contact the ABCC or the City of Boston. We are hopeful and confident that the ABCC will respond fairly and we’ll have a positive outcome as soon as possible. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate the support, and we’ll desperately need it WHEN we reopen, but right now we don’t want anything to jeopardize our business, our lives, and the future of Trillium for us and our 10 employees who’ve been out of work for 2 weeks.
We both hope to see you and thank you for your support as soon as we’re able to open our doors. You’ll know the second we do! (Oh, and our website went down because of a massive flow of traffic! Thanks for all of you concerned enough to check in.)
Cheers, Esther & JC
I hope everyone complies with their wishes, let the situation get resolved and then buy all of the beer they can make as soon as they re-open!
Hoppy Boston Dopplebock Week continues with a review of S’muttonator, the bold and malty lager from Smuttynose Brewing Company in Portsmouth, NH. I think Smuttynose has set a blueprint for how a brewery can grow and expand distribution while still staying cutting edge and innovative. In addition to their regular lineup (which has undergone some recent changes), Smuttynose brews many seasonal and specialty releases. One new series is Smuttlabs, single batch releases of experimental brews. S’muttonator is part of the Smuttynose Big Beer Series, seasonal brews that run the gamut of style, but all trend towards high alcohol. This is the perfect place for a dopplebock, one of the highest alcohol lager styles. Smuttnose S’muttonator is sold during the fall on draft and in 22 oz. bombers.
Smuttynose S’muttonator pours a deep amber with a very mild off-white head. The smell is a mixture of semi-sweet malts and a little booze. The taste is very malt forward, as you would expect from a dopplebock, notes of dark chocolate, caramel, fresh baked bread and a little dark fruit. There are minimal hops, just a touch of bite in the finish to help balance out the big malt flavor. This is definitely a big beer at 9.2% ABV, and you do get a little alcohol in the flavor. S’muttonator is full bodied with a thick mouthfeel, so combined with the booze it is definitely a sipper. It finishes clean with a little malt sweetness and warming alcohol in the aftertaste. This beer is awesome, perfect flavor profile for the style, boozy but still drinkable. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Smuttynose Reviews:
Smuttynose Vunderbar Pilsner, Smuttynose Bouncyhouse IPA, Smuttynose Durty Brown Ale, Smuttynose Robust Porter, Smuttynose Finest Kind IPA
Craft brewers seem to be very competitive, which has led to the rise of a number of judged beer competitions in the US and internationally. Typically brewers submit their strongest beers and a set of judges do a blind tasting and award medals for the best beers in a particular style. I tend to take the results of these competitions with a grain of salt. Many breweries make small batch beers just to enter in competition and raise awareness for their brewery. It also takes some research to find out what the quality of competition or the qualifications of the judges were. You even get stories like THIS, where a brewery accidentally submitted a beer of the wrong style but was still awarded a medal by the judges. All that being said, when a local beer wins medals at major festivals, it draws my attention. Sam Adams has won a gold medal at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival for their Double Bock each of the last two years. Since it is officially Dopplebock Week on Hoppy Boston I would be remiss to neglect this entry. Sam Adams brews their Double Bock with a blend of two row malts along with caramel malt, then hops with Tettnang Tettnanger and Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops. It is available on draft and in 22 oz. bottles during the winter.
Sam Adams Double Bock pours a deep reddish brown with a substantial cream colored head. The scent is mostly malt, some dark fruit and chocolate. The taste is also very malt forward, notes of plum, raisin, milk chocolate, and fresh bread. As you expect with this style there is very low hop character. The German style lager yeast gives the beer a clean and drinkable character, and also adds some subtle clove flavor. Sam Adams Double Bock drinks incredibly easy for a beer with 9.5% ABV and finishes smooth with a hint of sweetness in the aftertaste. This is a very good version of a dopplebock, I understand why it has received so much acclaim. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Sam Adams Reviews:
Sam Adams Cold Snap, Sam Adams Octoberfest
I have spent the last few months focused on drinking and reviewing malty beers, especially malty lagers. My frequent readers might notice that there is one style I haven’t touched upon, the dopplebock. I love dopplebocks, bold and malty, but still smooth and drinkable, they are one of my favorite styles of lager. Dopplebocks are an especially great selection for the late fall/early winter. The full flavor holds up well with hearty food and the higher ABV helps combat the falling temperatures. I admit, I have been holding out a little! I bought a number of dopplebocks and sampled them over the last few weeks so this week I’ll focus my beer reviews on a few of my favorites. Hoppy Boston Dopplebock Week begins with a review of Troegs Brewing Company’s highly regarded dopplebock, which is fittingly named, Troegenator (the -ator suffix is common for traditional German dopplebocks). Troegs brews this dopplebock year round using a combination of Pilsner, Munich and Chocolate malts along with Magnum and German Northern Brewer hops. It is sold on draft, in 12 and 22 oz. bottles and 16 oz. cans.
Troegs Troegenator Dopplebock pours cola brown with a moderate off-white head. The scent is a mixture of bready dark malts and a little boozy alcohol. The flavor is very malt forward, roasted grains, whole wheat toast, dark fruits like plum and raisin, and just a bit of chocolate. There is minimal hop flavor and just a bit of bitterness at the end. The beer is clean and drinkable, with a little lingering alcohol in the flavor. Troegenator drinks pretty easy for a bigger beer, but with a full 8.2% ABV it is a beer made for sipping. Overall this is a very solid version of the dopplebock style, big malt flavor combined with the drinkability that you expect from a lager. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Troegs reviews:
Troegs Sunshine Pils