Berkley Coffee Porter

There are now over 100 breweries in Massachusetts. BostonInno put together an interactive map and counted 123, but that includes a few that are still a work in progress and are planning on opening this year. Check out the map HERE, and keep in bookmarked because they intend to keep it updated. As I browsed through the map I realized that there are a number of breweries that I haven’t written about on the blog, and quite a few small ones where I have never tried their products. This is going to be one of my goals for 2016; I want to write at least one article/review about every brewery in New England that cans/bottles and distributes to the Boston area, and try to visit a number of new places that are still growler/crowler only. It is hard to fit everything in even when I am writing 3 blog posts a week. One brewery that has been overlooked for far too long on Hoppy Boston is Berkley Beer Company, a 3 barrel nano-brewery out of Berkley, MA. Berkley’s beers are brewed in a barn using a handmade brewing system that utilized re-purposed materials. They currently brew four beers, their IPA and Golden Ale are flagship brews while Harvest Ale and Coffee Porter are seasonal. They also have some new beers in the works for the next year. Since February is Hoppy Boston porter month I grabbed a bottle of their Coffee Porter. Berkley Coffee Porter is available during the winter months on draft and in 22 oz. bottles.

Berkley Coffee PorterBerkley Coffee Porter pours midnight black with a solid tan head. The scent features a full hit of coffee aroma along with a little roasted malt. The coffee leads the flavor, rich and roasty but smooth. There is also plenty of malt character, notes of chocolate, toffee and toasted bread. A mild earthy hop flavor rounds out the beer, accompanied by a little bitter bite at the finish. The beer has the full body you want from a porter, but drinks easy and isn’t too boozy at 6.0% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering coffee flavor. This is a very solid coffee porter, especially if you are a fan of big coffee flavors in your beer. I will definitely be checking out some more Berkley Beer releases in the near future! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Foolproof Peanut Butter Raincloud

Peanut butter is one of my all time favorite foods, I eat it nearly every day, typically on toast at breakfast. I also believe that the combination of peanut butter and chocolate is a peak of culinary greatness. I am not a huge sweets person, but if I see a dessert on the menu featuring these two ingredients I am probably loosening the belt and giving it a shot. I was clearly the kid who hoarded the Reese’s on Halloween. All that being said, I never would have thought to put peanut butter in beer. I know that brewers are experimenting with a really wide range of ingredients, but peanut butter?!? When I first heard that Foolproof Brewing was releasing a version of their popular Raincloud porter with the addition of peanut butter, I thought it was a joke, and when I realized that it wasn’t I knew I had to give it a shot. If I had to choose a style to mix with PB porter or stout, with the natural chocolate flavors from the roasted barley, would seem like logical choices. This is part of the reason I am writing Hoppy Boston, I can try some pretty strange beers and then report my findings to you my readers. Foolproof Peanut Butter Raincloud is available on a rotating basis in 12 oz. cans.

Foolproof Peanut Butter RaincloudFoolproof Peanut Butter Raincloud pours pitch black with a solid off-white head. The scent is a mixture of roasted malt and some peanut butter. Similar to traditional Raincloud, the beer is malt forward with touches of milk chocolate, cappuccino and molasses. The peanut butter is present in the flavor but subtle, it adds complexity without being the star of the show. The hops round out the beer with some grassy notes and a bit of bitterness. The beer is medium bodied and drinks smooth, not too boozy at 5.4% ABV. The finish is crisp with some roasted malts and peanut butter flavor in the aftertaste. I was surprised how much I enjoyed Peanut Butter Raincloud, I love peanut butter and I love porter, but I would have never thought that combining the two would be a good idea. I am glad I was wrong, and encourage you to give this a shot. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Foolproof Reviews:

Foolproof La Ferme UrbaineFoolproof Raincloud

How to Improve the Boston Beer Scene

One of the national beer writers who lives in Massachusetts seems to take joy in trashing the local beer scene. I haven’t been able to get much detail about why (he is pretty hostile when questioned on Twitter), but he seems to take pleasure in insulting specific breweries and the Boston beer scene in general. I think his criticisms are overstated. I believe that the Boston area has a great mix of established and up-and-coming breweries. that doesn’t mean that things couldn’t improve. For one, Massachusetts is middle of the pack in breweries per-capita, something that will hopefully change over the coming years. Obviously every city would love to add a couple more top-tier breweries, and have a few of their smaller brewers who are kicking ass expand production. While I think the scene in Boston is solid and improving steadily, here are a few ideas that would help transform Boston into one of the premier beer cities in the US.

On a side note,  it’s hard to compare Boston to other cities. What do you count as Boston? Just the city itself, or do Cambridge, Somerville, Newton, Everett, Chelsea etc. count? It is easy to trash Boston proper for only having three active breweries, but that is a little disingenuous. Some of my suggestions apply to the city itself, all of metro Boston, or even the entire commonwealth.

Me at Night shiftEvery brewery should be a place you want to hang out: The days of throwing a couple taps in the corner of a dingy warehouse and calling it a taproom are over. Breweries like Night Shift and Aeronaut have turned their taprooms into everything you love about a local bar with good atmosphere, entertainment, food trucks and special events (plus great beer, of course). Making your taproom a destination is especially important for new breweries, if people have a good time when they visit they will be much more likely to forgive a few growing pains when it comes to the beer. The margins for taproom sales are also much higher (no middle man), so it makes financial sense to invest in a space where you can move a lot of product. Even Sam Adams founder Jim Koch recently stated that the taproom/brewpub model is the key for small brewers moving forward.

More T-accessible breweries: When I visited Denver I loved how I could walk from my hotel and visit a number of breweries. I doubt this could happen in Boston, the city is small, real estate is expensive, and there aren’t many areas in the city where a number of breweries could open (unless you consider Everett/Chelsea to be part of Boston). It would be nice if there were more breweries located close to public transportation, especially when they have fun taprooms where you want to hang out and have a few beers. One potential idea; what if 3-4 suburban breweries got together and opened a cooperative taproom in the city? They could do their brewing in the suburbs and have the taproom for tastings, growler fills, can/bottle sales. I am sure that the details would be a headache and I have no idea about the potential legal issues, but I guarantee that the right breweries could make this set-up one of the most popular places in Boston (and make a boatload of money).

Bissell Brothers 1A craft beer incubator: One of my favorite places to visit is Industrial Way in Portland. On one side is the beautiful Allagash brewery and across the road you can find Bissell Brothers, Foundation and Austin St. breweries. A previous tenant was Maine Beer Company before they built their own space in Freeport. This set-up works to everyone’s advantage, the proximity draws crowds who inevitably want to try beer from all of the brewers. The smaller brewers also rave about what a good neighbor Allagash is, they offer advice and a model for how to thrive in the business. I would love to see a similar place emerge in Boston, ideally where an established brewer sets up incubator space for start-up breweries. It will be interesting to see how Barrel House Z does with the backing of Harpoon, I can’t wait to check them out later this year. I am also interested in learning more about Dorchester Brewing Company, which will offer contract brewing and partner brewing services for start-ups.

Cut the red tape: Jack’s Abby infamously named one of their first beers Red Tape Lager in honor of all of the licensing and bureaucracy that they needed to deal with in order to get up and running. Breweries are becoming a significant cog in the local economy, they provide jobs, pay rent and taxes, and attract tourists. There is no reason that it should take years and reams of paperwork to start the business. We need to make it easier for new breweries to start-up and grow, it will result in more interesting and great breweries in our state. This is a place where everyone can play a role, let your local and state representatives know that this is an issue, and one you are willing to get behind with your power at the ballot box.

Bog Iron Devil's FootprintMore innovation: Last week I reviewed a braggot aged in Mezcal barrels. In the past month I’ve also written about quads aged in rum and Tennessee whiskey barrels and one of the first releases from an ambitious wild ale program. I think it’s safe to say that Boston area breweries have no issue pushing the limits and experimenting with new styles. While I understand that IPAs and the like are the backbone of most breweries and drive sales, more breweries need to focus a piece of their work on innovation. Set the trends instead of following them. Some of your ideas will probably crash and burn, but some will be delicious and unique. I can see a future Boston beer scene that makes an array of world class beers in every established style while inventing entirely new variants that others seek to copy.

Those are my main ideas, I think that each would represent a big step forward. What do you think? Any other ideas or cities we should use as a model? I think Boston is a very good beer city right now, and is well on it’s way to becoming a world class one. With a few tweaks and the continued improvement and expansion of some of our strong breweries and Boston will become a destination for beer fans all over the world.

 

Bog Iron Devil’s Footprint

I try to focus my reviews on beers that my Boston area readers can find without going incredibly out of their way. I have never been the kind of person to wait in line for hours for a beer release, I’d rather find awesome beer that is readily available. That being said, occasionally I come across a limited release beer and if I enjoy it I feel compelled to share, especially if it is something unique. Bog Iron Brewing had their first bottle release in late December, a braggot aged in Mezcal barrels named Devil’s Footprint. I was able to acquire a bottle, they were limited and sold out very fast, but given the positive feedback on the beer I imagine they will be brewing it again. Braggot is an interesting style, an ale brewed with heavy doses of honey that is kind of a mix between beer and mead. Bog Iron uses honey in a number of their brews, so it makes sense that they would experiment with this style. The base braggot is available at the brewery on a rotating basis, and the batch that became Devil’s Footprint was aged in Mexican Mezcal barrels and then bottled. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that this is the only Mezcal barrel aged braggot on the market. Bog Iron Devil’s Footprint was sold in 16 oz. bottles at the release, hopefully they have another batch ready sometime in 2016!

Bog Iron Devil's FootprintBog Iron Devil’s Footprint pours deep orange with a minimal white head. The scent is a mixture of Mezcal and a little honey. The Mezcal is evident in the flavor, touches of oak, smoke and just a little boozy sweetness, fully represented but it doesn’t overwhelm the palate. There is also substantial flavors from the fermentables, fresh bread and crackers from the malt along with wildflowers and orange from the honey. The yeast did their work, even with all that sugar added there is minimal residual sweetness, the beer is pretty dry. It also drinks very easy for a barrel aged beer with 10.5% ABV. The finish is clean with a little lingering booze and Mezcal flavors. Devil’s Footprint is a really interesting beer, not like anything I’ve ever tried, but I enjoyed it very much. I hope this becomes a yearly tradition, and I look forward to seeing what else comes out of Bog Iron’s barrel program! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5

Previous Bog Iron Reviews:

Bog Iron Jump Back, Bog Iron Ryezing Son, Bog Iron Middle ChildBog Iron Stinger IPABog Iron One Down Robust Porter

Revolution Eugene

My style of the month reviews should follow the trend I’ve established on Hoppy Boston, I will focus on New England beers and mix in a few national favorites that are available in the Boston area. Some less common styles might necessitate fewer local reviews, but that won’t be much of an issue for a popular style like porter. I’ve tried so hard to keep up to date on the local beer scene (along with the other craziness going on in my life) that I have missed the boat on a number of breweries that have expanded distribution into Massachusetts. One such brewery is Revolution Brewing out of Chicago, who expanded into the Boston market relatively recently. One of Revolution’s year-round beers is Eugene, a robust porter brewed with chocolate and Belgian specialty malts. One of my friends at Craft Beer Cellar in Newton recommended the beer when I was looking for new porters to try, and I thought it would be a good introduction to Revolution. Eugene is named after Eugene V. Debs, an American union leader and activist. It is available year round on draft and in 12 oz. cans.

Revolution EugeneRevolution Brewing Eugene pours midnight black with a huge khaki-colored head. The scent is mild, some roasted malts. The beer is very malt forward, notes of dark chocolate, toffee, bread and black licorice along with a little lingering sweetness. There are minimal hops, just a hint at the end. The beer is medium bodied and pretty easy to drink, at 6.8% ABV it’s solidly boozy without creeping into the “imperial” category. The finish is clean with a little sugar and roasted malt on the tongue. Eugene is a solid porter and a good intro to a brewery that I have limited familiarity with. I will definitely try some of their other offerings, especially their well know hop-forward beers. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Night Shift Awake

I am starting a new feature on Hoppy Boston, each month I will pick a different beer style as the focus of my reviews. I’ll still mix it up to keep pace with interesting new releases, but the style of the month will dominate. I am going to try and stick to some less-heralded styles, I want to find more great beers that aren’t hop-bomb IPAs or barrel aged imperial stouts. At the end of the month I’ll do a summary and hand out some awards for my favorite beers of the style. The style of the month for February is porter, long one of my favorite types of beer, especially in the cold winter months in New England (February is typically one of these months, but today was 60 degrees). Currently one of the most popular versions of porter includes added coffee, often from small local coffee roasters. This combination makes a lot of sense, the coffee mimics the natural flavors of the roasted malts and allows for local breweries and coffee shops to collaborate. A coffee porter that has received a lot of buzz recently is Awake, brewed by Night Shift and aged with Counter Culture coffee beans. Night Shift Awake is available year-round on draft, in 750 mL bombers and in 16 oz. cans.

Night Shift AwakeNight Shift Awake pours midnight black with a solid tan head. The scent has plenty of coffee along with some roasted malt. The flavor is malt forward, notes of cocoa, caramel, and toasted bread. The coffee comes in at the end, adds some complexity without overwhelming the malt flavors. There are just enough hops for balance, a touch of earthy flavor and some bitterness. Awake is medium bodied and goes down smooth, not too boozy at 6.7% ABV. The finish is crisp with some sweet malt and bitter coffee in the aftertaste. Night Shift Awake is delicious, it might be my new favorite coffee porter. This is a great beer to lead off porter month, and a must try for fans of the style! Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Night Shift Reviews:

Night Shift SantilliNight Shift MaracuyaNight Shift Mainer WeisseNight Shift Thunder Moon, Night Shift Morph IPA, Night Shift Ever Weisse, Night Shift Grove, Night Shift JoJo, Night Shift Taza Stout, Night Shift Simcoenation

 

Mystic De Varenne

It looks like Mystic Brewery is undergoing a bit of a re-branding, new bottle art, an updated website and some new additions to the line-up of beers. As an aside, my two favorite Mystic beers (Mary of the Gael and Day of Doom) are not listed on the website, I would be very disappointed if either is no longer being produced. It is probably no coincidence that the re-branding is happening as Mystic begins to release the first beers from their new wild ale/barrel aging program. Last year Mystic announced a collaboration with Cambridge Brewing Company that would allow both breweries to expand their capacity for barrel aged beers. Mystic was planning on focusing on the wild fermented lambic-type styles, something that we can definitely use more of in this area. Wild fermented ales are quickly becoming one of my favorite beer styles, the good ones have such complex flavors. One of the first releases in this series is De Varenne, a blend of wild ales that have each been aged for at least a year. Mystic De Varenne is available on a rotating basis in 375 mL bottles.

Mystic De VarenneMystic De Varenne pours a clear bright orange with a minimal white head. The scent is fruity with a little hit of acidity. The wild yeast leads the flavor, fruity Belgian style esters with notes of apple, pear and apricot combined with some barnyard funkiness and just a touch of tart sourness. Some pale malts round out the flavor, hints of crackers, bread and honey. The beer is very light and easy to drink but packs moderate punch at 6.5% ABV. The finish is crisp with a little sour bite on the tongue. De Varenne is a very solid start to an ambitious wild ale program, complex and interesting but still very drinkable. Massachusetts needs more beers like this, and I look forward to seeing what else Mystic has in store! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Mystic Reviews:

Mystic India Wharf Pale Ale, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Mystic Flor ZMystic Melissa, Mystic DescendantMystic Vinland ThreeMystic Brewery visit and Day of Doom, Mystic Hazy Jane, Mystic Mary of the Gael, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer