Pioneer Brewing Into The Woods

If I walk into a local bottle shop and see offerings from a brewery I am unfamiliar with it is a pretty good bet that I will grab something to try. This is especially true if the beer is brewed in New England. I try to keep up to date on the ins and outs of the local brewing scene, but it is changing so rapidly some pieces of news slip through the cracks. While I had heard of Pioneer Brewing Company I had yet to try any of their beers, so I quickly snatched a bottle when I saw it on the shelf at Craft Beer Cellar. Pioneer Brewing Company produces it’s beer at Old Burnside Brewing in East Hartford, CT. As a tribute to the pioneers that settled the west, Pioneer Brewing has created the Manifest Destiny series of bold and boozy ales and lagers. One of the releases in this series is Into The Woods, a double Vienna lager. I can safely say that I’ve never sampled a beer that called itself a double Vienna lager, which was another clear reason to buy this beer and give it a shot. Into The Woods is available on draft and in 22 oz. bombers.

Pioneer Into The WoodsPioneer Brewing Company Into The Woods Double Vienna Lager pours a clear light caramel brown with a mild off-white head. The scent is pretty mild, just a hint of light maltiness. The taste is very malt forward, notes of toffee, honey, whole grain bread and crackers. This is followed by just a touch of earthy and grassy hops. The beer is medium bodied and pretty drinkable for 9% ABV. You do get some alcohol in the flavor, especially in the finish, which leaves a little boozy heat on the tongue. Into the Woods is a very interesting beer, I can say without pause that I’ve never tried anything similar. Not sure if I like the higher alcohol in the style, I usually prefer my lagers smooth and crisp, the booze overwhelms this just a little, but I do like the creativity and would definitely try more of Pioneer’s offerings. Hoppy Boston score: 3.75/5.

Bog Iron Stinger IPA

I mentioned last week that my visit to Bog Iron Brewery included an extended tasting and the purchase of a couple growlers. I reviewed their One Down Porter as part of my first post, this second will focus on my other purchase, Stinger IPA. The IPA style is so popular it is almost a requirement for a new brewery to make at least one IPA. It is also important to make a quality version of the style, fair or not, many customers will base their initial impressions of the brewery on the quality of their hop-forward beers. Bog Iron makes three IPAs, their single IPA Stinger, a big double IPA called Stung, and one in between appropriately named Middle Child. I tried all three during my tasting and enjoyed the clear difference in flavor profile that went beyond the changes in ABV. If I had to pick, I think Middle Child would be my favorite, unfortunately the keg was kicked and I couldn’t get a full growler.  So I decided on to bring home a bottle of Stinger. Stinger IPA gets it’s name from the substantial amount of locally sourced honey that is added to the mash. The addition of honey adds alcohol, a small amount of flavor and gives the beer a dry finish, resulting in an IPA that showcases the hop flavors. Bog Iron Stinger is hopped continuously during the boil and then dry hopped multiple times with Cascade, Columbus, Magnum and Summit varieties.

Bog Iron StingerBog Iron Stinger IPA pours a clear red-tinted yellow with a minimal white head. The smell is a big burst of hoppy goodness, floral, citrus and tropical fruit scents. The goal of showcasing the hop flavors in this beer is also well realized, with notes of grapefruit, orange, papaya, passion fruit, pine and grass. The bitterness is present but not overkill, it’s there without killing your palate. There is some malt to add some balance, touches of whole grain bread and biscuits. The honey adds some subtle flavor, but this beer is clearly brewed to showcase the hops. Stinger is pretty substantial for a “single” IPA at 7.4% ABV, but the beer is very easy to drink and you get none of the booze in the flavor. The finish is clean with just a bit of bite on the tongue. I really liked this beer! If you are a fan of the hop-forward brews this is one to add to your “must-try” list. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Bog Iron Reviews:

Bog Iron One Down Robust Porter

Hoppy Boston/Hopster’s Fuggles Porter

My brother and I recently brewed another batch of beer at Hopster’s Brew and Boards in Newton, MA. Our first brewing experience at Hopster’s was over a year ago (I’ve been back since, just not to brew), and so much has changed in that time. First, Hopster’s received a liquor license to become a fully functional bar in addition to a brew-on-premises. Then they obtained a brewery license, allowing them to brew and serve their own beers. Now Hopster’s is a fully functional brewery, you can sample a wide variety of their beers on draft and take home a growler. They even bottle three of their releases for limited distribution. I’ve been impressed with some of the beers I’ve tried at the bar and I’m sure I’ll review some of their beers on this site in the near future. My brother treated me to a brewing session as a birthday present (you might have noticed that I had a number of birthday gifts that revolved around beer, not a coincidence). I got to choose a style, and after considerable thought I went with a lower alcohol porter with a little hop bite (we aimed for about 5% ABV). Porter is one of my favorite styles, especially during colder weather, and I prefer a beer with a rich malt body followed by a crisp hop bite to finish. We selected Fuggles hops for their clean bitterness and traditional British flavor profile. Here is the recipe I used (7.5 gallon batch, sparge grains followed by 60 minute boil):

10 lbs dark liquid malt extract

1.5 lbs. Crystal 60, 1 lb. chocolate malt, 0.5 lbs biscuit malt.

2.5 oz. Fuggles (60 minutes), 1.5 oz. Fuggles (15 minutes), 1 tablespoon Irish Moss (15 minutes)

British Ale yeast (2 packets dry yeast).

Hoppy Boston Fuggles PorterThe beer fermented just under 3 weeks and then we bottled it using forced carbonation. I tasted it right away and again after a couple weeks. Some of the residual sweetness died down from the extract, and the hops were more prevalent, I imagine as it ages it will get more malty again. Hoppy Boston Fuggles Porter pours nearly black with a mild tan head. The smell is mostly dark malts with a touch of earthy hops. The taste starts with the malt, notes of chocolate and coffee plus some mild nuttiness. This is followed by some hop character, touches of grass and pine and a mild bitterness at the end. The beer is easy drinking, crisp and clean with a dry finish. The body is a touch lighter than I would like, but outside of that I am really happy with how this came out. It will be great to have a bunch of this porter around for the upcoming cold weather. Looking forward to my next brewing adventure at Hopster’s!

Previous Hopster’s Articles:

Hoppy Boston/Hopster’s Belgian IPA, Hopster’s Brew and Boards


Long Trail Harvest Barn Ale

This weekend I did a bit of a stock up run at Craft Beer Cellar in Newton, and I noticed that many breweries were swapping out their fall seasonals for winter beers. This is actually reasonable, November is close enough to winter to justify starting this transition, this is nothing like pumpkin beers showing up on store shelves in July. With winter seasonals on the way in I’ll try to wrap up my reviews of fall beers over the next week or so. Long Trail Brewing Company in Vermont releases a brown ale called Harvest Barn Ale every fall. Brown ales have never been my favorite style, but the medium to full body and solid malt sweetness nicely complements the brisk weather of the fall. Harvest is brewed with the addition of one of Vermont’s signature products, maple syrup, which adds a little residual sweetness and helps the malty flavor of the beer sing. Long Trail Harvest is available in 12 oz. bottles and on draft during what’s left of the fall season.

Long Trail HarvestLong Trail Harvest Barn Ale pours a clear deep brown with a mild off-white head. The scent is a mixture of brown sugar with a little floral hop kick. The taste is led off by a full complement of malt, notes of caramel, whole grain bread, toasted barley and maple syrup. This is balanced by just a hint of hops, some earthy and woodsy flavors with a touch of bitterness. The beer is very drinkable, medium bodied with a solid mouthfeel and a crisp finish that leaves a bit of malty sweetness on the tongue. At 4.4% ABV it is a session beer by most definitions, something you don’t typically find in a malty brown ale. Long Trail Harvest is a very well done fall beer, easy to drink but enough body to hold up to the chilly weather we’ve been experiencing as of late. Grab a pint before the last of the fall beers are edged out by winter ales and snow covers everything! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Long Trail Reviews:

Long Trail Limbo, Long Trail Ramble, Long Trail Double Bag

Bog Iron One Down Robust Porter

Last week I wrote a post about finding the best brewery in Massachusetts (HERE), mostly as a response to Gary Dzen’s #HotBeerTake declaring that Trillium Brewing was the best brewery in the state. I hoped that my post would be a conversation starter and I would get a number of responses supporting the various breweries I mentioned or some that I missed. The responses were a little limited in scope, I’ll post something in the near future with my thoughts on that. However, the post did lead to one interesting conversation with the brewers at Bog Iron Brewing. The main point (which we both agreed on) was that it is preposterous to name a BEST brewery in a state, especially if you haven’t tried beer from every single brewery yet. You can say a particular brewery is your FAVORITE, but that is much different than calling one the best. It was a solid back in forth, and more importantly it reminded me that I needed to make the trip down to Bog Iron in Norton, MA and sample some beers.

Bog Iron FlightOn Saturday I made the trip down south, Norton is a quick 45 minute drive from where I live in Watertown, very accessible from the city. The brewery is only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The beer is also available on select draft accounts, but this is all the 3-barrel setup can supply at this point. They currently sell tasting flights, growler-fills (500 and 1000 mL) and pints out of a small tap room on West Main Street in Norton. The bar was manned by Brian and Matt, two of the three founders, who made easy conversation with local regulars and first-time visitors alike. I took a quick tour of the brewery with Brian. They are currently limited in their production due to fermentation space and brewing equipment, but they are planning to expand in the new year. Brian told me that they want to grow organically, reinvesting their profits into the business instead of taking out loans. Bog Iron brews about 12 beers that rotate in and out at the brewery and they typically have 4-6 on draft at a time. While most are American takes on British and German styles, they are also working on their first sour beers, they have 4 wine barrels in the back with two types of beer conditioning. I had a tasting flight and then took home a growler of One Down Robust Porter and Stinger IPA. I’ll give a review of One Down today and you can expect a review of Stinger IPA in the next week or so.

Bog Iron One DownBog Iron One Down Robust Porter pours a deep cola brown with a mild tan head that leaves substantial lacing on the glass as you drink. The smell is dominated by rich dark malts, lots of coffee and roasted barley. The taste is also malt forward with solid notes of cappuccino and dark chocolate along with a little plum and raisin. They use some cherrywood smoked malt in the brewing process, the smoky flavor is subtle but evident. I love the complexity that smoky flavors add to a porter, especially when it doesn’t overwhelm the other dark malts. There are some mild earthy hops that add some balance, but this beer is clearly a tribute to the malty flavors of the darker forms of barley. The beer is smooth and very drinkable, with the thick mouthfeel you expect from a big dark beer. One Down weighs in at 7.75% ABV, but you don’t taste the alcohol at all, the beer goes down very easy. This beer is great, I love porter and this is one of the best local versions I’ve tried. I highly recommend the trip to Norton to try this and Bog Iron’s other varieties. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.


Left Hand Oktoberfest

In over a year writing this blog, I have reviewed many beers from breweries all over the US (and a few from other areas of the world). By design I tend to focus on New England beers, and there with so many good choices this keeps me busy. This local-centric approach means that there are some nationally distributed breweries that I have enjoyed in the past but haven’t had a chance to review on the blog. One such brewery is Left Hand Brewing Company of Longmont, CO. Left Hand has been brewing a number of beer styles since 1993, including a variety of beers on nitro. Left Hand’s fall seasonal is simply named Oktoberfest Marzen Lager, and it is a very traditional interpretation of the German marzen style. Left Hand Oktoberfest is brewed with Munich and pilsner malt and hopped with CTZ and Hallertau malts. It is available in the fall on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.

Left Hand OktoberfestLeft Hand Oktoberfest pours a clear deep rusty brown with a mild off-white head. The smell is faint, just a hint of light malt. After sampling a number of American marzens that contained big hop flavors this is a return to a much more traditional version of the style. There is a solid malt profile led by caramel, cracked grain and honey. This is backed by very subtle hops, just some of the earthy flavor you expect from noble hop varieties. The hops also add just enough bitterness to keep the beer from becoming overly sweet. The beer is extremely drinkable with the clean character and finish you expect from a well brewed lager. It does pack a little kick at 6.6% ABV, although you don’t taste it at all. This is a well done version of a traditional Octoberfest/marzen, full flavored but still easy to drink. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Peak Organic Hop Harvest

Outside of the now ever-present pumpkin beers, there are a couple other trends that seem to predominate craft beer fall releases. An always popular fall style is the malty German marzen/Octoberfest style lagers. A newer trend is wet hopped beers, brewing with the freshest possible hops right after the fall harvest. I guess it should come as no surprise that at least one brewer is adding these two trends into the same beer. Peak Organic Brewing Company’s fall seasonal release is Hop Harvest, an Octoberfest style lager with generous additions of freshly harvested hops. Normally the marzen style is very malt-forward, but some American brewers have complemented the clean drinking malty lager with large doses of hops. While it isn’t the most traditional way to brew the style, it helps fit US craft beer drinkers love of big hop flavors in their beers. Hop Harvest is available on draft and in 12 oz. bottles during the fall season.

Peak Organic Hop HarvestPeak Organic Hop Harvest pours a hazy copper orange with a solid off-white head. The smell is mostly hops, bright floral and grassy scents. The hops lead off the flavor too with notes of pine, grapefruit, orange and lemon. This fresh hop flavor is balanced by a solid malt body, touches of whole grain bread and caramel with just a hint of malty sweetness. I was actually pretty surprised that this was a lager, but I think it is the extensive hop additions and kick of bitterness that mask some of the easy drinkability that you expect from lagered beer. At 4.9% ABV it falls towards the light side, great if you want more than one or two. The finish is pretty clean along with a solid, but not tongue numbing, bitter kick. Overall this is a very worthwhile selection if you want a fall seasonal beer that leans towards hoppy. The malt backbone gives it enough body to stand up to hearty food and cold weather, but the fresh hops really shine through here. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Peak Organic Reviews:

Peak Organic Fresh Cut PilsnerPeak Organic Simcoe Spring, Peak Organic Hop Noir