Spencer Trappist Ale

Some of the most interesting and popular styles of beer in the world were originally developed by monks living in monasteries in Western Europe. The most famous brewers amongst these monks were the Trappist order, and making beer soon became a major source of income for the abbeys. Brewers the world over now make Dubbels, Tripels and other abbey style ales, but only a select few gain the Trappist label. Anything labeled as a certified Trappist beer must be brewed/supervised by monks, brewing must be of secondary importance within the monastery, and the beers must not be brewed for profit, any income generated beyond the needs of the monastery must be donated to charity. There are currently ten Trappist breweries in the world, and now one is in the US. Spencer brewery was started at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA in 2013. They currently produce a single beer, Spencer Trappist Ale, a Belgian style blonde ale.  Spencer Trappist Ale is sold on draft and in 11.2 oz. bottles.

Spencer Trappist AleSpencer Trappist Ale pours a deep orange, slightly hazy with a moderate off-white head. The smell is all Belgian yeast, significant fruit with a little spice. The taste also starts with the yeast, notes of pepper, green apple, and coriander along with a little pear, pineapple and bubblegum. There is a solid malt backbone to complement the expressive yeast character, touches of toasted bread and crackers. While the yeast and malts are the predominant flavors you also get just a hint of hops that contribute to a crisp finish on the tongue. Spencer Trappist Ale is easy to drink, with a little bit of a spicy finish that keeps you coming back. At 6.5% ABV this is a full strength beer without going overboard. I am ready to call the first American Trappist beer a success, I am hoping they eventually branch out to other Abbey inspired styles. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Wachusett Larry DIPA

I know it isn’t the most original or unique stance, but IPAs are my favorite style of beer. It was the bold flavors of American hops that converted me from someone who dabbled in craft beer into a connoisseur. That being said, I have a mixed opinion on double IPAs (DIPAs). For one thing, the line is very blurry. For example, many beers that are now “single” IPAs would have been considered double IPAs not too long ago. When they are made correctly double IPAs can be great, highlighting the hop flavors and balancing the extreme bitterness with a substantial dose of malt. Unfortunately many double IPAs miss the mark, either the malts and the booze overwhelm the hops or the hop flavor and bitterness go completely overboard. Despite this, I can’t help but try more DIPAs. They can be great beers when they are done correctly and the only way to know is to keep tasting. I recently tried Larry, the double IPA from Wachusett Brewing Company. Larry is brewed with a slew of American hop varieties including Amarillo, Chinook, Simcoe, Magnum and Centennial. It is available year round on draft, in 22 oz. bombers, and in 12 oz. bottles and cans.

Wachusett LarryWachusett Larry DIPA pours a deep copper with a moderate cream-colored head. The smell is solidly hoppy, favoring earthy and foresty scents. The hops lead the flavor too, notes of pine, grass, forest floor and a hint of lemon. This hop flavor is accompanied by substantial and lingering bitterness. There is a significant amount of malt to combat some of this bitterness, including some touches of caramel and cracker. Despite this, it is still a true hop-bomb beer. The booze comes through a little in the flavor, but the beer drinks pretty easy for 8.5% ABV. Overall this is a solid example of a double IPA, just enough malt to keep the hops in line. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Wachusett reviews:

Wachusett Green Monsta IPA

Mystic Brewery/Day of Doom

Mystic Brewery1Mystic brewery2

The last stop on my birthday brewery tour was Mystic Brewery in Chelsea, MA. I am kind of embarrassed to admit that this was my first visit to Mystic, kind of surprising since I am a big fan of their creative and flavorful Belgian style ales. The brewery itself was very impressive, a big open tasting room with a sizeable bar and plenty of seating. The décor ranges from old brewery equipment to a sizeable collection of craft beer bottles from around the world. The bar serves a selection of Mystic brews, available in full pours, tasting flights, and growler fills. They also sell a selection of bottled beers. We tasted a number of Mystic brews (Mary of the Gael is always a favorite), and then I grabbed a few things to bring home. One of the beers I purchased was Day of Doom, Mystic’s big and boozy quadruple ale. Day of Doom is nicknamed an “ale for the end of the world”, and named after an epic poem that depicts the fate of the un-pious.

Mystic Day of DoomMystic Day of Doom pours the color of molasses with a large off-white head. The smell is a mixture of dark fruit and cocoa followed by a solid whiff of alcohol. The taste starts with the malts, notes of plum, raisin, currant and a nice hit of chocolate. The malt flavors are much stronger than the Belgian yeast, but you get some touches of spice and must. The yeast starts to assert itself a little more as the beer warms. There is no hoppiness to speak of in the flavor (typical for the style), just malt, yeast and booze. The alcohol is actually pretty mild in the flavor for a beer that weighs in at 12% ABV, but you feel the effects if you sip the beer too fast. Notice I said “sip” not “drink”, the full mouthfeel helps encourage you to drink this nice and slow. This is a really well done version of the style, some brewers overdo their quads and all you taste is alcohol, but Mystic gives this beer great balance. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Mystic reviews:

Mystic Hazy Jane, Mystic Mary of the Gael, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer

What I’m Drinking: Fall 2014

I love Fall. The weather gets cooler without being too cold, football is on every Sunday, and I start eating hearty food and drinking darker beer. The one issue I run into: I don’t like pumpkin beer. This isn’t a soap-box moral opposition thing, I have no problem with the concept of pumpkin beer, I just don’t like that profile of flavors. I don’t like pumpkin pie either, just not a set of flavors that agrees with my palate. The issue with this is trying to find tasty, exciting and seasonally appropriate beers to drink in the fall. Pumpkin beers used to be a niche category, but now it seems like every brewery makes a pumpkin flavored brew in the fall (or in July). So what beers should I, and other people who dislike pumpkin beers or are a little burnt out on cinnamon and nutmeg, drink this fall?

While I love IPAs, I need a little break from hop-bomb beers right now. Every so often it is nice to step away from IPAs and mix it up. This way you appreciate them more when you go back. With the cooler weather moving in I am in the mood for something rich and malty. So here is my goal for the Fall, and where I need your help. I want to focus my fall reviews on darker/maltier beers, especially lagers. I am thinking marzens, bocks, dopplebocks, and schwarzbiers/black lagers. I’ll probably mix in some brown and amber ales, but I’d really like the next few months to be lager-centric. Unfortunately, while I could probably review a different pumpkin beer each day of the Fall, my selections of these styles are much more limited. This is where I need help from my readers. What are some great malty/dark lagers that I need to try? I’d like to focus on New England beers, but anything that is available in the Boston area is in play. I’ll start a list of potential beers here and update as you send along suggestions. Thanks in advance for your ideas!

Suggestion list:

Marzen: Sam Adams Octoberfest, Jack’s Abby Copper Legend, Element Altoberfest, Idle Hands Brocktoberfest, Harpoon Octoberfest, Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest, Narragansett Fest

Bock/Dopplebock: Troegs Troeganator, Jack’s Abby Saxonator, Thomas Hooker Dopplebock, Rogue Dead Guy, Ayinger Celebrator Dopplebock

Black Lager: Jack’s Abby Cascadian Schwarzbier, Full Sail Session Black



Idle Hands Riding Shotgun

Idle Hands brewery in Everett, MA isn’t the easiest place to find. Located in an industial park down a side street with minimal signage, you need to look around a little to find it (and trust your GPS, we thought we went to the wrong place at first). While they have great brewing space, there is no official tasting room, just a small bar where they pour free small samples and sell bottles and growler fills (no full pours). While the location isn’t the most welcoming, the staff is great. They are happy to chat about the beers and make recommendations. There are also tons of beers to try. With the merger of Idle Hands and Enlightenment Ales last year the brewery now produces an impressive selection of year round and seasonal brews. I’ve long felt that these are two of the most under-rated breweries in MA, both make a wide range of delicious and drinkable beers. After tasting a number of selections, I grabbed a bottle of Riding Shotgun, their hoppy hefeweizen. I’m not usually a huge hefeweizen fan, but the liberal hop additions made this an intriguing beer worth a full try. I also grabbed a bottle of Enlightenment Brut, the only Bier de Champagne brewed in the US. It’s sitting in the fridge waiting for the right occasion to crack it open. Stay tuned for a full write up of that soon.

Idle Hands Riding ShotgunIdle Hands Riding Shotgun pours a deep copper, slightly hazy with a substantial white head. The smell features some floral and woodsy hops intermingled with mild scents of wheat malt. The hops lead off in the flavor, notes of pine, grass and earth. The wheat comes through strongly too, like well toasted whole wheat bread. I like the use of the more woodsy/earthy hops with the wheat, I think it is a better complement than the strong tropical fruit flavors some American hops add. Riding Shotgun is clean and easy to drink at 5.7% ABV. This is a very solid late summer to early fall beer, lots of flavor and complexity without being too heavy. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Idle Hands reviews:

Idle Hands Adelais, Idle Hands D’aisonIdle Hands Triplication

Hoppy Boston Turns One Year Old

Today is officially the one year anniversary of the launch of Hoppy Boston. I had a number of reasons for starting the blog.

1)  I was a little overwhelmed by the selection of beers and wanted a reason to sample as many different releases as I could.

2) I wanted to spend more time thinking about what I was drinking, getting beyond “I liked this beer” and delving into why I liked it (or why I didn’t).

3) I had used other local beer blogs to find recommendations, and hoped to help other people out by suggesting beers I enjoyed.

4) I wanted a good excuse to visit breweries and check out their newest releases.

5)  I also wanted to get outside of my comfort zone and try styles that I wasn’t as familiar with.

The blog has grown slowly but steadily over the year. I have written 181 posts including beer reviews, visits to bars and breweries, recaps of my favorite beers, homebrew recipes, and the occasional rant or opinion piece. I have developed a great following between twitter (@HoppyBoston), facebook (www.facebook.com/hoppyboston) and on wordpress itself. Thank you all so much for reading and following. I have had a blast writing the blog and chatting with you over social media. I have a bunch of new ideas and I expect the blog to continue to evolve. Feel free to leave any feedback or send along any suggestions!

Finally, a huge thank you to my lovely wife and editor. My writing style is still a work in progress, but I feel like it has become significantly better over the course of the year and she is the main reason. She also has an impressive palate, loves to try new beers and contributes to the blog on every level.

Night Shift Morph IPA

A couple of weeks ago, as part of one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had, my lovely wife took my cousin and me on a tour of a number of local breweries. Just over the Tobin Bridge you can find three of the most innovative breweries in Massachusetts, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon. We started at Night Shift Brewery in Everett. I have previously visited the new brewery (full write up HERE), and it continues to impress. Everything is top-notch – the space, the staff and of course the beer. I was pleased to see that most of their offerings are now available as part of their tasting flights, including a number of beers from their limited release Art Series. In addition to bottles and growler fills, Night Shift now cans a few of their offerings, including Morph, their new rotating IPA. Morph is an interesting concept, each batch is going to have a different malt and hop profile. This first batch of Morph was originally brewed as The Constable, a release in the Night Shift Art series. Morph is available for a limited time on draft and in 12 oz. cans, but soon enough there will be a new batch with a new recipe. In addition to my tastings at the brewery I grabbed a 4-pack of Morph to take home.

Night Shift MorphNight Shift Morph pours the color of white grapefruit juice, along with the nearly opaque cloudiness. Poured out of a can you get a large but quickly dissipating white head. The first smell is a big hit of citrus and tropical fruit. The hops dominate the flavor too, with lemon, grapefruit, pine and a little mango and grass. Despite all of the hop flavor the beer isn’t aggressively bitter, it’s more crisp than tongue numbing. There is also some noticeable maltiness to provide balance and contribute a bit of bready grain to the flavor. The finish is very clean with just a hint of bitterness. Night Shift Morph is very easy to drink, at 5.9% ABV it is right in the wheelhouse for a single IPA. Overall this is a solid beer, a drinkable hop-forward IPA that is perfect for what is left of the warm weather in New England. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Previous Night Shift reviews:

Night Shift Ever Weisse, Night Shift Grove, Night Shift JoJo, Night Shift Taza Stout, Night Shift Simcoenation