Slumbrew Attic and Eaves

I mentioned at the beginning of the fall that I had a little hop burn-out. I love IPAs but I needed a little break from the big bitter beers. While I’ve still sampled the occasional hop-bomb, my focus this fall has been on malt forward lagers along with a few ales. One style that catches a lot of flak is the brown ale. Brown ales have been a staple of British brewing for centuries, and were a common style during the early days of the American craft brewing movement. The development of the ultra hoppy West Coast style IPA was a major factor in the ascent of the craft beer industry in the US, and many hopheads are not a fan of some milder malt-forward styles like brown ales. It is unfortunate, because there are many breweries that make tasty versions of the style. I’ll admit that brown ales aren’t usually my first choice if I go to a new brewery I’m probably starting with their IPA, porter, or a Belgian style. That being said, I do like the occasional brown, especially in the fall when I want a more hearty brew. Slumbrew apparently agrees. For the last few years their fall seasonal has been their take on the brown ale, named Attic and Eaves. Slumbrew brews Attic and Eaves with an assortment of roasted grains along with Cascade and Fuggles hops. It is available on draft and in 22 oz. bombers during the fall season.

Slumbrew Attic and EavesSlumbrew Attic and Eaves pours a chocolate brown with a small off-white head. The scent is mild, with some roasted malts at the forefront. The malts dominate the flavor, notes of toasted grain, milk chocolate, toffee, honey and roasted nuts. There is a bit of hoppiness, touches of earth, pine and lemon with a little bite in the finish. The beer is medium bodied and drinkable so it hides the 7.5% ABV very well. The finish is clean with just a hint of malt sweetness in the aftertaste. This is a very solid version of a brown ale, complex malty flavors with enough hops for balance. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Slumbrew Reviews:

Slumbrew Island Day, Slumbrew Snow Angel, Slumbrew Trekker Trippel, Slumbrew Sittin’ on Hop of the World

Local Beers To Pair With Every Course This Thanksgiving

You know craft beer has taken a big step forward when a number of national newspapers and other publications are posting articles about how well beer can pair with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I find that angle pretty obvious, of course you can drink beer instead of wine at Thanksgiving dinner! Instead I am going to try and find local beers that pair well with each step of a long day of gluttony. Of note; while I love IPAs and other hoppy beers, they don’t tend to pair as well with Thanksgiving food, the hops can overwhelm subtle flavors. If you are a hophead this holiday is a good opportunity to branch out a bit. Here is my ideal all-local beer pairings for each course. Let me know if you have any additions/substitutions (and don’t drink them all by yourself)!

Pre-game/food prep: It’s a marathon, not a sprint, especially if you are helping with the cooking, so start nice and slow with some lower alcohol beers. Notch Brewing Company make a variety of full-flavored session beers. Try Notch Session Pils to start, tons of flavor but light and easy to drink. Alternate choice: Jack’s Abby Jabby Brau, a delicious and low ABV lager.

Night Shift Ever WeisseThe toast: Since many prefer to toast with champagne, why not use a Bier de Champagne? Fortunately the only American version of this style is brewed in Massachusetts, Enlightenment Ales Brut. Alternatively, some lighter sour styles could make a good toast, such as Night Shift Everweisse.

Mystic table beerAppetizers: I love Belgian beers with most food, especially the saison style. Mystic Brewery makes a wide range of amazing takes on Belgian farmhouse beers, you really can’t go wrong with any of them. Mystic Table Beer is a great choice here, sessionable but still complex. A number of other saisons would work as well, Trillium Farmhouse Ale, Allagash Saison and Pretty Things Jack D’Or are amongst my favorites. Grab a few and share them with the table!

Idle Hands TriplicationMain Course: You could easily choose to just keep the saisons rolling, they are probably my favorite style to pair with food. But if you are looking to add a little booziness without overwhelming your turkey and stuffing you should grab some Belgian tripels. Idle Hands Triplication and Slumbrew Trekker Trippel are a couple local versions of the style that I would definitely recommend, both have a great mixture of maltiness, yeasty esters and subtle hoppiness that will complement your dinner.

Baxter Phantom PunchDessert: Thanksgiving desserts are pretty diverse, so the pairing would depend on your favorite sweet. If you are a pumpkin pie fan I imagine your favorite pumpkin beer would work (I don’t really like either). I usually prefer something with chocolate for dessert, so a nice stout works for me. Especially a stout brewed with chocolate like Baxter Phantom Punch or Night Shift Taza Stout.

BBC Coffeehouse PorterCoffee: Many people like a cup of coffee after a big meal, I would prefer a coffee beer. A couple local favorites include BBC Coffeehouse Porter and Wolaver’s Alta Gracia Coffee Porter.

Digestion: The best beer I could recommend for digestion is probably Sam Adams Utopias, which is delicious and drinks like an after dinner wine. If the $200 dollar price tag scares you off (and I don’t blame you if that’s the case), a boozy quadruple could do the same thing without maxing out your credit card. Pretty Things Baby Tree is a great selection, sip it while you watch football and digest your big dinner.

Bonus any time of the day selection: Mayflower Thanksgiving Ale, a bold strong ale brewed just for the holiday. Have a wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving, and enjoy some great local beer with your turkey!

Shiner Bock

From the arrival of the first European settlers in the Americas up through Prohibition, beer and brewing were very local to regional business. These smaller local breweries were mostly wiped out during the ban on alcohol sales in the 1930’s. After prohibition was repealed, innovations in mass production, shipping and refrigeration led to the rise of the national breweries. A few smaller breweries managed to survive all of the upheaval and keep strong regional followings, despite the national competition. One such brewery is Spoetzl Brewery, which has brewed it’s line of Shiner beers in Shiner, Texas since 1909. For decades Shiner beer was only sold in Texas, but the increased interest in craft beer has helped the brewery grow into one of the largest craft breweries in the US. You can now buy Shiner beers in nearly every state in the US. Shiner recently debuted in MA, adding to an already crowded local beer scene. Their flagship beer is a Shiner Bock, their take on the malty German lager style. Shiner Bock is now available locally on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.

Shiner BockShiner Bock pours a caramel brown with a minimal off-white head. The scent is pretty mild, just a hint of semi-sweet maltiness. The malt is more evident in the flavor, notes of brown sugar, whole grains and a touch of caramel. As you would expect with a bock the hops are minimal here, just a touch of bitterness for some balance. Shiner Bock is very drinkable with the smooth finish you anticipate, from a lager beer. At 4.4% ABV it’s sessionable, but much more full flavored than most mass produced beers. While I’ve had better versions of the bock style this beer has a nice combination of full flavor and value, the price point is a bit lower than many craft offerings. If you’d like an easy drinking introduction to malty German lagers or you’re on a budget but don’t want to drink macro-swill you should give Shiner Bock a shot. Hoppy Boston score: 3.5/5.

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