I don’t go to breweries as much as I would like. Life is busy and I find that I buy more of my beer in bottle shops, which allows me to purchase a variety of styles from different producers all in one stop. I have made a personal goal to visit more local breweries and taprooms this year, with a focus on the places I have yet to patronize. Probably the biggest oversight locally was Aeronaut Brewing in Somerville, considering how close it is to where I live it’s inexcusable how long it took me to get there. When my wife and I were invited by our friend Jenny to grab dinner and then check out the Science by the Pint event at Aeronaut a couple weeks ago I finally remedied this oversight (and heard about some cool science while enjoying some quality beer). One of the beers I sampled was The Eye of Sauvin, a Belgian Pale Ale brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops. Nelson Sauvin hops are native to New Zealand and are known for the fruity white wine-like flavor they impart on the beer. I love the combination of fruity New World style hops with expressive Belgian style yeast strains, when correctly paired they make for some delicious beers. Aeronaut clearly has a successful pairing here because I enjoyed my first taste of The Eye of Sauvin enough to grab a growler to go.
Aeronaut The Eye of Sauvin pours a pale orange with a moderate white head. The scent is a complex mixture of floral hops and expressive Belgian yeast. The yeast leads the flavor with notes of pear, clove, white pepper and apricot. This is complemented by significant hop flavor, grass, lemon and the expected dry white wine. Despite the substantial hop flavor and aroma the beer isn’t very bitter, the hop additions were clearly added in mostly later in the brewing process. The malt backbone is muted, just a hint of cracker grain and caramel that lets the yeast and hops sing. The beer is light bodied and goes down easy, but packs a little punch at 7.2% ABV. The finish is dry with a little fruity ester flavor from the yeast. This was a very enjoyable beer, light but full flavored and perfect for spring. I clearly need to make more trips to Aeronaut to see what else they have to offer! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
While I am a proud beer geek, I am also a serious science nerd. My job as a chemist pays the bills but it is also something that I am passionate about. Brewing beer involves a ton of science, from chemistry to physics to microbiology, so these interests often intersect. When Sierra Nevada announced their new Hop Hunter IPA I was immediately intrigued by the provided description. Sierra Nevada had noticed the rise in popularity of “wet hopped” beer, which are beers brewed with hops that had just been harvested. Most beers are brewed with dried hops, but the drying process can result in a loss of some of the volatile compounds that add flavor and aroma. Hops are only harvested in the fall, so most brewers have a limited window to fully capture the flavor of fresh hop cones. Sierra Nevada seems to have found a solution, they steam distill the wet hops before they even leave the fields, isolating a hop oil that contains all of the key volatile compounds. This oil is then added to the brew kettle along with the regular hops. The result is Hop Hunter IPA, a beer with the flavor of freshly harvested hops. Hop Hunter IPA is available year-round on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA pours a clear orange-tinted yellow with a mild white head. The scent is a huge burst of floral and resinous hops, there is so much hop aroma that the beer almost smells bitter. The hops also lead the flavor, notes of pine, lemon and cut grass, along with solid but not overwhelming bitterness. The hop flavor has the freshness that you predominantly see in wet-hopped beers. There is some light malt in the backbone, but it is clearly a canvas to showcase the fresh hop flavors. The beer goes down very easy and isn’t overly boozy at 6.2% ABV. Isolating the fresh hop essences to make wet hopped style beers all year is extremely cool, and this beer is a very tasty result. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Sierra Nevada Reviews:
Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Hoppy Lager, Sierra Nevada Snow Pack, Sierra Nevada Celebration
Happy Marathon Monday/Patriots Day! For those of you that don’t live in Massachusetts, today is a state holiday where most of metro Boston closes work and has a big party while some elite athletes/insane people (or both, depending on your perspective) run 26.2 miles. This is one of the best days to live in Boston, it’s our own private holiday and a true celebration of our city. The day has even more meaning after the events of two years ago and the response of the city and it’s residents.
While spring technically started almost a month ago I’ve always circled this day as the true start of spring in MA. It fits this year too, the snow is finally gone, we’ve had some seasonal weather recently, I even opened the porch and cleaned off the grill this weekend. I have long stated that my favorite beer for the springtime is the Belgian saison style – it’s the perfect combination of light body and full flavor to complement the season. Last spring I dedicated a couple months to exploring the saison style and found some new favorites, you can read my superlative awards HERE. While I am not going into that much depth this spring you can expect a number of saison reviews over the next few months. I’ll start with Printemps, part of the special release entrepot series brewed by Rising Tide Brewing Company. Saisons are also called farmhouse ales since the style originated in Belgian farmhouses. Most American craft beer is brewed in industrial parks instead of on farms, so Rising Tide jokingly calls Printemps an American warehouse ale. Rising Tide Printemps is available during the spring on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Rising Tide Printemps pours a clear straw yellow with a mild white head. The scent is all Belgian style yeast, spicy and fruity. The yeast leads the flavor too, notes of green apple, pear and black pepper. This is balanced by a full pale malt backbone, bready with some wheat and just a hint of sweetness. While this isn’t a “hoppy” beer, there are noticeable American hops that add complexity to the yeast flavor/aroma, notes of lemon and peach with a little late bitterness. The beer is light bodied and easy to drink, at 6.5% ABV it is about average for the style. The finish has some fruity esters and some drying bitterness from the hops. This is a really good saison, full flavored and refreshing, perfect for a spring BBQ. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Rising Tide Reviews:
Rising Tide Calcutta Cutter, Ursa Minor Weizen Stout
Many craft beer drinkers are obsessed with trying new beers. There is so much variety available now that you could probably go years without ever drinking the same beer twice (if you wanted to, not recommending that). This works well for small brewers, they can augment their flagship products with one-off test batches and brewery only releases that allow for experimentation and feedback as they expand. Larger craft brewers have a more difficult task, they tend to brew on larger scale and distribute over a wider area, plus many already have an extensive range of popular products. One strategy medium to large craft brewers are using to continually release new products is to brew a series of one-off, smaller batch, themed beers. Some breweries make single hop beers that use all the same ingredients and just change the hop variety while others make completely different beer styles for each release in the series. Somewhere in the middle is Victory Brewing Company’s Moving Parts IPA, where the only thing that stays constant is the IPA style. The third batch of Moving Parts features Tettnang Tettnang and Citra hops along with a Belgian style yeast. It is available for a limited time on draft and in 22 oz. bombers.
Victory Moving Parts Batch #3 pours a pale orange with a substantial white head. The scent is solidly hoppy, floral and woodsy. The taste is hop-forward, notes of pine, lemon and cut grass accompanied by a hit of bitterness, present but not mouth puckering. The malts are pretty mild, just a hint of cracked grain and caramel and enough body to balance the showcased hops. Their website says this is brewed with a Belgian style yeast, I get a little fruity ester flavor but not the “Belgian IPA” level I would expect. Moving Parts is light bodied, goes down smooth and isn’t overly boozy at 6.6% ABV. The ever changing IPA idea allows for variety and innovation, especially since they seem willing to change out yeast and malts along with the hops, and this is good enough that I will make an effort to sample some of the future releases in the series. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5
Previous Victory Reviews:
Victory Swing Saison, Victory Hop Ranch
I don’t drink coffee. Not hot coffee or iced coffee, no Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. It’s not that I dislike coffee per se, I just never started drinking it and I have a few reasons to keep that trend going. Due to some sleeping issues I’ve had to deal with I try to avoid caffeine in general. I also don’t need the added expense or calories (assuming I wouldn’t drink my coffee black), I’d rather save both for beer. So while I would probably enjoy quality coffee now (I do like the aroma which is a huge part of flavor), I am still avoiding it. Many of my co-workers are shocked that I made it through graduate school without taking up coffee, I joke that I only have one more test, namely the upcoming short nights due to the pending birth of my first child. I guess we’ll see what happens over the next few months. Many beer drinkers are also coffee enthusiasts, and breweries have noticed. Many are starting to brew porters or stouts with coffee, often using artisanal/craft beans from small producers. This winter Trillium Brewing Company brewed a couple of coffee-infused stouts including PM Dawn, which was made with cold-brewed coffee. The beer is probably done for the season, but due to it’s popularity it will most likely be revisited next winter.
Trillium PM Dawn pours midnight black with a mild light brown head. The scent is dominated by strong coffee aromas, fresh and vibrant. The coffee leads the flavor too, rich and bold. The dark malts work well with the coffee flavor, touches of dark chocolate, roasted nuts and toasted bread. There is just a little bitterness, presumably from early hop additions, but this beer packs the malt-forward flavor you’d expect from a stout. PM Dawn is full bodied but goes down smooth, even at 9% ABV you don’t taste the alcohol. Again, I am not a coffee drinker but this is a very solid coffee beer, tons of flavor and easy to drink. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Trillium Reviews:
Brewery Overview: Trillium, Trillium Sinister Kid, Trillium Congress St. IPA, Trillium Farmhouse Ale, Trillium Wakerobin Rye
There are certain beers that I will always associate with specific eras or moments in my life, and Allagash White definitely is one of those beers. About 4.5 years ago I met a girl for a first date. I chose Audubon Circle as the venue, that was always a go-to place for me, cool atmosphere without being stuffy, noise level that facilitated conversation and a very good drink menu. While the bar had a full cocktail menu and a solid selection of wines by the glass, my date ordered an Allagash White. She didn’t know that I was a beer geek in training, that was just one of her favorite beers. I don’t judge people on what they drink, but I have to say that I was impressed that she ordered a local craft beer. It probably won’t come as a shock that this date led to many more, and that girl is now my wife (I wouldn’t be writing about this if it was some random girl I went out with years ago). Now every time I see Allagash White it reminds me of the first date with the woman I would marry, a truly happy memory that led to many more. It’s funny, I don’t recall exactly what I drank that night, I think it was Stone IPA, but I’ll never forget what my future wife ordered. It seemed perfect to review Allagash White as part of my first Hoppy Boston classic beer week. Allagash White is a traditional Belgian witbier brewed with a liberal dose of wheat, fermented with Belgian style yeast and spiced with coriander and Curacao orange peel. It is available year-round on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Allagash White pours a cloudy straw yellow with a mild white head. The scent is pretty mild, a touch of Belgian yeast and a little spice. The first thing that comes to mind as you sip this beer is how light bodied and easy to drink it is. The flavor isn’t in-your-face, but it’s subtly complex. The yeast adds notes of pepper, bubblegum and apple while the malts contribute wheat and toasted bread. The spices are noticeable, coriander and orange, but not overpowering. Everything works well together, they squeeze a ton of complex flavor into the beer while keeping it approachable. At 5% ABV this is a borderline session beer (depends on your definition), perfect for sipping on the porch on a warm spring day. There is a reason why this beer is a classic, witbiers aren’t my favorite Belgian style but this one is very well done. I often recommend Allagash White as a “starter” craft beer for people who want to start trying different beer styles, but veteran craft beer drinkers should also give it a taste every so often. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Allagash Reviews:
Allagash Dubbel, Allagash/Maine Beer/Rising Tide Prince Tuesday, Allagash Saison, Allagash Black
Hoppy Boston classic beer week continues with a review of Geary’s Hampshire Special Ale. I grew up and then went to college in Maine, while Boston is now home I still love vacationland. Throughout high school and during breaks in college I worked at a local specialty grocery store that catered to many of the area tourists and summer residents along with locals. The most popular things amongst the tourist crowd were often local products, fresh Maine lobster, blueberries, maple syrup, and local beer. This was before the current Maine beer renaissance, there was no Maine Beer Company, Bissell Brothers or Rising Tide, but there were still a strong selection of local offerings. One of my immediate favorites was D. L. Geary Brewing Company in Portland. Many of the beers that facilitated my transition from macro lagers to craft beer were brewed by Geary’s. In the winter months Geary’s brewed HSA, or Hampshire Special Ale, an assertive English style strong ale (HSA is now available year round), and it would frequently find its way into my college beer fridge. Geary’s HSA is brewed with pale, crystal and chocolate malts along with Cascade, Mt. Hood and East Kent Golding hops. It is available year round on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Geary’s Hampshire Special Ale pours a clear deep copper with a moderate off-white head. The scent is a mixture of roasty malts and old world style hoppiness. The malts lead the flavor, notes of caramel and grainy bread with just a hint of coffee. This is complemented by a solid dose of hops, touches of cut grass, earth and pine. The hops also contribute significant bitterness, not IPA level but you feel a solid kick as you drink. The beer is medium bodied and goes down smooth. By today’s standards the 7% ABV isn’t that strong for a “strong ale”, but it isn’t a session beer by any means. The finish is clean with a little hoppy bite. To this day this is probably my favorite Geary’s beer, tons of flavor and well balanced. Every time I drink HSA it reminds me of Maine and good times in college. Definitely worth picking up if you haven’t tried it before. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Geary’s Reviews:
Geary’s Ixnay, Geary’s London Porter