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 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 Child, Bog Iron Stinger IPA, Bog Iron One Down Robust Porter
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 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.
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 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 Santilli, Night Shift Maracuya, Night Shift Mainer Weisse, Night Shift Thunder Moon, Night Shift Morph IPA, Night Shift Ever Weisse, Night Shift Grove, Night Shift JoJo, Night Shift Taza Stout, Night Shift Simcoenation
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 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 Z, Mystic Melissa, Mystic Descendant, Mystic Vinland Three, Mystic Brewery visit and Day of Doom, Mystic Hazy Jane, Mystic Mary of the Gael, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer
I love a well made bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout as much as anyone, but it is definitely not a unique beer style anymore. When they are well done the combination of bourbon and malt is delicious, but there are way too many mediocre versions on the market. Instead off adding to the glut, I would love to see more breweries take some risks with their barrel programs, branch out to different beer styles and different types of barrels. I mentioned last week that an under-utilized beer style, in general but also for barrel-aging, is the Belgian quadruple. Quads are big and boozy but also complex and there is a lot of room to play with malt/yeast combinations to make a delicious beer. Brewmaster Jack’s newest release is Tennessee Prinse, a quadruple aged in Tennessee whiskey barrels. While I love a quality bourbon, Jack Daniels used to be a staple of mine when I was younger and drank whiskey on a somewhat regular basis, and I appreciate the subtle differences in flavor that Tennesse whiskeys provide. I also think it’s appropriate that a brewery with “Jack’ in their name would use whiskey from Tennessee. Brewmaster Jack Tennessee Prinse is available now in 4-packs of 12 oz. bottles.
Brewmaster Jack Tennessee Prinse pours a deep brown with a minimal off-white head. The scent has plenty of whiskey along with some fruity esters from the Belgian-style yeast. The yeast hits the tongue first with notes of apple, pepper and bubblegum. This is followed by full malt flavor, hints of black cherry, date, molasses and currant. The whiskey rounds out the flavor with touches of oak, vanilla and some warming booze. Tennessee Prinse is a full bodied sipper, but drinks very smooth for a beer with 11.5% ABV. The finish has some fruity esters and just a little late alcohol. This beer is great, we really need more barrel aged quads, especially unique and well-crafted versions like this. Definitely worth a try. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Brewmaster Jack Reviews:
Brewmaster Jack Jan, Brewmaster Jack Ambrewsia, Brewmaster Jack Huell Melon, Brewmaster Jack Motueka, Brewmaster Jack Aquila
Paste magazine has been running a series of articles where they have a panel of drinkers blind-taste test a number of beers in a particular style and then rate them. I love that the tastings are all blind, it eliminates any preconceptions about what “should be” good so the beers are rated by their flavor not by their label. It should come as no surprise that Maine Beer Company was well received in the tasting of 116 IPAs, with Lunch and Another One both placing in the top 5. Maine Beer Company has made it’s mark with hop-forward beers, and these IPAs tend to sell quickly. The big surprise (even to the judges) was in the ranking of 51 American stouts, where MBC’s Mean Old Tom placed #1 overall. Mean Old Tom doesn’t have the qualities that typically drive hype for stouts, it wasn’t aged in any type of liquor barrel and it’s ABV is in the single digits. I would personally love to see more gimmick-free, dry, milk and oatmeal stouts on the market, and this is one I have enjoyed in the past. Mean Old Tom is named after the founder’s uncle, it is an oatmeal stout aged on vanilla beans. The beer is available year round on draft and in 16.9 oz. bottles.
Maine Beer Co. Mean Old Tom pours pitch black with a mild tan head. The scent is a m mixture of roasted malt and a little vanilla. The flavor is very malt forward, as you would expect from a stout, notes of milk chocolate, toast, coffee, and toffee. The vanilla is noticeable but not too strong, providing a solid complement to the malt flavors. There are minimal hops, just enough to crisp up the finish a little. Mean Old Tom is full bodied and drinks very smooth at 6.5% ABV. The finish is clean with just a hint of lingering malt flavor. Too many brewers focus on bigger, bolder and boozier when they brew stouts, this beer is evidence that you can brew a great stout with full malt flavor but without a double-digit ABV. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Maine Beer Company Reviews:
Maine Beer Co. A Tiny Beautiful Something, Maine Beer Co. Beer II, BREWERY OVERVIEW: Maine Beer Co., Maine Beer Co. King Titus, Maine Beer Co. Lunch, Maine Beer Co. Another One, Maine Beer Co./Allagash/In’finiti 2013 Ale, Maine Beer Co. Peeper
As more breweries open or expand and competition for the attention of drinkers continues to increase it is important for a brewery to have a calling-card beer. While flagship beers will make up the bulk of sales and be a good introduction to the brand, having a seasonal or rotating release that people look forward to trying each year helps keep the brewery on the minds of potential customers. Sometimes I’ll go months without picking up a beer from a particular brewery, and then their calling-card beer gets released and reminds me to grab a few of their flagships too. For the sake of clarity, calling-card beers don’t need to be whalez (hard to find/wait in line beers), many times they are widely released and readily available during the appropriate season. Three years after it’s initial release I think it’s safe to say that Yankee Swap has become a calling-card beer for Slumbrew. Yankee Swap is brewed with a different recipe each year, but it’s always a big beer aged in rum barrels. Aging the beer in rum barrels, instead of the bourbon barrels that have become omnipresent in American breweries, really sets Yankee Swap apart. I really enjoyed the imperial stout in 2014, and loved the idea of a Belgian style quadruple for the 2015 Yankee Swap release. Slumbrew Yankee Swap is released each year in the early winter on draft and in 22 oz. bottles. On a complete side-note, I can’t believe I don’t have any Slumbrew glassware yet, that is something I plan on fixing in the very near future.
Slumbrew Yankee Swap 2015 pours a deep amber brown with a massive off-white head. The scent is a mixture of fruity Belgian ale yeast along with a little malt and rum. The flavor is complex, but the components work well together. The malts add robust notes of date, raisin, cherry and cocoa. The Belgian style yeast isn’t overly expressive, but adds hints of pear, apricot and peppercorn. The rum is present, especially as the beer warms, adding some boozy sweetness without overwhelming the beer. Yankee Swap 2015 is full bodied and you get a little alcohol in the flavor, but not too boozy for a beer with 12% ABV. The finish mixes fruity esters, sweet malt and a little rum. This is my favorite version of Yankee Swap so far, the inherent malt and yeast flavors in the quadruple work really well with the rum. I will definitely be grabbing a few more bottles for the cellar! Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Slumbrew Reviews:
Slumbrew Seasonale Creep, Slumbrew Yankee Swap 2014, Slumbrew American Fresh Tap Room, Slumbrew Attic and Eaves, Slumbrew Island Day, Slumbrew Snow Angel, Slumbrew Trekker Trippel, Slumbrew Sittin’ on Hop of the World