Cross-blog: Short Brews Question #1

This is a new type of article for Hoppy Boston, where I’ll pose a question and provide my answer as well as the answer of another beer writer. For the first question I’ve enlisted the help of beer blogger Thomas Short from ShortBrews.com. We are planning to make this a series, so feel free to pass along potential questions of give your own take in the comments or on social media. While you are at it, give Short Brews a like on facebook or a follow on twitter @short_brews. Hope you enjoy and let me know what you think of the new article style

What is an under-rated/underappreciated beer style that you really enjoy?

Allagash SaisonRyan (HoppyBoston.com): I proposed this question and had an answer in mind before I asked it. My favorite under appreciated style is definitely the saison. I understand why some people shy away from the style, I wasn’t a fan of the flavors imparted by Belgian yeasts when I first started drinking craft beer and it took a while for me to come around, but now saisons are one of my favorite beer styles. The yeast is the key to a great saison, the expressive Belgian and French saison strains can add a whole host of flavors, fruity, spicy, funky even a little sour, or some combination. After that the style is pretty wide open. The saison style started in farmhouses across Belgium and France, the beers were brewed for the farm workers, so the malt and hop bills can cover a wide range. This gives a brewer a lot of latitude as they design their beer, and American breweries have taken advantage. I’ve tasted saisons as dark as a stout or as hoppy as an IPA. My personal favorite twist on the style mixes late doses of fruity new world hops with the expressive yeast. For a while I thought hoppy saisons would be the “next IPA”, but it didn’t really happen (FWIW, there is no “next IPA”, I don’t think any beer style will hit that height of popularity). So if you haven’t given saisons a try in a while I highly recommend putting down the hop bomb IPA and boozy imperial stout and trying some Belgian ales. If you need some recommendations I am happy to help!

Aeronaut Robot Crush

Thomas (ShortBrews.com) The only answer I can give is the classic pilsner. Anyone who has been reading ShortBrews lately knows that I’ve been on a big lager kick, and I feel like some people might have gotten the impression that I don’t like lagers which is not the case. I don’t like many lagers, but I love a good pilsner – specifically Czech-style since pilsners hail from Plzen, modern-day Czech Republic. It’s a perfect lighter beer (not to be confused with “light” or “lite”), but it doesn’t lack in flavor. The crispness is perfect for the fall, the same season when I fell in love with pilsners when I (here come the name drops) went to Prague after enjoying pilsners at Oktoberfest. They should have a nice, golden color, a crisp feel, and just enough malt to complement the hop flavor. As the leaves change and the air cools, I highly recommend drinking a nice pilsner with your football. For a ready-to-go pilsner, check out Pilsner Urquell or your local German-style beer hall. Europe does these right!

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Backlash Citra Salute

Backlash Brewing Company is in the middle of a very eventful stretch. First they ditched the large format bottles in favor of canning the majority of their beers, aligning with the industry trend (and the preference of the majority of consumers). Then they announced that they are building their own brewery and taproom, slated to open by the end of the year in Roxbury. In the last week they revealed a re-working of the brand, including a new logo (check it out on their website HERE). I always liked the brass knuckles, but have to admit that the new logo looks great too, I can’t wait to pick up some logo glassware. While work on the taproom continues to move forward Backlash is releasing a number of new beers, many of which sell out incredibly quickly. I was sad to miss Allston, a tribute to the neighborhood where I lived for 5 years, but I was happy to find some of their DIPA Citra Salute. Backlash Citra Salute is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz. cans.

Backlash Citra SaluteBacklash Citra Salute pours hazy orange with a solid white head. The aroma is a solid burst of hops, heavy on the citrus fruit. The flavor is also very hop forward, notes of grapefruit, orange and lemon rind along with a solid bitter bite. There is also some noticeable malt, touches of whole grain bread, honey and just a hint of booze. You know this is a double IPA from the first sip, between the malt/alcohol and the full body, and the 8% ABV backs that up. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor. I really enjoyed Citra Salute, and it will be really nice to see Backlash beers start to make a more regular appearance on shelves! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Backlash Reviews:

Backlash Ricochet, Backlash MuerteBacklash OathBacklash ConvergenceBacklash Chaos, Backlash Redux

Springdale Desert Solitaire and Really Though

Some times it feels like Sudbury, the town I live in, is going to become the only town in Massachusetts that doesn’t have a brewery. I know that is a huge exaggeration, but so many new breweries have opened and I haven’t even heard a hint of one in my town. Silly me for prizing my children’s education over immediate access to beer. Fortunately there are a number of great options in neighboring towns, so I get to decide which brewery I’d like to make my local. In some ways this is a better situation, it would be terrible to have a brewery open up in town and make crappy beer, now I can pick a place I know I enjoy. Right now the leader in the clubhouse is Springdale Brewing in Framingham. I guess I could cheat and say Jack’s Abby and Springdale, but I consider them separate places (I love both, but I can get Jack’s Abby beers everywhere, need to hit the brewery for the Springdale stuff). Springdale makes awesome beer, has a great space, cans and bottles everything (I hate growlers), minimal lines, and I need to run specific errands in Framingham on a regular basis so I have a built in excuse to be in the area. That is basically everything I am looking for in a local brewery. On a recent trip I grabbed a number of offerings including Desert Solitaire, a wild ale brewed with wheat, rye and spelt and aged in oak, and Really Though, a double IPA brewed with Citra, Mosaic and Columbus hops.

Springdale Desert SolitaireSpringdale Desert Solitaire pours clear straw yellow with a minimal white head. The scent is all from the fermentation, some funk and acidity. The flavors imparted by the wild yeast and barrel aging lead the way too, notes of green apple, lemon, sour cherry, white grape and oak. There is a bit of tartness too, but it isn’t overpowering. The malts add a solid backbone, whole wheat bread and the distinct spicy flavor imparted by rye. Desert Solitaire is light and easy to drink, not too boozy at 6.5% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering yeast and acid. This is a delicious wild ale, lots of flavor from the fermentation and I love the rye addition to the malt bill, it really complements the tartness. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Springdale Really ThoughSpringdale Really Though pours murky yellow-orange with a small white head. The scent is a solid hit of fruity hops with a floral undertone. The flavor is hop forward, notes of pineapple, mango, tangerine, resin along with a bit of bitterness. This is complemented by a solid malt backbone, hints of cereal and bread crust. Really Though is full bodied but drinks super easy for 8.5% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hops. This is a very good DIPA, I have yet to have a bad beer from Springdale, happy to adopt it as my local brewery. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Springdale Reviews:

Springdale Solid State and Kreik MythologySpringdale Amirite?! and Good N’ You?

Aeronaut Double Hop Hop

As my frequent readers know, I hate waiting in line for beer. There are a few local breweries that make amazing beers but I never travel to because the combination of  long lines and can limits kill my excitement to make the trek. That being said, there are a large number of beer geeks who seem to have no problem standing in lines, and quickly line up for any beer release that excites them. Some breweries have heard the complaints about the lines from loyal cutomers and have decided on alternate strategies for limited release beers. Aeronaut Brewing has come up with a great way to sell their most recent batch of Double Hop Hop, their sought after DIPA. Instead of sharing a release date/time on social media and asking people to wait in line, they allowed customers to purchase a ticket online ahead of time, and then trade in the ticket for a 4 pack of cans once the beer is ready. From what I heard the release was easy, even people who stopped by on day one were in and out with their beer. Fortunately for me Aeronaut sent along a sample along with a special glass, which I was very excited to use. Aeronaut Double Hop Hop is loaded with Citra and Mosaic hops and available on a limited basis in 16 oz tallboy cans.

Aeronaut Double Hop HopAeronaut Double Hop Hop pours murky orange with a small white head. The aroma features a nice burst of hops, mostly citrus with an undercurrent of floral aromas. The hops also dominate the flavor, notes of grapefruit, papaya, tangerine and a little pine. The floral/pine notes along with a soft but persistent bitterness keep the beer from being straight juicy NEIPA, but it checks most of the boxes you look for in the style. The hops are balanced by a full malt backbone, hints of bread dough and cereal. Double Hop Hop has a full mouthfeel but drinks very easy for 8.4% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor and just a little bitterness. This beer is stellar, enough fruity flavor and aroma for the most passionate of juice-heads but the other flavors add needed complexity. I really enjoyed Double Hop Hop and would happily (not) wait in line for the next batch!

Previous Aeronaut Reviews:

Aeronaut Robot Crush, Aeronaut A Year With Dr. NanduAeronaut A Session With Dr. NanduAeronaut The Eye of Sauvin

Hoppy Boston Best Beers- Summer 2016

My summer best beers list is another short one, just three entries. Some of this is fewer beer reviews, some is that I’ve gotten more picky over the years. Another big factor is that I’ve run out of beers that I knew would make the list before I opened the bottle (due to previously enjoying the beer). The vast majority of my favorite beers already populate the My Favorite Beers page on Hoppy Boston, so the new additions tend to be new-to-me beers. It should also come as no surprise that the list is all Maine beers, I made three trips up north this spring/summer and all of these beers were purchased in Vacationland. As we move into fall I hope to mix in some more beers from other states, and some more malty options. Thanks for reading and feel free to pass on any suggestions!

Allagash Coolship RedAllagash Coolship Red: A wild fermented ale where the wort is cooled in an open fermenter and then aged in barrels with raspberries. Tart, fruity, funky, complex and delicious.

Mast Landing DDH Tell TaleMast Landing Double Dry Hopped Tell Tale: An unrepentant hop-bomb, huge hop flavors and aromas in a easy to drink beer. I love a well crafted, lower alcohol hoppy APA and this was a great one.

Foundation Cosmic BloomFoundation Cosmic Bloom: A delicious hop bomb pale ale from one of the emerging powers in the Maine beer scene. In contrast to the citrus forward juice-bombs you get a lot of strawberry and melon from the hops in this beer.

Mason’s Hipster Apocalypse and Liquid Rapture

There are so many breweries in New England (let alone the rest of the country) that I have a really hard time keeping track of all of them. It’s especially difficult with breweries that don’t distribute to Massachusetts bottle shops, there are a number breweries in every state that I haven’t been able to try due to brewery location and lack of distribution. Occasionally I stop by one of my local shops for a stock up run and see new-to-me beers by a local/regional brewery that I’ve never tried, and I usually jump at the opportunity. A good example is Mason’s Brewing Company out of Brewer, Maine. I can’t remember the last time I was in Brewer, so I’ve never been to their brewpub, but I grabbed a few cans after a recommendation from an employee at Craft Beer Cellar in Framingham. The beers were Hipster Apocalypse, an IPA brewed with Idaho 7 hops, and Liquid Rapture, a DIPA with Ella, Idaho 7 and Citra hops. Both beers are available in 16 oz. tallboy cans.

Mason's Hipster ApocalypseMason’s Hipster Apocalypse pours a slightly hazy light orange with a solid white head. The scent features some fruity hops, citrus and tropical fruit. The flavor is very hop forward, notes of honeydew, guava and grapefruit along with a soft bitterness, this is clearly a New England style IPA. A mild malt backbone rounds out the flavor with hints of cereal and honey. Hipster Apocalypse is medium bodied, super drinkable, and not too boozy at 5.7% ABV. The finish is slightly sweet with some lingering fruity hops. I enjoyed Hipster Apocalypse, it’s a flavorful and well crafted juicy IPA. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Mason's Liquid RaptureMason’s  Liquid Rapture pours a hazy straw yellow with a solid white head. The aroma is a big hit of fruity new world hops. This carries over into the flavor, notes of grapefruit, tangerine, guava and lemon. There is a touch of bitterness here, not bracing  but it doesn’t taste like you’re drinking straight fruit juice either. This is balanced by a noticeable malt backbone, hints of honey, bread crust and just a whiff of booze. Liquid Rapture is medium bodied and drinks very easy for 8.2% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor. Liquid Rapture is a very good DIPA, all of the hop flavor you want with a little bite and malt for balance. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Random Beer Thoughts: August 2017

Probably my favorite article of the month comes from Jeff Alworth of Beervana, an acclaimed beer blog based in Portland, Oregon. Jeff recently visited Massachusetts and joined the list of us that were perturbed by the fact that the 35 top rated beers in Massachusetts on Beer Advocate are all from TreeHouse and Trillium. Nothing against these breweries, both are stellar and make amazing beers. A number of other breweries do too, so it’s crazy how much these two breweries dominate crowd-sourced rankings. Jeff suggests that we ignore ratings and rankings, visit breweries and make opinions for ourselves, and I wholeheartedly agree. Your next favorite beer might be sitting on draft at a local brewery, available without waiting in line or paying an exorbitant price.

National and local beer writers seem obsessed with the New England IPA sub-style, in a predictable backlash against their popularity. CraftBeer.com gives an overview and calls NE-IPA the “anti-IPA”. Dave Patterson laments the number of poor versions of the style that have flooded the market. I understand that NEIPA isn’t for everyone, some people like their IPA bitter and clear. There is also the issue of shelf life, these beers degrade quickly on a shelf and it is no coincidence that the most popular versions of the style are sold in ultra-fresh small batches right at the breweries. All of that being said, I love my jooce-bombs, and when done correctly they can be some of the best beers in the world. I think more critics will come around, like Old Nation in Michigan who saw their popularity explode when they brewed a NEIPA.

Aeronaut Robot Crush

Aeronaut Brewing has found a new way to release a limited edition beer, you buy the beer ahead of time using an Eventbrite reservation and then pick it up at your leisure. I love this idea. I hate waiting in lines for beer, especially when there is no guarantee that you’ll even get the beer. There are some breweries that I enjoy but never go to because of the crazy crowds and can limits. This could be a revolutionary way for popular breweries to sell limited releases.

Speaking on Aeronaut, the Boston rock band The Lights Out has released their new album on cans of a special beer from the brewery. Each can comes with a code that you can redeem to download the album.

Norm Miller covers a 10 must-try beers in the Metrowest. As a resident of the Metrowest I agree with many of these choices, and love how many great breweries we have in the area. Norm also has a 6-pack of Oktoberfest/Marzen beers to try. He is an expert on this style, so you should take these recommendations as gospel.

Wormtown Bottle Rocket

Wormtown Brewery has undergone an ownership shuffle and will open a second brewery in New Hampshire.

The Mass Brew Bros ask “how many breweries are their in Massachusetts?” It is interesting to see the methodology that gets to that number. They also have an introduction to the new Cheeky Monkey Brewery in Boston. Cheeky Monkey is using a SmartBrew system, which uses pre-made malt extract and pre-programed hop additions and fermentation. This is a different approach, I gravitate towards the personal touches and experimentation that makes craft beer so interesting, I’m not sure how much room this system allows for this type of innovation. It seems like an easy way to make fresh beer without a lot of the work. What are your opinions on this type of system?

I previously shared that Marlborough was looking for a brewery to move into downtown as part of their revitalization project, and it looks like they’ve found one.

medusa-black-ale-project

One of the best examples of a brewery helping rebuild a downtown is Medusa Brewing in Hudson, and now they are adding a major canning facility.

Gary Dzen has contributed a couple interesting posts to Boston.com this month. One covers his distaste for session IPAs. I agree with some of the criticisms, but I’ve found a number of very well made local versions of the style (including Notch Left of the Dial, which he cites as an exception to the rule). Gary also picks 6 Massachusetts beers to drink right now, featuring a number of exciting new local brews.

Bog Iron Middle Child

Bog Iron Brewing has decided to phase out growlers, selling their beer exclusively in 500 mL bottles. They were active in the discussions about Massachusetts growler laws, arguing about the importance of branding in beer to-go, and offered a popular growler trade-in program, so it was interesting that they took this step. I personally hate growlers and would rather buy bottles or cans.

Allagash has a detailed article on the origins of their flagship White ale.

Eat, Drink, Travel takes a beer tour through the state of Massachusetts.

Paste Magazine continues their blind tasting series with a blind tasting of 143 sours. I wish they has done smaller tasting of individual sour styles, a fruited Berliner is so much different than a gose, it’s hard to rate them without style preference coming through.

Ebenezer’s is closing their Brunswick brewpub. I had always intended to swing in on a trip to Maine, and never made it.

Just in time for Labor Day PartSelect has an article pairing beer styles with various BBQ and grilled dishes.