Marshall Wharf Bitter Truth

I am a bit behind on my reviews, I did a major stock up run in mid-August and then my trip to Maine, and while I’ve sampled and taken notes on all of those beers I haven’t written the reviews yet. Need to get used to this two articles a weeks schedule, it’s just too hard to consistently do three with my new commute/job/schedule. Anyways, one of the stops I made in Maine was to Marshall Wharf Brewing Company in Belfast, easily the closest brewery to my parent’s house. This wasn’t my first visit to Marshall Wharf but it’s my first review, last year their canning line was down and the growler I bought didn’t make the trip back. Marshall Wharf is a throwback in many ways, while many breweries are building state of the art taprooms with décor by local artists the Marshall Wharf taproom is on the lower level of a building, with furnishings that are scant and clearly second (or third) hand. The location of the brewery couldn’t be better though, right on the waterfront of Belfast harbor. The brewery is only open during the early afternoon, by 4 you can sample their beers upstairs at Three Tides, an affiliated restaurant and bar. In August I stopped by and did a tasting of their eclectic selections, leaving with a four pack of Bitter Truth, a traditional English ESB. The one downer from the trip, I also grabbed a pint glass but it broke on the trip back south. They don’t appear to have an online store, so I guess this gives me a good excuse to go back the next time I’m in Maine!

marshall-wharf-bitter-truthMarshall Wharf Bitter Truth ours a clear deep copper with a pillowy off-white head. The scent is a mixture of bready malts and herbal hops. The flavor is balanced, just what you’d expect from an ESB. There is a solid malt presence, notes of toast, biscuits and caramel. This is complemented by the old world hops, touches of cut grass, flowers and pine along with a little bitter bite. Bitter Truth is medium bodied, smooth and not too boozy at 5.5% ABV. The finish is a mixture of crisp hop bite and just a hint of malt sweetness. Marshall Wharf Bitter Truth is a well done take on an underappreciated style, and the brewery will continue to be part of my routine when I visit family in Maine. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Moat Mountain East Intervale

I completely understand why many breweries have shied away from the brew-pub model and focused just on selling beer instead of serving food. Running a restaurant is a whole other headache and a very difficult business in it’s own right. That being said, I love brewpubs, beer goes well with so many types of food and producing both in the same place allows for creative brewers and cooks to collaborate on delicious pairings. One of my favorite food pairings and for quality beer is BBQ, and Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company has been serving the two together since 2000. While I haven’t been able to make the trip to their North Conway, NH location yet, just browsing the menu makes my mouth water. Fortunately I can try their beers without driving up to New Hampshire. In 2013 Moat Mountain expanded by building a brewery barn and cannery that supplies their restaurant, other draft accounts and produces 16 oz. cans of many of their year round and seasonal beers. The production has increased to the point that you can now find the cans in Massachusetts. I recently sampled East Intervale, Moat Mountain’s session IPA, which is available on a rotating basis.

moat-mountain-east-intervaleMoat Mountain East Intervale pours deep gold with a solid off-white head. The scent is solidly hoppy, aromas of resin and citrus. The flavor is remarkably balanced for a session IPA, so many tend towards hop flavored water but this beer has some substantial malt flavor and body. The hops are at the forefront, notes of grass, herbs and orange along with a little bitter bite. This is nicely balanced by the malts, hints of toast and honey along with solid body for a session beer. East Interlude is medium bodied and easy to drink, clearly a session beer at 4.5% ABV. The finish is crisp with a bit of lingering hop flavor. Moat Mountain East Intervale is a quality beer, plenty of flavor and more balance than most session IPAs, but still very drinkable. I look forward to trying more of their offerings and maybe checking out the smokehouse in the near future! Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Random Beer Thoughts: September 2016

This is a slightly new idea that I am playing around with. Every so often there are interesting tidbits, opinions and ideas that I have regarding beer, brewing, the industry, etc. that don’t necessitate a full post. Every so often I am going to try and compile a few of these thoughts into a “random beer thoughts” post. Some of these  are things I have previously shared/discussed on social media, so if you’ve already seen some of these I apologize (but thanks for reading my tweets). Let me know what you think!

-I have written many a couple articles about my distaste for seasonal creep, and it’s no coincidence that these gripes center around fall beers being released in July. Part of my issue is that I am not a fan of pumpkin beers, so I don’t need to see them on the shelves when it’s 90 degrees out. I also live in the Boston suburbs and have to commute in and out of the city everyday, which is much easier in the summer, so I don’t need any reminders that summer is coming to an end.

-One of the unintended perks of writing a craft beer blog is that anytime I have a get together my friends try to impress me with their beer selections. I had a few friends over for a BBQ at the end of the summer and the coolers (and eventually my beer fridge) ended stocked with beers from Ballast Point, Jack’s Abby, Allagash, Trillium, Notch and Riverwalk.

long-live-ipa-My friends Tim and Amanda drove up from Providence stocked up with Rhode Island beers that haven’t made it into Massachusetts yet. One of the highlights was definitely a couple growlers from Long Live Beerworks in Providence. Their IPA was very good and the session IPA was exceptional, one of the better SIPAs I’ve tried. Keep an eye on this brewery, I expect big things based on my first tastes.

-Overall I am a big fan of the industry shift towards cans, they are portable, no need to track down a bottle opener, and 16 oz. tallboys are an ideal serving size. The one negative is for homebrewers (like me), who relied on cleaning bottles to save a few bucks at the homebrew store. So many of the beers I buy are in cans now, so I find myself buying cases of empty bottles. I would love to keg my homebrew, but I haven’t gotten the approval from the boss to buy that system, plus it makes it harder to share/do a split batch with a friend.

-I think that all bottles and cans should have packaged-on dates, it’s especially important with hoppy beers but a good habit for brewers. That being said, I am terrible about checking the dates before I buy beer. There have been a few occasions recently where I’ve been disappointed by a beer and then checked the date and realized it’s well past it’s peak. Some of this is on bottle shops that need to keep better inventory, but way more is on me for not checking before I buy.

-As the local beer market gets more crowded between new breweries opening locally and more competition moving in from out of state, consistency and quality control become paramount to a brewery’s success. I’ve recently opened beers that have been completely flat or clearly oxidized. I have also a particular beer on different occasions and had it taste so different that I wondered if the batches were brewed with the same recipe. When I have these negative experiences it drastically lowers the chance that I’ll keep buying beers from the offending brewery. Brewers need to realize that one bad batch can alienate hundreds of potential customers and do everything in their power to maximize quality control.

-That’s all for today, let me know what you think of the new article style and I’ll try to make this a somewhat regular feature!

 

 

 

 

Lost Nation The Wind

Many beer geeks have spent the last couple years frequently pontificating that sour beers are the “next IPA”. I think this is an incredible over-statement, while many sour beer styles have increased in popularity and production they still have a long way to go to catch up to the volume and selection provided by the hop bombs. I still have mixed feelings on sour beer styles (just to clarify “sour” isn’t a style, it’s a flavor that can be found in many different styles of beer). I’ve really enjoyed some complex wild ales and other styles where the tartness complements other flavors, I am still put off by the beers that pucker your tongue without anything to offset the sour flavor. One intriguing, and in no way surprising, newer trend is dry-hopped sour beer styles. The citrus and tropical fruit flavors and aromas from New World hop varieties in particular can provide an interesting counterpoint to the acidity in many sour styles. One example I sampled recently is The Wind from Lost Nation Brewing in Morristown, VT. Lost Nation brews a variety of styles with a focus on less-appreciated European classics. One of their best known beers is their Gose, a traditional tart German style brewed with salt and coriander. The Wind is a version of this gose brewed with grapefruit and dry-hopped with Citra hops.

lost-nation-the-windLost Nation The Wind pours a hazy bright yellow with a massive white head. The scent is mostly citrus hops and grapefruit. The flavor is more complex. The grapefruit is well represented and the hops add notes of orange, lemon and lime. This complements the mild tart bite from the fermentation along with a subtle salinity that is unique to the gose style. A light malt backbone rounds out the flavor with hints of wheat bread and crackers. The Wind is light, easy to drink and sessionable at 4.5% ABV. The finish is crisp, dry and refreshing, a perfect beer for the last warm days before the cold weather returns. I am still a little wary of mixing hoppy and sour beers, but this beer definitely works. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Foundation Wanderlust

There is a gas station/convenience store in the center of the small town where I grew up. It was a place where I pumped my first tank of gas after passing my driver’s test, where I would stop to grab a soda or a candy bar in high school and where I bought scratch tickets and Swisher Sweets on my 18th birthday. They always sold beer (this is Maine, where pretty much every grocery and convenience store sells beer), but I would have never guessed that it would become a draw for craft beer fans. When I was up in Maine last month I stopped to grab a 6 pack on the way to visit some friends, hoping the store would have something decent and I was blown away by their selection. They had the full line of Maine Beer Company beers and many other high end and hard to find local brews. One of my buddies who lives in the area said the owner had become a big beer geek and kept track of the most popular local brews to stock in the store. I grabbed a few things including a 4-pack of Wanderlust from Foundation Brewing Company in Portland. When I first visited Foundation a couple years ago, before they created a craze with Epiphany, I was very impressed by the beers I tried and one of my favorites was a hoppy saison named Wanderlust. I was excited to give the beer another try, and a proper review.

foundation-wanderlustFoundation Epiphany pours a clear golden yellow with a moderate white head. The scent is a mixture of fruitiness from the expressive Belgian style yeast strain and citrus aroma from the hops. The yeast leads the flavor, notes of green apple, apricot and peppercorn. This is complemented by touches of lemon, mango, cut grass and tangerine from the hops. It’s not a hop-bomb beer, but there is significantly more hop flavor than the average saison. The beer is rounded out by a light malt backbone which contributes hints of whole grain bread and crackers. Wanderlust is light bodied and very easy to drink, sessionable at 4.5% ABV. The finish is dry and crisp with some lingering hop and yeast flavors. It was great to revisit Wanderlust, it was no surprise that the first time I tried this beer I left impressed by the growing potential of Foundation Brewing. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Foundation Reviews:

Foundation Epiphany

Hoppy Boston Best Beers: Summer 2016

This summer was a little crazy for me personally, bought a house, lost my job, moved, started a new job, plus all of the day to day stuff that keeps me busy even in a “quiet” stretch. Due to the extra demands on my time Hoppy Boston actually went on hiatus for a month in June/July, so it should come as no surprise that the quarterly round-up of my favorite beers is a little light. It’s unfortunate, I had plans to review some of favorite summer classics and ran out of time, I guess it will have to wait until next summer. As always, these beers have been added to the My Favorite Beers page, feel free to pass on suggestions for beers that you think belong on that list (and I haven’t had a chance to review yet). Cheers!

Ipswich Riverbend PilsIpswich Riverbend Pils: I bought this beer at CBC Newton after one of the guys there gave a strong recommendation and it didn’t disappoint. Crisp, clean and easy to drink but still tons of flavor, this is what a pilsner should be.

CBC Pearls of WisdomCambridge Brewing Company Pearls of Wisdom: When Cambridge Brewing Company and Mystic collaborated to open a facility that focuses on barrel aged and wild ales this is the kind of beer I was excited for them to develop. Wild fermented, aged with Brett and then dry-hopped before bottling this beer is incredibly complex but everything works in harmony.

Trillium Melcher StTrillium Melcher Street IPA: I think Melcher Street is my favorite Trillium IPA. This beer highlights the Mosaic hop, really bringing out the tropical and citrus fruit flavors that have made these hops so popular.

 

Kent Falls Alternate World

I really wish every brewer would put dates on all of their packaged beers. It sucks as a consumer (and as a beer reviewer) when I buy something that tastes a little off or unexpected and I don’t know if it was a flaw in recipe, a quality control issue or the beer is just out of date. This is especially true with hop-forward or dry-hopped beers, the aroma from the hops dissipates quickly so it’s really important to drink the beer very fresh. Good bottle shops will usually do a quality job of rotating their beers to keep fresh beers on the shelves, but even the best can accidentally sell beers that are past peak freshness. I ran into this issue recently with Kent Falls Alternate World, which was advertised as a dry-hopped gose, but I got little or no hop flavor or aroma. I am a fan of Kent Falls and I have enjoyed most of the beers I’ve sampled from the brewery, so I wanted to know if this was a bad batch or just well past it’s peak. Unfortunately, there was no date on the bottle that I could find, so I really have no idea. Alternate world is a gose fermented with Brettanomyces and then dry-hopped with American hops before bottling.

Kent Falls Alternate WorldKent Falls Alternate World pours a clear straw yellow with a massive white head. The scent includes some mild acidity and an extremely subtle aroma of floral hops. The yeast/lacto leads the flavor, notes of lemon, sour apple and barnyard funk along with a little tartness. Again the hops are not as evident as the title would suggest, a touch of cut grass and herbs. The light malts round out the flavor, notes of white bread and cracked grain. Alternate World is light and refreshing, sessionable at 4.6% ABV. The finish is dry with just a little pucker and salinity. I actually really enjoyed Alternate World as a complex and easy to drink gose, but was disappointed by the lack of hop flavor and aroma. Hopefully I’ll get to try another batch at some point. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Previous Kent Falls Reviews:

Kent Falls EquinoxKent Falls Farmer’s TableKent Falls Field Beer Saison #3