I am a big advocate for more variety in barrel aged beers. We have plenty of bourbon barrel aged stouts, I want to see more combinations of traditional (or less traditional) beer styles aged in barrels that used to hold various types of wine or spirits. One group of beers that are under-utilized in barrel rooms are the non-sour Belgian styles, dubbels, tripels, quads, saisons and Belgian style pale and dark ales. The expressive flavors imparted by the Belgian yeast strains can be complemented by a number of different types of booze. A number of local brewers seem to agree, you are starting to see more barrel aged Belgian style beers pop up on shelves. Locally, many of these creative takes come out of the barrel aging collaboration between Cambridge Brewing Company and Mystic Brewing. Mystic makes a wide range of beers now, but the majority of their initial offerings were saisons. They have brewed saisons with a wide range of malt and hop profiles, so it makes sense that they would be interested in aging some of these beers to impart flavors that complement their expressive and diverse house yeast strains. One example I sampled recently is a saison aged in sauvignon blanc barrels. Appropriately named, Mystic Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Saison is available on a rotating basis in 750 mL bottles.
Mystic Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Aged Saison pours a clear copper with a solid white head. The aroma is a mixture of fruity wine and spicy Belgian style yeast. The flavor is complex, but the flavors added by the barrel aging definitely take center stage. The wine adds notes of white grape, melon and flowers while there is also a strong woodsy/vanilla flavor imparted from the barrel itself. The Belgian style yeast contributes touches of apple, pepper and pear. The flavor is rounded out by some grassy hops and hints of biscuits and honey from the malts. Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Aged Saison is medium bodied and drinks smooth but packs a little punch at 7.5% ABV. The finish is dry with a lingering complex mixture of flavors in the aftertaste. I love the idea of aging saisons in wine barrels, and sauvignon blanc seems like an appropriate varietal. The flavors imparted by the barrel itself were just a little too strong for my taste, still a good beer but aside from that it could have been great. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Mystic Reviews:
Mystic Vinland 4, Mystic De Varenne, 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
A couple weeks ago I took a trip with my family up to Maine to see my parents and some friends. The trip was a little quicker than I would have liked, we needed to squeeze it in between the end of our move and the start date for my new job. Fortunately I was still able to visit a couple breweries during the brief visit north. One must-stop on my list was the new Bissell Brother’s brewery on the South Portland waterfront. I loved the old Bissell location, especially with the proximity to other breweries, but I understand the need to expand given the popularity of their beers. We stopped on the drive up and at 1:45 on a Wednesday afternoon they were completely sold out of the day’s allotment of cans (they opened at noon). Fortunately this gave me an excuse to stop again on the way home on Saturday, which also happened to be the release day for Seed, a beer brewed with Maine grown strawberries and raspberries that is only released once a year. After a little wait in line I made it out with a few 4-packs of Seed along with some of the last cans of their standout flagship The Substance released that day. Totally worth the stop.
Bissell Brother Seed pours a hazy pink with a substantial off-white head. The scent is mostly fruit along with a little acidity. Seed is a great summer beer, light and refreshing but still complex and full flavored. The strawberry and raspberry flavors are well represented without overwhelming the beer. Unlike the older generation of fruit beers there is minimal residual sweetness, instead the fruity notes are complemented by a subtle tartness. A light malt backbone and minimal hops round out the beer. Seed is light bodied and extremely easy to drink, I couldn’t believe that it was 6% ABV. The finish is dry with a little lingering tartness, strawberry and raspberry. I really enjoyed Seed, it is no surprise that people lined the block in order to grab 4 packs of this year’s release! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Bissell Brothers Reviews:
Bissell Brothers The Substance
I recently moved out to the suburbs, more specifically to the northern part of Sudbury. Unfortunately the proximity of local breweries was not the highest priority in our house search, it fell well behind finding a house in our price range and with the amenities we were looking for along with reasonable commutes, a good neighborhood and strong school systems. Fortunately there are still some quality breweries that are in close proximity to my new home (although none in Sudbury, I think the town could use it’s own brewery). Jack’s Abby (and the new Exhibit A) are not too far away in Framingham. I am long overdue on a trip to Hudson and Medusa Brewing, and I have zero excuses now that it’s right down the road. True West and Rapscallion both run brewpubs in Acton. These breweries are all close, but I think the closest one will soon be Battle Road Brewing Company which is set to open in Maynard soon. Battle Road beers have been available for a few years now (they are contract brewed until the brewery opens), but it will be nice to have a physical brewery and tasting room. One of Battle Road’s flagship beers is Barrett’s Farmhouse Ale, a rustic saison available year round on draft and in 12 oz. cans.
Battle Road Barrett’s Farmhouse Ale pours a hazy deep orange with a solid off-white head. The scent is mostly the Belgian style yeast, fruity and spicy. The yeast also leads the flavor, notes of apricot, cardamom, pear and peppercorn. This is complemented by some floral and grassy hops and rounded out by a malt backbone that contributes touches of bread crust and honey. Barrett’s Farmhouse Ale is medium bodied and easy to drink, moderately boozy at 6.6% ABV. The finish is smooth and dry with some lingering yeast flavors in the aftertaste. I am pretty sure this is my first Battle Road beer and I definitely enjoyed it, full flavored and well crafted. I will be trying more of their offerings in the future and hopefully visiting the brewery soon after it opens! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
As of today I am no longer unemployed, I am back into the workforce after a 6 week break. My wife and I bought a house right before I found out I was losing my previous job, so the majority of my break was spent moving, cleaning out the old apartment and then dealing with all of the things that you need to deal with in a new home. Fortunately I wrapped most of that up and I was able to spend the last week of my break doing some relaxing, travelling to visit family in Maine and even visiting a few breweries. My good friend Mikey is a middle school teacher heading towards the end of his summer vacation and wanted to check out one of the many breweries he had read about on Hoppy Boston, so he and I made the trip down to Trillium in Canton last Monday. I’ve made a few trips down to the Canton location and I am a big fan of the extra space and parking, it’s much easier for suburban folks like myself to travel there instead of trying to drive into Fort Point and find somewhere to park. Mikey and I tasted a few beers and each left with some of our favorite selections, many of which are now available in 4-packs of 16 oz. cans. One of the beers I tasted and then purchased was Melcher Street IPA, one of Trillium’s many versions of the popular style. Melcher Street showcases the Mosaic hop, a popular and complex variety that imparts tropical and citrus fruit flavors and aromas.
Trillium Melcher Street IPA pours a hazy deep orange with a small white head. The scent is an enormous burst of hops led by bright tropical fruit aromas. The flavor is delicious hoppy fruit juice, notes of mango, passion fruit, clementine and grapefruit along with the soft bitterness that has defined the New England style IPA. There is just enough malt for balance, hints of white bread and cracked grains. Melcher Street is medium bodied and drinks very easy but packs a little punch at 7.2% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering fruity hop flavors. If you like the fruit flavors and mild bitterness of New England style IPAs this is a stellar version, probably my favorite Trillium IPA and one of the best local versions of the popular style. Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.
Previous Trillium Reviews:
Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale, Trillium Free Rise Dry-hopped with Citra, Trillium Pot and Kettle, Trillium Scaled Up, Trillium Launch Beer, Trillium PM Dawn, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Trillium Sinister Kid, Trillium Congress St. IPA, Trillium Farmhouse Ale, Trillium Wakerobin Rye
Many new breweries open their doors and release a large variety of beers in their first year. Some of these beers become brewery staples, some get tinkered with and reworked, and some disappear after a short run. I understand the desire for variety, different drinkers prefer different beer styles and breweries with tasting rooms need to offer some choices. I also know that even many amateur beer brewers like to work on a bunch of different styles at once, most professional brewers probably feel like they are more limited by time and equipment than by ideas or production ready recipes. The downside is that most recipes need to be tweaked as you move to larger scales and new equipment, and this can result in quality and consistency issues especially when you are scaling up a stable of beers. This is probably why a few breweries are going against the grain, starting by perfecting a single recipe and brewing that beer exclusively for a significant period of time. A good local example of this strategy is Building 8 Brewery in Florence, MA. Building 8 launched with a single beer, an IPA simply named The IPA. The beer quickly generated some buzz, and brought crowds to the brewery seeking cans of the well crafted hop-bomb. Building 8 is now venturing into other beer styles, and tallboy cans of The IPA are now popping up in area bottle shops.
Building 8 The IPA pours a clear orange-yellow with a massive white head. The scent is a solid dose of hops, mostly citrus and tropical fruit on the nose. The taste is also very hop forward, notes of grapefruit, orange, pine and passion fruit. This is accompanied by a firm bitter bite, The IPA is clearly inspired by West Coast style IPAs more than the juicy/low bitterness IPAs that have become the rage in the Northeast. The hops are balanced by some malt, touches of toasted bread, crackers and a little honey. The IPA is medium bodied and goes down smooth, at 6.5% ABV it is about average for the style. The finish is crisp and dry with some lingering hop flavor and bite. If you are going to start your brewery with a single beer you had better make sure it’s a quality product, and Building 8 The IPA is really good. Definitely worth picking up if you see it around, or taking the trip out to the brewery! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
I try to keep this blog focused almost entirely on beer, occasionally I mix in some personal stories or something to do with Boston sports, but most of the posts are beer-centric. That doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions about other important topics, I have a number of very strong views about current events and politics. People who follow my personal Facebook page will occasionally see these opinions, mixed in with a heavy dose of pictures of my adorable 15 month old son. I just know that people can have irrationally strong opinions when it comes to politics, and the only debates I want to have on Hoppy Boston are about favorite breweries and beer styles. That being said, it’s a presidential election year and politics is seeping into everything, even the beer world. One example is Third Party Candidate, a beer re-issued by Clown Shoes Brewing Company with a new label and recipe. The new version of Third Party Candidate is an India Pale Lager that also acts as an official announcement of the presidential candidacy of their sales rep Phil “Filthy” Thomas. I’ll be interested to see how many write-in votes he gets, it might be quite a few considering the popularity (or lack thereof) of both major party candidates. Clown Shoes Third Party Candidate is available for a limited time on draft and in 22 oz. bombers.
Clown Shoes Third Party Candidate pours bright orange with a small white head. The scent is a scant mixture of floral and citrus hops. The hops lead the flavor, touches of lemon, cut grass, herbs and tangerine along with a little bitter bite. This is balanced by some light malt, notes of pale barley and white bread. Third Party Candidate is light bodied and very easy to drink, but packs a little punch at 7% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with a little lingering hop flavor. Clown Shoes Third Party Candidate is a solid beer, I personally could have used more hop aroma. Hoppy Boston score: 3.75/5.
Previous Clown Shoes Reviews:
Clown Shoes Mango, Clown Shoes The Peace That Money Can’t Buy, Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher, Clown Shoes Swagger
There are many products that drive sales based on brand loyalty. For example, we always have two types of peanut butter in my house because I prefer Jif and my wife likes Skippy, and while we make many compromises in marriage neither of us were willing to change our PB brand. While macro-lagers have used brand loyalty as a major tool for sales, beer geeks tend to be promiscuous in their selections, wanting to try every new and exciting beer that they can get their hands on. This trend has spurred the growth of mix packs, either produced by the breweries or mix and match 6 packs sold in bottle shops. Peak Organic took an interesting approach with two of their new IPAs, instead of packaging each in it’s own six pack and convincing stores to carry both, they are selling a mixed 6 pack with three cans of each beer. I like this approach, especially when you have two beers of a similar style, and hope other breweries follow suit. The two new IPAs are Crush, brewed with blood orange peel and Evergreen, brewed with juniper berries and spruce tips.
Peak Organic Crush pours a hazy deep orange with a solid off-white head. The smell is a big burst of citrus-centric hops. The hops also dominate the flavor, notes of grapefruit, tangerine and mango along with a little bitter bite. The blood orange nicely melds with the hop flavors, adding an additional citrus punch without overwhelming the beer. The hop flavor is balanced by a little malt, touches of toast and crackers along with some body. Crush is medium bodied and goes down pretty easy for 7% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop and citrus flavors. I really enjoyed this beer, I am a little partial to the citrus flavored hops and the combination with blood orange is well done. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Peak Organic Evergreen pours a hazy copper with a moderate cream colored head. There are some hops on the nose, floral and pine aromas. The flavor is also very hop forward, notes of resin, grass, herbs and lemon. The addition of spruce and juniper berries is subtle and complements the natural hop flavors. The flavor is rounded out by some malt, touches of bread dough and biscuits. Evergreen is medium bodied and goes down smooth, but packs a little punch at 7% ABV. In general I prefer IPAs that lean a little towards the citrus and tropical fruit flavor, but this is a nice beer all the same. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Peak Organic Reviews:
Peak Organic Super Fresh, Peak Organic Hop Harvest, Peak Organic Fresh Cut Pilsner, Peak Organic Simcoe Spring, Peak Organic Hop Noir