Bissell Brothers Pine Tree Agronomics

I am a huge fan of Bissell Brothers Brewing in Portland, I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad beer from there and everyone from the brewery has always been awesome, back to the early days on Industrial Way. I’m clearly not the only Bissell fan, even with the increased capacity enabled by the opening of their new brewery that place is a madhouse for can releases, especially in the summer during peak tourist season. Last summer I stopped on the way home from a family visit and waited in line for well over an hour for cans, not an easy sell when traveling with family. For that reason I skipped Bissell on both Maine trips this summer, opting for other breweries that wouldn’t have the wait. Fortunately I had to come north for a wedding a couple weeks ago, and I was travelling solo on a Friday mid-day, so I made a noontime stop at Bissell Brothers. In less than 15 minutes I was loaded with cans on their flagship IPA The Substance and a new release, Pine Tree Agronomics. Bissell Brothers Pine Tree Agronomics is an IPA brewed with 100% Maine products, malt, oats, wheat, Cascade and Nugget hops, and even Maine maple syrup. It is available on a limited basis on draft and in 16 oz cans.

Bissell Brothers Pine Tree AgronomicsBissell Brothers Pine Tree Agronomics pours murky light orange with a solid white head. The aroma is solidly hoppy, but more floral and pine then fruity. The hops also lead the flavor, notes of resin, spruce, herbs and grapefruit along with a solid bitter bite. This has the hazy appearance of a NEIPA but drinks more like a West Coast IPA. There is a solid malt backbone too, hints of bread crust, cereal and just the faintest hint of maple. Pine Tree Agronomics has a medium body and packs a little punch at 7.5% ABV. The finish is crisp with a lasting hop flavor that keeps you coming back for more. At first I was a little thrown off by this beer, it isn’t what I expected from a Bissell Brothers beer, but after getting over the initial surprise I really enjoyed Pine Tree Agronomics. Great to have some Bissell Brothers beer in the fridge and I hope to make another stop when I am in Maine in November. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Bissell Brothers Reviews:

Bissell Brothers Seed, Bissell Brothers The Substance

 

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Old Planters Crop Rotation IPA

I typically keep a solid list of beers that I’ve heard good things about but haven’t had a chance to try. For a while I kept a physical list (or at least a memo stored on my phone) but I’ve gotten away from that and now I  try to set aside a small piece of my already overworked brain for the task. Fortunately I frequent bottle shops that specialize in quality beer, so a quick walk around the store can usually jog my memory. One beer that I finally found on a recent stock up run was Crop Rotation IPA from Old Planters Brewing Company out of Beverly, MA. Old Planters was started by a couple of Beverly natives and named after the first settlers in the town. The beer was initially brewed out of the cellar in one of the founder’s homes, but due to increased demand they now contract brew at Ipswich. One of their most popular beers is Crop Rotation IPA, a modern hop-forward take on the style brewed with a rotating selection of hops. Old Planters Hop Rotation IPA is available year round on draft and now in 16 oz. tallboy cans.

Old Planters Crop RotationOld Planters Crop Rotation IPA pours hazy light yellow with a small white head. The scent is a big burst of fruity hops, loads of tropical and citrus fruit. The flavor is extremely hop forward, notes of mango, tangerine, grapefruit and papaya along with a crisp bitter bite. A mid malt backbone rounds out the beer, hints of whte bread and cereal. Crop Rotation is medium bodied and drinks easy, and at 5.6% ABV it is on the light side for a modern IPA. The finish is crisp and clean with some lingering hop flavor and bite. This is a really nice IPA, has the fruit forward flavor that has made the NEIPA style so popular along with enough bitterness to keep it from being straight juice. Definitely worth a shot for all of the hop heads out there. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Two Roads Ok2berfest

When you mention fall seasonals there are usually two styles that come to the forefront, pumpkin beers and marzen/oktoberfests. I am normally not a huge fan of pumpkin beers, although I did a blind tasting hosted by the Mass Brew Brothers last weekend and actually found more than a few that I enjoyed. On the other hand I’ve always enjoyed the marzen style, Sam Adams Octoberfest was one of the beers that facilitated my conversion to craft beer and I’ve never lost a taste for the style. I’m glad that American brewers have mostly stuck to the style guidelines with Oktoberfests, I’m actually a little shocked that some brewers haven’t tried to brew a version of  the style loaded with hops and still try and pass it off as a marzen. One Oktoberfest that I’ve heard good things about but hadn’t sampled myself is Ok2berfest by Two Roads Brewing Company. They release this traditional take on the German lager in the late summer every year, it is available on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans, perfect for filling up a drinking stein.

Two Roads Ok2berfestTwo Roads Ok2berfest pours deep orange with a small white head. The aroma is rich with toasted malts. The flavor has the full malt flavor that fits the style, notes of caramel, toasted bread and honey along with just a hint of sweetness. This is balanced by a little late hop flavor, herbal and earthy. Ok2berfest is medium bodied and drinks smooth, not too boozy at 5.8% ABV. The finish is clean with some lingering malt flavor. This is a really nice Oktoberfest, a perfect beer for the cooler fall temperatures. Prost! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Two Roads Reviews:

Two Roads/Evil Twin Geyser Gose, Two Roads Rye 95Two Roads Route of All EvilTwo Roads Workers Comp Saison

 

Idle Hands Brocktoberfest

I know that the true German Oktoberfest celebration occurs in September, but in my opinion right now is peak time for fall beers. I’ve cleared most of the summer beers out of my beer fridge and stocked up on some darker and maltier styles. One new-to-me beer that I grabbed was Brocktoberfest, a marzen from Idle Hands Brewery. Idle Hands has had an interesting evolution, first they focused on Belgian inspired styles, then they brewed a number of German lagers, and now they have a mix of the two along with a variety of modern American beers. They were also forced to move out of their original brewery in Everett, but it led to the construction of a beautiful new taproom in Malden. Idle Hands has been killing it recently, putting out a number of delicious beers over a very wide range of styles. I was happy to see some tallboy cans of Brocktoberfest on store shelves, it is available as Idle Hands fall seasonal.

Idle Hands BrocktoberfestIdle Hands Brocktoberfest pours bright copper with a small white head. The aroma is mild, just a bit of toasted malt. The flavor is malt forward, notes of bread crust roasted nuts and honey. There is plenty of malt flavor but the beer avoids the cloying sweetness that is present in too many American marzens. A bit of floral and grassy hop flavor adds balance. Brocktoberfest is on the light side for the style, refreshingly drinkable and not too boozy at 5.6% ABV. The finish is clean with minimal aftertaste. This is a really nice marzen, it delivers the big malt flavors you expect in the style while keeping the beer light and easy to drink. Grab a big mug and toast the season with this (Br)Oktoberfest! Hoppy Boston  score: 4.25/5.

Previous Idle Hands Reviews:

Idle Hands Proeme, Idle Hands Thing 1, Idle Hands HeideIdle Hands Riding ShotgunIdle Hands Adelais, Idle Hands D’aisonIdle Hands Triplication

 

Mayflower Hometown Brown

My opinions of brown ales has come full circle. When I first started drinking craft beers the smooth, slightly sweet and approachable brown ales were one of the first styles I gravitated to. As my tastes evolved and bold, hop-bomb IPAs became new beers of choice I dismissed brown ales as one-note. I’ve come back around recently, while they still are not my favorite style well crafted brown ales combine rich malty flavors with easy drinkability, making them perfect beers for the fall. This time of year I usually get hoppy beer burnout and focus a good portion of my drinking on more malt forward styles anyways. Mayflower Brewing Company clearly agrees with my idea of drinking brown ales in the fall, their fall seasonal is Hometown Brown. I guess it’s also fitting to drink a Massachusetts beer named “hometown” on a day when three of our local sports teams have important games. Mayflower Hometown Brown is brewed with 6 types of malted barley and is available August through November on draft and in 12 oz. cans.

Mayflower Hometown BrownMayflower Hometown Brown pours cola brown with a small off-white head. The scent is all rich toasted malt. The flavor is also malt forward, notes of caramel, bread dough and cocoa. There is a touch of late hop flavor, earthy and just enough bitterness to keep the sweetness in check without being assertive. Hometown Brown is medium bodied and smooth, not too boozy 5% ABV. The finish is clean with a little lingering malt flavor. This is a really well crafted and delicious brown ale, I’ll put a few of these back this fall. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Mayflower Reviews:

Mayflower Alden, Mayflower Standish, Mayflower Daily RationMayflower SquantoMayflower PorterMayflower Scotch AleMayflower Spring Hop, Mayflower Oatmeal Stout

 

Bog Iron Drawing a Blank and Fancy French Name

Life is crazy between work and family stuff, so I don’t make as many trips to breweries as I used to. There are a few exceptions, local places that I can sneak into while I’m running other errands or bring the family to for a meal, and the places I stop in Maine of trips North. Unfortunately there are a number of places in Massachusetts that I still haven’t visited, and even more that I’ve been to but it’s been way too long. One place that lingered on that last list for far too long is Bog Iron Brewing in Norton. I’ve always enjoyed Bog Iron’s beers, and they are hard to find outside of the brewery, but I hadn’t made the trip in a while. Recently I had a rare Saturday late morning/early afternoon to myself, so I took the trip to Norton, sampled a flight and bought a wide selection of bottles to take home. Along with some classics (like Middle Child, one of my all time favorite DIPAs), I grabbed a few new-to-me beers. Drawing a Blank is a new school pale ale with fruity hop flavors that was my favorite beer from the tasting flight. Fancy French Name is a saison aged in French Oak Chardonnay barrels with Brettanomyces. All of Bog Iron’s beers are now available on draft and in 16 oz. bottles at the brewery.

Bog Iron Drawing a BlankBog Iron Drawing a Blank pours straw yellow with a small white head. The scent is a big burst of hops, tons of citrus and tropical fruit. The hops dominate the flavor, notes of grapefruit, tangerine, papaya and a little pine along with a crisp bitter bite. This is complemented by a mild malt backbone, hints of bread crust and cereal. Drawing a Blank is light bodied and super easy to drink, with moderate alcohol at 6.0% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor and bite. I love American pale ales that combine big hop flavor and aroma with smooth drinkability and this beer hits all of those boxes. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Bog Iron Fancy Frech NameBog Iron Fancy French Name pours deep yellow with a small white head. The scent is a mixture of white wine and fruity yeast. The yeast leads the flavor with notes of apricot, pear and funk along with just a touch of acidity. The barrel aging melds perfectly with the flavors imparted by the fermentation, hints of white grape, oak and apple. A touch of light malt and a minimal amount of hop flavor round out the profile. Fancy French Name is light bodied, super easy to drink but it packs a solid punch at 7.5% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering fruit and yeast flavors. This beer is crazy good, complex with big flavors that all work together, you taste something new with each sip. Highly recommended. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Bog Iron Reviews:

Bog Iron Devil’s FootprintBog Iron Jump Back, Bog Iron Ryezing Son, Bog Iron Middle ChildBog Iron Stinger IPABog Iron One Down Robust Porter

Random Beer Thoughts: September 2017

Here are my links and thought for September. I spent the last few weeks writing a ~200 page patent at work (and some nights and weekends), so I wasn’t as diligent as I would have liked collecting articles, but I still have a pretty nice selection. As always, feel free to send along anything that you feel should be included in my monthly summary!

The Mass Brew Brothers have teamed up with the Massachusetts Brewers Guild to launch a new Massachusetts Beer Trail App. I downloaded the app and it looks beautiful, is very user friendly, and has a ton of info. Unfortunately the first brewery I visited post-download I forgot to check in, it will take some time to make that a habit.

The biggest local beer story has been the legal battle between breweries and distributors about Massachusetts franchise laws. One of the best summaries I’ve seen was written by a law group, who can clearly explain the issue much better than I can. Needless to say, I side heavily with the breweries on this issue. It is crazy that a brewery can’t end a relationship with a distributor that is doing a poor job or doing unethical things.

Devil's Purse Skywave

Until this resolves (and even afterwards) I imagine many local breweries will sign on with some of the craft-centric distributors that have popped up in the state. Devil’s Purse brewery has signed on with Night Shift distributors, we should see their beers statewide soon.

AB-InBev has stated that they are no longer focusing on acquisitions, they are going to grow the brands they have already acquired. This isn’t surprising, they can only buy so many breweries before they are just competing with themselves for the same subset of customers.

Treehouse Julius

Norm Miller has an article on TreeHouse’s expansion and their continued work to try and meet the crazy demand for their beers. I haven’t been out to TreeHouse in a while, the long drive and long lines for a limited number of cans (and no guarantees there will be any left) has deterred me. I’ve heard the new brewery makes the lines move quickly and there is usually a good amount of beer available, so I might have to make the trip again soon.

Zack from Raising the Barstool recounts his experience at Trillium’s Zwanze Day celebration. I don’t get to many beer events these days, family comes first, but this event is at the top of my short list.

Hop Culture has a profile on Earth Eagle Brewing, the New Hampshire brewery that specializes in gruit, an ancient style that uses herbs and spices instead of hops.

Lord Hobo is continuing to expand at a rapid pace and introduce their product in more markets. This is an interesting strategy, when many regional breweries are feeling the squeeze between the big beer acquisitions and hyper local small breweries. Lord Hobo also seems to be focusing on a few core beers when many other breweries are constantly rotating to meet the demand for novelty. It will be interesting to see how this turns out for them.

Exhibit A Demo Tape 11 Side B

Eater Boston has an article on Exhibit A Brewing Company, a brewery that has quickly built a strong reputation amongst local drinkers.

The new owners of Geary’s are trying to balance the brand’s classic beers with a number of new releases. I think this is a really good idea, I am a fan of a number of the classics but the brand needs some excitement and novelty moving forward.

Boston.com polled some local beer experts on their favorite local fall beers. Tons of good choices here (and a few that I need to try myself).

Food and Wine has a list of the best American Octoberfest beers which includes a couple of local favorites.

The Bangor Daily News details a Maine business that acquires used wine and spirit barrels to re-sell to breweries for barrel aged beers.

Paste Magazine wrote a brief drinker’s guide to Boston. This is a nice starting point if you’ve never been to the city, but it could have easily been expanded.

Percival Brewing opens it’s Norwood taproom today.

Two new breweries opened in Amesbury this month, BareWolf and Brewery Silvaticus. I wonder if they planned their openings to coincide, otherwise that is a pretty crazy coincidence.

I have no idea if this means anything or what methodology was used, but Hoppy Boston was named to ShoutAbout’s top 70 beer blogs. Regardless of how you feel about this type of listicle, it was pretty cool to be on the list with a number of blogs that I read regularly and enjoy.