Brewmaster Jack Art and Industry

I was having an interesting discussion recently about beers in Massachusetts. While the IPA style is king in non-macro circles everywhere, there seems to be a very specific IPA that people in this area covet. This beer is a version of the New England IPA with lower bitterness, a citrus/tropical fruit profile, and availability in cans. I realize that the beer I just described is the most popular variety nationwide, but it seems impossible for a beer of any other style to generate buzz in Mass. While I love these IPAs I also love a variety of other beer styles and would like to see more appreciation for breweries that excel in making a diverse array of beers. I also understand that brewing is a business and you need to cater to your customers. This is why I wasn’t surprised when Brewmaster Jack, who makes a wide variety of well crafted beers, released a new NE-style IPA in 16 oz. cans (their first beer packaged this way). This new beer is called Art and Industry, an IPA brewed with Galaxy and Mosaic hops along with pineapple juice. It is available on a rotating basis on draft and in the aforementioned tallboy cans.

brewmaster-jack-art-and-industryBrewmaster Jack Art and Industry pours a hazy copper with a moderate white head. The scent is all hops, citrus and tropical fruit. The flavor is also very hop forward, notes of orange, lime and mango along with the soft bitterness that has characterized many New England style IPAs. The pineapple flavor is present and melds well with the hops, if I tasted it blind I would have assumed it was a particularly fruit-forward hop blend. Mild malt flavors add some balance, hints of crackers and honey. Art and Industry is medium bodied and very easy to drink, but packs a little punch at 7.0% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with some lingering fruity hop flavors. This is an excellent version of a New England/East Coast IPA, tons of flavor and drinkability. Plus the added bonus where you don’t have to wait in line for an hour to buy it! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Brewmaster Jack Reviews:

Brewmaster Jack Tennessee Prinse, Brewmaster Jack Jan, Brewmaster Jack AmbrewsiaBrewmaster Jack Huell MelonBrewmaster Jack Motueka, Brewmaster Jack Aquila

Allagash Hibernal Fluxus 2016

Allagash Brewing Company might be the best brewery when it comes to special occasion beers. Don’t get me wrong, their year-round regular releases are stellar, but you don’t get a full appreciation for Allagash until you start tasting their limited release bottles. I call these beers “special occasion beers” because while I would love to drink these beers all the time, they tend to be on the pricy side, and while they are well worth the expense it isn’t always feasible. These special releases include many beers that are spontaneuosly-fermented, funky and/or sour, and infused with fruit or other adjunct ingredients. One of their yearly releases is Fluxus, brewed with a different recipe every summer to celebrate the first beer that Allagash sold in 1995. For the first time in 2016 Allagash brewed a second version of Fluxus in the winter, called Hibernal Fluxus. Allagash Hibernal Fluxus 2016 is a Belgian style stout brewed with figs. A portion of the proceeds go to Window Dressers, a group that helps underprivileged Maine family reduce their heating costs in the winter. Hibernal Fluxus 2016 is available for a limited time on draft and in 750 mL bottles.

Allagash Hibernal Fluxus.jpgAllagash Hibernal Fluxus 2016 pours deep brown with a solid mocha head. The scent is a mixture of expressive Belgian yeast and roasted malts. The malt leads the flavor, notes of chocolate, raisin and coffee. This is complemented by plenty of flavor from the fermentation, hints of pear, clove and apricot. The figs add some complexity but are mild, I don’t know that I would have specifically identified them without reading the bottle. Hibernal Fluxus is a full bodied sipper, and packs a little punch at 8% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering sweet malt and yeasty esters. This beer is worthy of a special occasion, and perfect for sipping on a cold winter night, grab some before it’s gone! Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Allagash Reviews:

Allagash Sixteen CountiesAllagash TiarnaAllagash Confluence 2015Allagash CurieuxAllagash White, Allagash DubbelAllagash/Maine Beer/Rising Tide Prince TuesdayAllagash Saison, Allagash Black

Sam Adams Hopscape and Fresh As Helles

Sam Adams (and other larger craft brands) are in an interesting place in the evolving beer culture, trying to balance the needs of their regular customers with the fickle tastes of beer geeks. Many of these beer geeks got their start drinking Boston Lager and Sam seasonals, but some shy away from the brand now, and the increased competition in the market has hurt Boston Beer Company’s bottom line. It will be interesting to see how they adapt, I would love to see them brew fewer regular releases and then start a line of experimental/one-off brews to flex their creativity and excite the beer geeks. One of the core parts of the Sam Adams lineup has always been their seasonal beers, Summer Ale, Octoberfest and Winter Lager have represented their respective seasons for as long as I can remember. The one seasonal that has been through many iterations is the spring, they have tinkered with a number of options without settling on one. This spring Sam Adams is doing something slightly different, they are going to have two seasonal beers. In January and February you can try Hopscape, a hoppy wheat beer, while Fresh As Helles, a Helles lager brewed with orange blossom, will be available in March and April. They were kind enough to send me some samples of both, they will be sold on draft and in 12 oz. bottles

sam-adams-hopscapeSam Adams Hopscape pours a hazy straw gold with a minimal white head. The scent is mild, some citrus and pine from the hops. You also get some hops in the flavor but not as much as I expected, notes of grass, lemon and resin along with a crisp bitterness. This is balanced by some malt flavor, hints of wheat bread and cereal. Hopscape is light bodied, very easy to drink and not too boozy at 5.5% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with just a touch of hops lingering on the tongue. I like the idea behind Hopscape, wheat beers can mix very well with New World hops, but I really would have liked more hop flavor and aroma. Hoppy Boston score: 3.75/5.

sam-adams-fresh-as-hellesSam Adams Fresh As Helles pours a clear bright orange with a solid white head. The scent is a mixture of bready malts and floral hops. The flavor is well balanced with a clean lager drinkability. The malts add touches of biscuits, crackers and bread dough. This is complemented by a solid hit of noble hops, hints of cut grass and herbs along with a crisp bite in the finish. I don’t get much orange blossom flavor, I wouldn’t have picked out the ingredient if it wasn’t on the label. Fresh As Helles has the clean finish you expect from a lager, and at 5.4% ABV you can put down a few. These precise and flavorful lagers are a specialty for Sam Adams, many of their best beers fall into this category, and I’ll definitely enjoy a few of these as winter turns into spring. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Sam Adams Reviews:

Sam Adams Rebel RawSam Adams Rebel RouserSam Adams Double Bock, Sam Adams Cold Snap, Sam Adams Octoberfest

Maine Beer Company Beer V

I am way behind in my beer reviews, first there was the CBC blacklist issue, then end of the year posts and the holidays, and all of a sudden it’s 2017 and I have some beers from November that I still need to review (I’ve already drank these beers and took notes, no worries that I am reviewing old beer). I’ll try to get caught up over the next few weeks and then get some porter and stout reviews up while it’s still brutally cold. Part of our Thanksgiving tradition has been a stop at Gritty McDuff’s in Freeport Maine for lunch on the way to my parents, and then a trip right down the street to grab some beer at Maine Beer Company. In addition to favorites like Lunch, Another One, Mo and King Titus I usually try to grab whatever is new. This isn’t usually much, while some breweries release new beers every month Maine Beer Company tends to focus on their core brews. One exception is the Hop Program series, where they design a beer to showcase an interesting blend of hops. I think the initial idea was for these beers to be one-off brews, but many of the popular versions have been re-released. The most recent release in the hop program is a first for Maine Beer (I think), Beer V is a hoppy lager brewed with a mixture of German, American and New Zealand hops. It is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 500 mL bottles.

mbc-beer-vMaine Beer Company Beer V pours a clear straw yellow with a small white head. The scent is mildly hoppy, mostly floral and earthy. The hops are stronger in the flavor, notes of grass, herbs and lime along with a crisp bitterness. This is balanced by a light malt body, touches of crackers, white bread and hay. Beer V is light and refreshing with reasonably low alcohol at 5.2% ABV. It has the distinct crisp and clean lager finish with just a hint of lingering hop flavor. Beer V is very different from most of the other hoppy beers that Maine Beer Company brews, mixing in the old world hops, but it’s still very tasty. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Maine Beer Co. Reviews:

Maine Beer Co. Thank YouMaine Beer Co. MoMaine Beer Co. Mean Old TomMaine Beer Co. A Tiny Beautiful Something, Maine Beer Co. Beer II, BREWERY OVERVIEW: Maine Beer Co., Maine Beer Co. King TitusMaine Beer Co. Lunch, Maine Beer Co. Another One, Maine Beer Co./Allagash/In’finiti 2013 Ale, Maine Beer Co. Peeper

Best of Hoppy Boston 2016

Now that the calendar has turned to 2017 I thought it would be fun to do a recap of some of my favorite and/or most popular articles of the year, along with a rundown of some of the best beers I reviewed this year. It was a crazy year personally with buying a house, changing jobs and moving to the suburbs, I even needed to take a month-long hiatus from the blog, but I am still having a blast writing about local beer and chatting with other beer enthusiasts. Here are a few of the top posts from 2016:

The most read non-review article of 2016 was Hoppy Boston’s House Beers, a list of the beers I try to keep in my fridge at all times. I love this concept, it’s fun to try new things but I try to keep a seasonally relevant stash of staple beers on hand too.

A close runner up was my thoughts on the Craft Beer Cellar Blacklist. This was one of the biggest local beer stories this year, and more details continue to come out.

Close behind, and one of the most bittersweet articles I wrote, was my Definitive Ranking of Pretty Things Beers. I really miss this brewery and it was fun to do an overview of their beers, even though I wrote it knowing I wouldn’t enjoy many of them again.

Bog Iron Devil's FootprintThe most read beer review of the year was Bog Iron Devil’s Footprint, their braggot aged in Mezcal barrels. In addition to being a unique beer, this was the first beer that Bog Iron bottled, so there was clearly a lot of interest.

I drank and reviewed a number of amazing beers this year, but a few of my favorites (in no particular order include:

Trillium Melcher StMy two favorite beers from Trillium (at least of their hop forward releases) are Fort Point Pale Ale and Melcher Street IPA.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a beer from Notch Brewing that I didn’t like, but my new favorite is Infinite Jest, a sessionable hoppy wheat beer. If you haven’t visited the new taproom in Salem you really need to make the trip.

Brewmaster Jack Tennessee PrinseI love seeing more variety in barrel aged beers, beyond the ubiquitous bourbon-barrel aged imperial stouts. Two great examples are the Barrel Aged Farmhouse Pale Ale from Oxbow Brewing and Tennessee Prinse, a quadruple aged in Tennessee whiskey barrels from Brewmaster Jack.

medusa-black-ale-projectA few classic beers made the list, like Berkshire Brewing Oktoberfest and Maine Beer Company Mo. There were also a couple amazing new releases (both brewed to benefit charitable causes) that I hope aren’t one-off releases, like Medusa Brewing Black Ale Project and Ipswich Riverbend Pils.

I’m sure I missed a few, but these were all delicious beers that are highly recommended.

Looking ahead to 2017, I am planning to keep plugging away with a combination of beer reviews, news and opinion pieces on everything happening in local beer. I started writing a monthly random thoughts/links article in September that I will definitely keep up with, it’s fun to write and people seem to enjoy it (you can find them all HERE). You might have also noticed that my focus has moved almost entirely to New England beers, a trend that will continue. I realize that there are amazing beers brewed all over the country, and that local doesn’t mean great, but it is hard to keep pace with just the new breweries and beers being produced locally (and impossible nationally). My goal for this blog was to identify top notch local beers, especially one’s that are readily available, and that will continue to be my mission.

Thank you all for reading, Happy New Years, and feel free to provide any feedback/suggestions here or on social media. Just a quick reminder that you can follow Hoppy Boston on Twitter (@HoppyBoston), Facebook (facebook.com/hoppyboston) and now on Instagram (HoppyBoston). Cheers!

Lamplighter Blitzen

Merry Christmas (a day late) and Happy Holidays! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend celebrating with friends and family, and that it included a number of delicious beers. I am enjoying a large variety of styles over the holidays, from hop-bomb IPAs to malty stouts and barleywines. In my opinion you don’t need a specific style for the holiday season, anything delicious will do. There are a number of breweries that make holiday themed beers, and to be honest there aren’t many that I enjoy on a regular basis. Many of them are heavily spiced, which is never something I’ve enjoyed. Belgian style holiday ales are an exception, the dark malts and expressive yeast flavors can hold up to adjunct additions resulting in complex and flavorful beers that work well with the holiday season. One Belgian style holiday ale that I sampled for the first time this weekend was Blitzen, a Belgian strong dark ale from Lamplighter Brewing Company in Cambridge. Blitzen is available for a limited time at the brewery for samples, drafts and growler fills.

lamplighter-blitzenLamplighter Blitzen pours a deep reddish brown with a moderate cream colored head. The scent is a mixture of dark fruit from the malts and esters from the yeast. The yeast leads the flavor, notes of pear, clove and nutmeg. This is complemented by plenty of malt flavor, touches of date, plum, toffee and bread dough. There are minimal hops, just a touch at the end to keep the sweetness from the malt in check. Blitzen is a full bodied sipper, but goes down pretty easy for a beer with 8.8% ABV. The finish is dry with some fruity yeast and malt sweetness lingering on the tongue. I really enjoyed Lamplighter Blitzen, it is the perfect style of beer to celebrate the holidays with! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Lamplighter Reviews:

Lamplighter Lucid Nonsense and Easy Tiger

Random Beer Thoughts: December 2016

There have been a couple more important articles released since I published my thoughts on the Craft Beer Cellar Blacklist (if you are sick of talking/reading/thinking about this topic I understand, feel free to skip ahead, but there is clearly a lot of interest).

BostInno published an in depth and very well researched article with thoughts from the owners of CBC, the owners of some of the franchises who are unhappy with these new regulations, and the brewers affected the most by the leaked memo. Author Alex Weaver has told me that the information that has been released so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

Craft Beer Cellar published an update on the topic on their blog. This addresses some of the criticisms, and acknowledges the fact that some of their franchisees are unhappy with the changes. One thing they don’t address is who is involved in making these lists. I think that is the biggest issue, the franchise owners want a say in what beers they carry. I like that the list is constantly adapting, but I can’t imagine how any person can stay on top of every shift in the fluid local and national markets. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out and how this effects their business going forward.

Julia Herz wrote a great column on Embracing Diversity in the Beer Biz, and Brain Roth did a follow-up interview for his blog. It is amazing how much sexism still exists in the industry and I think we can all play a roll in fighting it. First, don’t buy beer from breweries that have flagrantly sexist/misogynist beer names or label art. Second, if you see someone doing/saying something inappropriate then speak up. I believe these issues are due to a relatively small group of jackasses, but one sexist comment is one-too-many.

Norm “The Beer Nut” Miller handed out his year end awards, dubbed The Golden Nutties, which is always a must-read article. One point I especially agreed with was naming Mystic Brewery the most underrated local brewery. This led to an extensive discussion on twitter amongst people who love Mystic beer and don’t understand why it hasn’t developed the crazy followings that many other local breweries seem to recieve. It is unfortunate that a brewery needs to make hop-bombs in tallboy cans in order to generate local buzz.

I would love to see Mystic follow the Allagash model, start distributing a few of their flagships in 12 oz. 4-packs (the large format only brands are in for a tough ride), and then focus their efforts on special release Belgian/wild/barrel aged styles. The Mystic brewers are as good as anyone at coaxing amazing flavors out of expressive yeast strains and building delicious beers to complement these flavors, and I think demand for these types of beers is going to rise as people move past the all-hops-all-the-time mentality.

Links:

BostInno did an enlightening interview with Castle Island co-founder Adam Romanow discussing what it’s really like to run a small brewery.

The Mass Brew Bros did an extensive overview of the year in Massachusetts beer. It has been an exciting year in the state and it looks like more great things will come in 2017!

-Speaking of 2017, Brewstuds has an article looking forward to the upcoming year in Massachusetts beer.

-The crew behind Jack’s Abby has officially opened their Springdale Barrel Room, featuring a number of beers that fall outside the typical Jack’s Abby offerings (namely plenty of ales). This has immediately jumped to the top of my must-visit list.

-The Gardner Ale House will begin distributing it’s beer soon. My wife and I got married in Gardner and have great memories of this brewpub from the many trips to the area before the ceremony.

-Jeppe from Evil Twin did a series of memes poking fun at a beer reviewer on Untappd who trashed his beer for having diacetyl, but didn’t know how to spell “diacetyl”. Someone of twitter accused him of being a bully for this, but I think it is well within his right to poke fun at anyone who publically trashes his product online.

-Trillium has tentative plans to set up an estate brewery in North Stonington, CT.

-The Massachusetts senate has approved a bill that would allow farmer-brewers and distillers to sell their products at farmers markets.