Thoughts on Sam Adams and the Red Sox

The big news in local (and probably national) beer today was that Sam Adams has signed a deal to be the official beer of the Boston Red Sox, replacing AB-InBev and their flagship beer Budweiser. This makes Sam Adams the first craft brewery to be the official beer of a major professional sports team, although many other regional breweries have a significant relationship with their local teams. The right field roof deck at Fenway is changing it’s Budweiser sign to a Sam Adams sign, and the beer will be available throughout the park. Here is Sam Adams official release, and a great summary of the deal from BrewBound. I have a few quick thought on the deal myself:

Fenway

I love going to games and concerts at Fenway, but the beer selection has typically been terrible. It has been getting a little better over the last few years, and hopefully this is a big step in the right direction. Hopefully some of the Bud and Goose Island kiosks are now pouring Sam Adams. I also hope they offer a variety of beer styles, I’ll be disappointed if every tap is Boston Lager and Summer Ale. This seems like a great venue for Noble Pils and Rebel IPA, solid beers that would be an upgrade over many that are offered at the park.

Sam Adams 26.2

That being said, I would be really disappointed if Sam Adams uses this influence to push other craft breweries out of Fenway. I’ve recently enjoyed selections from Harpoon, Smuttynose, Wachusett and Jack’s Abby at Fenway and I’ve seen some other local options. There is no way the Red Sox are completely booting Bud, Miller and Coors, so they should keep the other craft options around too.

I hope this represents a change in strategy for the Sam Adams brand. They have had a well documented decline in sales, and have been trying many things to make up for the lost revenue. Instead of trying to win back the hardcore beer geeks Sam Adams should be courting marco drinkers, especially the people who enjoy the “crafty” offerings from big beer. The people waiting in line at Tree House every weekend aren’t going to buy Sam Adams mix packs instead, but macro beer still controls a major share of the market and Sam Adams can potentially sell them on a more flavorful option.

It is interesting that after so many years focusing on it’s national brand Sam Adams has focused on reestablishing it’s roots in Boston. First they finally opened a full service taproom in the city and now they are spending a significant sum of money to establish a major presence in one of the most iconic locations in the city. With craft beer becoming more and more focused on local brands, so it is interesting to see Sam Adams finally invest in Boston as their hometown. I am not sure how much of a dent these changes will make in the bottom line, but I think the taproom will be a success and they will sell plenty of beer at the park.

What do you all think of Sam Adams setting up a marketing deal with the Sox? How does this effect your attitude towards the brand going forward? Are you going to drink some Sam as you watch the Sox this summer? Let me know here or on social media!

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Beer’d Hobbit Juice and Dogs & Boats

We are well into December and I promise that I will get into some dark and malty beer reviews soon, but I still have a bit of a back-log to clean out from the fall. My friends Tim and Amanda spent a good chunk of their free time this fall seeking out new-to-them breweries (these are the type of things you can do when you don’t have kids). When I saw Tim on our November guys weekend he passed along a selection of beers that they found in their travels and thought I would like to try. A few of these beers were from Beer’d Brewing in Stonington, CT. I actually lived in Southeastern Connecticut while I completed my post-doc (5-6 years ago), and it was a craft beer dead-zone at the time, very little quality local beer available. Now, like many parts of the country, it has a booming beer scene led by Beer’d, a brewery that is starting to build some buzz regionally. Two of the beers that my friends brought were DIPAs, Hobbit Juice which is brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops and Dogs and Boats which is hopped with Citra and Mosaic. Both beers are available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz cans.

Beerd Hobbit JuiceBeer’d Hobbit Juice pours slightly hazy light yellow with a solid white head. The scent is a mixture of floral and juicy hops. The flavor is also very hop forward, notes of white grape, pear, apple and grass along with a little bitter bite. The hop flavor is balanced by a bit of malt, touches of cereal and honey. Hobbit Juice is medium bodied and drinks incredibly easy for a beer with 9.2% ABV, there is no boozy flavor or burn. The finish is crisp and clean with some lingering hop flavor. This is a really solid DIPA, Nelson Sauvin beers can be a little hit or miss for me, but I enjoyed this one. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Beerd Dogs and BoatsBeer’d Dogs and Boats pours somewhat hazy light orange with a large white head. There is a solid hit of fruity hops on the nose. These hops lead the flavor too, notes of grapefruit, mango, peach and papaya along with noticeable bitterness. This beer has plenty of fruity flavors and aromas but isn’t a straight juice-bomb. The malt flavor adds some balance along with hints of crackers and bread crust. Dogs and Boats is medium bodied and dangerously drinkable for 9.1% ABV. Beer’d is clearly proficient at brewing big DIPAs that drink like much lighter beers. The finish is crisp and full flavored with plenty of lingering hops. This is another very good DIPA, worth seeking out for all of the local hop-heads. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Tree House Tornado

If you look at any list of the most popular or sought-out breweries in Massachusetts I bet you’ll find Tree House Brewing Company near the top, but my trips out to the brewery in Monson or now Charlton have been pretty rare. It has nothing to do with their beer, I have never had a bad beer from Tree House and the vast majority of their beers I’ve had a chance to try have been world class. The issues I’ve had are with everything else that goes into a trip to Tree House, it’s a long drive round-trip and it’s hard to find the time and energy to deal with the long lines and can limits. The popularity of the brewery also attracts a subculture of people that care more about the trophy than the beer, it’s only a small percentage but they can be a hassle. Fortunately everything I’ve heard about the new brewery has been positive, the lines are still there but they move quickly and the increased production means you can buy much more beer in a stop. While the issues with the trophy hunting/beer trading subculture probably aren’t going anywhere, it’s probably time to make the trip out to the new facility. Fortunately, one of the perks of writing a beer blog is that my friends keep me in mind when they visit breweries, especially those that are a little out of the way for me. My friends Tim and Amanda made a recent stop at Tree House and picked me up a few treats. One of the beers they grabbed was new to me, Tornado, an American pale ale originally brewed after the 2011 Brimfield tornado. Tree House Tornado is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz cans at the brewery.

Tree House TornadoTree House Tornado pours hazy light yellow with a solid white head. The scent features a solid hit of hops, juicy and a little floral. The hops lead the flavor, notes of orange candy, mango, peach and pear with minimal bitterness. There is a little malt flavor in the backbone, touches of biscuit and crackers. Tornado is medium bodied, drinks very easy, and at 5.4% ABV it won’t put you under the table. The finish is crisp and refreshing with some lingering hop flavor that keeps you coming back for more. This is a very good New England style American pale ale, it’s nice to have more beers in the sub-style that feature the juicy hop flavors without the bigger ABVs. I’ve still never had a sub-par beer from Tree House, and with their expanded production I need to make a trip out to Charlton very soon. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Tree House Reviews:

Tree House Julius, Tree House Alter EgoTree House Haze

 

Hoppy Boston Best Beers- Fall 2017

As I entered the fall I was a little burned out on hoppy beers and excited to mix in a bunch of malt-forward options. I was somewhat successful in the beers I drank, but local breweries decided to release a string of amazing IPAs this fall, and they ended up dominating my reviews. As a result, four of my five beers favorites of the fall are IPAs. I am going to change course this winter, I am planning on stocking up on porters, stouts, quads and other bold malty beers. If my favorite beers of the winter look anything like this list please feel free to call me out on it. As always, every beer listed has been added to my personal beer-review Hall of Fame, the Hoppy Boston My Favorite Beers list. Thank you for reading and feel free to pass along any suggestions!

Aeronaut Double Hop Hop

Aeronaut Double Hop Hop: Instead of asking their customers to wait in line for the limited release of their new DIPA Aeronaut sold tickets online, buy a ticket and you can come and grab the beer at your convenience. This strategy is especially helpful because Double Hop Hop is a beer worth waiting in line for. This beer has the easy drinkability of a NEIPA and a fruit-forward flavor and aroma balanced by an array of other hop flavors.

Bog Iron Fancy Frech Name

Bog Iron Fancy French Name: Bog Iron has slowly ramped up their barrel aging program and this beer is a standout. A saison aged in French Oak barrels with Brettanomyces, Fancy French Name has a complex mixture of flavors that all work together, resulting in a delicious beer. If they make another batch of this it is worth the trip to Norton to check it out.

Lone Pine Brightside IPA

Lone Pine Brightside: I firmly believe that Lone Pine is a rising star in the New England beer scene, destined to become a brewery that people seek out. I tried a number of their beers this summer and enjoyed them all. My personal favorite was Brightside, a well crafted hop-bomb IPA that can hold it’s own with the biggest names on the market.

Mystic Voltage

Mystic Voltage: After years focused almost exclusively on saisons and other Belgian styles Mystic branched out into hop-forward beers and the results have been exceptional. Voltage is a crisp and clean New England style IPA with big hop flavors and aromas. I hope they can find a good balance between these impressive hoppy beers and the stellar Belgian beers that are stapes at the brewery.

Idle Hands Six Seam

Idle Hands Six Seam: After years developing a stable of top-notch Belgian style ales and German lagers, Idle Hands added a number of stellar American styles to the lineup. The standout is Six Seam, an incredibly flavorful and smooth New England style DIPA. This is a limited rotational release, I highly recommend checking it out when they brew it again.

Random Beer Thoughts: November 2017

Clown Shoes Mango

The biggest local story this month was probably Harpoon buying out Clown Shoes. Here is the press release from Harpoon and from Clown Shoes. I think it is a good move for both breweries. Harpoon gets some added diversity to their lineup from a recognizable brand, Clown Shoes gets a physical brewery (they were contract brewed before) and the capacity/marketing/distribution advantages that go along with lager breweries. Beervana covers the acquisition and some of the issues that the Clown Shoes brand has faced in the past.

Garrett Oliver, the legendary brewmaster from Brooklyn Brewery, caused a stir when he labeled NEIPA as a fad based on Instagram culture. Good Beer Hunting has a thorough retort to this characterization. I really don’t understand the hatred for this sub-style amongst a relatively small but very outspoken circle of brewers, beer geeks and beer writers. Are there crappy NEIPAs? Sure, there are crappy versions of every beer style. Are a few breweries that make this style completely overhyped? Yes, but nobody is forced to stand in line for beer, you can enjoy an array of delicious NEIPAs without standing in a single line. If you don’t like a beer style then don’t drink it, no need to spend time and energy trashing a style that many people clearly love. Cloudwater Brewing has a blog post that does a great job expressing this point.

It looks like 2017 is setting another record for Massachusetts brewery openings, with very few closings to report. I don’t think there is a bubble in the traditional sense of the term, but I think we’ll start to see a slow down in openings and more places closing over the next few years.

Hop Culture has a very cool profile on the Mass Brew Brothers. These guys are doing an amazing job raising awareness about the great beer being brewed in the state, especially at breweries beyond the small handful that get tons of hype.

night-shift-bennington

Night Shift has maxed out their space, so they are contract brewing some of their beers at Smuttynose in New Hampshire. They have really found a nice balance brewing inventive and delicious beers that are still readily available.

Sam Adams has finally opened a taproom in Boston. I haven’t been but I’ve heard good things. I think this is a key step for them to re-connect with some of the drinkers who have lost interest in the Sam Adams brand over the years.

Trillium Melcher St

After their incredibly successful summer beer garden in Boston, Trillium is opening a winter beer garden in Roslindale.

I’ve mentioned many times that I hate waiting in line for beers, the actually time sink is one part but a bigger issue is the culture that follows these limited beer releases. I buy beer that I enjoy drinking, not beer that I want to brag about on social media or trade (or sell for a profit) online. Issues with the people waiting in these lines have led Monkish Brewing to issue a set of rules for their beer releases. Just reading these rules makes me want to avoid that brewery at all costs.

Allagash Coolship Red

Allagash has a blog post on the process behind their Coolship beers. Beers like this, which take a special level of expertise to really pull off, set Allagash apart.

Kate Bernot has an interesting article on Brett lagers, which sounds like a contradiction, but is actually a great way to showcase the expressive flavors from the funky yeast.

medusa-black-ale-project

Brew Studs has an in depth article on the black ale project, a rotating series of beer releases that support charities involved with veterans issues. This is a great cause and I’ve tasted a number of delicious dark beers brewed as part of the project.

Medium has an interesting idea on ways to make Untappd more social and less about people just plugging beers into the app to win badges. I don’t really use the app, but most of my friends who do just use it as a way to keep track of which beers they enjoyed (or disliked).

Maine has seen an uptick in the number of female brewers. There is still a long way to go, but the addition of more women into important roles in breweries should help fight some issues with sexism that seem to crop up periodically.

Neil Witte has an interesting perspective on the importance of quality control after beer leaves the brewery. It is really important for breweries to work with their distributors to insure that beer on draft and in stores meets the highest standards. There is way too much expired beer on shelves and on draft in bars and restaurants. The point about clean draft lines is also critical, there was a restaurant I used to go to that had horrible issues with their draft lines, their draft beer was nearly undrinkable.

Speaking of quality control, Left Hand is suing White Labs, claiming that contaminated yeast led to a major beer recall. It will be interesting to see if they can prove that the yeast was contaminated when they purchased it (and not during the brewing process), and how much liability falls on White Labs.

As the year winds down there are inevitably a number of “best beers of the year” lists, that I will read because I am a sucker for that kind of thing. Vinepair and Beer and Brewing both have lists out that feature a number of local offerings.

Maine Beer Co Mean Old Tom

Paste Magazines blind tasting series looks at stouts, and New England beers take four of the top ten spots!

True North Ale Company is open in Ipswich.

The 21st Annual Great International Beer, Cider, Mead and Sake Competition was held this month and a number of local breweries took home serious hardware.

That’s it for November, thank you again for reading and, as always, feel free to pass along any great articles you find over the course of the next month!

 

Lamplighter Werewolves of Cambridge and Birds of a Feather

Lamplighter Brewing Company had it’s first birthday this month, and they have been celebrating with a series of special events and beer releases. It is crazy how quickly Lamplighter transitioned from an exciting new brewery in town into one of my go-to local breweries. Most places have a bit of a learning curve in their first year, issues with consistency batch-to-batch or solid beers mixed with some misses. Lamplighter has minimized this, within months of opening they had a stable of quality offerings across an array of styles. It’s reached a point where I almost always try a new Lamplighter release and a few of my favorites have become staples in my beer fridge. A couple good examples (which I hadn’t reviewed yet) are their flagship porter Werewolves of Cambridge and Birds of a Feather, an IPA brewed with Mosaic, Columbus and Citra hops. Both beers are available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz. cans.

Lamplighter Warewolves of CambridgeLamplighter Werewolves of Cambridge pours nearly black with a small tan head. The aroma features some rich roasted malt. These malts lead the flavor, notes of molasses, chocolate and caramel. This is balanced by some mild hops, earthy and grassy with just a hint of bitterness. Werewolves of Cambridge is medium bodied and very smooth, not overly boozy at 6.3% ABV. The beer finishes rich with some lingering roasted malt flavors. This is a really good porter, I will drink quite a few of these over the coming winter months. I’ve also heard rumors of brewery-only variants aged in bourbon and rye barrels, I might need to make a trip to the brewery to check them out. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Lamplighter Birds of a FeatherLamplighter Birds of a Feather pours hazy orange with a solid white head. The scent is a big burst of hops, citrus and tropical fruit. This is a quintessential NEIPA, the fruity hop flavors shine, hints of mango, tangerine, peach and papaya but minimal bitterness. There is some malt flavor for balance, touches of cereal and wheat bread. Birds of a Feather is medium bodied and drinks very easy, not overly boozy at 6.8% ABV. The finish is crisp with substantial lingering hop flavor that keeps you coming back for more. This is another very good beer from Lamplighter, every release is quickly becoming a must-try for me. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Lamplighter Reviews:

Lamplighter WatchmanLamplighter Blitzen, Lamplighter Lucid Nonsense and Easy Tiger

Idles Hands 34 and Six Seam

A couple weeks ago I received a big gift (from myself), official Hoppy Boston glassware. As soon as I decided to give the site a facelift and get a real logo I knew that I needed some logo-glassware and I found a online site that helped me make this dream a reality. I had avoided posting about the glasses on social media  or the blog because I had my yearly guys outing with my college buddies this weekend and I was bringing them all a glass as a gift. I had an Instagram/Twitter post ready with the first beer I drank from the new glasses, Four Seam IPA from Idle Hands, but in my excitement to share this I accidentally used a picture I took with Six Seam DIPA, which I was planning on reviewing today. Thank you for everyone that pointed out the mistake. Anyways, I’ve had a chance to sample a number of the newer additions to the Idle Hands lineup recently. After years making Belgian and then German styles Idle Hands has added a number of popular American beer styles to the lineup. Most of these new beers follow a baseball theme. Included in these newer additions is 34, a porter honoring Red Sox great David Ortiz, and Six Seam, a New England style DIPA. Both beers are available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.

Idle Hands 34Idle Hands 34 pours almost pitch black with a mild tan head. The scent is full of rich roasted malt, just what you want in a porter. The flavor is also very malt forward, touches of cocoa, cappuccino, licorice and caramel and just a little sweetness. There are some earthy and floral hops that add balance and just a touch of bitterness. 34 is full bodied but drinks easy and is moderately boozy at 6.7% ABV. The finish features full malt flavor and a balance of lingering sweetness and crisp bitterness. 34 is a very nice porter, worthy of honoring a Boston sports legend who delivered so many great moments for the city! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Idle Hands Six SeamIdle Hands Six Seam pours murky light orange with a small white head. The aroma is a huge burst of fruity hops, makes you want to dive right in. This is a hop-bomb juicy NEIPA, the hops add notes of grapefruit, pineapple, mango and orange but minimal bitterness. This is complemented by a mild malt backbone, hints of crackers and whole grain bread. Six Seam is medium bodied with a solid mouthfeel and drinks incredibly easy for a beer with 8.2% ABV. The finish is crisp with plenty of lingering hop flavor that keeps you coming back for more. This is a stellar New England style DIPA, I understand why the initial feedback on the beer has been overwhelmingly positive. Definitely worth seeking out the next time it’s released. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Idle Hands Reviews:

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