Backlash Ricochet

Backlash brewing has gone through a number of big changes in the last year plus. Like many brewers they have moved their packaging strategy away from 22 oz. bottles and towards cans. Co-founder Helder Pimentel has been outspoken about the death of large format bottles, customers seem to prefer 4/6/12 packs and breweries that relied on bombers have needed to adapt. The need to change to cans has led Backlash on an odyssey to find a new place to brew, they don’t have their own production facility and many breweries that used to share time with contract brewers have stopped taking on contracts due to increased demand for their own products. You might have noticed a period where Backlash’s flagship beers were hard to find in bottle shops, and this was the reason why. Finally, Backlash abandoned their best selling beer, Belgian style IPA Declaration, in favor of Ricochet, a West Coast style IPA. Ricochet went through a number of draft-only test batches to perfect the recipe, but you can now find it in 4 packs of 16 oz. tallboy cans. It is good to see Backlash beers back on store shelves, and I look forward to seeing what is in store for the brewery next!

Backlash RicochetBacklash Ricochet pours a hazy golden yellow with a substantial off-white head. The scent is solidly hoppy, citrus fruit and resin. The taste is also very hop-forward, notes of grapefruit, pine, tangerine and papaya along with a soft bitterness. There is just enough malt for balance, touches of bread dough and biscuits. Ricochet is light bodied and very easy to drink but packs a little punch at 7.2% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with some lingering hop flavor. I really enjoyed Ricochet, there are so many good IPAs being brewed locally and this holds up to the high standards. I am glad they took their time and got the beer right, local IPA fans should definitely give Backlash Ricochet a shot! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Backlash Reviews:

Backlash MuerteBacklash OathBacklash ConvergenceBacklash Chaos, Backlash Redux

Cambridge Brewing Co. Pearls of Wisdom

I think I mentioned this pre-hiatus, but it’s worth re-visiting. The Mass Brew Brothers have started Mass Beer Mondays, trying to get more drinkers to focus on local offerings. You can join in by using the hashtag #MassBrewMonday on twitter. I try to keep most of my drinking to the weekends, but to stay in the spirit I will be focusing Monday reviews on Massachusetts beers as much as I can. One MA brewery that has been impressing me lately is Cambridge Brewing Company, they have always brewed some great beers but many of their most interesting offerings were brewery-only. Their recent collaboration with Mystic brewery on a joint facility devoted to wild and barrel aged ales has allowed for an expanded capacity, which means more beers available in bottles. A great example is Pearls of Wisdom, a wild blonde ale re-fermented in oak with multiple strains of Brettanomyces and then blended and dry-hopped in stainless steel. I tried Pearls of Wisdom pre-hiatus and didn’t get a chance to write it up, but it was so good I needed to do the review now even if the beer might not be widely available currently.

CBC Pearls of WisdomCambridge Brewing Co. Pearls of Wisdom pours a hazy copper-orange with a solid white head. The scent is a mixture of funky Brett and floral hops. The flavor is complex, but everything works in harmony. There is plenty of hops, notes of mango, white grape, grapefruit and passion fruit. The yeast is also well represented, touches of sour apple, barnyard, peppercorn and apricot. The malts round out the flavor with hints of bread crust and honey. The beer is medium bodied and very easy to drink, not too boozy at 6.3% ABV. The finish is crisp and dry with a combination of hop and yeast flavors lingering on the tongue. I was really excited when Cambridge Brewing Company and Mystic announced their collaboration, and Pearls of Wisdom is the kind of beer I was looking forward to. This beer is really good, I am not sure if it’s still around or if they will be brewing it again, but I highly recommend trying it if you get a chance. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Cambridge Brewing Co. Reviews:

Cambridge Brewing Co. Le SaisonniereCambridge Brewing Co. Hay is for HorsesCambridge Brewing Co. Sgt. PepperCambridge Brewing Company You Enjoy My StoutCambridge Brewing Company Remain in LightCambridge Brewing Company The Audacity of Hops

Hoppy Boston’s Ideal Tap List

I think everyone who enjoys a good drink with good company daydreams about opening their own bar. It is easy to imagine the perks, you control the atmosphere, music, décor, menu and most importantly the drinks. There are also a number of headaches and real world reasons why you wouldn’t want to do it, but it is fun to plan what your bar would look like and what you would serve. Will Gordon recently wrote an article picking the 16 beers he would have on draft at his bar, and I am going to follow suit with my own selections. First, a few ground rules. My bar would be located in Eastern Massachusetts (say, Sudbury), so all of the beers must be available here, no picking Heady Topper, Pliny and Zombie Dust. Obviously my picks will skew local. You also need a range of styles, that bar with 15 different IPAs had better do incredible volume to keep them all fresh. With that in mind, I like the idea of 16 taps, any more any you start to worry about freshness. Here are my selections along with potential backup options, let me know what you think of my list or try to make one of your!

1. Pale Ale: Maine Beer Co. Mo. One of my favorite APAs, tons of hop flavor and just enough balance. Also, when I can get it: Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale. Possibly my favorite beer, but limited availability.

2. IPA: Wormtown Be Hoppy. A stellar American IPA, huge hop aromas and flavors, easy to drink, still packs some punch, don’t need to wait in line to get some. Also in the rotation: Long Trail Limbo. An underrated standout.

3. DIPA: Single Cut Billy Full Stack. One of my only beers from outside of New England, but a worthwhile stretch for this flavorful and surprisingly easy to drink DIPA. Also, when I can get it: Bog Iron Middle Child. Probably not readily available, but I have a feeling that if I opened a bar the guys at Bog Iron would find a way to keep kegs of Middle Child heading my way.

4. Session beer: Notch Infinite Jest. A toss up between Left of the Dial and this beer, I’m giving a slight edge to this easy to drink wheat beer with low alcohol but big bold flavor. Also, stepping away from the Northeast for a minute, Firestone Walker Easy Jack.

5. Rotating seasonal selection: Otter Creek Seasonals. In realty my draft list would probably adjust with the seasons, I imagine pilsners sell better in the summer and imperial stouts sell better in the winter. That being said, I am a big fan of Otter Creek’s new seasonal line-up, and I would definitely reserve a tap line for Citra Mantra, Kind Ryed, Overgrown and Fresh Slice

6. Saison: Allagash Saison. Allagash are the masters of Belgian styles and I would probably be happy devoting half of my taps to their beers, but we’ll stick with their tasty and easy to drink saison. Also on occasion: Boulevard Tank 7. A classic for a reason.

7. Other Belgian style: Idle Hands Triplication. This tap would see heavy rotation of fun Belgian beer styles, but the mainstay would be this boozy but easy to drink take on the tripel from Idle Hands. Also when I can find them, all of the special release beers from Allagash, such as Confluence, Interlude, Farm to Face, etc.

8. Something funky: Kent Falls Field Beer. While I am still getting used to the more assertive sours, I am a big fan of wild ales that have a bit of tartness to complement their other flavors, and this beer from Kent Falls is a great example. Back-up keg: Mystic Flor Z.

9. Big/barrel aged beer: Brewmaster Jack Tennessee Prinse. A quad aged in Tennessee whiskey barrels. Do you need any more convincing? Also in the rotation: Mystic Day of Doom, another big and boozy quad.

10. Porter: Mayflower Porter. This should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog. Probably my favorite porter and one of my favorite local beers. Foolproof Raincloud is another very tasty local porter worth checking out.

11. Coffee beer: Night Shift Awake. Coffee beers have become so popular they are worthy of their own category, and Awake is my personal favorite. Back up keg: BBC Coffeehouse Porter.

12. Imperial stout/Baltic porter: Jack’s Abby Framinghammer. I would mix in the various barrel aged varieties, but my favorite is still the original which is incredibly easy to drink for such a big beer. In the winter I would add in some Cambridge Brewing Company You Enjoy My Stout, a bold bourbon barrel aged imperial stout.

13. Pilsner: Peak Organic Fresh Cut. Not the most traditional take on the style, but this is a really good beer with a hoppy nose and clean drinkability. Also in heavy rotation, Notch Session Pils, the beer that taught me how delicious pilsner could be.

14. Classic beer: Geary’s HSA. I want to save one tap for an old school favorite, and HSA still holds up as a full flavored and balanced ESB. Also Sam Adams Boston Lager doesn’t get much respect from the beer geek community, but it’s still a very good beer.

15. Lower cost option: Narragansett Lager. To be honest, I would probably carry ‘Gansett in tallboys rather than on draft, and I would stock some of their seasonal/special releases too.

16. Whatever I’m in the mood for at the moment. A total cop-out, but I would definitely leave on tap line open for any new beer that I tried and enjoyed. Right now a good choice would be Ipswich Riverbend Pils.

So, if that were the tap list would you be scheduling a trip out to the ‘burbs to check out my new place?



Ipswich Riverbend Pils

There are a number of beer styles that work well with hot summer weather and one is clearly pilsner, especially the flavorful versions being produced by many talented American brewers. A crisp, drinkable and flavorful pilsner is perfect for grilling, hanging out at the beach or quenching your thirst after some time outside. My new house now has a sweet new grill, and also a large lawn that needs to be mowed, so I need to keep a stable of refreshing beers on hand all times. One pilsner I enjoyed recently is Riverbend Pils, a limited release from Ipswich Brewing Company. Riverbend Pils is a celebration of the brewery’s 25th anniversary, and a portion of the sales benefit the Ipswich River Watershed Association, a non-profit that helps protect this waterway which provides drinking (and brewing) water for many in the area. The beer is brewed with German malts along with a mixture of traditional Saaz hops and not-at-all traditional Lemondrop hops. Ipswich Riverbend Pils is available this summer on draft and in 22 oz. bottles.

Ipswich Riverbend PilsIpswich Riverbend Pils pours crystal clear golden yellow with a small white head. The scent is mild, some light malt and noble hops. The beer is crisp, clean and very refreshing, perfect for the hot weather of mid-summer. This isn’t a hoppy beer by current standards, but there is noticeable hop flavor, notes of grass, herbs, earth and lemon along with a little bitter bite. This is complemented by the malts, touches of crackers and white bread. Riverbend Pils is very light and easy to drink, at 4.6% ABV it is sessionable by many standards. The finish is classic lager, just a hint of hoppy aftertaste that keeps you coming back for more. This is a great version of a pilsner, right now it is listed as a limited release but I hope Ipswich makes it their regular summer beer because it is delicious. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5

Previous Ipswich Reviews:

Ipswich Original AleIpswich Hop HarvestIpswich Harvest Ale

Maine Beer Co. Thank You

The last six weeks have been beyond crazy. First, my wife and I closed on a house in the suburbs, a sure sign that I am really getting old. Then, less than two weeks later, I found out I was losing my job (the real one that pays the bills, unfortunately Hoppy Boston is just a hobby). I work in R&D in the pharmaceutical industry, and my company had a drug underperform in the clinic leading to massive layoffs. It’s a tough business and these things happen, but it’s never fun. The amount of time and energy I needed for our move and my job search led to a hiatus for Hoppy Boston, I was hoping that I would still post occasionally, but it turned into a full break. In that time I managed to move, interview at a number of companies, and then get a very strong job offer that I happily accepted. Now we are mostly settled (few projects left, but there will always be as a homeowner), and I don’t start my new job until mid-August, so you can expect a flurry of posts and hopefully a number of visits to local breweries. I though an appropriate beer to review for my first article back was Thank You, a new American wheat ale from Maine Beer Company. Thank You was brewed in gratitude of all of the people that have helped make Maine Beer Co. a successful operation, and I want to use this as an opportunity to thank all of my readers who have been patient and supportive through this hiatus and who make Hoppy Boston so much fun to write. Maine Beer Co. Thank You is available for a limited time in 500 mL bottles.

Maine Beer Thank YouMaine Beer Co. Thank You pours a clear bright yellow with a solid white head. The scent is classic MBC hops, a huge burst of citrus and tropical fruit. The taste is very hop forward, notes of melon, lime, guava and tangerine along with a crisp bitterness. The malts round out the flavor, hints of crackers and wheat bread. Maine Beer Co. Thank You is light in body, super drinkable and not too boozy at 5.3% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with a bit of lingering hop flavor. Thank You is a perfect beer for summer, easy to drink but still full flavored. A great beer to review as a welcome back for Hoppy Boston! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Maine Beer Co. Reviews:

Maine 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

Hoppy Boston on semi-hiatus

I am putting Hoppy Boston on semi-hiatus for the next few weeks. What exactly is semi-hiatus? I guess we’ll see, I am not going to stop posting totally, but my posts will probably be infrequent for a time. There are a couple reasons for this. The first is a good thing, my wife and I recently closed on a house in the suburbs and over the next couple weeks we are focused on moving and getting settled. There is a ton to do and we need to work around the schedule of our very active one year old. This was an expected complication that I knew would effect my blog output somewhat.

The second reason is much more unexpected, I found out on Monday that my entire department at my “real job” is getting laid off. This blog is my hobby, and while there have been a few fun perks along the way it doesn’t pay the bills. I need to spend my evenings focused on the job search, so my blog posts might be very infrequent for the next few weeks. My last day at work is July 1st, and we move the next week, so I expect the blog will pick back up in mid-July, and the posts will probably be very frequent until I find and start another job. Until then I’ll try to write an occasional review and chat with some of you all on social media. Thanks for your support of Hoppy Boston, once I get going again it will continue to be a fun distraction from some of this crap. Cheers!

Deciduous Sepal

I’ve seen some recent criticism out Boston as a beer city, specifically pertaining to the lack of focus on local beers. In fairness, most of this criticism was leveled at bars in the city who devote many tap lines to beers from across the country but few to beers brewed in their own backyard. I think it’s important to define what is local though. I personally consider any beer brewed in New England to be a “local” beer in Boston. I know this is a pretty liberal interpretation of local, but New England isn’t that big geographically, so there is good reason to include beers from Providence, Portland or even Burlington in the local category. This is a big reason why Hoppy Boston focused on beers of New England (and not just Massachusetts), and why I get excited when I see new beers from the other 5 states in our little corner of the country pop up in bottle shops. One brewery that recently started distributing to the Boston area is Deciduous Brewing Company out of Newmarket, NH. Deciduous brews an array of styles but seems to focus on unique takes on farmhouse, wild and sour beers. I recently grabbed a bottle of Sepal, a dry-hopped, sessionable grissette brewed with Brettanomyces and then spiked with bacteria at bottling to add a little tartness. Deciduous Sepal is available now in 500 mL bottles.

Deciduous SepalDeciduous Sepal pours a hazy bright yellow with a massive white head. The scent is a mixture of fruity hops and funky yeast. The yeast leads the flavor with notes of tart green apple, barnyard, herbs and peppercorns. This is followed by the hops, hints of mango, white grape and cut grass. The malts are mild but add some body along with touches of white bread and crackers. Sepal is light bodied and very easy to drink, a true session beer at 4.2% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering complex flavors from the fermentation. I am a big fan of dry-hopped saisons, especially versions with complex yeast profiles, so this beer was right in a sweet spot for me. I look forward to trying more of Deciduous Brewing’s offerings now that they are available in MA! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.