Deciduous Mosaic Sylph

The decision to focus my reviews on non-IPA styles this year leaves some significant grey areas. Many different beer styles have “hoppy” forms, and some of these have been given the “IPA’ designation (usually for marketing purposes). For example some beers are labeled as hoppy amber ales while others are called red IPAs, even though they are essentially the same style. I think the proliferation of session IPAs, black IPAs, Belgian IPAs, red IPAs and all of the other variants has actually fueled some of the burgeoning anti-IPA backlash. So I will try to avoid anything with IPA on the label as part of this experiment. That being said, I still want to enjoy some bold hop flavors on occasion, especially when they complement other styles of beer. One of my favorite combinations is the citrus and tropical fruit flavors and aromas of New World hop varieties with aromatic and assertive Belgian style saison yeast strains. It takes careful work to find the correct combination of hops and yeast, but these beers can be amazing when done correctly. One example I enjoyed recently was Mosaic Sylph from Deciduous Brewing Company in New Hampshire. This dry-hopped version of their flagship farmhouse ale is available on a rotating basis on draft and in bottles.

deciduous-mosaic-sylphDeciduous Mosaic Sylph pours a clear bright yellow with a massive white head. The scent is a mixture of tropical hops and expressive Belgian style yeast. A fruity strain of yeast leads the flavor with notes of apple, apricot and pear. This melds well with the Mosaic hops which add hints of pineapple, mango and grapefruit. A mild malt backbone rounds out the flavor with hints of white bread and crackers. Mosaic Sylph is very light bodied and effervescent, but packs a little punch at 6.3% ABV. It has a dry finish with some lingering fruit flavors from the hops and the yeast. I love a thoughtful combination of New World hops with expressive Belgian style yeast, and this is a very good example of the style. I’ve been impressed with the Deciduous beers I’ve tried and this one is definitely worth picking up. Hoppy Boston score; 4.5/5.

Previous Deciduous Reviews:

Deciduous Sepal

Relic Spectral Beast

My goal of focusing my drinking and reviewing on non-IPAs in 2017 is much easier in the winter, I love porters and stouts and tend to drink a ton of them this time of year. I know some people drink stouts in the summer and pilsner in the winter, but I’ve always been a fan of rotating my beer styles to fit the changing seasons. Dark and malty beers just go better with cold sinter nights. One dark beer sub-style that is underutilized is the Baltic porter, dark lagers that typically feature high ABVs. The longer fermentation at lower temperature helps mellow out the booze resulting in beers with big malt flavor coupled with an easy drinking lager body. One very good Baltic porter that I recently tried for the first time is Spectral Beast from Relic Brewing Company in Connecticut. Relic Brewing Spectral Beast is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 12 oz. cans.

relic-brewing-spectral-beastRelic Brewing Spectral Beast pours pitch black with a solid tan head. The scent is all rich and roasted malt. The flavor is also very malt forward with notes of strong coffee, dark chocolate, black licorice and plum. The hops add earthy flavors, late bitterness and balance. Spectral Beast has a full body but it’s incredibly easy to drink for a beer with 10% ABV, it goes down so smoothly that you need to be careful. The finish is crisp and clean with a little lingering malt flavor. Relic Spectral Beast is a very good version of a Baltic Porter, a big beer with tons of flavor but no alcoholic burn. Definitely worth a shot if you like big and dark beers. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Relic Reviews:

Relic The Fletcher

SoMe Whoopie Pie Stout

Well, that escalated quickly. There was no new snow on the ground when I woke up this morning, and by late this afternoon I had almost a foot to clean up. Fortunately I have become a good suburbanite and purchased a snow-blower, that investment has already paid off despite the relatively low snowfall totals this winter. I am also fortunate to work for a company that told everyone yesterday that the office was closed today and we could work from home. Cold and snowy days call for rich and malty dark beers. A great example is Whoopie Pie Stout from SoMe Brewing Company in Maine. Did you know that as many as five states claim to be the original home of the whoopee pie? One of the states with a strong case is Maine, where it is the official state treat and the town of Dover-Foxcroft hosts the annual whoopee pie festival. It makes sense that a Maine brewery would use this chocolate and cream sandwich as the inspiration for a beer. SoMe Whoopie Pie Stout is a milk stout brewed with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans. It is available year-round on draft and in 22 oz. bottles.

some-whoopie-pie-stoutSoMe Whoopie Pie Stout pours pitch black with a small tan head. The scent is a mixture of rich roasted malt, cocoa and vanilla. The flavor is very malt forward, notes of milk chocolate, coffee and licorice. The adjuncts blend in well, adding subtle complexity. There is just enough hop character to balance out the sweetness, which is present but restrained. Whoopie Pie Stout has a medium to full body, smooth mouthfeel and isn’t overly boozy at 6.3% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering chocolate and roasted malt flavors. This is an exceptional milk stout, complex and tons of flavor without being cloying. A perfect beer for a cold and snowy day like today! Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous SoMe reviews:

SoMe Templeton Saison

Cold Harbor Indian Summer and Truffle Stout

After that amazing, unbelievable football game last night I am physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted (not a complaint at all), but I needed to knock out a #MassBrewMonday review in honor of the greatest dynasty in NFL history. On Saturday I had a very small amount of free time and made my first trip to Cold Harbor Brewing Company in Westborough. They have a cozy taproom with tasting flights and full pours along with growlers to go, but unfortunately I couldn’t hang out and sample beers. I was out running errands and had just enough time to run in and fill a couple growlers. Fortunately I got some recommendations on Twitter (thank you @MassBrewBros!) and grabbed 32 oz growlers of their Indian Summer IPA and Truffle Stout, a dark ale brewed with blackberries and Taza chocolate.

cold-harbor-indian-summerCold Harbor Indian Summer IPA pours a murky dark yellow with a solid white head. The scent is a big burst of tropical fruit from the late hop additions. This is very much a New England style IPA. There is tons of fruity hop flavor with notes of peach, mango, guava and papaya but minimal bitterness. There is a little malt, touches of wheat bread and biscuits. Indian Summer is medium bodied, not too boozy at 6% ABV and finishes with lingering hop flavor but no bitter bite. I am a big fan of many of the New England style IPAs, and this is a good version, but I could use just a little bitterness or non-tropical fruit flavors as an added dimension. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

cold-harbor-truffle-stoutCold Harbor Truffle Stout pours dark brown with a small off-white head. The scent is full of rich roasted malt and cocoa. The flavor is very malt forward, notes of milk chocolate, espresso and toffee. I don’t get much blackberry flavor, just a hint for complexity. Some earthy hops add balance and a little late bitterness. Truffle Stout has a full body but drinks easy, with just a touch of malt sweetness in the finish. This is a delicious stout, tons of flavor, complex but approachable, and worth the trip to Westborough to try. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

A beer to stock for everyone at your Super Bowl party, 2017 edition

My article today is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek rundown of the beers you should stock to please all of the characters at your Super Bowl party this weekend. I wrote a similar article two years ago, and then this happened:

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via GIPHY

I am not a superstitious person per se, but there was a 100% chance I would write an updated version of this article with the Patriots headed back to the Super Bowl. So without further ado, here are the beers you need to have on hand for your party this Sunday.

notch-infinite-jest

Notch Infinite Jest and Cerne Pivo: For the early arrivers and day drinkers. Kickoff isn’t until 6:30ish, it’s a long day and most of us need to get up for work on Monday, so pace is the key. Session beers are a huge help here, you can drink more than a couple without feeling too much of the effect.

Mayflower Porter

Mayflower Porter and Wormtown Be Hoppy: For game time. Two of my go-to house beers, one hoppy and one dark and malty. No beer fan will argue with having these on hand.

Boulevard Tank 7: To celebrate the fact that the Patriots are in their seventh Super Bowl in the Brady/Belichick Era. It’s hard to overstate how impossible a run like this seemed when I was growing up with the late 80’s/early 90’s Pats teams that routinely finished in the cellar.

Pretty Things Babayaga

Anything left in the your cellar from Pretty Things: For Gronk (not literally, I assume he will be in Houston). It is such an exciting time in local beer, there are more high quality options than ever, but I still miss the departed Pretty Things. Same idea with the game, you never complain about being in the Super Bowl, but it sucks that a generational player like Rob Gronkowski is sitting in the owners box.

Water: For anyone who defends the job Roger Goodell is doing as commissioner. They have clearly had too much to drink.

Goose Island Bourbon Country Brand Stout: For the elephant in the room for many Pats fans. I love BCBS and other Goose Island beers, but disagree with many of the business practices of their parent company AB InBev. Similarly, I’m a lifelong Patriots fan, but it’s a little disappointing seeing some of the political statements made by the owner and coach this year. A boozy beer like BCBS will help me forget and focus on the game.

Jack’s Abby Framinghammer: For the person who can’t stop talking about politics during the game (don’t tell them the ABV). Look, I get it, there is a lot going on right now and people have strong opinions. I do too. I just need a break from the constant political talk for a few hours so I can watch football. This beer is so easy to drink that the political commentator at your party probably won’t notice the booze and will be out cold before halftime.

A box of Franzia: For anyone who brings up deflated footballs or filming signals. Hand them a plastic cup fresh from the plastic bladder and then ask them if they would like some cheese with all that whine.

A bottle of whiskey: Regardless of your guests, you can bet that the network announcing team will repeatedly bring up deflated footballs. I’m sure they will also “forget” to mention the Falcons getting punished to pumping artificial crowd noise into the Georgia Dome. By the fourth quarter you might need something stronger than beer. Also handy in the unlikely event that a 2008 or 2012 type game happens.

allagash-hibernal-fluxus

Allagash Fluxus and Curieux: To celebrate a win. I wrote recently that Allagash makes some of the best special occasion beers, the Patriots winning the Super Bowl definitely counts as a special occasion worthy of a great beer!

Enjoy the game and GO PATS!

Idle Hands Thing 1

My son and I both got crushed by a nasty virus this weekend, so I did the responsible adult thing and abstained from beer (or any other form of alcoholic beverage). I actually missed a blind tasting event that I was really looking forward to, being sick sucks. Fortunately the little man and I are both on the mend, we should be fully recovered and rested for the big weekend ahead. It’s also a good thing that I always try to stay a week or two ahead on tasting notes so I can still write some Hoppy Boston posts if things like this come up. One beer I tried recently is Thing 1, a mixed fermentation farmhouse ale from Idle Hands Brewing. Idle Hands has been re-opened for a little while now, and it is good to see their beers making it back onto store shelves on a more regular basis. I visited their new taproom right after it opened, and I really need to make another trip. Idle Hands Thing 1 is available for a limited time in 750 mL bottles.

idle-hands-thing-1Idle Hands Thing 1 pours hazy straw yellow with a minimal white head. The scent is all from the fermentation, fruity, funky and acidic. The yeast leads the flavor, notes of green apple, barnyard, apricot, lemon and pineapple. There is a little sourness, but it isn’t overwhelming. This is complemented by a mild malt backbone, hints of bread dough and crackers. Nothing in the flavor screams hops, but some of the fruity flavors from the fermentation could be from hops too. Thing 1 is very light and refreshing, and not too boozy at 5.1% ABV. The finish is complex with a little tartness and yeasty esters. I really enjoyed Thing 1, it’s very different from any of the Idle Hands beers I’ve had in the past but very high quality. It’s good to have them back brewing interesting and delicious beers. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Idle Hands Reviews:

Idle Hands HeideIdle Hands Riding ShotgunIdle Hands Adelais, Idle Hands D’aisonIdle Hands Triplication

Random Beer Thoughts: January 2017

My favorite addition to Hoppy Boston in 2016 was the monthly Random Beer Thoughts and Links articles that I started writing in September. It is a good forum to share ideas and opinions that come to me over the course of the month and deserve a mention without necessitating a full column. I also enjoy sharing the work of the many other talented beer writers that I follow. As always, feel free to send me any articles that you think should be included and I’ll do my best to work them in! This month I didn’t do the best job keeping track of everything, too much time reading about politics and football, but I promise to bounce back in February!

-Night Shift co-founder and Mass Brewers Guild president Rob Burns has some predictions for beer in the Bay State in 2017. Some of my favorites are the disappearance of growlers and lines, two of my least favorite beer-related things.

-Norm “The Beer Nut” Miller had three simple wishes for beer in 2017, and I agree with all three. It is so important that beer lovers be inclusive, educate without insulting and please fight against any sexism you see. He also asks us to try and branch out from IPAs leading to…

-Local Beer Blogger “Man Drinks Beer” has made the bold proclamation that he will go IPA free in 2017. I love the idea, there are so many great beer styles and drinking too many hop bombs keeps you from appreciating the subtle complexity of other styles. I am not going to cut IPAs out completely, but I am going to make a conscious effort to buy, drink and review mostly beers that aren’t as hop forward. I really hope to expand the sections of my best beers page that cover these other styles.

-The Mass Brew Brothers are doing a three part series on the modern history of Massachusetts breweries. The first part covers when each active brewery in the state opened. Part two covers the breweries that have stopped production. It is crazy to see how many breweries have opened in the last few years, and how few have closed (relatively). There is no way that these rates are sustainable, even if craft beer grabs a much larger share of the overall market. I think we are in for a very interesting stretch as the competition between breweries picks up and some inevitably fail.

-The battle between brewers and distributors is going to be an interesting subplot to follow this year, and both sides have proposed new changes to the state regulations. If brewers start to gain freedom to change distributors I think craft-centric distribution like Craft Collective and the Night Shift Distribution company will become very popular destinations.

Links:

-2017 will be another busy year, in Massachusetts alone there are 33 breweries intending to open or begin selling beer.

-There will also inevitably be more out of state breweries that start distributing in Mass. Jason Notte writes about the impending turf wars that are already starting to happen as breweries expand.

-The Mass Brew Bros. are keeping a running list of the big beer related events in the state, here is your list for January-March!

-Trillium is staying busy, Canton is up and running, rumors are swirling about a farmhouse brewery in Connecticut, and in the near term they are opening a new space in Fort Point.

-The brewers association has a data driven write-up on the effect of marijuana legalization on the beer industry.