Many breweries start with some version of a standard story, a few friends who are avid home-brewers get together, experiment with some recipes and jot down a business plan that slowly builds into the opening of the brewery. 14th Star Brewing Company in St. Albans, VT has a similar story but with a little twist, the planning started in the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan where owner and head brewer Steve Gagner and his friends were stationed while serving in the US Army. After finishing their service the business plan jotted in a notebook in the Middle East turned into a licensed brewery. 14th Star Brewing is now part of the vibrant Vermont Brewing scene, and after a recent expansion you can find their beers in Massachusetts. Their flagship beer in Valor Ale, a hoppy amber ale sold on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Valor Ale go to the Purple Hearts Reunited Foundation, a charity that helps restore lost or stolen medals to the servicemen and women who earned them.
14th Star Valor Ale pours a deep red with a solid off-white head. The scent gives you a big whiff of citrus and pine from the hops. The flavor is more balanced between malt and hops. The malts add touches of caramel, fresh baked bread and honey. The hops provide a nice counterpoint with notes of orange, peach and grass along with a mild bitterness. Valor Ale is medium bodied and goes down smooth, and not too boozy at 5.4% ABV. The finish is clean with some lingering hop flavor and a crisp bitter bite. Overall 14th Star Brewing Valor Ale is a solid example of a hoppy amber ale, a nice way to transition from the heavy, malt-forward beers of the winter into lighter summer beers. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.