Author Archives: ryanbrawn

Foundation Venture

When you travel with a group you always need to make compromises when it comes to an itinerary. I recently took a trip to Portland with a group of 10 friends from college, we had guys travel from 5 different states to attend, and a number of us contributed to the plan for the weekend. A few of the other guys are into beer, a few dabble and a couple couldn’t care at all, so it wouldn’t have been fair to make the whole trip beer-centric. Fortunately I was able to steer the group out to Industrial Way to tour Allagash and check out the other breweries in that area. One brewery that has really grown over the last few years is Foundation Brewing. My first visit to Foundation was soon after they opened and I enjoyed their initial offerings and thought they had some serious potential. Since then they have introduced a number of extremely popular beers, including Epiphany, a Double IPA that has been consistently ranked amongst the best in the state. My recent visit was the first time I’d been back since their expansion, the brewery is beautiful, especially on a nice spring day when you can sit outside and sample some delicious beers. I grabbed some to go too, Epiphany (of course) and their “other” DIPA called Venture, which was new to me. I completely forgot to grab a Foundation glass for my glassware collection, I’ll need to do that next time I am in town. Foundation Venture is brewed with five varieties of New World hops and is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.

Fundation VentureFoundation Venture pours a hazy orange with a massive white head. The scent is a big burst of hops, mostly citrus and tropical fruit. Venture drinks like a hybrid of the New England and West Coast IPA styles. There is a ton of hop flavor, notes of grapefruit, orange, mango and pine along with a solid bitter bite. This is balanced by some malt, touches of bread crust and honey. Venture has a medium body and drinks very easy for 8% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor and bitterness. Venture is another very good Foundation beer, this is quickly becoming a must visit brewery for anyone checking out the Portland area. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Foundation Reviews:

Foundation Afterglow, Foundation WanderlustFoundation Epiphany

 

 

Cambridge Brewing Working Class Hero

Cambridge Brewing Company is one of the most under-rated breweries in Massachusetts. I can think of a few reasons that might have contributed to this. One is the styles of beers they brew. I am a huge fan of their barrel aged and wild ales, but beer geek buzz seems to only surround breweries that make 10 different types of IPA. Until recently they also had limited number of beers that made it to distribution, too many of their most creative beers were brewery only. It hasn’t stopped the accolades from flowing in, Cambridge Brewing Company brewmaster Will Meyers recently won the Russell Schehrer award for innovation in craft brewing. While I don’t make it to the brewery nearly as much as I would like, it has been nice to see the variety of CBC cans and bottles that now populate the shelves at bottle shops. Now that we are into spring and summer one of my go-to styles are saisons, so I was excited to try Working Class Hero an American saison brewed with citrus peel and a generous dose of hops. Cambridge Brewing Company Working Class Hero is available on draft and in 12 oz. cans.

Cambridge Brewing Working Class HeroCambridge Brewing Co. Working Class Hero pours a hazy bright yellow with a solid white head. The scent is mostly fruity and spicy Belgian yeast along with a touch of citrusy hops. The yeast leads the flavor, notes of pear, clove and apricot. The citrus peel and hop flavors complement this well, adding touches of orange, lemon, and grass along with a crisp bitterness. The malts round out the flavor with touches of wheat bread and cereal. Working Class Hero is light and crushable, a session beer at 4.5% ABV. The finish is crisp and dry with some lingering yeast and citrus flavors. This is a delicious saison, after we tried it my wife exclaimed “I think I’ve found my summer beer for the year”! I agree and highly recommend grabbing some. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Cambridge Brewing Co. Reviews:

Cambridge Brewing Co. Arquebus, Cambridge Brewing Co. Pearls of WisdomCambridge 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

Battery Steele Kineo IPA

Industrial Way in Portland has become one of the most successful brewery incubators in the country. This industrial park houses Allagash, one of the best Belgian style breweries in the US as well as Geary’s, the first post-prohibition brewery in Maine. Across from Allagash is One Industrial Way, a series of small warehouses where many of the best breweries in the state got their start. One Industrial Way was the original home of Maine Beer Company, Bissell Brothers and Rising Tide, three of the most popular breweries in Maine. It now houses Foundation Brewing, Austin Street and a brand new addition, Battery Steele. Battery Steele was founded by Shane Noble and Jake Condon, who came up with the idea while they both worked at Gritty McDuff’s. This is an ideal situation for a startup, the area attracts huge crowds of beer lovers who are always ready to sample something new. When I stopped by Battery Steele had just opened the week before but was already packed with people excited to try their beers. I grabbed a 4-pack of Kineo, and IPA brewed with Mosaic and Citra hops. Battery Steele Kineo is available now on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.

Battery Steele KineoBattery Steele Kineo IPA pours a hazy yellow with a solid white head. The scent is solidly hoppy, mostly tropical fruit. This is very much a New England IPA. There is plenty of hop flavor with notes of passion fruit, melon and grapefruit and a very mild bitterness. This is balanced by a touch of malt, hints of white bread and cereal. Kineo is light bodied and easy to drink with moderate alcohol at 6.5% ABV. The finish is crisp with lingering hop flavor. Kineo is a very solid start for Battery Steele, I’m looking forward to visiting again on my next trip up to Industrial Way! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Narragansett It’s About Time IPA

The original Narragansett beer brand was founded in the state of Rhode Island in 1890 and they brewed beer in the state until the 1980’s. Narragansett even shares it’s name with a town and a bay in the state that are both popular tourist destinations. It’s history and recent rebirth make Narragansett arguably the most recognizable beer from Rhode Island, but the beers you’ve been seeing on the shelves the last few years weren’t brewed in Rhode Island. When new ownership bought the brand and set about revitalizing it they used contract brewers to produce the line of immediately recognizable tallboy cans. That is changing now. Over the last year Narragansett has been building a start-of-the-art brewery and taproom in Rhode Island. The taproom isn’t open yet, but the brewery is getting rolling and they are celebrating with a new IPA called It’s About Time. Narragansett It’s About Time IPA is brewed to combine the classic IPA malt body with a large dose of modern Citra and Cascade hops. The beer is available now on draft and in 12 oz. cans.

Narragansett It's About Time IPANarragansett It’s About Time IPA pours a clear deep orange with a solid off-white head. The scent is a solid hit of hops, lots of citrus with some herbs and resin. The flavor is hop forward, notes of grapefruit, pine and grass along with a hit of bitterness. There is noticeable malt balance, hints of bread dough and crackers. It’s About Time IPA is medium bodied and smooth, not too boozy at 6% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor and bite. This is a solid IPA, I imagine it will quickly become one of Narragansett’s most popular offerings. My one criticism, I would have loved it in the 16 oz. tallboy can, something that Narragansett is so well known for but didn’t use here. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Previous Narragansett Reviews:

Narragansett Allie’s Donuts Double Chocolate Porter, Narragansett/Revival Lovecraft Honey AleNarragansett Autocrat Coffee Milk StoutNarragansett Fest LagerNarragansett Del’s Shandy

Exhibit A Danko

Happy Massachusetts Beer Week! If I had my stuff together I would have had a whole series of articles lined up about the great beers in the state that you need to try, but I was in Maine with friends last weekend and I fell behind on getting my links article out, so all I have is a lonely review. I also won’t be attending any events this week, it’s my son’s second birthday on Saturday and we have a bunch of family in town, so the weekend will revolve around that. I do have some more amazing Massachusetts beers in my fridge, so I will be celebrating in spirit. Fortunately I do have one local beer in my review queue, Danko, the double dry-hopped rye ale from Exhibit A in Framingham. I really like the way Exhibit A has started, they test-run new beers through their Demo Tape series and then tweak the recipes until they turn into a regular release. Exhibit A Danko is brewed with local rye from Valley Malt and a copious amount of Simcoe hops. It is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz tallboy cans.

Exhibit A DankoExhibit A Danko pours a murky light orange with a small white head. The scent is a big burst of fruity new world hops. There is also plenty of hop flavor, notes of orange, grapefruit and cut grass along with a little bitter bite. This is balanced by substantial malt character, spicy rye and bread crust. Some hoppy rye beers skimp on the grain to the point that you can barely tell that the rye is there, this is not one of those beers. The hops and the rye complement each other pretty well. Danko is medium bodied, drinks easy and isn’t overly boozy at 6% ABV. The finish is crisp with lingering hop and rye flavor. This is another very tasty beer from a brewery that has come out of the gate hitting on all cylinders. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Exhibit A Reviews:

Exhibit A The Cat’s Meow and Demo Tape 5

Random Beer Thoughts: April 2017

The biggest recent story in the beer world has been about Sam Adams. It started when founder Jim Koch wrote at op-ed for the New York Times. Koch said that lax government oversight is allowing big beer conglomerates to create monopolies at the expense of craft beer. It’s probably not a coincidence that this op-ed was published around the time that Boston Beer (Sam Adams’ parent company) released more disappointing earnings figures. There were a number of good responses to the article; Hop Culture has a great follow up interview with Koch, Greg Doroski discusses the competition Sam Adams has from small and big beer, Brian Roth discusses the perception that Sam Adams isn’t craft beer, Oliver Grey writes about their constant changes in style and trend chasing, and Jason Notte has suggestions for what Sam Adams can do next.

Sam AdamsThose articles cover a lot, but there are a few points that I especially agree with. I think that the big beer conglomerates definitely hurt Sam Adams, the average person buying a 12 pack in the grocery store doesn’t know that InBev owns Goose Island (and they probably don’t care). The expansion of brands like Goose, Lagunitas and Ballast Point eat into the supermarket/convenience store sales that are key for a bigger brewery. It also hurts that Sam Adams isn’t popular with beer geeks (outside of a couple very small releases like Utopias). Other larger craft brewers have found ways to balance large sales with innovation that drives hype, for example the Beer Camp festivals and mix packs from Sierra Nevada. Owning alcoholic iced tea and seltzer brands probably doesn’t help with the perception that Boston Beer isn’t focused on brewing great beer.

What should Sam Adams do from here? I think they definitely need to re-evaluate the huge number of beers they make. There are some delicious beers in the Sam Adams portfolio, including a few that were ahead of their time. There are also a number of mediocre offerings. They could focus on a small number of core year-round and seasonal offerings and send everything else into retirement or use it as part of a rotating beer series. I also love Jason Notte’s idea that Sam Adams could open full service tasting rooms at each of their locations. This won’t be a huge money maker for a company that big but it will be a good way to connect directly with their customers and get feedback on in-progress recipes. I don’t think any of these ideas will cause an explosion of sales, but they are steps in the right direction. It should be very interesting to see what the future holds for one of the most important breweries in American beer.

In other news:

Foulmouthed Brewing in Maine is completely eschewing flagship beers, in favor of constantly rotating through different recipes. I could see more breweries trying this, so many beer drinkers are constantly chasing novelty that it helps to have different selection of beers all the time.

The Mass Brew Brothers have a rundown of a few new breweries that are opening, and a few more that are closing. Unfortunately I think we’ll see more of this, where the rapid growth in total breweries will be slowed somewhat by closings.

Hop Culture has an interview with Allagash head brewer Jason Perkins. I was at Allagash this weekend and had a great time taking the brewery tour. I even pitched a beer idea; they are going to stop brewing Dubbel so I though it would be fun to send it out in style by making a batch aged in port barrels.

This is the first time I’ve posted a link from ESPN, but they did an interesting article on brewer/rugby player Bev Armstrong from Brazo Fuerte. I played rugby in college and love the sport, so this hits a number of my personal passions.

Cambridge Brewing Company brewmaster Will Meyers won the Russell Schehrer award for innovation in craft brewing. This is well deserved, it’s easy to forget how large an impact CBC has had on the local and national beer scene. One of Will’s biggest areas of contribution is being at the forefront of barrel aging programs. The Mass Brew Bros have a very interesting summary on the contributions Massachusetts breweries have made to barrel aged beers.

The new tasting room at Mayflower Brewing company is now open. I have some friends on the south shore, I might need to schedule a visit and make the brewery stop a part of the trip.

BostInno has an article on the TAPPED beer truck, a rolling bar that is focused on having high end local beer available for functions. My brother got a version of this for his wedding in Pennsylvania a few years back and it was a big hit.

A couple of Portland breweries have banned dogs after having potentially dangerous incidents in their tasting rooms. It sounds like a small number of irresponsible people ruined it for everyone, but I understand making this decision based on liability concerns.

Norm Miller has a rundown of the new beer camp mix pack from Sierra Nevada. It’s an eclectic array of beers from brewers around the world, and I will definitely give it a shot.

I think the Sobro, a multi-functional coffee table/beer fridge will soon become a staple of man caves everywhere.

That’s it for this month, as always thanks for reading and feel free to pass along any links that you would like to see included in next month’s roundup!

Thoughts on the changes at Geary’s

Over the last few weeks there have been a number of articles chronicling the ongoing changes at Geary’s Brewing Company, the oldest brewery in Maine. First it was announced that founder David Geary was selling the brewery to Freeport businessman Alan Lapoint. Jason Notte noted that Geary’s had to lay off some long time employees as part of this transition, and that they would have gone bankrupt without the intervention. The new owner seems optimistic and has a plan to turn around the brewery, which has seen sales decline over the last few years.

Geary's HSAUnfortunately this news isn’t very surprising. When Geary’s launched in 1983 their classic takes on flavorful British ales stood out in a market dominated by light lagers. Their immediately recognizable lobster logo was great marketing in the tourist towns along the Maine coast. I grew up working in a family-run specialty grocery store and Geary’s beers flew off the shelves, especially in the summer months. In those days the number of Maine breweries were limited, and sales were good. In the last few years the Maine beer scene has exploded and competition for shelf space and sales dollars has become fierce.

While competition is a major factor in the decline in Geary’s sales there are also other factors. The biggest one was Geary’s stubborn resistance to change. While their new competitors were gaining accolades with hop-forward beers that showcased New World hop varieties, Geary’s kept brewing their same stable of classic English ales. While there is something to be said for sticking to your brand and not chasing every trend, not adapting at all to changing tastes can be disastrous for a brewery. They also took a long time to open a taproom even as it’s become clear that direct sales are extremely important for a profitable modern brewery.  It looks like new ownership is taking these challenges seriously. They have a taproom open and they are brewing many new beers, including some hoppy American ales. There are a number of recent examples of breweries successfully refreshing their brands, it will be interesting to see if Geary’s uses these success stories as a model.

Gearys London PorterI want Geary’s to succeed. Every beer geek has a few beers that helped lead them from macro lagers to better beer. They may not be your favorite beers anymore, but these beers were an important step in the transition from keg parties to beer appreciation. Geary’s Pale Ale was definitely one of these beers for me. I drank more than a few during my years at Bowdoin, and have enjoyed more since. I am still a big fan of HSA and London Porter. These two styles that aren’t in as high demand as IPAs, imperial stouts and sours, but they are well crafted and tasty. I think there can still be a market for some of these under-appreciated styles, but they can’t be all that you brew. Hopefully the new ownership finds a nice balance between tradition and innovation and we can all enjoy a new era of Geary’s beer.