Author Archives: ryanbrawn

Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream

Sam Adams releases a number of variety packs over the course of the year, usually changing them with each season. This month they also released a special new pack, called the Brewing The American Dream Collaboration Pack. This 12-pack features two bottles of Boston Lager along with two bottles each of five new collaboration beers. Each collaboration is with a brewery that helped get their start by participating in the Sam Adams Brewing for the American Dream program, which provides training and loans that helped make these brewers dreams a reality. Profits from this 12 pack will be funneled back into the program to help the next generation of American brewers get started. I was very excited to try the beers in this pack (disclosure: they were provided by Sam Adams). Here are my thoughts on each shown in order of how much I liked them, starting with my personal favorite.

Sam Adams Tea Party SaisonBoston Tea Party Saison: Collaboration with Woods Beer Company in San Francisco, CA. Boston Tea Party is a saison brewed with yerba mate tea, coriander and grains of paradise and fermented with the yeast strain used in Sam Adams Kosmic Mother Funk. My favorite beer in the pack, funky yeast on the nose and tons of flavor from the fermentation, apple, pear, a little acidity along with the distinct flavor imparted by the Brettanomyces. The spices add complexity without overwhelming the beer, and the finish is dry and just a touch tart. A complex but still easy to drink saison.

Sam Adams Oats McGoatsOats McGoats Stout: Collaboration with Brewery Rickoli in Wheat Ridge, CO. Oats McGoats is a gluten-reduced oatmeal stout. A little roasted barley on the nose, and full dark malt flavors, milk chocolate, toffee, espresso. A little bit of herbal hops round out this full bodied but still easy drinking beer. You would have no idea the beer is gluten-reduced, it’s a tasty and flavorful stout.

Sam Adams ThreeNinety BockThreeNinety Bock: Collaboration with Roc Brewing in Rochester, NY. ThreeNinety is a Helles Bock brewed with Mosaic and Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops and named after the distance between Boston and Rochester. This is a super drinkable maibock, crisp and clean. The crackers and bread from the malts meld well with grassy and herbal hops. I enjoyed the beer, but I would have liked to see the fruity Mosaic hops shine through a little more, it would have made it a little more unique.

Sam Adams Time Hop PorterTime Hop Porter: Collaboration with ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, Ramona, CA. Time Hop is a hopped up porter brewed with Zeus, Chinook, Cascade and Goldings hops. Dark chocolate and black coffee notes from the malt combine with grass, pine and lemon from the hops. Smooth, drinkable and not too boozy at 5.3% ABV. I have mixed opinions on this beer, it was a interesting take on a porter with the extra hops, but not what I usually love about the style. Hop-heads might love this beer, for me it was just OK.

Sam Adams Desert KaleidoscopeDesert Kaleidoscope IPA: Collaboration with Bosque Brewing in Albuquerque, NM. A West Coast IPA brewed with Zeus, Cascade, Mosaic and Ekuanot hops. This IPA features solid hop flavor, notes of pine, lemon and grass along with substantial malt, with touches of honey and caramel. I would have liked some more hop aroma, for me that pungent aroma is make or break in an IPA and I didn’t get enough of it here.

Previous Sam Adams Reviews:

Sam Adams 26.2, Sam Adams Hopscape and Fresh As HellesSam Adams Rebel RawSam Adams Rebel RouserSam Adams Double Bock, Sam Adams Cold Snap, Sam Adams Octoberfest

 

Boothbay Brewing Thirsty Botanist

I’ve never done any formal beer trading. I like to focus on local beers, and I really don’t like the chase whalez to trade for other whalez game that seems to dominate the beer trading sites online. That being said, I have a couple of friends who are fellow beer nuts and when we get together we tend to share some of the good local beers we’ve found. My buddy Russell lives in Maine and has introduced me to some hidden gems of the Maine beer scene over the last few years, and I’ve tried to return the favor with some Massachusetts standouts. On my recent trip to Maine Russell brought a couple new-to-me Maine beers including Thirsty Botanist, a New England style IPA from Boothbay Brewing Company. Boothbay Brewing Thirsty Botanist is available locally on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.

Boothbay Thirsty BotanistBoothbay Brewing Thirsty Botanist pours hazy light orange with a solid white head. There is a big burst of fruity hops on the nose, you immediately know that this is a NE-style IPA. The hops lead the flavor too, notes of grapefruit, peach, guava and tangerine with minimal bitterness. This is balanced by some malt flavor, hints of bread crust and honey along with some sweetness. Thirsty Botanist is medium bodied and goes down easy, but at 7.0% ABV it packs a little punch. The finish features some hop flavor and a little lingering sugar. Overall this is a really solid beer from a brewery that was new to me. I’ll be up in Boothbay in September for a wedding, I might need to stop by! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Fort Hill Jigsaw Jazz

It seems like tap rooms are all of the rage right now and for good reason, including the fact that brewers can sell their product directly to consumers which allows for more control of quality, freshness and margins. It almost seems like a few local breweries have no interest in canning or bottling beer outside of what they are selling in the taprooms. There are advantages to distribution too, especially in reaching new customers who haven’t heard of your brand or don’t have time to travel to taprooms every weekend. There are a number of examples where a brewery gains significant buzz after they start distribution. A good local case is Fort Hill Brewing in Easthampton, MA. Fort Hill has been open since 2014, but over the last year cans of their beers have entered bottle shops on a regular basis and demand has followed. It’s probably no coincidence that their taproom is currently closed while they undergo an expansion. One of Fort Hill’s most popular beers is Jigsaw Jazz, a big DIPA brewed with Citra hops. Fort Hill Jigsaw Jazz is available year-round on draft and in 12 oz. cans.

Fort Hill Jigsaw JazzFort Hill Jigsaw Jazz pours a very hazy light yellow with a massive white head. The scent is a huge hit of hops, citrus and tropical fruit. The flavor is very hop forward, notes of grapefruit, melon, tangerine and apricot with a little bitter bite. This is balanced by a light malt backbone, touches of bread crust and honey. Jigsaw Jazz is medium bodied and drinks incredibly easy for 9.3% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor. This is a really good DIPA, loads of hops and dangerously drinkable. I understand why Fort Hill is gaining so much buzz. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Maine Beer Company Woods and Waters

There are so many amazing breweries in Maine and I’ve made an effort to expand my horizons and make different stops on my trips North, but there is one place that I always seem to visit, Maine Beer Company in Freeport. Some of that is ease of access, it is right off the highway and very much on my way, but I also go because their beer is delicious. On my most recent stop it was clear that they are in the midst of a major expansion, hopefully that means more of their stellar IPAs make the trip down to Massachusetts. It’s interesting how MBC has stuck to their guns and not chased trends. While most breweries switched to cans they have stuck to 500 mL bottles and while many have embraced turbid double-dry hopped IPAs theirs are still clear and precise. While I wouldn’t mind seeing Lunch and Mo in cans I love the beers that MBC makes and wouldn’t want them to change a thing in that department. One new beer I grabbed on my recent trip north was Woods and Waters, an IPA brewed with Maine grown barley and wheat to celebrate the Katahdin National Monument. It is available now on draft and in 500 mL bottles.

MBC Woods and WatersMaine Beer Company Woods and Waters pours clear light yellow with a solid white head. The aroma is very hoppy, citrus fruit and floral scents. The flavor is also hop forward, notes of lemon, pine and orange along with a mild but present bitterness. This is balanced by a light malt backbone, hints of crackers and cereal. Woods and Waters is very light bodied, easy to drink and not overly boozy at 6.2% ABV. The finish is crisp with lingering hop flavor. The flavor was supposed to remind you for the woods, and I think it really pulls that off. Maine Beer Company Woods and Waters fits perfectly into their stable of hop-forward but precise beers. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Maine Beer Co. Reviews:

Maine Beer Co. Beer V, Maine Beer Co. Thank YouMaine 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

 

 

Brewmaster Jack Crushendo

Unlike some of the outspoken beer critics/bloggers/talking heads on twitter I am an unabashed fan of the New England style IPAs. As a point of clarification, New England style IPAs are beers with large doses of fruity hop aroma and flavor, substantial haze and low bitterness. Many IPAs brewed in New England don’t fall into that category, and now many beers of this style are being brewed throughout the US, but the name comes from pioneering breweries like The Alchemist, Trillium and Treehouse. I really don’t understand the vocal criticism of the style. If you don’t like the beers then don’t drink them, it leaves more for me and the other fans of hazy juice-bombs. Are there examples that aren’t good? Of course there are, just like any other style of beer. While I’ve enjoyed many New England style IPAs I have one small quibble, most of them are on the boozy side. I guess I’m getting old, but it would be nice to have a few more examples that had the big hop flavors without pushing past 7% ABV. A good example that falls into this category is Crushendo, a session IPA brewed with pineapple juice from Brewmaster Jack. Crushendo is available on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.

Brewmaster Jack CrushendoBrewmaster Jack Crushendo pours a hazy light yellow with a solid white head. The scent is mostly fruity hops along with a little pineapple. The hops lead the flavor too, notes of grapefruit, tangerine and papaya with very mild bitterness. The pineapple melds well with the hop profile, I wouldn’t have known that fruit juice was added if it wasn’t printed on the can. A light malt backbone fills out the flavor profile with hints of crackers and cereal. Crushendo lives up to it’s name, it’s light and crushable at 5.0% ABV. The finish is crisp and dry with some lingering juicy hops. This is another quality offering from Brewmaster Jack, using fruit to accentuate the flavors of popular hop varieties. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Brewmaster Jack Reviews:

Brewmaster Jack Art and Industry, Brewmaster Jack Tennessee Prinse, Brewmaster Jack Jan, Brewmaster Jack AmbrewsiaBrewmaster Jack Huell MelonBrewmaster Jack Motueka, Brewmaster Jack Aquila

 

Gritty McDuff’s Vacationland

I make 2-3 trips a year up to mid-coast Maine to visit family and friends in the area where I was born and raised, the first trip this year was over the holiday weekend. Even with the additional demands of traveling with a child, I am usually able to make some beer-centric stops on the way, so you can expect to see reviews of a number of Maine beers populate Hoppy Boston over the next few weeks. One very frequent stop is Gritty McDuff’s in Freeport. Gritty’s has three pubs in Maine, each serving a full menu of pub fare along with a number of their own brews. Gritty’s also distributes their beer in bottles, but they seem to be focusing more on the restaurant business, as it’s now rare to see their beers in Massachusetts (you see them more in shops in Maine). I’m a big fan of their pubs, well made food, good atmosphere, family friendly during mealtimes, and a good selection of traditional British ales including a few on cask. While I drank a cask IPA with my lunch, I also grabbed some bottles of Vacationland, a blonde ale brewed as Gritty’s summer seasonal. Gritty’s Vacationland is brewed with Cascade and Saaz hops and is available April through August on draft and in 12 and 22 oz. bottles.

Gritty's VacationlandGritty McDuff’s Vacationland pours clear light yellow with a solid white head. The aroma is a mixture of light malts and floral hops. The flavor is balanced. The hops are pronounced for a blonde, notes of lemon, cut grass and herbs along with a crisp bitterness. This is balanced by pale malts, touches of white bread and crackers. Vacationland is light and very easy to drink, sessionable at 4.8% ABV. The finish is crisp and dry, very clean for an ale. Gritty McDuff’s Vacationland is a very nice summer beer, crushable, refreshing and full flavored. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Gritty McDuff’s Reviews:

Gritty McDuff’s Christmas Ale, Gritty McDuff’s Halloween Ale

 

Random Beer Thoughts: June 2017

Just a quick thought to start my monthly notes/links column: the other day a number of beer writers were alerted on twitter that an upstart website was copying their work and publishing it without citation. I won’t say what site it is, it has a relatively small following and they don’t deserve any further attention. I had a similar thing happen to me in the past, an upstart website was blatantly copying my work without citing where it was from. This is a really crappy thing to do, if you notice it on any beer site (or any other website for that matter) please inform the original authors so they can take action.

Marlborough

One of the most interesting things I read this month is that the town of Marlborough is actively seeking a brewery for their downtown, even taking out an ad in Beer Advocate. The town has noticed the impact that breweries have had in nearby Hudson (Medusa) and Framingham (Jack’s Abby, Springdale, Exhibit A), and feel like a brewery would be a key addition to the continued revitalization of their downtown. I could not support this idea more, I live in Sudbury and I am always happy to have more metro-west brewery options. I also think it’s a good business idea for the town, local breweries attract people who also shop and eat out in the area, and they can become integral parts of the community.

Others are noticing the positive effects that breweries have on neighborhoods. The Mass Brew Bros discuss the positive effects local breweries have on their communities, citing economic factors, community involvement and social engagement. Curbed notes that breweries have helped revitalize many small towns and forgotten neighborhoods in cities. This is definitely true in the Massachusetts, where towns and cities like Monson, Canton and Everett have become destinations for beer fans.

Spencer Trappist Ale

The crew from Craft Beer Cellar recently visited Spencer Trappist Brewery and sampled the beer that would become their next release, a trappist quadruple. I am excited to try this beer, I was hoping that the first American trappist brewery would develop more of the traditional abbey styles, my favorite beers they’ve released so far are Belgian (the Abbey Blonde and their Holiday Ale).

Paste Magazine has been doing a series of blind tastings, each featuring a different style of beer, and the articles are pretty awesome. The most recent covered saisons, with 116 versions tasted. It was nice to see New England breweries Allagash, Two Roads, Night Shift, Ipswich and Hill Farmstead show up in the ranked beers. It would have been nice to see a Mystic saison included in the tasting, I’m sure it would have done well.

The Mass Brew Bros also did a blind saison tasting, featuring only Massachusetts beers. I wasn’t able to attend this tasting due to a family commitment, which sucks because saisons are amongst my favorite beer styles. I agree with their finding though, I love two of the three finalists (and haven’t tried the third yet).

alchemist-focal-banger

Alex Weaver at Hop Culture has a thorough interview with John Kimmich of The Alchemist. It’s nice to see that brewery make a full comeback, producing a variety of beers in addition to Heady Topper.

Beer and Brewing Magazine has a feature where Cambridge Brewing Company brewmaster Will Meyers picks a six pack of his favorite beers. What makes this article great is his descriptions of each beer, not just the flavor profile but the impact each has had on him as a drinker and a brewer.

Allagash has committed to buying one million pounds of Maine grown grain per year by 2021. They are already buying a significant amount of local ingredients, but this is a huge increase. That is how you support your local community.

Bryan Roth has an in-depth breakdown of Zymurgy’s annual best-beers list. Like any list of this sort it is very heavy on IPAs and imperial stouts and completely skips over beers that favor more subtlety.

After Wicked Weed Brewing sold their business to AB-InBev a number of independent breweries backed out of the annual sour/wild beer festival they host in North Carolina every summer. These styles can take months or even years to age, and many of these breweries had special beers they were developing for the festival. Night Shift and Springdale have come up with a solution, inviting the breweries to a new festival in Massachusetts in July. We’re Funk’d will be a weekend long celebration of sour and wild ales.

Speaking on AB-InBev acquisitions, there has been a lot of consternation in the beer community about their investment/ownership stake in a number of beer media outlets, including RateBeer and a number of online beer magazines. I am fine with this as long as their writers clearly state in any article about an AB-InBev product that the beer is an AB-InBev product and they are an owner/investor in the publication. I regularly read The Ringer, and they are careful to include this disclaimer when they have an article about a show from HBO (an investor in the site), it should work the same with beer.

Good Beer Hunting also has a piece on AB-InBev, this time discussing how the company is collecting data to inform them on future strategy and investments.

Summer means grilling season, so here is a great article on the best way to grill a beer can chicken.

That’s it for June, thanks for reading and always feel free to pass along any great articles that you think I should feature. Cheers!