This spring my I made a friendly wager with my good friend Ari on the winner of American League East (baseball for the non-sports fans). While I am a lifelong New Englander and huge Red Sox fan he lives in Long Island and roots for the Yankees. The bet was for a twelve pack of beer, style chosen by the winner. I reminded him of the bet after the Sox clinched the division and told him he could pay up at our annual fall guys weekend in November, we’d just grab something easy at the bottle shop. After this he proceeded to talk a crazy amounts of trash about the Red Sox playoff elimination and Yankees run to the ALCS, so I changed my mind and asked for a “12 pack” of Other Half (mostly to be a jerk, I knew it would be a pain for him to get). We eventually compromised, he would bring me 12 New York beers with a focus on stuff that wasn’t available in Massachusetts. He isn’t a huge beer guy, but he did a solid job picking. One beer in that pack which is vary much available in Massachusetts was Ommegang Three Philosophers, a stellar quadruple that I’ve enjoyed in the past but never had a chance to review. Even though this is a beer I can get around here, I’m not going to complain about it’s inclusion in the pack. Ommegang Three Philosophers is a mixture of 98% quadruple and 2% kreik, a sour ale with cherries. It is available year round in either 750 mL or 12 oz bottles.
Ommegang Three Philosophers pours deep red-brown with a solid off-white head. The aroma is a mixture of dark fruit from the malts and expressive Belgian style yeast. The malt leads the flavor, notes of brown sugar, plum and date. This is complemented by the yeast which adds touches of pear, apricot, clove and pepper. The cherry comes through a little, and melds in nicely with the malt and yeast flavors. There is minimal hop character, as you would expect from a quad. Three Philosophers is a full bodied sipper, but goes down dangerously easy for a beer with 9.7% ABV. I appreciate the small bottle size, way too many quads are sold exclusively in bombers. The finish is rich with lingering fruity yeast and no alcoholic burn. This is a stellar quadruple, one of my all time favorite versions of the style. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Ommegang Reviews:
Ommegang Valar Morghulis, Ommegang Glimmerglass, Ommegang Take the Black Stout
I’ve mentioned numerous times that I love blind beer tastings. We all have inherent bias for/against certain breweries and beers based on our previous experience tasting their beers (or even positive and negative experiences at the breweries), and sampling the beers blind removes any of these biases. While my favorite set of blind tastings are the ones held by the Mass Brew Brothers (and frequented by yours truly), the Paste Magazine blind tastings are definitely second. Paste acquires beers from across the country for each beer style and then rates their top 50. Local beers took many of the top spots in their recent blind tasting of stouts, including a 3rd place finish for Joppa Grande Stout from Newburyport Brewing Company. Joppa Grande also got an extra mention as the only beer in the top 5 brewed without the addition of coffee or other adjunct ingredients. Newburyport has made a concerted effort to expand their offerings recently, and this was one new-to-me beer that I was very excited to try. Newburyport Joppa Grande Stout is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz cans.
Newburyport Joppa Grande Stout pours nearly black with a mild tan head. The aroma is mostly roasted malt with coffee as the predominant scent. The flavor is also very malt forward, notes of espresso, dark chocolate and black licorice. This is complemented by some mild hop character, earthy and grassy along with a touch of bitterness. Joppa Grande is medium bodied and goes down smooth, it isn’t an imperial stout but it packs some punch at 7.0% ABV. The finish is rich and full with some lingering malt flavor. This is a very good stout, no frills just a well designed and executed beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Newburyport Reviews:
Newburyport Melt Away Session IPA, Newburyport Greenhead IPA
New Hampshire beer has a tendency to get overlooked due to the crazy beer scenes in the surrounding states. Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont each have a number of the most sought-after breweries in the world, featuring beers that frequent the tops of many crowd-sourced and critic generated best beer lists. New Hampshire also has a slew of well respected breweries, even if they don’t have a place that has caught the fancy of the whale hunters yet. I feel like I am guilty of overlooking New Hampshire at times, I enjoy a number of their breweries but they don’t make as many appearances on the blog as beers from other parts of New England. One of the most popular breweries in the The Granite State is Stoneface Brewing Company out of Newington. Stoneface has regular distribution in Massachusetts, and I’ve enjoyed a number of their beers in the past, but they have made limited appearances on the blog (something I will try to amend this year). My favorite beer style during the winter months is porter, so I thought Stoneface Porter would be a good place to start. Stoneface Porter is available year round on draft and in 12 oz. cans.
Stoneface Porter pours deep brown with a solid tan head. The aroma is full of rich roasted malts. The flavor is very malt forward, notes of coffee, cocoa and toffee. This is balanced by a hint of earthy hops that also add a touch of bitterness. Stoneface Porter is medium bodied and drinks very easy, and at 5.5% ABV it’s on the lighter side for the style. The finish is full and rich with plenty of lingering roasted malt flavor. This is a very good porter, tons of flavor and not too boozy, a perfect beer for a chilly winter afternoon. I need to make sure I don’t overlook New Hampshire, and Stoneface in particular, in the future! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Stoneface reviews:
Stoneface India Red Rye
Last Thursday I started a 12 day vacation, the first long vacation I’ve taken since last Christmas. Most of my vacation is devoted to family time, but I’ve had a few chances to do things for myself, including a trip to Trillium Brewing Company in Canton on the first day. Always nice to stock up the beer fridge with high quality offerings on the first day of an extended break. As the Trillium facility in Canton has gotten up to speed it has been clear that the scale of beer releases has increased, and this has led to a plethora of options available at each visit. I showed up right before opening and ended up chatting with a middle aged man who was making his first trip, he had family coming to town for the holiday and wanted to impress them with a fridge full of quality beer. I let him know he was in the right place, and recommended a number of my favorite offerings including Melcher Street IPA and Fort Pont Pale Ale. I stocked up on these favorites but also grabbed a few new-to-me beers, including Farnsworth Street IPA. This beer is one of the newer additions to the “street” series of IPAs, where each beer showcases a different type of hop, in this case the Australian variety named Vic Secret. Trillium Farnsworth Street IPA is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz. cans.
Trillium Farnsworth Street IPA pours murky light orange with a solid white head. The aroma is a huge burst of fruity and floral hops. The flavor is also very hop forward, notes of white grape, pear, grass and apple along with a mild bitterness. This is balanced by some malt flavor, hints of crusty bread and biscuits. Farnsworth Street has a full body but drinks very easy, and packs a little punch at 7.2% ABV. The finish is crisp with lots of lingering hop flavor. The “street ” IPAs are clearly a core piece of the Trillium lineup, and Farnsworth Street is a welcome addition to that group. Definitely worth a shot for all of the hop-heads out there, especially if you need a break from the Mosaic/Citra/Galaxy beers that are so commonplace. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Trillium Reviews:
Trillium Melcher St. IPA, Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale, Trillium Free Rise Dry-hopped with Citra, Trillium Pot and Kettle, Trillium Scaled Up, Trillium Launch Beer, Trillium PM Dawn, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Trillium Sinister Kid, Trillium Congress St. IPA, Trillium Farmhouse Ale, Trillium Wakerobin Rye
Today I am going to attempt to coin a new beer term, Blue Chip beer styles. Blue Chip Beer styles are the few styles of beer that are most sought out by beer geeks, and making an amazing version of a Blue Chip beer can put a newer or less renowned brewery on the map, locally or even nationally. It would be great if making a top notch beer of any style would attract this attention, but when was the last time you saw a line form for a brown ale or ESB release? In my opinion there are two beer styles that are definitively Blue Chip, double IPAs and imperial stouts. If you look at the highest rated beers on any crowd-sourced beer cite the list is usually dominated by DIPAs and boozy stouts, and many of the most sought after beer releases revolve around these styles. Other types of beer including standard or New England style IPA and sour/wild ales are also in consideration for Blue Chip status, but I am going to start with two definitive styles (since I just made up the term I feel like I have that power, feel free to disagree). A good example of the power of a quality Blue Chip beer is Foundation Brewing Company in Portland, Maine. When Foundation first opened they focused on saisons and other Belgian inspired styles. These beers were very good but the brewery didn’t really take off until they released Epiphany, their stellar DIPA. Now Foundation is a sought out destination in the crowded Portland brewery scene. Foundation also brews another Blue Chip style in the winter, an imperial stout named Forge. My visits to Maine are much more regular in the summer, so I hadn’t sampled Forge until recently, but Foundation now distributes to Massachusetts, so it’s much easier to drink their beers on a regular basis. Foundation Forge is available in the colder months on draft and in 16 oz cans.
Foundation Forge pours pitch black with a small tan head. The aroma is full of rich roasted malts, make you want to dive right in. The beer is malt forward, notes of black coffee, dark chocolate, raisin and just a faint hint of booze. There is also some noticeable hop flavor, hints of pine and herbs along with a little bitterness. Forge is a full bodied sipper but goes down pretty easy for a beer with 10% ABV. The finish is full and rich with lingering malty goodness. This is a top-notch imperial stout, an absolutely delicious beer. If DIPA and imperial stout are truly the Blue Chip beer styles Foundation is in very good shape with Epiphany and Forge! Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Foundation Reviews:
Foundation Cosmic Bloom, Foundation Venture, Foundation Afterglow, Foundation Wanderlust, Foundation Epiphany
I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read Hoppy Boston, from the people who have been reading for years and visit multiple times a week to the first time readers who stumbled across the blog after a Google search. I do have a special appreciation for the long time followers though, most are old friends who have been incredibly enthusiastic and supportive from day one. Hoppy Boston fan #1 was definitely my amazing wife Kristin. She supported the idea of starting the blog and after I got some pretty harsh comments in the first few months she acted as my editor for a solid year, helping me find my voice and identifying common issues I’d make with grammar (this ended with the birth of my son 2.5 years ago, hopefully the quality hasn’t fallen off too drastically). Whenever anyone she knows brings up local craft beer my wife will mention the blog, I know I’ve gained a number of followers based on her recommendations. After a conversation about Hoppy Boston my wife’s co-worker revealed that her cousin works at Rockingham Brewing Company in Derry, NH and later passed along some of their beers for me to sample. One of these beers is Javelina, their flagship IPA. Rockingham Javelina is available year round on draft and in 12 oz cans.
Rockingham Javelina pours hazy copper with a solid white head. The aroma is a solid hit of hops, floral and herbal. This is definitely more of a west coast style IPA than the juicy IPAs that have gained notoriety in New England. The hops lead the flavor, notes of resin, orange, grass and lemon along with a solid and persistent bitter kick. This is balanced by some malt flavor, touches of crackers and whole grain bread. Javelina is medium bodied and drinks easy, at 6.5% it is about what you’d expect for the style. The finish is all hops, lingering flavor and bite. Overall Javelina is a well crafted west coast IPA, it’s nice to mix in beers like this with all of the juice-bombs I tend to drink. I don’t think Rockingham distributes to Massachusetts yet, but they are worth a shot if you are visiting New Hampshire! Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Some of my favorite winter beers tend to be heavy and boozy, like imperial stouts and quads. The high ABVs of these beers limit the volume I consume, usually any of those beers are one-and-done on the night. For this reason it’s nice to have a few sessionable options around for balance, and nobody does session beer as well as Notch Brewing Company. Notch has recently added a couple new beers to their lineup including Zwickel Beer, an unfiltered German lager. Zwickel beer is a style that I wasn’t very familiar with with until recently, and now it feels like a bunch of local breweries are making versions of this pale and hazy lager. One of Notch’s specialties are traditional European lagers, I’ve tried a number of styles at the brewery that I had never head of before. They originally introduced Zwickel Beer on draft at the brewery but it is now distributed in 16 oz cans. Yes, you read that correctly, a few of the new Notch releases are in tallboys now, the perfect packaging for session beers.
Notch Zwickel Beer pours slightly hazy light yellow with a small white head. The aroma is mostly floral and herbal old world hops. This is a crisp, clean, flavorful and super-drinkable lager beer, something that Notch excels at. The hops add notes of grass, spruce and lemon along with a mild bitter bite. The light malts add hints of bread crust and crackers. Zwickel Beer is light bodied, balanced and very much a session beer at 4.5% ABV. This is another winning release from Notch, tons of flavor but still light and refreshing, just what you want in a quality pale lager. I will drink a ton of these this summer, and a few to balance out the boozy stouts I enjoy this winter. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Notch Reviews:
Notch Dog and Pony Show, Notch Infinite Jest, Notch Cerne Pivo, Notch The Mule, Notch Hootenanny, Notch Left of the Dial, Notch Saison