Category Archives: Beer Review

Lamplighter Major Tom and Nocturne

I mentioned earlier this week that I rarely make it to beer releases due to massive constraints on my time caused by family, work and life. One reason that I failed to mention, but probably tops the list, is that I refuse to wait in line for beer. If a brewery is doing a big release that will generate a enough enthusiasm for a line to form ahead of time then I am probably not interested. There is way too much awesome beer available without the enormous time-sink of lines. Fortunately some breweries have adopted a new strategy to release popular beers in a more efficient and time effective manner, they sell “tickets” ahead of the release, and you can redeem the ticket anytime in a window after the beer is ready to get your beer. Lamplighter did this a couple weeks ago with their popular Galaxy hopped NEIPA Major Tom and it was very easy, I bought a voucher for a couple 4 packs online ahead of time, then the day after the beer was released I stopped by with the receipt (on my phone) and my ID, and the beer was mine with zero lines. I was also able to grab a few other special beers on my stop including Nocturne, a dunkel brewed in collaboration with Night Shift and Sneaker Wave, a NEIPA with Arctic thyme brewed in collaboration with Borg Brugghus. All three beers were stellar, I am just doing reviews of Major Tom and Nocture here to keep this article from being ridiculously long, but I highly recommend trying all three while they last!

Lamplighter Major TomLamplighter Major Tom pours murky dark yellow with a small white head. The aroma is a big burst of fruity hops. The Galaxy hops also dominate the flavor, notes of pineapple, mango, kiwi along with a subtle but noticeable bitterness. This is complemented by some mild malt flavor, hints of bread dough and oatmeal. Major Tom has a rich and full mouthfeel, but drinks pretty easy and isn’t overly boozy at 6.8% ABV. The finish is crisp with plenty of lingering hop flavor. This is a very good NEIPA, any brewery would be very proud to have this beer on their menu, and it was great to get it without worrying about a line! Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Lamplighter NocturneLamplighter/Night Shift Nocturne pours deep brown with a small white head. The scent is mild, featuring some roasted malts. The flavor is malt forward, touches of brown sugar, roasted nuts, toffee and dates. There is a subtle hop flavor that adds balance along with some earthy and herbal notes. Nocture is a light and very easy drinking lager, sessionable at 4.9% ABV. The finish is clean with a little lingering roasted malt flavor. This is a very good beer, tons of rich flavor but still super crushable. I hope this isn’t a one-off because I would definitely buy it again. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Lamplighter Reviews:

Lamplighter Werewolves of Cambridge and Birds of a Feather, Lamplighter WatchmanLamplighter Blitzen, Lamplighter Lucid Nonsense and Easy Tiger

 

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Cambridge Brewing Cerise Cassee

I don’t make it to very many bottle releases. Life is incredibly crazy with the new baby plus work, a toddler and everything else that goes into being a mildly functional human being, so making it to a specific brewery on a bottle release day is rarely in the cards. I’ve been fortunate to mix in a few exceptions lately, where the cards align and I am able to slip into a brewery to grab a special offering. A great example happened last week when Cambridge Brewing Company released Cerise Cassee. I have the good fortune of working right down the road from CBC, so when they announced the release of this beer I was able to run over at lunch and grab a couple bottles (plus a long overdue addition to my glassware collection). Cerise Cassee is a special beer too, it has been a work in progress for 14 years. This is a solera style sour, each year a new batch of ale is brewed, fermented in stainless steel with the house ale yeast, then re-fermented in French oak wine barrels with sour cherries. The barrels aren’t emptied all the way at the end of the year, so each year a new batch is blended with what is left in the barrels from the previous batches. This is the first year Cerise Cassee is being released in bottles, I grabbed one to enjoy now and another to cellar and compare to next years batch. This is a limited release, so head to CBC soon if you want to try the beer!

CBC Cerise CasseeCambridge Brewing Company Cerise Cassee pours deep red with a minimal white head. The scent is a mixture of acidity and some cherry aromas. The flavors imparted by the fermentation lead the flavor, notes of green apple, lemon, barnyard funk and peppercorn. There is also a solid tartness, but it isn’t mouth puckering. The sour cherry is well represented and complements the other flavors well. There is a mild malt backbone, hints of crackers and bread crust. Cerise Cassee is pretty light bodied and easy to drink but packs some serious punch at 9.0% ABV. The finish is tart with some lingering fruit and funk. This is a delicious beer, complex and flavorful but still approachable and drinkable. Grab some of this years batch before it’s gone! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Cambridge Brewing Co. Reviews:

Cambridge Brewing Co. Working Class Hero, 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

Start Line Hop Load Citra

If you ask any Massachusetts resident what they know about Hopkinton they  will probably mention the fact that the town is the starting point of the Boston Marathon. Next Monday is Patriots Day and Marathon Monday, a holiday in the state of Massachusetts where people who are way more motivated and/or crazy than me run for 26.2 miles, while I hang out, watch sports on TV, eat snacks and have a few beers. With all of these runners making their way to the starting line in Hopkinton it makes a lot of sense that the only local brewery is named for the town’s claim to fame. Start Line Brewing has been producing a variety of ales since 2016. Many of these beers have names referencing the big event, like Marathon Wheat and Home Stretch Stout. Start Line’s flagship IPA is called Hop Load, presumably in reference to the act of carbo-loading before a big race, and they also brew a version of the beer featuring the popular Citra hop variety. Start Line Hop Load Citra is available year round on draft and in 16 oz cans.

Start Line Hop Load CitraStart Line Hop Load Citra pours hazy deep orange with a solid white head. The aroma is a solid burst of fruity hops. These hops also lead the flavor, notes of grapefruit, tangerine, herbs and pine along with a solid bitter bite. This isn’t a straight NEIPA, more of a hybrid with the more bitter West Coast style. The hops are complemented by a mild malt backbone, hints of bread crust and cereal. Hop Load Citra is light and very easy to drink but packs a little punch at 7.1% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor and bite. This is a very good IPA, I like the East-West combo beers that feature the fruity hops but also pack a little bite. What better way to celebrate Marathon Monday than some beers from the Start Line! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Von Trapp Dunkel Lager

Spring is a transitional season for beers. Dark, boozy and malty beers tend to dominate the cold winter months while light and refreshing beers perfectly complement warm summer days, but there isn’t a particular style that you point to for spring beers. It seems like some breweries skip over the season all together, I saw some summer ales pop up in the grocery store shelves over the last couple weeks, just what you want when it’s 30 degrees. I have a number of styles that I gravitate to in the spring months, Belgian styles like saison, dubbel and tripel are always flavorful and versatile, good for the crazy variety of spring weather in New England. I am also getting into malty lagers like bock and dunkel, which mix full malt flavor with easy drinkability, perfect for the transition from winter into summer. These styles are under-represented in craft breweries, where most lager production focuses on light pilsner or hop-forward American lagers. A few breweries make these malty lagers and do them well. One good example is the aptly named Dunkel Lager from lager-centric Von Trapp Brewing in Vermont. Von Trapp Dunkel Lager is available on draft and in 12 oz bottles year-round.

Von Trapp Dunkel LagerVon Trapp Dunkel Lager pours cola brown with a mild white head. The scent features some rich roasted malts. These malts also lead the flavor, hints of toffee, roasted nuts and coffee. This is balanced by some old world hops, earthy and floral with a little crisp bitterness at the finish. This is a clean and easy drinking lager, not overly boozy at 5.7% ABV. The finish is crisp with a little lingering malt flavor. This is a really nice beer to drink as winter transitions into spring, plenty of malt flavor but lighter than the boozy stouts and porters from the dark months of winter. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Von Trapp Reviews:

Von Trapp Helles Lager

Medusa Prosperous and Citra Legacy

There are a number of breweries that I feel like I need to visit on a more regular basis, but for one reason or another don’t make it too. A great example is Medusa Brewing in Hudson. Medusa is a 20 minute ride from my house, has a beautiful bar and taproom, and they make exceptional beers. Unfortunately most of my brewery visits right now are quick pop-ins to grab beers to go, family commitments keep me from hanging out and having a few pints. Until recently all beers-to-go from Medusa were in growlers, and I hate growlers and try to avoid using them when I can, so that probably limited my visits. Now Medusa is canning a rotating selection of their beers for sale at the taproom, and I imagine my trips to Hudson will become much more frequent. On a recent stop I grabbed two releases, Prosperous IPA and Citra Legacy Rye IPA. Both beers are available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz tallboy cans.

Medusa ProsperousMedusa Prosperous pours clear bright orange with a solid white head. The aroma is a solid burst of fruity hops. These hops also lead the flavor, notes of orange, pine and mango along with a full bitter bite, this is very much a West Coast style IPA. The hops are balanced by a solid malt backbone, touches of crackers and whole grain bread. Prosperous is medium bodied, drinks easy and has moderate alcohol at 6.6% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with lingering hop flavor and bitterness. This is a really well crafted West Coast IPA, it’s nice to mix some of these bitter classics in with all of the juicy NEIPAs being produced in the area, and this is a great example. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Medusa Citra LegacyMedusa Citra Legacy pours slightly hazy light orange with a substantial white head. The aroma is a big burst of lusciously fruity hops. The flavor is very hop forward, notes of passion fruit, tangerine and mango but minimal bitterness, this beer is more in the New England IPA style. The malts add a solid hit of spicy rye along with a backbone of bread crust and cereal. Citra Legacy is smooth and easy to drink, not too boozy at 6.3% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hops and rye. This beer is stellar, I wouldn’t have expected the fruity hops to work so well with the rye flavor, but it really comes together perfectly. A must try if you like rye IPAs. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Medusa Reviews:

Medusa Black Ale Project, Medusa Mesmerist

Moat Mountain Call it a Day DIPA

I am researching a new article on my favorite NEIPAs in every state in New England (the “research” is pretty tough, find and drink a bunch of new-to-me beers). I am overflowing with ideas from some states, especially Massachusetts and Maine, but I am struggling a little with a few of the states that I visit infrequently. So many NEIPAs have limited distribution and short shelf lives, so you need to directly visit the brewery to get them. The state that I have been struggling the most with is New Hampshire, so I have been searching for any IPAs from the Granite State that have distribution in Massachusetts. One brewery that has recently established a substantial presence in Mass is Moat Mountain out of North Conway NH. One of Moat Mountain’s rotating releases is Call it a Day, a big double IPA brewed in the New England style. Moat Mountain Call it a Day is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz cans.

Moat Mountain Call it a DayMoat Mountain Call it a Day DIPA pours slightly hazy light orange with a massive white head. The aroma is a solid hit of fruity and floral hops. The flavor is also very hop forward, notes of grapefruit, pine, orange rind and mango along with a little bitter bite. Call it a Day is a hybrid of east and west coast IPA styles, not assertively bitter but not straight juice either. The hops are balanced by a solid malt backbone, touches of whole grain bread and crackers. It has a medium body and drinks pretty easy for a beer with 8% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering malt flavor and bitterness. Overall this is a nice DIPA, plenty of hop flavor and good drinkability. I’ll need to check out more Moat Mountain releases in the near future. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Previous Moat Mountain Reviews:

Moat Mountain East Intervale

Down the Road Spring Heel Jack

My life has been a little chaotic recently, one of the March storms threw a wrench into lots of plans and knocked power out at my house for a few days, and then during the most recent storm my wife and I went into Boston for the birth of our second child. Now I am back into caring for a newborn mode, which means too little sleep, tons of family commitments and living in a general haze. I am hoping to keep up with Hoppy Boston as much as possible, posts might be a little more infrequent, typos will definitely be more glaring and my social media presence will be less regular, but I should settle into a new schedule and find some time to write about (and drink) beers. As winter weather lingers into late March I am still drinking a number of porters and stouts, I’ll need to grab a few more if we get hit with this storm on Wednesday. One new-to-me beer that I finally sampled is Spring Heel Jack, a London Porter from Down the Road Brewing in Everett. Down the Road has been expanding their lineup recently, with a variety of different styles out in distribution and served in their taproom in Everett. Spring Heel Jack is one of their winter releases, brewed with roasted malts balanced by Fuggle hops. It is available during the winter months on draft and in 16 oz tallboy cans.

Down the Road Springheel jackDown the Road Spring Heel Jack porter pours pitch black with a solid light brown head. The aroma is rich with roasted malts. The flavor is also malt forward, notes of milk chocolate, cappuccino, caramel and black licorice along with a hint of sweetness. This is balanced by some herbal and grassy hops that help crisp up the finish. Spring Heel Jack is medium bodied and drinks smooth, not overly boozy at 6.5% ABV. The finish is full with some lingering roasted malt flavor. This is a nice porter, plenty of flavor and goes down easy, a good beer for the lingering cold weather as winter heads into spring. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Down The Road Reviews:

Down the Road Seventh Star IPA, Down the Road Hooligan Nut Brown Ale, Down The Road Rasenmaher KolschDown The Road Pukwudgie Pale Ale