Category Archives: Brewery Tour

Hoppy Boston/Hopster’s Fuggles Porter

My brother and I recently brewed another batch of beer at Hopster’s Brew and Boards in Newton, MA. Our first brewing experience at Hopster’s was over a year ago (I’ve been back since, just not to brew), and so much has changed in that time. First, Hopster’s received a liquor license to become a fully functional bar in addition to a brew-on-premises. Then they obtained a brewery license, allowing them to brew and serve their own beers. Now Hopster’s is a fully functional brewery, you can sample a wide variety of their beers on draft and take home a growler. They even bottle three of their releases for limited distribution. I’ve been impressed with some of the beers I’ve tried at the bar and I’m sure I’ll review some of their beers on this site in the near future. My brother treated me to a brewing session as a birthday present (you might have noticed that I had a number of birthday gifts that revolved around beer, not a coincidence). I got to choose a style, and after considerable thought I went with a lower alcohol porter with a little hop bite (we aimed for about 5% ABV). Porter is one of my favorite styles, especially during colder weather, and I prefer a beer with a rich malt body followed by a crisp hop bite to finish. We selected Fuggles hops for their clean bitterness and traditional British flavor profile. Here is the recipe I used (7.5 gallon batch, sparge grains followed by 60 minute boil):

10 lbs dark liquid malt extract

1.5 lbs. Crystal 60, 1 lb. chocolate malt, 0.5 lbs biscuit malt.

2.5 oz. Fuggles (60 minutes), 1.5 oz. Fuggles (15 minutes), 1 tablespoon Irish Moss (15 minutes)

British Ale yeast (2 packets dry yeast).

Hoppy Boston Fuggles PorterThe beer fermented just under 3 weeks and then we bottled it using forced carbonation. I tasted it right away and again after a couple weeks. Some of the residual sweetness died down from the extract, and the hops were more prevalent, I imagine as it ages it will get more malty again. Hoppy Boston Fuggles Porter pours nearly black with a mild tan head. The smell is mostly dark malts with a touch of earthy hops. The taste starts with the malt, notes of chocolate and coffee plus some mild nuttiness. This is followed by some hop character, touches of grass and pine and a mild bitterness at the end. The beer is easy drinking, crisp and clean with a dry finish. The body is a touch lighter than I would like, but outside of that I am really happy with how this came out. It will be great to have a bunch of this porter around for the upcoming cold weather. Looking forward to my next brewing adventure at Hopster’s!

Previous Hopster’s Articles:

Hoppy Boston/Hopster’s Belgian IPA, Hopster’s Brew and Boards

 

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Bog Iron One Down Robust Porter

Last week I wrote a post about finding the best brewery in Massachusetts (HERE), mostly as a response to Gary Dzen’s #HotBeerTake declaring that Trillium Brewing was the best brewery in the state. I hoped that my post would be a conversation starter and I would get a number of responses supporting the various breweries I mentioned or some that I missed. The responses were a little limited in scope, I’ll post something in the near future with my thoughts on that. However, the post did lead to one interesting conversation with the brewers at Bog Iron Brewing. The main point (which we both agreed on) was that it is preposterous to name a BEST brewery in a state, especially if you haven’t tried beer from every single brewery yet. You can say a particular brewery is your FAVORITE, but that is much different than calling one the best. It was a solid back in forth, and more importantly it reminded me that I needed to make the trip down to Bog Iron in Norton, MA and sample some beers.

Bog Iron FlightOn Saturday I made the trip down south, Norton is a quick 45 minute drive from where I live in Watertown, very accessible from the city. The brewery is only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The beer is also available on select draft accounts, but this is all the 3-barrel setup can supply at this point. They currently sell tasting flights, growler-fills (500 and 1000 mL) and pints out of a small tap room on West Main Street in Norton. The bar was manned by Brian and Matt, two of the three founders, who made easy conversation with local regulars and first-time visitors alike. I took a quick tour of the brewery with Brian. They are currently limited in their production due to fermentation space and brewing equipment, but they are planning to expand in the new year. Brian told me that they want to grow organically, reinvesting their profits into the business instead of taking out loans. Bog Iron brews about 12 beers that rotate in and out at the brewery and they typically have 4-6 on draft at a time. While most are American takes on British and German styles, they are also working on their first sour beers, they have 4 wine barrels in the back with two types of beer conditioning. I had a tasting flight and then took home a growler of One Down Robust Porter and Stinger IPA. I’ll give a review of One Down today and you can expect a review of Stinger IPA in the next week or so.

Bog Iron One DownBog Iron One Down Robust Porter pours a deep cola brown with a mild tan head that leaves substantial lacing on the glass as you drink. The smell is dominated by rich dark malts, lots of coffee and roasted barley. The taste is also malt forward with solid notes of cappuccino and dark chocolate along with a little plum and raisin. They use some cherrywood smoked malt in the brewing process, the smoky flavor is subtle but evident. I love the complexity that smoky flavors add to a porter, especially when it doesn’t overwhelm the other dark malts. There are some mild earthy hops that add some balance, but this beer is clearly a tribute to the malty flavors of the darker forms of barley. The beer is smooth and very drinkable, with the thick mouthfeel you expect from a big dark beer. One Down weighs in at 7.75% ABV, but you don’t taste the alcohol at all, the beer goes down very easy. This beer is great, I love porter and this is one of the best local versions I’ve tried. I highly recommend the trip to Norton to try this and Bog Iron’s other varieties. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

 

Jack’s Abby Brewery/Hopstitution BAM

Life has been a little hectic recently, work, travel, family commitments, all the stuff that makes you feel like you barely get a chance to sit down, let alone relax. My wife and I both felt a little burned out late last month and decided to take a day off just for us, no big plans, just some R&R. We had a perfect little New England fall day, apple orchard for apples and cider donuts, nice lunch out, and then (because this is me we’re talking about) a visit to a brewery. We were just west of the city for our other stops, so the obvious destination was Jack’s Abby Brewing in Framingham. The tasting room at Jack’s Abby screams “artisanal craft brewery”, with a small bar and some standing room, enough space for a small crew but not for huge parties. There also isn’t a ton of seating, most of the tables and the back bar are meant to accommodate standing patrons. On a Friday afternoon there were a number of people dropping in for a pint, a tasting flight or to stock up on lager for the weekend.

Jack's Abby Brewery Tasting FlightThe wide variety of tasty lager draw patrons to this brewery, and there is plenty to choose from at Jack’s Abby. They pour full pints and 4-beer tasting flights, and sell bottles and growler fills to go. Most of the brewery favorites like Jabby Brau and Hoponius Union are available, along with a rotating selection of special releases. I was able to taste a version of their Berliner Lager brewed with cranberries, as well as Numb Swagger, a black lager aged with Szechuan peppers. Some of the most sought-after brewery releases are the flavored and barrel aged versions of Framinghammer, their Baltic porter. During my visit Framinghammer was available in barrel-aged, cocoa-nut, vanilla, coffee, and peanut butter and jelly varieties. In addition to the tasting I grabbed a few bottles and a new pint glass to take home. One of the beers I grabbed was the fifth release in the Hopstitution series, called BAM (Bravo, Amarillo, and Mandarina hop varieties). While many breweries do a series of single hop beers (same malt but a single type of hops that changes), Jack’s Abby uses unique combinations of two or more styles of hops for each Hopstitution beer.

Jack's Abby Hopstitution BAMJack’s Abby Hopstitution BAM pours a clear straw gold with a large and well sustained white head. The smell is a huge burst of hops, floral with touches of citrus. The taste is hops and more hops, notes of spice, pine, lemon, cut grass, earth and papaya. The flavors are complex, but they work very well together. There is a little malt in the backbone, hints of crushed grain and honey, but this beer is clearly brewed to highlight the hops. The clean lager yeast profile helps make this beer super drinkable, and the 5.5% ABV is clearly not overwhelming. The finish is crisp with a pleasant but mild hop bite. Hopstitution BAM is very well done, this is a perfect vehicle to make this combination of hops sing. I really love the concept too, using the series to highlight hop combinations instead of single hops. I’ll be trying any new version of Hopstitution that Jack’s Abby produces, I suggest you do the same. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Jack’s Abby Reviews:

Jack’s Abby Copper LegendJack’s Abby Session Rye IPL, Jack’s Abby Mass RisingJack’s Abby/Evil Twin Jack’s Evil BrewJack’s Abby Wet Hop LagerJack’s Abby Pro-Am Pilsner

 

 

Mystic Brewery/Day of Doom

Mystic Brewery1Mystic brewery2

The last stop on my birthday brewery tour was Mystic Brewery in Chelsea, MA. I am kind of embarrassed to admit that this was my first visit to Mystic, kind of surprising since I am a big fan of their creative and flavorful Belgian style ales. The brewery itself was very impressive, a big open tasting room with a sizeable bar and plenty of seating. The décor ranges from old brewery equipment to a sizeable collection of craft beer bottles from around the world. The bar serves a selection of Mystic brews, available in full pours, tasting flights, and growler fills. They also sell a selection of bottled beers. We tasted a number of Mystic brews (Mary of the Gael is always a favorite), and then I grabbed a few things to bring home. One of the beers I purchased was Day of Doom, Mystic’s big and boozy quadruple ale. Day of Doom is nicknamed an “ale for the end of the world”, and named after an epic poem that depicts the fate of the un-pious.

Mystic Day of DoomMystic Day of Doom pours the color of molasses with a large off-white head. The smell is a mixture of dark fruit and cocoa followed by a solid whiff of alcohol. The taste starts with the malts, notes of plum, raisin, currant and a nice hit of chocolate. The malt flavors are much stronger than the Belgian yeast, but you get some touches of spice and must. The yeast starts to assert itself a little more as the beer warms. There is no hoppiness to speak of in the flavor (typical for the style), just malt, yeast and booze. The alcohol is actually pretty mild in the flavor for a beer that weighs in at 12% ABV, but you feel the effects if you sip the beer too fast. Notice I said “sip” not “drink”, the full mouthfeel helps encourage you to drink this nice and slow. This is a really well done version of the style, some brewers overdo their quads and all you taste is alcohol, but Mystic gives this beer great balance. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Mystic reviews:

Mystic Hazy Jane, Mystic Mary of the Gael, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer

Idle Hands Riding Shotgun

Idle Hands brewery in Everett, MA isn’t the easiest place to find. Located in an industial park down a side street with minimal signage, you need to look around a little to find it (and trust your GPS, we thought we went to the wrong place at first). While they have great brewing space, there is no official tasting room, just a small bar where they pour free small samples and sell bottles and growler fills (no full pours). While the location isn’t the most welcoming, the staff is great. They are happy to chat about the beers and make recommendations. There are also tons of beers to try. With the merger of Idle Hands and Enlightenment Ales last year the brewery now produces an impressive selection of year round and seasonal brews. I’ve long felt that these are two of the most under-rated breweries in MA, both make a wide range of delicious and drinkable beers. After tasting a number of selections, I grabbed a bottle of Riding Shotgun, their hoppy hefeweizen. I’m not usually a huge hefeweizen fan, but the liberal hop additions made this an intriguing beer worth a full try. I also grabbed a bottle of Enlightenment Brut, the only Bier de Champagne brewed in the US. It’s sitting in the fridge waiting for the right occasion to crack it open. Stay tuned for a full write up of that soon.

Idle Hands Riding ShotgunIdle Hands Riding Shotgun pours a deep copper, slightly hazy with a substantial white head. The smell features some floral and woodsy hops intermingled with mild scents of wheat malt. The hops lead off in the flavor, notes of pine, grass and earth. The wheat comes through strongly too, like well toasted whole wheat bread. I like the use of the more woodsy/earthy hops with the wheat, I think it is a better complement than the strong tropical fruit flavors some American hops add. Riding Shotgun is clean and easy to drink at 5.7% ABV. This is a very solid late summer to early fall beer, lots of flavor and complexity without being too heavy. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Idle Hands reviews:

Idle Hands Adelais, Idle Hands D’aisonIdle Hands Triplication

Night Shift Morph IPA

A couple of weeks ago, as part of one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had, my lovely wife took my cousin and me on a tour of a number of local breweries. Just over the Tobin Bridge you can find three of the most innovative breweries in Massachusetts, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon. We started at Night Shift Brewery in Everett. I have previously visited the new brewery (full write up HERE), and it continues to impress. Everything is top-notch – the space, the staff and of course the beer. I was pleased to see that most of their offerings are now available as part of their tasting flights, including a number of beers from their limited release Art Series. In addition to bottles and growler fills, Night Shift now cans a few of their offerings, including Morph, their new rotating IPA. Morph is an interesting concept, each batch is going to have a different malt and hop profile. This first batch of Morph was originally brewed as The Constable, a release in the Night Shift Art series. Morph is available for a limited time on draft and in 12 oz. cans, but soon enough there will be a new batch with a new recipe. In addition to my tastings at the brewery I grabbed a 4-pack of Morph to take home.

Night Shift MorphNight Shift Morph pours the color of white grapefruit juice, along with the nearly opaque cloudiness. Poured out of a can you get a large but quickly dissipating white head. The first smell is a big hit of citrus and tropical fruit. The hops dominate the flavor too, with lemon, grapefruit, pine and a little mango and grass. Despite all of the hop flavor the beer isn’t aggressively bitter, it’s more crisp than tongue numbing. There is also some noticeable maltiness to provide balance and contribute a bit of bready grain to the flavor. The finish is very clean with just a hint of bitterness. Night Shift Morph is very easy to drink, at 5.9% ABV it is right in the wheelhouse for a single IPA. Overall this is a solid beer, a drinkable hop-forward IPA that is perfect for what is left of the warm weather in New England. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Previous Night Shift reviews:

Night Shift Ever Weisse, Night Shift Grove, Night Shift JoJo, Night Shift Taza Stout, Night Shift Simcoenation

HoppyBoston goes to Portland Part 2: Foundation Brewing and Bissell Bros.

Industrial Way in Portland might be slightly off the beaten path, but it is an embarrassment of riches for craft beer fans. I reviewed my stops at Allagash and Austin Street Brewing Company yesterday. Today I’ll cover the other two breweries on Industrial Way, Foundation Brewing Company and Bissell Brothers. Both breweries are located in One Industrial Way, the craft beer incubator that previously gave rise to Maine Beer Co. and Rising Tide.

Foundation BrewingFoundation Brewing Company consists of a moderate size warehouse with brewing equipment, fronted by a small tasting room where they pour samples and fill growlers. Their beers tend to be Belgian focused, with an in-house saison yeast strain that started as a commercial yeast used in a long-ago homebrew recipe and has evolved through many years and many batches of beer. I had a great chat with their brewer John about the importance of yeast in brewing, and how controlling the cultivation of the yeast and the resulting flavors it imparts on the beer is still underdeveloped. John is a fellow scientist, so we had plenty of nerdy things to talk about. Many of Foundation’s beers meld the tastes of their house Belgian yeast strain with liberal additions of hops, a flavor combination that regular readers of this blog know is right up my alley.

On our visit Foundation was pouring three beers in the tasting room. One of their flagship beers is Eddy, a light, drinkable saison with plenty of fruity and spicy ester flavors and a clean dry finish. Blaze is a Belgian IPA, combining the house yeast with a variety of popular American hops. My personal favorite was Wanderlust #1, their dry-hopped spring saison. The citrus and tropical fruit from the hops meld seamlessly with the esters from the yeast making a flavorful, complex and easy to drink beer. Overall I was very impressed with Foundation’s beers and the friendly and talkative brewery staff. I’ll be interested to taste some more of their creations on further trips to Portland (and hopefully their beers will make it south at some point in the relatively near future).

Bissell Brothers 1Next door to Foundation is Bissell Brothers Brewing. Bissell Brothers has a larger tap room and a small patio out front with seating. The decor is very unique, with spray-paint artwork and tables made from old oil barrels. Bissell Brothers is founded by the namesake brothers, Noah and Peter, along with their friend and GM Seth Vigue. They have generated an enormous amount of hype recently with their flagship beer The Substance, an American IPA. Tasting this hop-forward IPA is one of the main reasons I wanted to make the trip out to Industrial Way, a cornerstone of our weekend in Portland.

Bissell Brothers 2I have read many opinions on The Substance, and the vast majority are positive. Some have gone so far as to favorably compare The Substance to Heady Topper and other highly regarded/hard to find American IPAs, which is incredible praise. At some point I will get some cans and do a proper review of this beer. On the day I was there the brewery was sold out so I was only able to sample a little on draft. The beer is delicious, tons of the citrus, tropical fruit and pine hop flavors that you expect from a good American IPA but still very drinkable. I can understand why The Substance is so popular and why it sells so quickly. Hopefully Bissell Brothers will be able to expand production to catch up to demand (so they can at least keep the brewery stocked). It will also be interesting to see what they come up with next.

That concludes part two of Hoppy Boston’s trip to Portland. Tomorrow or Thursday I’ll post part three which will feature reviews of some of the beer bars we visited in the Old Port including Sebago Brewing Company, Novare Res Bier Café and The Thirsty Pig.