Category Archives: Random Beer Thoughts

Random Beer Thoughts: August 2017

Probably my favorite article of the month comes from Jeff Alworth of Beervana, an acclaimed beer blog based in Portland, Oregon. Jeff recently visited Massachusetts and joined the list of us that were perturbed by the fact that the 35 top rated beers in Massachusetts on Beer Advocate are all from TreeHouse and Trillium. Nothing against these breweries, both are stellar and make amazing beers. A number of other breweries do too, so it’s crazy how much these two breweries dominate crowd-sourced rankings. Jeff suggests that we ignore ratings and rankings, visit breweries and make opinions for ourselves, and I wholeheartedly agree. Your next favorite beer might be sitting on draft at a local brewery, available without waiting in line or paying an exorbitant price.

National and local beer writers seem obsessed with the New England IPA sub-style, in a predictable backlash against their popularity. CraftBeer.com gives an overview and calls NE-IPA the “anti-IPA”. Dave Patterson laments the number of poor versions of the style that have flooded the market. I understand that NEIPA isn’t for everyone, some people like their IPA bitter and clear. There is also the issue of shelf life, these beers degrade quickly on a shelf and it is no coincidence that the most popular versions of the style are sold in ultra-fresh small batches right at the breweries. All of that being said, I love my jooce-bombs, and when done correctly they can be some of the best beers in the world. I think more critics will come around, like Old Nation in Michigan who saw their popularity explode when they brewed a NEIPA.

Aeronaut Robot Crush

Aeronaut Brewing has found a new way to release a limited edition beer, you buy the beer ahead of time using an Eventbrite reservation and then pick it up at your leisure. I love this idea. I hate waiting in lines for beer, especially when there is no guarantee that you’ll even get the beer. There are some breweries that I enjoy but never go to because of the crazy crowds and can limits. This could be a revolutionary way for popular breweries to sell limited releases.

Speaking on Aeronaut, the Boston rock band The Lights Out has released their new album on cans of a special beer from the brewery. Each can comes with a code that you can redeem to download the album.

Norm Miller covers a 10 must-try beers in the Metrowest. As a resident of the Metrowest I agree with many of these choices, and love how many great breweries we have in the area. Norm also has a 6-pack of Oktoberfest/Marzen beers to try. He is an expert on this style, so you should take these recommendations as gospel.

Wormtown Bottle Rocket

Wormtown Brewery has undergone an ownership shuffle and will open a second brewery in New Hampshire.

The Mass Brew Bros ask “how many breweries are their in Massachusetts?” It is interesting to see the methodology that gets to that number. They also have an introduction to the new Cheeky Monkey Brewery in Boston. Cheeky Monkey is using a SmartBrew system, which uses pre-made malt extract and pre-programed hop additions and fermentation. This is a different approach, I gravitate towards the personal touches and experimentation that makes craft beer so interesting, I’m not sure how much room this system allows for this type of innovation. It seems like an easy way to make fresh beer without a lot of the work. What are your opinions on this type of system?

I previously shared that Marlborough was looking for a brewery to move into downtown as part of their revitalization project, and it looks like they’ve found one.

medusa-black-ale-project

One of the best examples of a brewery helping rebuild a downtown is Medusa Brewing in Hudson, and now they are adding a major canning facility.

Gary Dzen has contributed a couple interesting posts to Boston.com this month. One covers his distaste for session IPAs. I agree with some of the criticisms, but I’ve found a number of very well made local versions of the style (including Notch Left of the Dial, which he cites as an exception to the rule). Gary also picks 6 Massachusetts beers to drink right now, featuring a number of exciting new local brews.

Bog Iron Middle Child

Bog Iron Brewing has decided to phase out growlers, selling their beer exclusively in 500 mL bottles. They were active in the discussions about Massachusetts growler laws, arguing about the importance of branding in beer to-go, and offered a popular growler trade-in program, so it was interesting that they took this step. I personally hate growlers and would rather buy bottles or cans.

Allagash has a detailed article on the origins of their flagship White ale.

Eat, Drink, Travel takes a beer tour through the state of Massachusetts.

Paste Magazine continues their blind tasting series with a blind tasting of 143 sours. I wish they has done smaller tasting of individual sour styles, a fruited Berliner is so much different than a gose, it’s hard to rate them without style preference coming through.

Ebenezer’s is closing their Brunswick brewpub. I had always intended to swing in on a trip to Maine, and never made it.

Just in time for Labor Day PartSelect has an article pairing beer styles with various BBQ and grilled dishes.

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Random Beer Thoughts: July 2017

My favorite article of the month is from Hop Culture reminding everyone to drink what you like and that beer is fun. I try to never criticize the beers that other people choose, and don’t enjoy the game of chasing down rare beers to brag about them online. I’d rather have a couple good beers shared with friends then drink whalez alone. That being said, here are a months worth of beer links, including some articles that take beer too seriously.

Paste Magazine has a thorough review on the reasons why buyouts hurt craft beer, tearing apart arguments in favor of buyouts. It is pretty clear that Inbev wants to use it’s financial and distribution advantages to take back some of the market share they have lost over the last decade. A less in-tuned beer drinker could walk into a bar and see Goose Island, Elysian, Wicked Weed, etc. on draft and think the bar has amazing diversity without realizing that they are all InBev beers.

Cambridge Brewing Working Class HeroEater Boston has a write-up on Kendall Square stalwart Cambridge Brewing Company. I grabbed a beer there with a friend last night, they always have a wide range of interesting and delicious brews available.

Boston Magazine has an article on growlers in Massachusetts that hits on most of the important points from both sides of the debate. I personally hate growlers and would love I if every brewery exclusively bottled/canned their beer, but I understand why growlers are used by cost-conscious start-ups.

Alex Weaver has an post for BostInno on Five Local Beers That You Should Drink Right Now. I really like that he highlighted some local breweries that make awesome beer but get a little less buzz compared to a some of the “biggest names”.

Bissell Brothers SeedGreat Beer Hunting has an extensive and well written profile on Bissell Brothers.

Jason Notte has a feature on why he loves to homebrew. It’s been a while since I brewed a batch of beer, life is busy, but reading this made me want to design a new recipe and fire up the kettle soon.

The Boston Herald got some attention for a click-bait article on the best IPAs in New England. The choice for #1 was clearly a deliberate attempt to rile up the local beer snobs (and it worked, lots of twitter discussion and I am linking the article here).

Treehouse JuliusAnyone who reads this blog has probably heard this news: TreeHouse Brewing Company has opened a massive new brewery in Charlton, MA. If the expanded capacity helps with the crazy lines and strict can limits I might end my hiatus and make a trip out there in the near future.

South Portland Maine recently hosted a pilsner-only beer fest. I could see this type of focused beer festival becoming more popular.

Blue Hills Brewery is working on a new taproom in Canton.

medusa-mesmeristFor Maine readers, Medusa Brewing is doing a tap takeover on Friday at the Thirsty Pig in Portland. They make some delicious beers and this event is worth checking out.

The Boston Cannons Lacrosse team is hosting a Lax and Lagers beer tasting during their game on August 5th.

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!

 

Random Beer Thoughts: May 2017

Big news in Massachusetts beer, the state has started an alcohol task force to address some of the archaic laws in the state. One of the first changes involves the growler laws, you can read summaries here and here. Basically breweries are now allowed to fill unmarked growlers in addition to ones with their logo. This isn’t a perfect solution, I’m sure many breweries will opt out, and there is concern from brewers about branding and marketing. Still, for those of us with piles of growlers in a closet it’s nice to know that we can visit a new brewery without adding to the collection.

Growlers

One of the most discussed beer stories of the last month has been the sale of Wicked Weed Brewing to AB-InBev. The announcement was met by the usual mix of emotions from outrage to apathy. Afterwards a number of breweries withdrew their commitments to Wicked Weed’s annual Funkfest. In it’s place Night Shift and Springdale are teaming up to host a celebration of sour and funky beers in MA.

On the week of Memorial Day it is important to remember the people who are serving and have served on the military. The Boston Herald has the story behind the Black Ale Project, where a rotating group of breweries are making dark beers and donating the proceeds to charities that provide assistance to veterans. I’ve had the Black Ale Project beers from Medusa Brewing and True West and enjoyed both, looking forward to trying the release from Castle Island.

The Mass Brew Brothers have a summary of the women who play a pivotal role in Massachusetts beer. While there is still too much sexism in the beer community (any amount is too much), it is nice to see that the ridiculous notion that beer is predominantly a drink for men is starting to disappear.

Alex Weaver at Hop Culture has some interesting ideas on what is next for the American IPA style.

Dave Patterson at Maine Today has an interesting history on the origins of Geary’s Brewing.

Design to Drink has a conversation with Kelsey Roth of Exhibit A Brewing on their logos and branding.

I really enjoyed this interview with Hill Farmstead founder Shaun Hill. I especially agree with his assessment that the future of craft beer is local focused, with brewers making high quality small batches that are sold almost entirely from the brewery.

Hop Culture did a series of beer tour itineraries for a number of cities. Here are the tours of Boston and Portland, ME.

Trillium announced plans for a huge new brewery and restaurant in the Seaport. I imagine this will immediately become a major destination for beer fans.

Congratulations to Bone-Up Brewing, now celebrating their one-year anniversary!

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!

Random Beer Thoughts: March 2017

Here are some thoughts and links for the month of March. There are a couple of the links I didn’t post here because they deserve more than a quick blurb. I am planning on waiting to post them until I can do a more in depth article (or incorporate them into a beer review).

Amherst Jess

One of my favorite articles of the month is from Alex Weaver at Hop Culture titled Stop Judging Me for Liking IPAs. I have noticed a backlash against the style by some brewers and beer geeks, it has become so ubiquitous that some people feel the need trash people who call IPA their favorite style. While I am trying to focus more of the blog on other styles for a few months I still love hoppy beers and drink more IPAs than any other style (and it isn’t even close). BTW, you should check out Hop Culture, it’s a relatively new site focused on beer and the beer geekdom. I think you’ll be seeing many articles from that site posted in this links column going forward.

Speaking of Hop Culture, another article from the site discusses breweries that started brewing IPAs to meet customer requests in their taprooms, even if they had resisted brewing the style before. There are some good quotes in the piece that help explain why breweries like Mystic and Idle Hands have started making IPAs. As long as a large segment of beer drinkers focus entirely on hoppy beers it will be really hard for any brewery to ignore the style completely.

The Mass Brew Brothers ask if we are in a craft beer bubble as the state approaches 150 breweries. I don’t think we are there yet, but I do think the lopsided ratio of openings to closings is going to change quickly. I think the state can support 150 breweries (or more), especially if a large number of them focus on being a local hangouts instead of distributing across the state/region. The expanding number of breweries along with the expansions in production by some of the most popular locals is going to put significant pressure on every brewery to make consistently top notch beer and have a great business plan. I hate to say it, but I think this year will start to see some local breweries close for financial reasons.

The Brothers also have their list of everything that is happening in Massachusetts beer over the next three months. Bookmark that link so you don’t miss anything!

A giant pet peeve of mine is when people complain about a “best of” or “top” article without reading the criteria for the list (ask anyone who writes this type of article and they will tell you that it happens all the time). Bryan Roth at Good Beer Hunting uses a strong example of this to make a bigger point about thinking and reading before you get outraged on social media.

Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion 1

Boston Business Journal has an interesting article on how breweries are using a rotating IPAs to appease the large segment of beer geeks who are constantly chasing what is new and different.

Castle Island is expanding due to high demand. Good to see their success, Castle Island has quickly become a regular part of my beer fridge rotation. Castle Island has also released a beer as part of the Black Ale Project.

Night Shift Distributing has added a number of breweries to their portfolio. I’m especially looking forward to trying some beers from Mast Landing in Westbrook, Maine, I’ve heard good things about their beers.

exhibit-a-the-cats-meow

Thrillist’s Best New Breweries list has a lot of local representation.

For the beer nerds and brewers: Beer Advocate has an interesting article on hop powder, a high oil form of hops that some brewers are using with great acclaim.

Barleycorn’s, the brew-on-premises business in Natick, is closing by the start of May. They were a pioneer in the space and operated for 20 years.

Zippia has a 5 step process to become a master brewer. I am good with my day-job career path, but if you are considering brewing beer as a career path this plan seems to make a lot of sense.

CraftRoots Brewery is open in Milford.

Moby Dick Brewing Company is now open in New Bedford.

That’s all for this month, thanks for reading and feel free to pass along anything that you think I should include in next months links article!

Random Beer Thoughts: February 2017

The Mass Brew Brothers hosted a blind tasting on New England style IPAs and wrote up the results, which included a few surprises. Funny what happens when you judge beer entirely on flavor and not the brand. I was planning on attending this event but had to cancel when my son and I both got horribly ill. I’m looking forward to participating in an upcoming blind tasting soon.

Overshores Simpel

Barring a massive influx of cash it looks like Overshores Brewing in CT will shut down. I never like to see any brewery fail, I’ve enjoyed some of Overshores beers in the past, but I think we’ll be sharing this kind of news more and more over the next few years. While a number of reasons were presented for the brewery’s financial issues, one really bothered me. In the article brewery owner Christian Amport rants about millennial drinkers chasing fads and focusing entirely on hop bomb beers. While I would love to see more drinkers branch out it comes across really poorly when you trash beer drinkers for liking other beers more than yours.

Brewer magazine has a good write up on the importance of taprooms in marketing a brewery. I completely agree with this, in addition to the higher margins taprooms give the brewer an opportunity to communicate directly with their customer and get feedback that will help them make better beer.

BrewStuds has an article on partner brewing that features local brewery Dorchester Brewing. Partner brewing seems like a logical evolution from the contract brewing model. The participating breweries still get access to larger scale equipment and lower their ingredient costs, but they also have a taproom that features beers from all of the breweries that brew onsite.

Draft magazine points out that Beer People are Just People. This seems pretty obvious, but many beer geeks wax poetically about how amazing everyone involved in craft beer is. I’ve met a huge number of awesome people at breweries and beer events. I’ve also met a fair number of jerks and entitled assholes.

RateBeer handed out their annual awards which are based on compiling user reviews of individual beers. They recognize a number of amazing breweries including a few right here in New England. I always end up perusing these types of lists, but I take them with a big grain of salt. Too often the hype surrounding the top breweries effects how users evaluate their beers, and this artificially inflates their ratings.

Will Gordon and John Laffler are drinking for good, donating $1 for every beer they drink between the Super Bowl and the end of the month to the ACLU. Others are encouraged to join, and I am definitely in. Will is doing weekly write-ups of the beers he is drinking and keeping a running tally.

Food and Wine made a list of the most important craft beers. It was interesting to see a list focus beers that were most influential in launching the current craft beer movement instead of the newest whalez the geeks are chasing. Hard to argue with many of the selections on the list.

Sierra Nevada West Latitude

Sierra Nevada announced the collaborations for their new Beers Across The World, including one with local powerhouse Tree House Brewing Company. This pack will be a must-purchase.

Speaking of Sierra Nevada, Good Beer Hunting has a revealing interview with Brian and Ken Grossman from Sierra Nevada on the challenges facing brewers. Lots of good stuff here.

Sam Adams and Sweet Water made an interesting bet on the Super Bowl. After the Patriots amazing comeback Sweet Water is paying up.

RiverWalk Winter Porter

RiverWalk Brewing is planning on opening a much larger new brewery in Newburyport.

Tasting Table has an interesting article on how Allagash brews wild fermented beers using their coolship.

I doubt anyone reading this blog missed this, but the very popular Vermont brewery Lawson’s Finest Liquids will now be regularly distributed in Massachusetts.

Turtle Swamp Brewing is opening soon in Jamaica Plain.