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Deciduous Mosaic Sylph

The decision to focus my reviews on non-IPA styles this year leaves some significant grey areas. Many different beer styles have “hoppy” forms, and some of these have been given the “IPA’ designation (usually for marketing purposes). For example some beers are labeled as hoppy amber ales while others are called red IPAs, even though they are essentially the same style. I think the proliferation of session IPAs, black IPAs, Belgian IPAs, red IPAs and all of the other variants has actually fueled some of the burgeoning anti-IPA backlash. So I will try to avoid anything with IPA on the label as part of this experiment. That being said, I still want to enjoy some bold hop flavors on occasion, especially when they complement other styles of beer. One of my favorite combinations is the citrus and tropical fruit flavors and aromas of New World hop varieties with aromatic and assertive Belgian style saison yeast strains. It takes careful work to find the correct combination of hops and yeast, but these beers can be amazing when done correctly. One example I enjoyed recently was Mosaic Sylph from Deciduous Brewing Company in New Hampshire. This dry-hopped version of their flagship farmhouse ale is available on a rotating basis on draft and in bottles.

deciduous-mosaic-sylphDeciduous Mosaic Sylph pours a clear bright yellow with a massive white head. The scent is a mixture of tropical hops and expressive Belgian style yeast. A fruity strain of yeast leads the flavor with notes of apple, apricot and pear. This melds well with the Mosaic hops which add hints of pineapple, mango and grapefruit. A mild malt backbone rounds out the flavor with hints of white bread and crackers. Mosaic Sylph is very light bodied and effervescent, but packs a little punch at 6.3% ABV. It has a dry finish with some lingering fruit flavors from the hops and the yeast. I love a thoughtful combination of New World hops with expressive Belgian style yeast, and this is a very good example of the style. I’ve been impressed with the Deciduous beers I’ve tried and this one is definitely worth picking up. Hoppy Boston score; 4.5/5.

Previous Deciduous Reviews:

Deciduous Sepal

Random Beer Thoughts: January 2017

My favorite addition to Hoppy Boston in 2016 was the monthly Random Beer Thoughts and Links articles that I started writing in September. It is a good forum to share ideas and opinions that come to me over the course of the month and deserve a mention without necessitating a full column. I also enjoy sharing the work of the many other talented beer writers that I follow. As always, feel free to send me any articles that you think should be included and I’ll do my best to work them in! This month I didn’t do the best job keeping track of everything, too much time reading about politics and football, but I promise to bounce back in February!

-Night Shift co-founder and Mass Brewers Guild president Rob Burns has some predictions for beer in the Bay State in 2017. Some of my favorites are the disappearance of growlers and lines, two of my least favorite beer-related things.

-Norm “The Beer Nut” Miller had three simple wishes for beer in 2017, and I agree with all three. It is so important that beer lovers be inclusive, educate without insulting and please fight against any sexism you see. He also asks us to try and branch out from IPAs leading to…

-Local Beer Blogger “Man Drinks Beer” has made the bold proclamation that he will go IPA free in 2017. I love the idea, there are so many great beer styles and drinking too many hop bombs keeps you from appreciating the subtle complexity of other styles. I am not going to cut IPAs out completely, but I am going to make a conscious effort to buy, drink and review mostly beers that aren’t as hop forward. I really hope to expand the sections of my best beers page that cover these other styles.

-The Mass Brew Brothers are doing a three part series on the modern history of Massachusetts breweries. The first part covers when each active brewery in the state opened. Part two covers the breweries that have stopped production. It is crazy to see how many breweries have opened in the last few years, and how few have closed (relatively). There is no way that these rates are sustainable, even if craft beer grabs a much larger share of the overall market. I think we are in for a very interesting stretch as the competition between breweries picks up and some inevitably fail.

-The battle between brewers and distributors is going to be an interesting subplot to follow this year, and both sides have proposed new changes to the state regulations. If brewers start to gain freedom to change distributors I think craft-centric distribution like Craft Collective and the Night Shift Distribution company will become very popular destinations.

Links:

-2017 will be another busy year, in Massachusetts alone there are 33 breweries intending to open or begin selling beer.

-There will also inevitably be more out of state breweries that start distributing in Mass. Jason Notte writes about the impending turf wars that are already starting to happen as breweries expand.

-The Mass Brew Bros. are keeping a running list of the big beer related events in the state, here is your list for January-March!

-Trillium is staying busy, Canton is up and running, rumors are swirling about a farmhouse brewery in Connecticut, and in the near term they are opening a new space in Fort Point.

-The brewers association has a data driven write-up on the effect of marijuana legalization on the beer industry.

 

Night Shift Bennington

I am a huge IPA fan, but I am getting a little burned out on all of the hop bombs. Most breweries are making multiple IPAs and adding huge doses of hops to everything, it feels like half of the bottles on the shelves at any good bottle shop are IPAs. I understand why this is the case, IPAs pay the bills, but beer can be amazing without being loaded with hops. So I’ve made a decision, in 2017 I am going to make an active effort to predominantly buy, drink and review non-IPAs. I’m hoping to find amazing local beers that cover a wider range of styles. In the winter that it going to mean a large number of porters and stouts. Night Shift is probably best known for their barrel aged and sour specialty releases along with their hop-forward flagship beers, but they also make some delicious dark and malty ales. This year Night Shift decided to release Bennington, their oatmeal stout brewed with Dutch cocoa and maple syrup, in cans. Night Shift Bennington is available now on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.

night-shift-benningtonNight Shift Bennington pours dark brown with a mild tan head. The scent is a mixture of rich roasted malts and cocoa. The beer is very malt forward, notes of milk chocolate, toffee and mocha. The cocoa and syrup meld well with these flavors, also adding a little sweetness. There are minimal hops, just enough to add a little balance and crispness to the finish. The oatmeal leads to a rich and full body that sips easy, it packs a little punch at 7.4% ABV but is far from an imperial. The finish is clean with a little malt flavor and lingering sugar. I have been asking for more tasty stouts and porters with more moderate ABVs, and this is a very nice version. My only quibble is that it skews slightly sweet for my personal taste, but it is still an interesting and flavorful beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Night Shift Reviews:

Night Shift WhirlpoolNight Shift AwakeNight Shift SantilliNight Shift MaracuyaNight Shift Mainer WeisseNight Shift Thunder Moon, Night Shift Morph IPA, Night Shift Ever Weisse, Night Shift Grove, Night Shift JoJo, Night Shift Taza Stout, Night Shift Simcoenation

 

HoppyBoston Best Beers-Fall 2016

After an incredibly crazy summer life has settled down a bit this fall. I am back into somewhat of a routine with the new house, new job, new commute, etc. I’ve even found some time to visit a handful of breweries this fall. As part of the compromises that came with these changes I am writing a little less on Hoppy Boston, although I am still getting two posts up most weeks. Honestly, the three posts a week run I was on was probably unsustainable regardless of any life changes. Fewer posts means that I’ll probably have fewer new entries into my “Favorite Beers” list, but I am still committed to finding all of the great beers in New England, especially the ones that don’t require waiting in line to acquire. As always, the best beers I’ve reviewed this fall have been added to the My Favorite Beers page, and the links lead to the full review. Please feel free to recommend any beers that you think belong on this list and I haven’t had a chance to review yet. Cheers!

medusa-black-ale-projectMedusa Black Ale Project: The first in a series of beers (from different breweries) that will benefit charities that help veterans, and Medusa knocked it out of the park. A full flavored milk stout that is still easy to drink and not too boozy, I really hope this beer makes a comeback.

bbc-oktoberfestBerkshire Brewing Oktoberfest: A classic marzen, tons of malt flavor without being cloying, packs some punch but still super drinkable. Everyone should celebrate the fall with a few mugs of this beer.

notch-infinite-jestNotch Infinite Jest: The newest addition to Notch’s flagship lineup has quickly become a mainstay in my beer fridge. Big hop flavor, balance, drinkability, and of course it’s a session beer, making it perfect for all occasions.

oxbow-barrel-aged-farmhouse-pale-aleOxbow Barrel Aged Farmhouse Pale Ale: I am really glad to see Oxbow beers make their way down to Massachusetts. This saison aged in oak barrels with Brettanomyces has a complex mixture of flavors but everything comes together and makes a delicious beer.

Berkley Red Rye Ale

After a rough night/day following the turmoil of this country’s political process it’s nice to be back writing about beer. I won’t share any election thoughts, this is strictly a beer blog and I’d like to keep it that way. I think we all could use a couple of beers with friends, or even invite some people with different views out for beers and try to find some common ground. While pumpkin and marzen/Oktoberfest beers dominate the fall seasonal market I’ve found a few other styles that fit well with the crisp fall weather. One style is rye beers, the spicy grain adds body and lots of flavor that works well with a variety of other malts, hops and yeast strains. An interesting rye beer that I tried recently was Red Rye Ale from Berkley Brewing Company. Berkley uses a liberal amount of rye malt and then ferments with an expressive Belgian yeast strain. Berkley brewing Red Rye Ale is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 750 mL bombers.

berkley-red-rye-aleBerkley Red Rye Ale pours deep amber with a minimal off-white head. The scent is mostly fruity esters from the Belgian yeast. The yeast leads the flavor, notes of pear, green apple and bubblegum. The malts add a touches of bread crust and honey along with a noticeable hit of spicy rye. A hint of earthy and grassy hops round out the flavor. Berkley Red Rye Ale has a medium body and drinks smooth, not too boozy at 5.4% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering yeasty esters. This is a solid beer nice mixture of flavors from the yeast and malts, although I would have liked a little more assertive rye character. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Previous Berkley Reviews:

Berkley Coffee Porter

Medusa Black Ale Project

As promised, since I took so long to make the trip out to Medusa Brewing I am doing a second review this week. To be honest, this idea also gave me a reason to buy two 32 oz growlers (not that I needed and excuse). I usually prefer the smaller serving of multiple beers anyways, and now I’ll need to make a return trip soon to get them re-filled. I mentioned that Mesmerist was my wife’s pick for favorite beer we tasted, but my choice was a limited release, Medusa Black Ale Project. The Black Ale Project is the brainchild of Dave Pappas, a Marine veteran and founder of beer-journal.com. A series of breweries will each make a unique dark ale and donate all of the proceeds from the sales of this beer to a charity of their choice that helps our country’s veterans. The inaugural beer in the series was brewed by Medusa in August and is now available on draft and for growler fills until it’s gone. Medusa chose to brew a milk stout, which uses the addition on non-fermentable lactose to add some residual sweetness. I love when craft brewers use their popularity to give back to charities, and there are clearly a number of foundations that provide critical services for veterans and can use the assistance. Stop by Medusa to get some of this beer before it’s gone!

medusa-black-ale-projectMedusa Black Ale Project pours pitch black with a small cream colored head. The scent fills your nose with the aromas of rich roasted malts. These malts lead the flavor with notes of black coffee, milk chocolate and toffee along with a subtle sweetness. There is just enough hop flavor for balance, earthy with enough bitterness to dry out the finish a bit. Black Ale Project is full bodied but smooth and not too boozy at 5.8% ABV. The finish has just a little malt sweetness that keeps you coming back for more. This is a perfect beer for after dinner, getting warm on a crisp fall night, or really any other time. Medusa had a chance to brew a beer for a great cause and they didn’t hold anything back, my only regret is that this isn’t going to be a regular part of their lineup. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Medusa Reviews:

Medusa Mesmerist

Marshall Wharf Bitter Truth

I am a bit behind on my reviews, I did a major stock up run in mid-August and then my trip to Maine, and while I’ve sampled and taken notes on all of those beers I haven’t written the reviews yet. Need to get used to this two articles a weeks schedule, it’s just too hard to consistently do three with my new commute/job/schedule. Anyways, one of the stops I made in Maine was to Marshall Wharf Brewing Company in Belfast, easily the closest brewery to my parent’s house. This wasn’t my first visit to Marshall Wharf but it’s my first review, last year their canning line was down and the growler I bought didn’t make the trip back. Marshall Wharf is a throwback in many ways, while many breweries are building state of the art taprooms with décor by local artists the Marshall Wharf taproom is on the lower level of a building, with furnishings that are scant and clearly second (or third) hand. The location of the brewery couldn’t be better though, right on the waterfront of Belfast harbor. The brewery is only open during the early afternoon, by 4 you can sample their beers upstairs at Three Tides, an affiliated restaurant and bar. In August I stopped by and did a tasting of their eclectic selections, leaving with a four pack of Bitter Truth, a traditional English ESB. The one downer from the trip, I also grabbed a pint glass but it broke on the trip back south. They don’t appear to have an online store, so I guess this gives me a good excuse to go back the next time I’m in Maine!

marshall-wharf-bitter-truthMarshall Wharf Bitter Truth ours a clear deep copper with a pillowy off-white head. The scent is a mixture of bready malts and herbal hops. The flavor is balanced, just what you’d expect from an ESB. There is a solid malt presence, notes of toast, biscuits and caramel. This is complemented by the old world hops, touches of cut grass, flowers and pine along with a little bitter bite. Bitter Truth is medium bodied, smooth and not too boozy at 5.5% ABV. The finish is a mixture of crisp hop bite and just a hint of malt sweetness. Marshall Wharf Bitter Truth is a well done take on an underappreciated style, and the brewery will continue to be part of my routine when I visit family in Maine. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.