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!

 

Wachusett Wally

Probably the biggest challenge facing “veteran” craft brewers is balancing the continued production of the beers that built their brand with innovating to compete and meet the changing preferences of the market. Some brewers stubbornly refuse to change, even if they need to lower production due to decreased demand. Some have completely changed their brand, new beers and new artwork to meet the changing culture. While I can understand this approach, I like it when I brewery balances their classic beers with new releases. Even with this approach it can be tough to attract the interest of the fickle beer drinkers that are constantly chasing the next big thing. For that reason it has to be exciting when a veteran brewery makes a new beer that starts to generate some buzz. A good example is Wally, the New England style IPA from Wachusett Brewing Company. This juicy hop bomb has earned the praise of a number of local beer drinkers, and it held it’s own in the Mass Brew Bros blind New England style IPA tasting. Wachusett Wally is available year round on draft and in 12 oz. cans.

Wachusett WallyWachusett Wally pours a hazy light orange with a solid white head. The scent is a big hit of fruity hops, citrus and tropical fruit. This is very much a New England style IPA. Tons of hop flavor, notes of grapefruit, papaya and tangerine along with a very soft bitterness. The malts round out the flavor with hints of bread dough and honey. Wally is medium bodied, smooth and drinks easy for 7% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor. Wachusett Wally is a delicious beer, if you like the New England style of IPAs you’ll definitely enjoy this. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Wachusett Reviews:

Wachusett Milk StoutWachusett Larry DIPAWachusett Green Monsta IPA

Riverwalk Rangelight

Riverwalk Brewing has been going through a series of exciting transformations this year. They have expanded distribution, you can now find their beers all over the state of Massachusetts. It might just be me, but I’ve also noticed increased availability and selection of their beers in metro-Boston and metrowest. Riverwalk also announced that they are building an enormous new brewery in Newburyport, around the corner from their current space. The new brewery will be 3000 sq. feet, offer full pours and flights, and include an outdoor biergarden. While the new brewery won’t open until later this summer, we can enjoy a wide range of Riverwalk beers on draft and in cans. One I grabbed recently was Rangelight, a double dry-hopped IPA featuring the popular Mosaic hop variety.

Riverwalk RangelightRiverwalk Rangelight pours clear orange-yellow with a large white head. The aroma is solidly hoppy, citrus fruit and resin. This strikes a balance between the New England and West Coast IPAs. There is a ton of hop flavor, grapefruit, orange, mango and pine along with a little bitter kick. This is balanced by a little malt, touches of bread dough and honey. Rangelight is light bodied and easy to drink, not too boozy at 5.8% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor. This is another very strong beer from Riverwalk, it can hold it’s own in the very competitive stable of local IPAs. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Riverwalk Reviews:

Riverwalk Blackberry Porter, Riverwalk Winter Porter, Riverwalk Farm to Kettle 2015, Riverwalk Screen Door

 

Idle Hands Proeme

For a while I was convinced that the next “big thing” in craft beer would be hoppy saisons. American drinkers love their hops, and anything with a big dose of popular new varieties will probably sell well. This has led to a proliferation of sub-styles on the IPA, where wheat IPA, red IPA and black IPA are hopped up versions of American wheat ale, amber ale and porter. There have been a number of Belgian IPAs, but I haven’t seen examples that carry the buzz of a high end IPA (the one exception might be Brett IPAs, but I consider this a different sub-style). I’ve never understood this, the fruity and spicy flavors of Belgian style yeast can provide a perfect complement to the citrus and tropical fruit flavors of many hop varieties. My favorite examples are usually saisons with significant late/dry hop additions, when I get a chance to homebrew that is typically my focus. I was excited to see Idle Hands beers becoming regularly available, and intrigued when they launched Proeme, a dry hopped saison. Idle Hands Proeme is available year-round on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.

Idle Hands PromeIdle Hands Proeme pours hazy light yellow with a massive white head. The aroma is a mixture of floral hops with fruity and spicy yeast. The yeast leads the flavor, notes of apple, peppercorn and bubblegum. This is complemented by the hops, hints of lemon, grass and orange. The malts round out the flavor with touches of cereal and bread crust. Proeme is light and very easy to drink, sessionable at 5.0% ABV. The finish is crisp and dry with some lingering hop and yeast flavor. I really enjoyed Proeme, the flavors work well together. It’s nice to have Idle Hands beers back into the regular rotation! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Idle Hands Reviews:

Idle Hands Thing 1, Idle Hands HeideIdle Hands Riding ShotgunIdle Hands Adelais, Idle Hands D’aisonIdle Hands Triplication

Springdale Solid State and Kriek Mythology

A couple months ago I wrote about my first visit to the Springdale Brewery, an offshoot of Jack’s Abby that specializes in ales (while Jack’s Abby does all lagers). While they brew a wide variety of beers Springdale seems to have two focuses. The first is IPAs, they make a variety of delicious hop-bomb beers. I reviewed a couple of their IPA’s as part of my initial article. Their second focus is barrel aged beers, especially sours and beers fermented with Brettanomyces. I enjoyed a couple of these at the brewery, and on my second trip I made sure to grab a few bottles. I also grabbed a stockpile of IPAs in cans, just walked right in, grabbed them and paid. Delicious, high quality IPAs with no lines. Anyways, the bottles I grabbed were Solid State, a golden ale fermented with Brettanomyces, and Kreik Mythology, and oak aged sour beer with cherries. Springdale’s barrel aged beers are all available on draft and some are also sold in 500 mL bottles.

Springdale Solid StateSpringdale Solid State pours hazy straw yellow with a small white head. The scent is mostly from the yeast, funky and fruity. The yeast also leads the flavor, hints of apricot, pear, clove and the distinct barnyard flavor imparted by Brettanomyces. There is some malt, notes of whole grain bread and cereal. A touch of earthy and grassy hops round out the flavor. Solid State is very light and easy to drink, and an ideal session beer at 4.0% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering yeast flavors. Springdale Solid State is a very nice beer, it balances flavor and drinkability and showcases the Brettanomyces. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Springdale Kriek MythologySpringdale Kriek Mythology pours deep maroon with a solid white head. The scent is fruity and acidic, you know this is a sour beer before you even take a sip. The flavors imparted by the barrel aging take the lead, cherry, oak and vanilla. The fermentation adds lemon and sour apple along with a tart bite. Kreik Mythology is light bodied and drinkable, not too boozy at 6.5% ABV. The finish is dry with lingering cherry flavor and sour pucker. I won’t claim to be an expert on the kriek style, so take this rating with a grain of salt, but I enjoyed this beer, flavorful and the sourness is present but not overpowering. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Springdale Reviews:

Springdale Amirite?! and Good N’ You?

Lamplighter Watchman

There are a number of major milestones that a brewery goes through as it starts up and begins to establish it’s place in the market. Opening the doors and starting to sell beer is obviously the first huge event, along with seeing your beer on draft at local bars. Starting to can or bottle beer is another big step forward, they allow customers to purchase more beer at a time and attract customers who don’t like growlers. The new packaging also allows the brewery to start distribution to local bottle shops, even if they are just transporting a few cases at a time on their own. This is an underrated step in the growth of a brewery, having your beer in a bottle shop will introduce it to a larger range of potential customers. I was excited to see Lamplighter beers available in cans on a recent visit to Craft Beer Cellar in Framingham. I’ve enjoyed a number of Lamplighter beers and while I have no issue visiting the brewery (it’s very close to my office), I hope the distribution helps introduce their beers to more local drinkers. One of the beers I picked up was Watchman, a wheat IPA brewed with Hallertau Blanc and Hull Melon hops. It is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz. cans.

Lamplighter WatchmanLamplighter Watchman pours murky dark yellow with a solid white head. The aroma is a big hit of fruity hops. The flavor is also hop forward, notes of cantaloupe, white grape and lime but minimal bitterness. this is balanced by a mild malt backbone, hints of wheat bread and crackers. Watchman has a light body, smooth drinkability and is sessionable at 4.8% ABV. It has a crisp finish with lingering hop flavor. The hops in Watchman caught me off guard at first, they impart a pretty different flavor profile compared to many popular IPAs, but I really enjoyed the beer. Different and definitely worth trying! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Lamplighter Reviews:

Lamplighter Blitzen, Lamplighter Lucid Nonsense and Easy Tiger

 

Allagash Coolship Red

I’m finally finishing up articles related to my trip to Maine, which is now over a month ago. As part of the trip my group registered for a tour of the beautiful Allagash brewery on Industrial Way. While I’ve visited the brewery many times I had never done the tour, and I highly recommend it, there is a lot to learn and many parts to the facility. On the tour I learned that Allagash is discontinuing their flagship Dubbel and that any employee could propose a beer to brew on the pilot system. This led me to suggest a beer to the tour guide, send Dubbel out in style by brewing a final batch and aging it in port barrels. I’ve always liked the idea of mixing dark Abbey styles with wine/port/cognac, and I know I would buy a beer with that combination in a second. I don’t really expect them to brew the beer, but it would be really cool if they did!

Coincidentally, the day that I was visiting the brewery was also a bottle release day, in this case they were releasing Coolship Red. This beer is part of Allagash’s wild fermented Coolship series, which are brewed in the tradition of Belgian lambics. After the standard boil the wort (unfermented beer) is added to the Coolship, an open fermenter, and wild microbes from the environment ferment the beer while it ages in barrels for an extended period of time. After the aging process is complete the barrels are blended and then bottled. I’ve always been interested in this process, and I was really excited to try one of these beers, especially the Coolship Red which is aged with raspberries (my all time favorite fruit). Allagash Coolship Red is available on a limited basis in 375 mL bottles.

Allagash Coolship RedAllagash Coolship Red pours deep pink-red with a small white head. The aroma is fruity and funky, lots of scents from the fermentation and barrel aging process. The wild yeast takes center stage in the flavor too, solidly tart with notes of pear, sour apple and barnyard. The raspberries complement this flavor, you get plenty of the fruit without overpowering the flavors imparted by the microbes. Coolship Red is light and easy to drink, not too boozy at 6.2% ABV. The finish has some acidity along with lingering fruit flavor. This is a really good beer, my taste for sour beers is a little slow in developing but this is complex and delicious. I am glad that I bought multiple bottles. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Allagash Reviews:

Allagash Hibernal Fluxus 2016, Allagash Sixteen CountiesAllagash TiarnaAllagash Confluence 2015Allagash CurieuxAllagash White, Allagash DubbelAllagash/Maine Beer/Rising Tide Prince TuesdayAllagash Saison, Allagash Black