Random Beer Thoughts: October 2017

I recently participated in another blind tasting hosted by the Mass Brew Brothers and Craft Beer Cellar, this time evaluating 11 local pumpkin beers. I’m not usually a fan of pumpkin beers, but I’ll admit there were a few beers here that I really enjoyed. My personal favorites were the Pumpkin Stout from Cape Ann and Pumpkin Crop from Jack’s Abby. I highly recommend blind tastings, it’s fun to get together with friends, chat about beer and pick your favorites without any of the inevitable preconceptions you have about specific breweries or beers.

Lawson's Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine

Speaking of blind tastings, I’ve mentioned many times that I’ve really enjoyed the series of blind tastings that Paste Magazine has been doing. One recent addition was double IPAs, which was as notable for some of the whalez that missed the cut as for some of the less buzzy beers that placed very high. Recently Paste also covered the twenty best beers from Vermont that they’ve sampled as part of the blind tasting process. I hope they do some more of these summaries from other states.

One of the biggest stories this month was Take Back Craft, a crowd-sourcing push by the Brewers Association to “purchase AB-InBev” (they do realize this is a completely unrealistic goal). In reality it’s a publicity stunt, and kind of a silly one. I have a bunch of ideas on how the money could be spent in better ways, but Stouts and Stilettos did an amazing job with such a list already.

Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale

I really enjoyed this history of the artwork on Trillium’s beer labels. My favorite tidbit was that Sunshower was named after the Chris Cornell song, he is one of my all time favorite performers and it was tough to hear about his passing earlier this year.

I know that “Brewery X is now canning their beer!” is no longer big news, the vast majority of breweries have moved at least partially into cans. Still, it seems like a big deal that a brewery like Mystic, who had been stubborn about sticking to Belgian styles in cork & cage bottles, is now producing cans of popular IPAs. I really hope that the popularity of these beers leads to some hop-heads giving Mystic’s stellar Belgian-style beers a shot, and I am looking forward to sampling more of their hop-forward offerings.

Mason's Hipster Apocalypse

Mason’s Brewing Company in Maine got a cease and desist letter from 10 Barrel Brewery (one of InBev’s craft purchases) this month, saying their Hipster Apocalypse is an infringement on 10 Barrels trademark of Apocalypse IPA. Apparently this was resolved without further legal action, but this is going to continue to be an issue as we get more breweries making more beers. There is no excuse when your beer has the exact same name as a trademarked beer, this is something that can be easily avoided using Google/untapped searches. There is a big grey area when names are similar or contain some of the same words. This could be especially problematic when the fight is between a big brewery with an in house legal team and a small upstart with no extra cash. We’ll see how these things get resolved moving forward.

The majority of Massachusetts breweries aren’t close to public transportation, which can unfortunately lead to irresponsible drinking and driving. The Massachusetts Brewers Guild has teamed with Lyft to offer discounted rides to and from local breweries. This is a really important program that addresses an issue that can be glossed over when talking about the impact of the craft beer boom.

I reviewed my first beers from Lone Pine Brewing Company this week. They recently announced that they are expanding into the Sebago Brewery in Gorham (when Sebago moves into a bigger facility of their own), and they are starting distribution throughout the state of Maine. Big month for a brewery that is building a lot of interest in the stellar Portland beer scene.

The majority of beers entered for awards at the Great American Beer Festival  in Denver(and thus the majority of the winners) are from breweries in the western part of the US, but I still tend to browse the list to identify local winners. This year  Night Shift and Cambridge Brewing Company won awards. I would love to see a similar large festival with blind tasting based awards that was based on the east coast.

The Full Pint has an overview of the common off-flavors in beer and where they come from. Great reading for science nerds like me or for anyone else who occasionally tastes something strange in their beer and wants to know what caused it.

Down The Road Seventh Star

Down the Road is finally opening their Everett Brewery next week, really looking forward to checking out the new digs and sampling some of their exciting new beers.

The local brewery explosion continues, with three new breweries opening in Central Massachusetts this fall and a few more in progress. As a Sudbury resident it is nice to see another brewery opening in nearby Maynard.

Bryan Roth has an entertaining article on the domination of the IPA in craft beer.

BrewBound has a cool story on the origins of CitraBus, the popular IPA from Newburyport Brewing.

Springdale Desert Solitaire

Springdale is organizing a series of “Neighbor Nights” partnering on special events to raise money for local charities. I love how many local breweries care about giving back to their communities, and some of these nights look like a lot of fun.

Two Roads is opening a new barrel aging and experimental brewing facility. I really need to make a trip down to CT and check out some of the exciting breweries in the state.

Zagat has an article on the 8 hottest beer bars in Boston. Most of them are breweries, and there are some very good choices on the list. The inclusion of Notch was a little bizarre. Don’t get me wrong, Notch is awesome, but it is strange including one bar in Salem on a list with a bunch of others in the city.

That’s it for this month, thanks for reading and feel free to pass along anything that I should share next month!


Lone Pine Brightside IPA and Oh-J DIPA

The beer scene in Portland, Maine is insane, both in the sheer quantity of breweries for a small city and for the  high quality of the beer being brewed. Portland has a wide range from stalwarts like Allagash to buzzy upstarts like Bissell Brothers and Foundation. The popularity of these breweries has made Portland into a destination beer city for beer fans from around the world, and this had led to even more new breweries opening up shop. One newer addition that has started to build significant buzz is Lone Pine Brewing Company. Lone Pine makes a variety of beers with a focus on IPAs that showcase new world hop varieties. I was able to stop at Lone Pine  on a recent trip north and I grabbed a selection of cans to go. The brewery features a small tasting room with indoor and outdoor seating, and it’s an easy stop off of I-295 if you are driving through the city on your way north or south. Among the beers I grabbed was their flagship IPA Brightside and one of their double IPAs named Oh-J, which uses citrus forward hops to give the beer it’s distinctive juicy flavor and aroma. Both beers are available on a regular basis on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.

Lone Pine Brightside IPALone Pine Brightside IPA pours slightly hazy light orange with a solid white head. The scent is a big burst of fruity hops that makes you want to dive right in. The flavor is also very hop forward, notes of tangerine, guava and melon along with a little bitter bite. This is complemented by a mild malt backbone, hints of crackers and bread crust. Brightside is light bodied and has the smooth drinkability you look for in a NEIPA, but it packs a little punch at 7.1% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor that keeps you coming back for more. This is a stellar IPA, well crafted with huge hop flavor. It has a little more bitterness than some NEIPAs, but I would still put it into that sub-style. Brightside guarantees that Lone Pine will become a regular stop on trips to Maine, it is on par with any Maine IPA I’ve sampled. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Lone Pine Oh-JLone Pine Oh-J pours slightly hazy light yellow with a large white head. The scent gives you a huge whiff of citrus and tropical fruit from the hops. These fruity hops lead the flavor too, notes of orange candy, lemon and peach but minimal bitterness. There is also solid malt flavor, touches of bread dough, honey and a little residual sweetness, although I’m not sure if it’s from the malt, the booze or the fruity hops (probably some combination of the three). Oh-J is medium bodied and drinks very easy for a DIPA, especially for a beer with 8.1% ABV. The finish is somewhat crisp with some lingering hops. I’ve heard lots of buzz for this beer and I understand why people like it, although that sweet flavor was a slight minus for me (personal preference). Still worth a shot for fans of New England style DIPAs. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Bissell Brothers Pine Tree Agronomics

I am a huge fan of Bissell Brothers Brewing in Portland, I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad beer from there and everyone from the brewery has always been awesome, back to the early days on Industrial Way. I’m clearly not the only Bissell fan, even with the increased capacity enabled by the opening of their new brewery that place is a madhouse for can releases, especially in the summer during peak tourist season. Last summer I stopped on the way home from a family visit and waited in line for well over an hour for cans, not an easy sell when traveling with family. For that reason I skipped Bissell on both Maine trips this summer, opting for other breweries that wouldn’t have the wait. Fortunately I had to come north for a wedding a couple weeks ago, and I was travelling solo on a Friday mid-day, so I made a noontime stop at Bissell Brothers. In less than 15 minutes I was loaded with cans on their flagship IPA The Substance and a new release, Pine Tree Agronomics. Bissell Brothers Pine Tree Agronomics is an IPA brewed with 100% Maine products, malt, oats, wheat, Cascade and Nugget hops, and even Maine maple syrup. It is available on a limited basis on draft and in 16 oz cans.

Bissell Brothers Pine Tree AgronomicsBissell Brothers Pine Tree Agronomics pours murky light orange with a solid white head. The aroma is solidly hoppy, but more floral and pine then fruity. The hops also lead the flavor, notes of resin, spruce, herbs and grapefruit along with a solid bitter bite. This has the hazy appearance of a NEIPA but drinks more like a West Coast IPA. There is a solid malt backbone too, hints of bread crust, cereal and just the faintest hint of maple. Pine Tree Agronomics has a medium body and packs a little punch at 7.5% ABV. The finish is crisp with a lasting hop flavor that keeps you coming back for more. At first I was a little thrown off by this beer, it isn’t what I expected from a Bissell Brothers beer, but after getting over the initial surprise I really enjoyed Pine Tree Agronomics. Great to have some Bissell Brothers beer in the fridge and I hope to make another stop when I am in Maine in November. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Bissell Brothers Reviews:

Bissell Brothers Seed, Bissell Brothers The Substance


Old Planters Crop Rotation IPA

I typically keep a solid list of beers that I’ve heard good things about but haven’t had a chance to try. For a while I kept a physical list (or at least a memo stored on my phone) but I’ve gotten away from that and now I  try to set aside a small piece of my already overworked brain for the task. Fortunately I frequent bottle shops that specialize in quality beer, so a quick walk around the store can usually jog my memory. One beer that I finally found on a recent stock up run was Crop Rotation IPA from Old Planters Brewing Company out of Beverly, MA. Old Planters was started by a couple of Beverly natives and named after the first settlers in the town. The beer was initially brewed out of the cellar in one of the founder’s homes, but due to increased demand they now contract brew at Ipswich. One of their most popular beers is Crop Rotation IPA, a modern hop-forward take on the style brewed with a rotating selection of hops. Old Planters Hop Rotation IPA is available year round on draft and now in 16 oz. tallboy cans.

Old Planters Crop RotationOld Planters Crop Rotation IPA pours hazy light yellow with a small white head. The scent is a big burst of fruity hops, loads of tropical and citrus fruit. The flavor is extremely hop forward, notes of mango, tangerine, grapefruit and papaya along with a crisp bitter bite. A mid malt backbone rounds out the beer, hints of whte bread and cereal. Crop Rotation is medium bodied and drinks easy, and at 5.6% ABV it is on the light side for a modern IPA. The finish is crisp and clean with some lingering hop flavor and bite. This is a really nice IPA, has the fruit forward flavor that has made the NEIPA style so popular along with enough bitterness to keep it from being straight juice. Definitely worth a shot for all of the hop heads out there. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Two Roads Ok2berfest

When you mention fall seasonals there are usually two styles that come to the forefront, pumpkin beers and marzen/oktoberfests. I am normally not a huge fan of pumpkin beers, although I did a blind tasting hosted by the Mass Brew Brothers last weekend and actually found more than a few that I enjoyed. On the other hand I’ve always enjoyed the marzen style, Sam Adams Octoberfest was one of the beers that facilitated my conversion to craft beer and I’ve never lost a taste for the style. I’m glad that American brewers have mostly stuck to the style guidelines with Oktoberfests, I’m actually a little shocked that some brewers haven’t tried to brew a version of  the style loaded with hops and still try and pass it off as a marzen. One Oktoberfest that I’ve heard good things about but hadn’t sampled myself is Ok2berfest by Two Roads Brewing Company. They release this traditional take on the German lager in the late summer every year, it is available on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans, perfect for filling up a drinking stein.

Two Roads Ok2berfestTwo Roads Ok2berfest pours deep orange with a small white head. The aroma is rich with toasted malts. The flavor has the full malt flavor that fits the style, notes of caramel, toasted bread and honey along with just a hint of sweetness. This is balanced by a little late hop flavor, herbal and earthy. Ok2berfest is medium bodied and drinks smooth, not too boozy at 5.8% ABV. The finish is clean with some lingering malt flavor. This is a really nice Oktoberfest, a perfect beer for the cooler fall temperatures. Prost! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Two Roads Reviews:

Two Roads/Evil Twin Geyser Gose, Two Roads Rye 95Two Roads Route of All EvilTwo Roads Workers Comp Saison


Idle Hands Brocktoberfest

I know that the true German Oktoberfest celebration occurs in September, but in my opinion right now is peak time for fall beers. I’ve cleared most of the summer beers out of my beer fridge and stocked up on some darker and maltier styles. One new-to-me beer that I grabbed was Brocktoberfest, a marzen from Idle Hands Brewery. Idle Hands has had an interesting evolution, first they focused on Belgian inspired styles, then they brewed a number of German lagers, and now they have a mix of the two along with a variety of modern American beers. They were also forced to move out of their original brewery in Everett, but it led to the construction of a beautiful new taproom in Malden. Idle Hands has been killing it recently, putting out a number of delicious beers over a very wide range of styles. I was happy to see some tallboy cans of Brocktoberfest on store shelves, it is available as Idle Hands fall seasonal.

Idle Hands BrocktoberfestIdle Hands Brocktoberfest pours bright copper with a small white head. The aroma is mild, just a bit of toasted malt. The flavor is malt forward, notes of bread crust roasted nuts and honey. There is plenty of malt flavor but the beer avoids the cloying sweetness that is present in too many American marzens. A bit of floral and grassy hop flavor adds balance. Brocktoberfest is on the light side for the style, refreshingly drinkable and not too boozy at 5.6% ABV. The finish is clean with minimal aftertaste. This is a really nice marzen, it delivers the big malt flavors you expect in the style while keeping the beer light and easy to drink. Grab a big mug and toast the season with this (Br)Oktoberfest! Hoppy Boston  score: 4.25/5.

Previous Idle Hands Reviews:

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


Mayflower Hometown Brown

My opinions of brown ales has come full circle. When I first started drinking craft beers the smooth, slightly sweet and approachable brown ales were one of the first styles I gravitated to. As my tastes evolved and bold, hop-bomb IPAs became new beers of choice I dismissed brown ales as one-note. I’ve come back around recently, while they still are not my favorite style well crafted brown ales combine rich malty flavors with easy drinkability, making them perfect beers for the fall. This time of year I usually get hoppy beer burnout and focus a good portion of my drinking on more malt forward styles anyways. Mayflower Brewing Company clearly agrees with my idea of drinking brown ales in the fall, their fall seasonal is Hometown Brown. I guess it’s also fitting to drink a Massachusetts beer named “hometown” on a day when three of our local sports teams have important games. Mayflower Hometown Brown is brewed with 6 types of malted barley and is available August through November on draft and in 12 oz. cans.

Mayflower Hometown BrownMayflower Hometown Brown pours cola brown with a small off-white head. The scent is all rich toasted malt. The flavor is also malt forward, notes of caramel, bread dough and cocoa. There is a touch of late hop flavor, earthy and just enough bitterness to keep the sweetness in check without being assertive. Hometown Brown is medium bodied and smooth, not too boozy 5% ABV. The finish is clean with a little lingering malt flavor. This is a really well crafted and delicious brown ale, I’ll put a few of these back this fall. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Mayflower Reviews:

Mayflower Alden, Mayflower Standish, Mayflower Daily RationMayflower SquantoMayflower PorterMayflower Scotch AleMayflower Spring Hop, Mayflower Oatmeal Stout