The final beer of Hoppy Boston’s Dopplebock Week is Bocky Bier from Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project. I’m cheating a little, this beer is technically listed as a bock but at 7.5% ABV it is right on the bock/dopplebock borderline. I was very excited to try this beer! Pretty Things is a master of extracting bold malty flavors from grain, so they should have a field day with this malt-forward lager style. This is actually this first time I’ve written a Pretty Things review since the Pay-to-Play controversy (if you didn’t hear about that, I have a summary and some links HERE). The most ridiculous accusation to come out of that back-and-forth was that Pretty Things makes an inferior product. In my opinion they remain one of the most consistent and highest quality breweries in New England. Pretty Things had a tongue in cheek response, advertising their 6th anniversary party as a celebration of 6 years brewing an “inferior product”. I really think they should brew a special beer named “Inferior Product”, not sure if enough people would get the joke though. Until that happens I’ll keep buying and trying the beers they do release. Bocky Bier is one of their newest fall-to-winter beers. It is a tribute to malt flavor and to their friend Jim “Bocky” Barnes, who is featured on the label. Pretty Things Bocky Bier is available for a limited time on draft and in 22 oz. bombers.
Pretty Things Bocky Bier pours the color of black coffee with a minimal tan head. The scent is all malty goodness, coffee and chocolate. The malts sing in the flavor as well, notes of espresso, mocha, dark chocolate, grainy bread and roasted malt. There is just a touch of hops that dries out the finish a little, but this beer is clearly a tribute to malt. The beer is very approachable, at 7.5% ABV it is a full beer without being overly boozy. The finish continues with the malty theme leaving a touch of malt sweetness on the tongue. This beer is amazing, one of the best malty lagers I’ve ever tried. I really hope this is a regular product on the Pretty Things rotation. It is definitively a superior product. Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.
Previous Pretty Things Reviews:
Pretty Things/Naparbier There’s No Place Like There, Pretty Things Grampus, Pretty Things Barbapapa, Pretty Things Meadowlark, Pretty Things/Yeastie Boys Our Turn, Your Turn.
When I started writing this blog I found that social media was a great way to connect with brewers and breweries, as well as other beer writers and enthusiasts. Twitter in particular has been a great medium to share my work and to find other blogs to read. It has also been a great way to find out news about new beers, special events and trends in the industry. Twitter was the first place I heard the term “unicorn beer”, designated for highly rated but hard-to-find special releases. I don’t end up drinking very many unicorn beers, mostly due to my unwillingness to drive for hours or stand in line for the sole purpose of buying a particular beer. This brings me to another advantage of social media, I’ve been clued in from Twitter followers when rare beers come to town, and where I can find them. This happened recently with Double Dose, the once-a-year double IPA brewed by Otter Creek and Lawson’s Finest Liquids of Vermont. While Otter Creek beers are widely available (and very good in their own right), you can only get beers from Lawson’s in VT, so it is a rare treat to find this collaboration beer at a local store. Double Dose is currently available in 4 packs of 12 oz bottles and on draft, I recommend grabbing some if you find it, it won’t be around for long!
Otter Creek/Lawson’s Finest Liquids Double Dose pours a deep orange, slightly hazy with a mild white head. The smell is a huge burst of hops, tons of tropical and citrus fruit. This beer might have the best nose of any IPA I’ve ever tasted. The hops rule the flavor too, significant grapefruit, lemon and resin followed by a little mango and passion fruit. The hop flavor is accompanied by the tongue-numbing bitterness you expect from a double IPA. While Double Dose is a very hop-forward beer, there is enough malt in the backbone to add a little balance. This is also a pretty big beer at 8.5% ABV, and you get just a hint of warming alcohol as you drink. For a big beer it is very drinkable, and finishes with a pleasant bitter bite on the tongue. This beer is awesome, as soon as I finished my first bottle I wished I bought more than a 4-pack, but I will make sure I track more down before it’s gone. Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.
Previous Otter Creek Reviews:
Otter Creek Fresh Slice, Otter Creek Citra Mantra, Otter Creek Kind Ryed
Until recently there were very few stores that specialized in beer. In Maine, where I grew up and went to school, they sold beer at every local grocery store and convenience store. Some places took pride in offering a good variety of choices that skewed towards local selections, but most were just taking advantage of summer tourists eager to purchase anything that had Maine written on the label. When I moved to MA, I started to see more liquor stores that made it a point to stock an extensive selection of craft beer. Recently, I was introduced to Craft Beer Cellar, which combines an amazing selection and a knowledgeable staff with a beer-centric philosophy. My local CBC is Newton where I buy the majority of my beer. I also follow the Newton and Belmont stores on social media (Facebook and Twitter), where they are quick to announce new beer releases. A few weeks ago CBC Newton informed their followers that they had a case of Lunch, the highly sought after IPA from Maine Beer Company that makes infrequent appearances in MA. Instead of a first-come, first served announcement, any one who liked the post was entered in a drawing to purchase a discounted bottle. I was one of the winners, and went in that weekend to buy Lunch (and a crazy amount of other deliciousness). Lesson: It pays to have a local place where you get your beer, and to follow them online. You never know when you’ll get hooked up with a hard to find and delicious beer.
Maine Beer Co. Lunch pours a clear deep copper with a moderate white head. The first smell is a huge burst of American hops, tropical fruit, citrus and pine. The taste is dominated by juicy hops with notes of grapefruit, lemon, orange, mango, resin, flowers and grass. This is accompanied by a pleasant, but not overwhelming bitterness. While this is a hop-bomb of a beer there is some noticeable maltiness that helps balance things out. Lunch is medium bodied and very easy to drink. At 7.0% ABV this is a pretty big beer, but the alcohol doesn’t come through in the flavor at all. The finish is very crisp with a mouth puckering bitterness in the aftertaste. It’s a great beer! When I first started to drink Maine Beer Co. beers there were some issues with consistency, some beers would be great one time and so-so the next. I haven’t had any issues with this in the last year or two. I’ve had Lunch 3 times in the past year and each time it’s been spectacular. If you have the opportunity to buy and try this beer I highly recommend it. Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.
Previous Maine Beer Co. Reviews:
Maine Beer Co. Another One, Maine Beer Co./Allagash/In’finiti 2013 Ale, Maine Beer Co. Peeper
It seems like a new brewery opens in New England every month, to the point that you can easily lose track of all the local beers. This rapid expansion of craft beer has created a competitive marketplace, where the brewers are vying for tap lines, shelf space and customer dollars. Local breweries have taken different tactics to stand out, from advertizing, marketing and social media to brewing limited release beers to starting loyalty clubs. While these strategies can help, in my opinion the most important thing a brewery can do to create buzz is to brew amazing beer. That seems kind of obvious, but it can be easier said than done. It is certianly eye-catching when a local brewery can be in business for a year and already achieve such a devoted following that a weekday bottle release results in lines down the block. Demand that exceeds supply and lines out the door seem to be commonplace at Trillium Brewing Company in the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston. While the brewery location is pretty awesome, the key reason for the enthusiasm around Trillium is the consistent high quality of their releases. When I decided to review a series of saisons this Spring the inclusion of Trillium’s signature Farmhouse Ale was a no brainer. This was made even easier by the fact that Trillium now releases their flagship beers in 750 mL bottles in addition to draft lines and growlers at the brewery. Trillium Farmhouse Ale is a saison brewed with barley and wheat malt, Columbus and US Goldings hops and Trillium’s Farmhouse blend of yeast.
Trillium Farmhouse Ale pours straw gold, slightly cloudy with a solid white head that leaves nice lacing on the glass as you drink. The smell is an aromatic mixture of floral hops mingling with estery and spicy Belgian yeast. The yeast also comes through strongly in the taste, with touches of pepper, green apple and pear. There is significant hop flavor that nicely complements the yeast, adding pine and earthy notes. Despite the hop flavor the beer isn’t overly bitter. There are some malts in the backbone that add to the complexity, including a little added kick from the wheat. The beer is very light bodied and easy to drink, at 6.5% ABv it is about average for the style. The finish is very clean, with just a hint of spice left on the tongue. This beer is one of my favorite saisons, extremely well balanced, intricate and full of flavor. Very highly recommended! Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.
Previous Trillium Reviews:
Trillium Wakerobin Rye
To start the Hoppy Boston Spring of saisons I decided to review one of my favorites, Mystic Mary of the Gael. It is fitting to begin a run of saison reviews with Mystic, since their brewery specializes in the style. Mystic’s beers showcase the versatility of the saison style. Each of their flagship and seasonal beers is a saison, but they have drastically different flavor profiles. Mary of the Gael is Mystic’s Spring saison, brewed in honor of St. Brigid’s Day in Ireland. It is brewed with pilsner and a little honey malt along with Belgian-style saison yeast. The ale is then dry hopped with a copious amount of aromatic hops, adding a significant hoppy character to the final product. While traditional Belgian saisons aren’t aggressively hopped, the fruity ester tastes imparted by the Belgian yeast can be a nice fit with the floral, citrus and tropical fruit impressions from many hop varieties. Mary of the Gael is available on draft and in 750 mL bottles during the Spring season.
Mystic Mary of the Gael pours a deep copper, slightly cloudy with a massive off-white head. The smell starts with Belgian yeast, scents of spice and fruity esters with a little funk. This is nicely balanced by hoppy aromas that contribute earth, pine and floral fragrances. The yeast is also the first flavor to come through when you taste the beer, along with notes of pepper, pear, green apple and spice. These fruity and spicy esters form a nice synergy with the touches of lemon, resin and cut grass from the hops. The malts are evident but not strong. They form a nice base to the beer and provide balance. While the beer has strong hop aroma and some distinct hoppy flavor, the bitterness is mild at 21 IBUs. Mystic Mary of the Gael is medium to light bodied, easy to drink but solid at 6.5% ABV. The finish is a little dry with a dash of lingering spiciness and bitterness. This beer is delicious, a perfectly composed combination of flavors from the yeast, hops and malt. I have tasted and enjoyed a number of beers from Mystic and this is my favorite (so far)! Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.
Previous Mystic Reviews:
Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer
With the ever-increasing number of craft breweries in the US there are now an incredible variety of beer styles available to the consumer. These styles range from traditional brews that mimic those produced in Europe for centuries to brand new styles that are unique to US craft beer. While I love a perfectly done traditional beer, there is something to be said for creativity. One brewery that has had significant success brewing both traditional and unique beers is Jack’s Abby of Framingham, MA. Jack’s Abby brews all lager style beers, which use colder fermenting yeast strains that result in lower levels of esters and “cleaner” flavor profiles. While Jack’s Abby creates many traditional German and Czech style lagers, they also have creative hop-forward and barrel aged beers. One of their most popular beers is Mass Rising, a light bodied, high alcohol, and very hop-forward lager beer. Mass Rising is named in honor of the Boston Tea Party. It was awarded a gold medal at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival in the Other Strong Lager category.
Jack’s Abby Mass Rising pours golden yellow with a solid and sustained white head. The beer is well carbonated, giving a pleasant bubbly sensation on the tongue. The first smell is an explosion of American hop aromas, with strong scents of pine and citrus. The hops also dominate the taste, with lemon, grapefruit, pine and earthy notes. There is a very subtle malt backbone, but this beer is clearly all about the hops. There is a ton of bitterness that lingers on the tongue, not surprising with 100 IBUs. Despite the bitterness the beer is crisp, clean and very easy to drink. This drinkability is a little dangerous since Mass Rising is 8.0% ABV. This beer is awesome, a great way to highlight everything that’s great about American hops in a light bodied and very drinkable lager. Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.
Other reviews of Jack’s Abby beers:
Jack’s Abby/Evil Twin Jack’s Evil Brew
Jack’s Abby Wet Hop Lager
Jack’s Abby Pro-Am Pilsner
Idle Hands brewery in Everett, MA makes a variety of Belgian-style craft ales. The co-founders, husband and wife team Christopher and Grace Tkazh, decided to focus on Belgian style beer due to its diverse flavor profile and the interplay between these ales with an array of different foods. Idle Hands beers often feature a classic Belgian style with a twist, typically the inclusion of non-traditional adjuncts, or the addition of American hop varieties. These updates lead a series of handcrafted year-round and seasonal ales, available on draft and in 22 oz. bottles. One of Idle Hands signature year-round brews is Triplication, their take on the Abbey tripel style. The tripel is a lightly colored ale that is typically high in alcohol due to the addition of Belgian candi sugar to the mash. The flavors of a tripel can range from slightly fruity to coyingly sweet to dry. This style has become increasingly popular among American craft brewers because the esters from the yeast along with the malt and sugar backbone can complement American hops to form a highly nuanced and fun to sip beer.
Idle Hands Triplication pours a hazy gold with a sustained white head. The first smell is the Belgian yeast, contributing fruity esters, earthy tones and must. The yeast is present, but not as strong as you might find in other Belgian style beers. The hops are also evident on the nose, with citrus notes that interplay with the fruit from the yeast. The taste is balanced. The yeast contributes fruit flavors; apple, pear and peach, along with some clove. The hops are also evident, bringing in pine resin and lemon notes. The solid hop bite complements a mild malt backbone, just a touch of sweetness to balance the bitterness from the hops. The beer is crisp and very easy to drink, with a light and fully carbonated mouthfeel. This drinkability is a little dangerous, as Triplication weighs in at a whopping 9.0% ABV. Be very careful with this beer, delicious, easy to drink and high alcohol can be an inviting, potentially problematic combination. I like tripels as a style, but find that many leave an overly sweet aftertaste that necessitates slow sipping, but the perfect balance of yeast, sugars and hops in Triplication makes it a stellar Americanized version of this Belgian Abbey staple. This beer deserves a place amongst the cannon of the great beers in Massachusetts. Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.