Tag Archives: American Wheat

Castle Island Vern

One of the hardest things about starting a new brewery is consistency. Once a brewer gets to the point that they brewing beer professionally they usually have some good recipes, but consistently executing these ideas on large scale can take some time. Some brewers learn from their mistakes as they go, but a select few hit the ground running and make delicious beer from day one. One brewery that seemed to figure things out very quickly is Castle Island, it’s no surprise that they are being recognized as one of the best new breweries in the country, and they need to expand to meet demand. I’ve enjoyed every beer I’ve tasted from Castle Island so far, their flagships Candlepin and Keeper have become a regular entries in my beer fridge. I was excited when they announced that their new Spring beer was a Mosaic wheat IPA named Vern. I am a big fan of Mosaic hops and wheat malts usually help showcase hop flavors and aromas. Castle Island Vern is available this Spring on draft and in 16 oz tallboy cans.

Castle Island VernCastle Island Vern pours hazy light orange with a solid white head. The scent is a burst of fruity hops, mostly the tropical aromas that define Mosaic hops. The flavor is also hop forward, notes of mango, melon and orange along with a very mild bitterness. This is balanced by some malt, touches of wheat bread and crackers. Vern is light bodied, smooth and extremely drinkable, but packs a little punch at 6.8% ABV. The finish is crisp with a little lingering malt flavor. I haven’t had a bad beer from Castle Island yet, and this is one of my favorites, definitely worth picking up. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Castle Island Reviews:

Castle Island TBD, Castle Island FestbierCastle Island Keeper IPA

Sam Adams Hopscape and Fresh As Helles

Sam Adams (and other larger craft brands) are in an interesting place in the evolving beer culture, trying to balance the needs of their regular customers with the fickle tastes of beer geeks. Many of these beer geeks got their start drinking Boston Lager and Sam seasonals, but some shy away from the brand now, and the increased competition in the market has hurt Boston Beer Company’s bottom line. It will be interesting to see how they adapt, I would love to see them brew fewer regular releases and then start a line of experimental/one-off brews to flex their creativity and excite the beer geeks. One of the core parts of the Sam Adams lineup has always been their seasonal beers, Summer Ale, Octoberfest and Winter Lager have represented their respective seasons for as long as I can remember. The one seasonal that has been through many iterations is the spring, they have tinkered with a number of options without settling on one. This spring Sam Adams is doing something slightly different, they are going to have two seasonal beers. In January and February you can try Hopscape, a hoppy wheat beer, while Fresh As Helles, a Helles lager brewed with orange blossom, will be available in March and April. They were kind enough to send me some samples of both, they will be sold on draft and in 12 oz. bottles

sam-adams-hopscapeSam Adams Hopscape pours a hazy straw gold with a minimal white head. The scent is mild, some citrus and pine from the hops. You also get some hops in the flavor but not as much as I expected, notes of grass, lemon and resin along with a crisp bitterness. This is balanced by some malt flavor, hints of wheat bread and cereal. Hopscape is light bodied, very easy to drink and not too boozy at 5.5% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with just a touch of hops lingering on the tongue. I like the idea behind Hopscape, wheat beers can mix very well with New World hops, but I really would have liked more hop flavor and aroma. Hoppy Boston score: 3.75/5.

sam-adams-fresh-as-hellesSam Adams Fresh As Helles pours a clear bright orange with a solid white head. The scent is a mixture of bready malts and floral hops. The flavor is well balanced with a clean lager drinkability. The malts add touches of biscuits, crackers and bread dough. This is complemented by a solid hit of noble hops, hints of cut grass and herbs along with a crisp bite in the finish. I don’t get much orange blossom flavor, I wouldn’t have picked out the ingredient if it wasn’t on the label. Fresh As Helles has the clean finish you expect from a lager, and at 5.4% ABV you can put down a few. These precise and flavorful lagers are a specialty for Sam Adams, many of their best beers fall into this category, and I’ll definitely enjoy a few of these as winter turns into spring. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Sam Adams Reviews:

Sam Adams Rebel RawSam Adams Rebel RouserSam Adams Double Bock, Sam Adams Cold Snap, Sam Adams Octoberfest

Notch Dog and Pony Show

My wife and I had a somewhat rare treat the other weekend, a child-free afternoon thanks to my in-laws, so we did a little date day (it was also the 6-year anniversary of our first date so we had a good reason to celebrate). We decided to head up to Salem, get some lunch and finally check out the new Notch brewery and tasting room. The brewery is beautiful, big and open, plenty of different types of seating, skee ball and an outdoor beer garden. My wife perfectly summed up my feelings when I asked her what she wanted and she replied, “pick anything, I’ve never had a bad Notch beer”. We sampled a few beers, got some more to go, and even met owner Chris Lohring. Chris explained that they were currently focused on hoppy pale ales and traditional Czech lagers, but would branch out from there. I like the initial areas of focus, hop-forward pale beers will always pay the bills and the non-pilsner varieties of Czech lager are underappreciated in the US. I wish I’d had more time to sample everything they offered. One of the beers we tried at the brewery and then grabbed to go was Dog and Pony Show, a pale American wheat beer with a generous dose of Citra hops. Notch Dog and Pony show is available on draft (including 1L pours at the brewery!) and to-go in 32 oz. crowlers.

notch-dog-and-pony-showNotch Dog and Pony Show pours a clear bright yellow with a solid white head. The scent is a big burst of citrusy hops. The flavor is also hop forward, notes of grapefruit, orange and mango with a very mild bitterness. A light malt backbone rounds out the flavor, hints of white bread and honey. Dog and Pony show is light bodied and crushable at 4.0% ABV, I had no issue polishing off a 32 oz. crowler in one sitting. The finish is crisp and clean with a touch of lingering hop flavor. This beer perfectly showcases Notch’s mission, low ABV bt still tons of flavor. Notch’s year-round releases are staples of my beer fridge, but the addition of draft only releases like this will necessitate regular visits to Salem. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Notch Reviews:

Notch Infinite JestNotch Cerne Pivo, Notch The MuleNotch Hootenanny, Notch Left of the Dial, Notch Saison

Notch Infinite Jest

I’ve been able to visit a number of new or new-to-me breweries over the last couple months, trimming down the list of places I needed to try for the first time (of course the list of places that I need to visit again seems to get longer and longer). One place that I still haven’t had a chance to try is the new Notch Brewery in Salem. This is mostly due to the fact that I don’t make many trips to that part of Massachusetts (a poor excuse), and that I only get a couple chances to visit breweries each month and I try to focus on beers I can’t find in bottle shops (I know, also a poor excuse). I know that Notch has a bunch of brewery only beers, and I’ll do my best to make the trek soon. I also want one of those kick-ass liter mugs. Even though I haven’t visited the brewery, there are Notch beers in my fridge all the time, I always like to have flavorful session beers on hand. The beer that has quickly become a staple is Infinite Jest, Notch’s hoppy American wheat beer. It is important to remember that this is a beer brewed with wheat but not a coriander/orange peel witbier or a German Hefeweizen with it’s banana and clove flavors. Actually, many hop forward pale ales and IPAs are now brewed with a solid dose of wheat, it helps accentuate the hop flavors and drinkability. Notch Infinite Jest is available year round on draft and in 12 oz. cans.

notch-infinite-jestNotch Infinite Jest pours a hazy gold with a solid white head. The scent is a big burst of fruity new world hops. The flavor is hop forward, notes of orange, mango and lemon along with just a touch of bitterness. This is balanced by a solid malt presence for a session beer, hints of wheat bread and crackers. Infinite Jest is light bodied and super easy to drink, sessionable at 4.3% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with a little lingering hop flavor. I’ve had Infinite Jest quite a few times now and it has emerged as my favorite beer from the brewery, which is saying a lot because I’ve enjoyed many Notch offerings! Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Notch Reviews:

Notch Cerne Pivo, Notch The MuleNotch Hootenanny, Notch Left of the Dial, Notch Saison

Maine Beer Co. Thank You

The last six weeks have been beyond crazy. First, my wife and I closed on a house in the suburbs, a sure sign that I am really getting old. Then, less than two weeks later, I found out I was losing my job (the real one that pays the bills, unfortunately Hoppy Boston is just a hobby). I work in R&D in the pharmaceutical industry, and my company had a drug underperform in the clinic leading to massive layoffs. It’s a tough business and these things happen, but it’s never fun. The amount of time and energy I needed for our move and my job search led to a hiatus for Hoppy Boston, I was hoping that I would still post occasionally, but it turned into a full break. In that time I managed to move, interview at a number of companies, and then get a very strong job offer that I happily accepted. Now we are mostly settled (few projects left, but there will always be as a homeowner), and I don’t start my new job until mid-August, so you can expect a flurry of posts and hopefully a number of visits to local breweries. I though an appropriate beer to review for my first article back was Thank You, a new American wheat ale from Maine Beer Company. Thank You was brewed in gratitude of all of the people that have helped make Maine Beer Co. a successful operation, and I want to use this as an opportunity to thank all of my readers who have been patient and supportive through this hiatus and who make Hoppy Boston so much fun to write. Maine Beer Co. Thank You is available for a limited time in 500 mL bottles.

Maine Beer Thank YouMaine Beer Co. Thank You pours a clear bright yellow with a solid white head. The scent is classic MBC hops, a huge burst of citrus and tropical fruit. The taste is very hop forward, notes of melon, lime, guava and tangerine along with a crisp bitterness. The malts round out the flavor, hints of crackers and wheat bread. Maine Beer Co. Thank You is light in body, super drinkable and not too boozy at 5.3% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with a bit of lingering hop flavor. Thank You is a perfect beer for summer, easy to drink but still full flavored. A great beer to review as a welcome back for Hoppy Boston! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Maine Beer Co. Reviews:

Maine Beer Co. MoMaine Beer Co. Mean Old TomMaine Beer Co. A Tiny Beautiful Something, Maine Beer Co. Beer II, BREWERY OVERVIEW: Maine Beer Co., Maine Beer Co. King TitusMaine Beer Co. Lunch, Maine Beer Co. Another One, Maine Beer Co./Allagash/In’finiti 2013 Ale, Maine Beer Co. Peeper

Anchor Summer Beer

You could easily argue that modern American craft beer started with Anchor Brewing Company. The original brewery that became Anchor was founded in San Fransisco in 1871. It underwent multiple iterations including a fire, shut down for Prohibition, and numerous changes in ownership. The history is pretty interesting, you can see it all on their website HERE. Anchor’s flagship beer is Anchor Steam, a California Common, the first style of beer developed in the US. Anchor now brews a wide variety of year round and seasonal beers, which are distributed around the country. Anchor’s Summer seasonal is an American wheat beer that they have been brewing since 1984. Anchor Summer Beer is brewed with pale barley and malted wheat along with Goldings and Glacier hops. It is available during the summer in 12 oz. beers and on draft.

Anchor SummerAnchor Summer Beer pours a clear deep yellow with a moderate white head. The smell is mostly wheat with a little pale barley malt and a touch of lemon. The flavor is very light, with the malts at the forefront, wheat bread and a little sugary barley. The hops are nearly undetectable, a touch of lemon and very little bitterness. The beer is light and drinkable at 4.5% ABV, and finishes clean. If you like summer wheat beers (think Sam Adams Summer) you might want to give this a try. Personally, not my favorite style. If I wanted to drink a lighter style beer from Anchor I’d prefer their California Lager. Hoppy Boston score: 3.5/5.

Pretty Things/Yeastie Boys Our Turn Your Turn

With their interesting takes on traditional British, Belgian and American styles Pretty Things beer and ale project has emerged as one of the most popular microbreweries in the Boston area. Technically they aren’t a microbrewery, as there is no physical brewery (the beer is contract brewed at Buzzard’s Bay brewery in Westport, MA), thus the “project” in their title. Pretty Things is run by Martha and Dann a husband/wife team who do the brewing, marketing, and even the artwork on the labels. I would not be surprised if you’ve met them at your local liquor store handing out samples and chatting about their passion.

While Pretty Things makes a number of year-round beers and seasonals (many of which you can expect to see reviewed in this space), they also do experimental single batch beers, often as collaborations with other brewers. Our Turn, Your Turn is one of these collaborations, with the New Zealand based brewers the Yeastie Boys. Our Turn, Your Turn is an American style wheat ale brewed with New Zealand hops, a blend of English and German yeasts, and a special ingredient, the Linden flower, which is usually used to make tea. This is a big change for Pretty Things, as they rarely put exotic ingredients in their beer.

Pretty things our turnOur Turn, Your Turn pours a hazy yellow with a sustained white head. The first smell is the New Zealand hops, a nice mixture of lemony citrus and earthy notes that is perfect on a sunny late summer day. The bitter hops are well represented on the first taste too, nicely balanced by a crisp malt backbone with notes of wheat. The linden tea flavor is there, adding a herbal complexity without overwhelming the beer. The beer is very easy to drink, you have to be careful with it, since it weighs in at 7% ABV. Another excellent offering from one of the leaders in the Boston beer scene. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.0