Tag Archives: Baxter

Baxter Hayride

I love seasonal beers, we have such diverse seasons in New England and it is fascinating to see how creative brewers develop beers that complement each unique season. Unfortunately there seems to be a lack of ingenuity in the fall. For years most brewers made Oktoberfest/marzen beers as their fall seasonals, and lately it seems like every brewer is making some version of a pumpkin beer (some are even making multiple versions). I understand the desire to brew a traditional style like a marzen or to brew one of the pumpkin beers that sell so well, but it would be great to see a little more creativity and variety in the fall. One brewery that breaks the mold is Baxter Brewery in Lewiston, ME. Every fall Baxter brews Hayride, a rye ale brewed with New Zealand hops along with ginger, orange peel and pepper, and then cold conditioned on oak. Baxter Hayride in available during the fall on draft and in 12 oz. cans.

Baxter HayrideBaxter Hayride pours a deep amber with a solid off-white head. The scent is a mixture of fruity hops and lightly roasted malts along with a little spice. The taste is very complex, there are lots of different flavors in this beer but they work well together. The malts add substantial body along with touches of caramel, whole grain bread, honey and spicy rye. There is also a noticeable hit of hops, notes of pine, lemon and cut grass along with mild bitterness. The spices are subtle, but add some ginger and orange flavor, especially as the beer warms. You also get some of the vanilla flavor that is standard for a beer aged on oak. Baxter Hayride is medium bodied and goes down smooth, at 6,6% ABV it’s perfect for cool autumn evenings. The finish is crisp with just a little lingering spicy, sweet and bitter flavor on the tongue. I love seeing a brewer go against the grain for a seasonal release, and Baxter nails it with this beer, a great change of pace from pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Baxter Reviews:

Baxter Bootleg FireworksBaxter TarnationBaxter Phantom Punch Stout

H2H Beer Review: DIPA, Grey Sail Captain’s Daughter vs. Baxter Bootleg Fireworks

IPAs are big business for craft breweries. Beers falling under the IPA umbrella easily outpace other styles in volume of sales. American beer drinkers love the bold hoppy flavors and tongue numbing bitterness, pushing brewers to produce beers with ever climbing IBU and ABV numbers. There are very few breweries that don’t brew a flagship IPA, and many also make big and boozy double IPAs. A great DIPA can put your brewery on the map in the increasingly competitive market (just ask the Alchemist or Russian River), so it is no surprise that newer breweries work hard to perfect and then market their DIPAs. I recently picked up a couple of new and highly recommended DIPAs, sampled both and thought they would be perfect for a head-to-head beer review.

The Competitors: Two relatively new releases in the double IPA catagory, Captain’s Daughter from Grey Sail Brewing and Bootleg Fireworks from Baxter Brewing Company.

Grey Sail Brewing and Baxter Brewing Company actually have a lot in common outside of their locations (Grey Sail is headquartered in Rhode Island while Baxter is in Maine). Both breweries were founded in the last few years, long enough to gain a loyal local following but still new enough to be unfamiliar to many. Both breweries also predominantly can their beer for distribution, including the beers reviewed here (Grey Sail bottles a few special releases, Baxter only cans). I have enjoyed a number of selections from each brewery, enough so that I seek out anything new they release. Here is how these beers stack up:

Grey Sail Captain's DaughterA 12 oz. can of Grey Sail Captain’s Daughter pours a cloudy deep amber-orange with a moderate white head and some nice lacing on the glass. the hops dominate the smell, deep resin along with a little fruitiness. The hops are also the predominant flavor, a little more citrus and tropical fruit in the flavor than on the nose. There is significant bitterness balanced by a noticeable full malt backbone. The beer is full bodied and you get a little alcoholic sweetness followed by a dry finish. This is a very good beer for the winter months, the full flavor and 8.5% ABV will help keep you warm during a cold snap.

Baxter Bootleg FireworksBaxter Bootleg Fireworks comes in 16 oz. tallboy cans, pouring a lighter yellow with a massive white head. This is also hop forward, strong scents of pine and citrus on the nose. As expected Bootleg Fireworks is another hop-bomb, notes of lemon, grapefruit and orange along with floral and earthy touches. The maltiness is a little more subdued here, but the bitterness is not, this beer numbs the tongue a bit. Despite the aggressive hop flavor the beer is remarkably drinkable, even at 9.0% ABV you don’t get a hint of booze. This is a beer for the true hop lover, the flavors really shine through.

The Verdict: When I do a H2H review of two beers that I have enjoyed previously I know it will be tough to pick a favorite. It was a pleasant surprise to have the same issue with two beers that were completely new to me! Both of these beers are worth picking up if you enjoy hop forward selections. If you prefer a little more body and a touch of boozy sweetness to balance out the aggressive hops you will probably love the Grey Sail Captain’s Daughter. Personally I enjoyed the Baxter Bootleg Fireworks just a hair more as it was slightly easier to drink and the combination of hop varieties was perfect for my palate. Baxter Bootleg Fireworks gets the win here.

Previous Grey Sail Reviews: Grey Sail Leaning Chimney Smoked Porter

Previous Baxter Reviews: Baxter TarnationBaxter Phantom Punch Stout

Baxter Tarnation

Most of the popular styles of craft beer enjoyed in America originated in Germany, Belgium and Great Britian. The American styles of these beers are often quite different, for example an American IPA is much hoppier than a traditional British IPA, however there are few beer styles that are uniquely American. That is starting to change with the development of distinctly American varieties like black IPAs and hoppy lagers (or IPLs). For a long time the only beer that was entirely American was the California Common, also called a steam beer. Steam beers are hybrid beers brewed with lager yeast, but at higher fermentation temperatures more commonly used for ales. They were originally developed to compensate for a lack of refrigeration, which prevented traditional lagering in parts of California. While there are relatively few steam beers made by craft brewers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this style expand in popularity. Baxter Brewing Company in Lewiston, ME recently started brewing Tarnation, their first lager, in the California Common Style. Tarnation is brewed with Munich and American Crystal malts along with Northern Brewer hops, the distinct hop for this style of lager. The beer is available year round in 12 oz cans and on draft.

baxter tarnationBaxter Tarnation pours an amber gold, crystal clear with a massive white head. The smell is pretty mild, some subtle light malts and a little earthy hop aroma. The taste is crisp, very clean and super easy to drink. There is solid malt character, fresh bread, light grains and just a touch of malt sweetness. The hops balance the beer, adding some earthy and woodsy notes to the flavor, but the beer isn’t hoppy by American craft beer standards. The finish is more crisp than bitter, very refreshing. Baxter Tarnation weighs in at 5.3% ABV, solid but low enough that you can drink a few. This is a great summer/BBQ beer, easy to drink but full on flavor. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Baxter Brewing reviews:

Baxter Phantom Punch Stout

Baxter Phantom Punch Stout

Until recently the thought of canned beer brought back memories of cheap, mass produced lagers. There has been a push over the last few years by many craft beer companies to start canning beer. Cans have a few advantages over bottles – they are easier to transport, allow less harmful UV light into the beer, and are typically made with recycled aluminum for the environmentally conscious. Even Sam Adams, who steadfastly refused to can their beer for years, has developed their own line of cans. Baxter Brewing in Lewiston, ME is the first craft brewery in New England to can all of their beer. Their year-round and seasonal beers are distributed in Maine and Massachusetts. Baxter Brewing’s winter seasonal is Phantom Punch Stout, a foreign extra stout brewed with organic cocoa nibs and vanilla beans. Phantom Punch Stout is named after the famous/infamous heavyweight title fight between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston in Lewiston in 1965. Ali knocked Liston out in the first round, but many didn’t even see the punch connect (thus the phantom punch), and rumors quickly followed of a possible fix. Regardless of what actually happened, it is fitting for a brewery from Lewiston to name a beer after the most well-known sporting event in the city’s history.

Baxter Phantom PunchBaxter Brewing Phantom Punch Stout pours nearly black with a large and sustained tan head. The smell is dark malt forward, notes of chocolate, licorice and roasted barley. The malts dominate the taste too, chocolate, molasses and roasted barley are the most prevalent flavors. The vanilla comes through a little, along with a touch of smoke and some dark fruit flavors like cherry and raisin. There are some hops in the background, enough to balance the sweetness in the beer and give it some earthy undertones, but the dark malts are the foremost flavor. The finish is clean with just a hint of malt sweetness. This is a nice winter sipper, not overdone at 6.8% ABV. Overall a very solid beer, should pair well with hearty winter stews, braises and roasts. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.