The discussion of fall seasonal beers typically revolves around pumpkin beers and Oktoberfests, which is interesting because these two styles both lack the big hop flavors that dominate the current beer scene. This is why its no surprise that another fall style that is quickly gaining popularity is fresh hopped beers. Hops are harvested in the fall and most are dried immediately for use throughout the year. This drying process results in some loss of flavor and aroma due to the evaporation of volatile aromatic compounds. Fresh hopped beers are made with hops that have just been harvested, usually within a day or two of harvest to maximize the flavor and aroma of the hops. Most fresh-hopped beers are American pale ales or IPAs, but RiverWalk Brewing Company out of Newburyport, MA has started brewing a different style of fresh hopped beer each fall. Their 2015 version of Farm to Kettle is a Belgian IPA, brewed with expressive Belgian style yeast along with hops freshly harvested from nearby Tamarack Farmstead. RiverWalk Farm to Kettle 2015 is available for a limited time on draft and in bottles.
RiverWalk Farm to Kettle 2015 pours a clear golden yellow with a solid white head. The scent is a mixture of citrusy hops and fruity yeast. The fresh hops come through strongly in the flavor, notes of pine, grass and lemon along with an herbal quality that is distinct to freshly harvested hops. The hops also add a solid hit of bitterness. The Belgian style yeast forms a nice interplay with the hops adding touches of green apple, pepper and pear. The beer is rounded out with some light malts, hints of crackers and white bread. The beer is crisp and easy to drink, and moderately alcoholic at 6.5% ABV. Farm to Kettle finishes with a bitter kick and some lingering yeasty esters. I really enjoyed this beer, the combination of the Belgian style yeast and the fresh hops really work well together. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous RiverWalk Reviews:
RiverWalk Screen Door
Unlike many industries that focus entirely on competition, craft brewers love to collaborate. Most of the popular craft breweries have brewed collaboration beers, Sierra Nevada is even releasing a 12-pack with twelve different beers each brewed with a different brewery this Summer. In a seminal series of articles Bangor, ME based beer writer Chad Lothian had a group of Maine craft beer experts pick their dream collaborations involving Maine breweries. You can find the results HERE (and I highly recommend following his If My Coaster Could Talk blog, some of the best Maine-centric beer writing out there). It is no surprise that three of the breweries that made frequent appearances on these dream-team lists were Allagash, Rising Tide and Maine Beer Co. Both Rising Tide and Maine Beer Co. started in the “craft beer incubator” on Industrial Way next to the Allagash brewery, and while they have grown into new spaces there is still a strong sense of community amongst these old neighbors (for a write up of my visit to the current breweries on Industrial Way see: Part 1 and Part 2). Recently Allagash released Prince Tuesday, part of their Tribute Series, in collaboration with Maine Beer Co and Rising Tide. Prince Tuesday is a Belgian Rye Pale Ale brewed with rye malts from Rising Tide, hopped by the hop experts at Maine Beer Co. and then fermented using the Allagash house yeast. It is available on a limited basis in 750 mL bottles and on draft, with a percentage of the proceeds going to Portland Trails.
Allagash/Maine Beer Co/Rising Tide Prince Tuesday pours a deep gold, hazy with a massive white head. The smell starts with a huge burst of citrusy hops, followed by undertones of spicy and fruity esters from the Belgian yeast. The yeast comes through strongly in the flavor with touches of pear, bubblegum, clove and peppercorn. The hops are also present adding tastes of mango, grapefruit and guava. There is significant malt to balance the beer out, spicy rye and whole grain bread. Prince Tuesday is pretty easy to drink, the hops add a ton of flavor but pretty mild bitterness. The drinkability hides the alcohol well, you don’t taste any of the 8.1% ABV. The finish is complex with fruit, spice and just a hint of bitterness. This is a great beer, tons of different flavors but all of them are harmonious. I need to go find some more before it’s all gone. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Allagash reviews:
Allagash Saison, Allagash Black
The Cambridge Brewing Company was the first craft brewpub in Greater Boston. They opened in 1989 with the goal of making an alternative to the mass-produced macro-lagers that dominated the market. For 22 years the only way to sample the wide range of beers produced by The Cambridge Brewing Company was to head to their brewpub in Kendall Square and grab a pint on draft. Recently they have started bottling many of their popular year-round, seasonal, and one-off beers for distribution. One of the year-round beers that is regularly bottled is The Audacity of Hops, a Belgian style IPA. The Audacity of Hops combines the spicy notes of Belgian ale yeast with ten varieties of hops.
Cambridge Brewing Company The Audacity of Hops pours a clear orange-tinted gold with a mild white head. The smell is a solid combination of hops and fruity esters from the yeast. I detect aromas of pine and citrus fruit along with apple and spice. The first taste is very hop forward, adding some lemon, floral and woodsy flavors. The yeast comes in strongly, with touches of green apple and black pepper nicely melding with the hops. There isn’t much in the way of malt flavor, the hops and yeast sing here. At 70 IBUs the beer is solidly bitter, and leaves a nice tart flavor on your tongue as you drink. The Audacity of Hops is light in body and easy to drink, despite a solid 8.0% ABV. Overall, this is a well done version of a Belgian style IPA, nicely combining the complementary flavors of American hops and Belgian yeast. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Enlightenment Ales made local headlines in December when they announced a merger with Idle Hands Brewing of Everett, MA. Under the agreement beer would still be brewed under both labels, but the owners of Idle Hands would take over the business end while Enlightenment owner Ben Howe would focus on brewing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar arrangements between some other local microbreweries in the future. Combining operations under a single roof allows both breweries to expand production and distribution while allowing the owners to focus on the parts of the business they excel at individually. Enlightenment was known for brewing very small batches of their specialty brews. One of their most popular is a Biere de Champange, a high alcohol Belgian style golden ale rarely brewed in the US. Enlightenment Ales second beer is Illumination, a Belgian style IPA. Illumination is brewed like a saison, using barley, wheat, rye and a blend of farmhouse style ale yeasts. This is followed by the late addition of large amounts of American hops, adding the citrus and floral notes that interplay with the spicy and fruity flavors produced by the yeast.
Enlightenment Ales Illumination Belgian IPA pours a cloudy orange gold with a mild white head that leaves a solid lacing on the glass as you drink. The smell is a nice mixture of American hops and Belgian yeast. The hops add notes of citrus fruit and pine while the yeast contributes scents of bubblegum, pepper and clove. The taste starts with the juicy citrus flavors you love in American hop varieties, orange, grapefruit and lemon followed by some hints of resin and earth. The yeast complements the hop flavor, some bubblegum touches with some fruity esters and spicy notes. There is a little pale malt flavor in the backbone, but this is a very hop and yeast dominated beer. There is a solid hop bitterness, especially in the aftertaste. The beer is easy to drink, and not overly heavy at 6.8% ABV. I’ll admit that this is my first Enlightenment Ale, and I came away very impressed. I will definitely be sampling more of their offerings in the future. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Last month my brother and I brewed a batch of beer at Hopster’s Brew and Boards, the new brew-on-premises and bar in Newton Corner (for my earlier write-up see: http://wp.me/p3TEvn-3M). We brewed a Belgian style IPA, which I have finally been able to taste, so I thought I would share the recipe and review the beer. Before we get into the review, a few things have changed at Hopster’s since my last visit. First, they finally got a liquor license, and built a bar. The selection is great, all New England craft beers. The selection rotates pretty frequently, but on our bottling day they had Pretty Things, Jack’s Abby, Idle Hands, Mystic, Wormtown, Atlantic Brewing Co., Maine Brewing Co., Notch, Slumbrew, Allagash and some others I’m forgetting. Basically a who’s-who of local craft beer. The open bar has led to a larger crowd at Hopster’s, so the kitchen is now open daily, serving locally sourced cheese, charcuterie, and flat breads. We had a plowman’s board and everything was well made and delicious. So, if you want to check Hopster’s out and have a beer before you commit to brewing a batch of your own, they are ready and open for business. So, onto the recipe: Hoppy Boston/Hopster’s Belgian IPA: 7.5 Gallon batch (One kettle) 12 lbs. Pilsen light liquid malt extract 1 lb. CaraPils 1 lb. Aromatic malt 1 lb. Vienna malt 0.5 lbs. Crystal 15L 2 lbs. Belgian light candi sugar 1 oz. Nugget hops (pellet)-60 min 1.5 oz. Amarillo hops (leaf)-30 min 2.0 oz. Chinook hops (leaf)-20 min 3.0 oz. Simcoe hops (leaf)-10 min Dry hop with Citra hops Yeast: Wyeast Belgian Abbey 2 The idea with this beer was to make a Belgian tripel that is hopped like an American IPA, with a target of ~7% ABV. The light specialty malts add character and body. The copious late addition of American hops supply the citrus hop flavors that should complement the fruity esters from the Belgian yeast. Hoppy Boston/Hopster’s Belgian IPA pours a slightly cloudy amber with a small white head. The first smell is all American hops, like a burst of fresh citrus in your nose. This is followed by the Belgian yeast, providing notes of bubblegum and light fruity esters. The first taste is very hop-forward, grapefruit, lemon, tangerine and pine. The yeast forms a nice complement, adding green apple, bubblegum and a touch of must. There is some light malt flavors in the backbone, but the beer is all about the hops and yeast. The bitterness is present but not overbearing, and you get a nice tart aftertaste. The beer goes down very easy, the alcohol isn’t really present in the flavor. This Belgian IPA is a good beer for all seasons, it is full flavored enough to keep you warm in the winter, but light enough in body to sip on a warm summer day. I highly recommend heading down to Hopster’s and brewing your own batch!
The popularity of craft beer has led to an explosion of micro- and nano-breweries in the greater Boston area. Nightshift Brewery in Everett is one of the more innovative new breweries, making everything from Belgian ales to sours to a stout brewed with local chocolate. Originally started by three friends home-brewing in an apartment in Somerville, you can now find their beers at any local store with a good craft beer selection.
Nightshift Simcoenation is part of their nation of hops series, a series of Belgian IPA’s each brewed with a single variety of hop, this one using the Simcoe. Belgian IPA’s are not a traditional Belgian style, instead they are a hybrid established by American microbreweries, utilizing the spicy, fruity notes of Belgian style yeasts with the variety of bitter, floral and fruit notes common in American hops. The lack of tradition in the style gives the brewer a lot of latitude, and Belgian IPAs have a large range of flavor profiles.
Single-hopped beers are becoming popular with craft brewers, highlighting a single type of hop instead of traditional blends. As beer connoisseurs start to learn more about the process in which beer is made, and the effect different hops have on flavor, there is a growing interest in beers that highlight specific ingredients, and single hops beers are a great way for the consumer to taste the specific flavors that a single strain of hops can impart on the final batch.
SImcoenation pours a cloudy amber with a solid white head. The Simcoe hops are present on the nose, but not overly strong. On first taste the Belgian yeast flavors come through strongly, slightly spicy with fruity esters. Simcoe hops are one of my favorite American hops, combining the flavors of pine and citrus, you get a complex flavor profile, making it a perfect hop for single-hop beer. The hops form a strong interplay with the yeast, giving a solidbitterness along with pine and citrus notes. The beer is surprisingly drinkable for a double IPA at 8.4 ABV, perfect for the change in seasons from summer to fall. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.