After a rough night/day following the turmoil of this country’s political process it’s nice to be back writing about beer. I won’t share any election thoughts, this is strictly a beer blog and I’d like to keep it that way. I think we all could use a couple of beers with friends, or even invite some people with different views out for beers and try to find some common ground. While pumpkin and marzen/Oktoberfest beers dominate the fall seasonal market I’ve found a few other styles that fit well with the crisp fall weather. One style is rye beers, the spicy grain adds body and lots of flavor that works well with a variety of other malts, hops and yeast strains. An interesting rye beer that I tried recently was Red Rye Ale from Berkley Brewing Company. Berkley uses a liberal amount of rye malt and then ferments with an expressive Belgian yeast strain. Berkley brewing Red Rye Ale is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 750 mL bombers.
Berkley Red Rye Ale pours deep amber with a minimal off-white head. The scent is mostly fruity esters from the Belgian yeast. The yeast leads the flavor, notes of pear, green apple and bubblegum. The malts add a touches of bread crust and honey along with a noticeable hit of spicy rye. A hint of earthy and grassy hops round out the flavor. Berkley Red Rye Ale has a medium body and drinks smooth, not too boozy at 5.4% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering yeasty esters. This is a solid beer nice mixture of flavors from the yeast and malts, although I would have liked a little more assertive rye character. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Berkley Reviews:
Berkley Coffee Porter
I have lived in Massachusetts for most of my adult life (outside of a 2-year sabbatical to Connecticut for my post-doc), but I was born and raised a Mainer. I grew up in Knox County, my family now lives in Waldo County and I went to college in Cumberland County. I also have some great memories involving towns in many of the other 13 counties in the great state of Maine. I have really enjoyed seeing the Maine beer scene take off and begin to attract national attention, every time I make a trip up north I try to hit a brewery or two and check out their offerings. While much of the attention is being paid to the exciting newer breweries in the state, Allagash Brewing Company has been a Maine staple for many years and continues of produce some of the highest quality beers in the country. One of their newest releases is Sixteen Counties, a celebration of the entire state of Maine brewed with grains sourced from four different local farms. The craft beer boom, and the resulting focus on locally sourced ingredients, has been a boon for farmers and many small malt houses have begun to open in order to meet this demand. Allagash Sixteen Counties is available now on draft and in 750 mL bottles.
Allagash Sixteen Counties pours a hazy copper with a huge off-white head. The scent is mostly the fruity esters produced by the expressive Belgian style house yeast strain. The yeast also leads the flavor contributing notes of apple, clove and pear. This is complemented by solid hop flavor, touches of grass, herbs and lemon. The malts round out the profile with hints of whole grain bread, crackers and plenty of body from the oats. Even with the medium to full body and 7.3% ABV the beer drinks very easy. The finish is crisp and dry with a complex mixture of flavors in the aftertaste that makes you want to keep exploring the beer. Sixteen Counties is a great example of what Allagash does so well, expertly melding diverse flavors from a number of ingrdients to create complex beers that are still approachable and delicious. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Allagash Reviews:
Allagash Tiarna, Allagash Confluence 2015, Allagash Curieux, Allagash White, Allagash Dubbel, Allagash/Maine Beer/Rising Tide Prince Tuesday, Allagash Saison, Allagash Black
As more and more new breweries open and many beer drinkers focus their attention (and dollars) on what is new and exciting it is important for established veterans of the brewing community to continually innovate. While some breweries have re-vamped their entire lineup of beers to meet changing consumer tastes, others try to balance their classic styles with new releases. One of the interesting ways a brewery can achieve this balance is to set up a special series of small batch one-off or rotating releases that highlights experimentation. A great example of this is Smuttlabs, the series of rare and unusual small batch beers released by Smuttynose. Smuttlabs is focused on tapping into the creativity of Smuttynose’s brewers without the constraints of large batch size, allowing them to experiment with barrel aging, different strains of yeast and sour beers. Some Smuttlabs releases rotate while others are one-offs, they typically release 1-2 beers a month. One of their fall releases was Thelema, a Belgian style golden ale. Thelema is available for a limited time in 500 mL bottles.
Smuttynose Thelema pours a pale orange with a minimal white head. The scent is mostly the Belgian yeast, a significant whiff of fruity esters. The yeast also leads the flavor, notes of clove, apple, bubblegum and pear. The malts are also well represented, touches of honey, crackers and candi sugar along with a hint of boozy sweetness. The hops are mild, just a little earth and grass and enough bitterness to help dry the beer out. Thelema is medium bodied and at 8.5% ABV has enough booziness to keep you from drinking too quickly. The finish is crisp with some lingering fruity yeast flavors. I have always enjoyed Smuttynose beers and I am glad to see them branching out and experimenting to complement their traditional lineup. Smuttlabs Thelema is a worthwhile addition to the catalogue and I look forward to sampling more Smuttlabs releases in the near future! Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Smuttynose Reviews:
Smuttynose S’muttonator Dopplebock, Smuttynose Vunderbar Pilsner, Smuttynose Bouncyhouse IPA, Smuttynose Durty Brown Ale, Smuttynose Finest Kind IPA
The Maine beer scene is thriving. There is amazing buzz around many Maine breweries and the wide array of beers they are producing. When I visit Maine I always have a laundry list of breweries I want to visit and beers I want to try, and some of them are definitely selected based on hype generated through social media and conversations with other beer geeks. I do have a couple of issues with the beer hype machine, even if I occasionally buy in. One issue is the focus on what is new and/or hard to find over beers that are well known and widely available. The other issue is that the hype always seems to center on a couple of beer styles, typically IPAs and imperial stouts. While I love these styles I also like to branch out, and there are amazing beers of nearly every style that are produced locally. In the (justified) hype around breweries like Maine Beer Company, Bissell Brothers and Foundation sometimes people can forget old guard breweries like Allagash, even though they make some incredible beers. Allagash should be a must stop on any trip to Maine. They have a beautiful tasting room with regular tours and a complementary flight of beer, and the attached retail shop sells a variety of year-round, seasonal and specialty beers. On my recent stop I grabbed a bottle of 2015 Confluence, Allagash’s widely regarded Belgian pale ale. Confluence is brewed with a mixture of Allagash house yeast and Brettanomyces, aged in stainless steel tanks and then dry hopped with Glacier hops before bottling. Confluence is released once a year, and while Allagash doesn’t brew a super-limited amount to drive the hype machine, the 750 mL bottles will sell out before you know it.
Allagash Confluence 2015 pours a hazy yellow with a moderate white head. The scent is a mixture of citrus and earthy hops along with some funky yeast. The yeast is most evident in the flavor, pear, pepper and clove from the house yeast along with the distinct barnyard flavor from the Brett. This is nicely complemented by the hops which add notes of lemon, grass and peach along with a drying bitterness. The flavor is rounded out by the malt bill, some hints of crusty bread and just a little caramel. There is a diverse array of flavors here but they all work together, no one thing overwhelms or seems out of place. The beer has a medium body and goes down very smooth, but it packs a little punch at 7.5% ABV. The finish is dry with a little funk and fruit lingering on the tongue. I am a little embarrassed to say that this was my first time drinking Confluence, but this beer blew me away, absolutely delicious. I highly recommend trying this. Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.
Previous Allagash reviews:
Allagash Curieux, Allagash White, Allagash Dubbel, Allagash/Maine Beer/Rising Tide Prince Tuesday, Allagash Saison, Allagash Black
I just finished an awesome trip to Maine where I visited a number of breweries and tasted some delicious beer. I will get around to writing about some of these beers over the next few weeks. For now I still have a little backlog of articles to finish about my trip to Connecticut in mid-June. I might have gone a little overboard in my purchases, but Craft Beer Cellar in West Hartford had a great selection and I wanted to give a number of new-to-me breweries a shot. Next on the list is Overshores Brewing Company out of East Haven, CT. Overshores was the first brewery in Connecticut to focus exclusively on Belgian beer styles. Their brews mix traditional Belgian techniques and recipes with a diverse range of both old and new world ingredients. You can now find a selection of beers in either their East Haven tap room or in bottles distributed across the state. I grabbed two selections to bring home and sample. Simpel is a Belgian table beer brewed with Centennial and Cascade hops. Blanc de Blanche is a traditional Belgian witbier brewed with coriander and orange peel. Both are sold year round on draft and in distinctly squat 11.2 oz. bottles.
Overshores Simpel pours a deep yellow with a medium white head. The scent is mostly spicy and fruity Belgian style yeast along with a little citrusy hops. The yeast leads the flavor with notes of clove, coriander, pepper and pear. This is followed by the hops which add some mild lemon and grapefruit along with a refreshingly crisp bitterness. The flavor is rounded out by a light malt backbone. Simpel is super-light bodied and very easy to drink, and a true session beer at 4% ABV. Overshores Simpel is a very nice beer, tons of flavor and goes down smooth. If you want a low alcohol beer but you’re burned out on the glut of session IPAs on the market this is definitely worth a try. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Overshores Blanc de Blanche pours a cloudy straw yellow with a massive white head. The scent is all Belgian yeast, spicy with some subtle fruitiness. The yeast comes through solidly in the flavor as well, notes of pepper, clove and green apple. This is complemented by soft touches of coriander and orange, very traditional additions to a Belgian witbier. The wheat leads the malt flavor, adding some balance and backbone. The beer finishes crisp and goes down easy, but the beer packs a little punch at 6.4% ABV. Overshores Blanc de Blanche is a well-made and very traditional take on the witbier style, perfect for the beach or a BBQ. Hoppy Boston score 4.0/5.
I don’t go to breweries as much as I would like. Life is busy and I find that I buy more of my beer in bottle shops, which allows me to purchase a variety of styles from different producers all in one stop. I have made a personal goal to visit more local breweries and taprooms this year, with a focus on the places I have yet to patronize. Probably the biggest oversight locally was Aeronaut Brewing in Somerville, considering how close it is to where I live it’s inexcusable how long it took me to get there. When my wife and I were invited by our friend Jenny to grab dinner and then check out the Science by the Pint event at Aeronaut a couple weeks ago I finally remedied this oversight (and heard about some cool science while enjoying some quality beer). One of the beers I sampled was The Eye of Sauvin, a Belgian Pale Ale brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops. Nelson Sauvin hops are native to New Zealand and are known for the fruity white wine-like flavor they impart on the beer. I love the combination of fruity New World style hops with expressive Belgian style yeast strains, when correctly paired they make for some delicious beers. Aeronaut clearly has a successful pairing here because I enjoyed my first taste of The Eye of Sauvin enough to grab a growler to go.
Aeronaut The Eye of Sauvin pours a pale orange with a moderate white head. The scent is a complex mixture of floral hops and expressive Belgian yeast. The yeast leads the flavor with notes of pear, clove, white pepper and apricot. This is complemented by significant hop flavor, grass, lemon and the expected dry white wine. Despite the substantial hop flavor and aroma the beer isn’t very bitter, the hop additions were clearly added in mostly later in the brewing process. The malt backbone is muted, just a hint of cracker grain and caramel that lets the yeast and hops sing. The beer is light bodied and goes down easy, but packs a little punch at 7.2% ABV. The finish is dry with a little fruity ester flavor from the yeast. This was a very enjoyable beer, light but full flavored and perfect for spring. I clearly need to make more trips to Aeronaut to see what else they have to offer! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Some of the most interesting and popular styles of beer in the world were originally developed by monks living in monasteries in Western Europe. The most famous brewers amongst these monks were the Trappist order, and making beer soon became a major source of income for the abbeys. Brewers the world over now make Dubbels, Tripels and other abbey style ales, but only a select few gain the Trappist label. Anything labeled as a certified Trappist beer must be brewed/supervised by monks, brewing must be of secondary importance within the monastery, and the beers must not be brewed for profit, any income generated beyond the needs of the monastery must be donated to charity. There are currently ten Trappist breweries in the world, and now one is in the US. Spencer brewery was started at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA in 2013. They currently produce a single beer, Spencer Trappist Ale, a Belgian style blonde ale. Spencer Trappist Ale is sold on draft and in 11.2 oz. bottles.
Spencer Trappist Ale pours a deep orange, slightly hazy with a moderate off-white head. The smell is all Belgian yeast, significant fruit with a little spice. The taste also starts with the yeast, notes of pepper, green apple, and coriander along with a little pear, pineapple and bubblegum. There is a solid malt backbone to complement the expressive yeast character, touches of toasted bread and crackers. While the yeast and malts are the predominant flavors you also get just a hint of hops that contribute to a crisp finish on the tongue. Spencer Trappist Ale is easy to drink, with a little bit of a spicy finish that keeps you coming back. At 6.5% ABV this is a full strength beer without going overboard. I am ready to call the first American Trappist beer a success, I am hoping they eventually branch out to other Abbey inspired styles. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.