We are into October and I am finally (almost) finished with the backlog of beer reviews that had piled up over some late summer travels. This means I can focus some of my effort on fall beers. As many long-time readers know I am not a fan of pumpkin beers, not an attack on the style just not my preference, but I love a number of other more malt-forward offerings that are perfect for the crisp fall weather. One of the beers that I was excited to finally review was Berkshire Brewing’s Oktoberfest, a traditional take on the German marzen style of lager. I have seen a number of fellow beer geeks rave about this beer on social media, which is usually one of the best places to get suggestions for beers I need to review on Hoppy Boston. As always, if there is a beer you think I need to review feel free to send a message on Twitter or Facebook, and now you can tag @HoppyBoston on Instagram! Berkshire Brewing Oktoberfest is available on draft and in 22 oz. bombers in the late summer and early fall after months of aging.
Berkshire Brewing Oktoberfest pours a clear bright copper with a small white head. The scent is richly malty. The taste is also malt forward, notes of caramel, bread dough, roasted nuts and honey along with enough sweetness to notice without becoming cloying. This is balanced by a little hop flavor, touches of grass and herbs, along with a hint of bitter bite at the finish. BBC Oktoberfest is medium bodied and very smooth, but packs some serious punch at 7.5% ABV. It has the clean finish you expect from a lager with just a touch of lingering malty flavor. This is a really good beer, tons of flavor and super drinkable, one of the best marzens I’ve tasted. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous BBC Reviews:
BBC Slue’s Maibock, BBC Steel Rail, BBC Brewer’s Choice Blonde IPA, BBC Coffeehouse Porter
So my plans for a beer style of the month for May, which was going to be maibock/helles bock, ended up being a pretty big fail. There were a number of reasons for this including lack of readily available examples of the style, getting distracted by other reviews and articles and not having the time to really plan out the month. The last one was a biggie, I am in the process of buying a home (closing this week!) then tackling a few home improvement projects and eventually moving, so my time to peruse the selections of a local bottle shop and carefully plan out my blog posts has been cut short. I am not going to do a recap of maibock month, but I do encourage you to check out the style, a summary of the maibocks that I’ve reviewed can be found here. I am going to take a couple months off from the style-of-the-month and try to tackle it again in August. One final review to wrap up the month is Slue’s Maibock from Berkshire Brewing Company. This beer is either new or just a new packaging of the maibock that BBC has produced for a while, I can’t tell because it appears that their website is down. Slue’s Maibock is available on draft and in 750 mL bombers.
Berkshire Brewing Slue’s Maibock pours a deep copper with a small off-white head. The scent is a mixture of malted grain along with some noble hops. The malts lead the flavor, notes of crusty bread, biscuits and honey. This is balanced by the hops, touches of grass, earth and herbs. The beer is medium bodied and easy to drink. The finish is what you’d expect from a lager, crisp and clean with minimal aftertaste. Slue’s Maibock is a very solid version of the style, worth a try to celebrate the end of winter! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous BBC Reviews:
BBC Steel Rail, BBC Brewer’s Choice Blonde IPA, BBC Coffeehouse Porter
Hoppy Boston’s pale ale month continues with a classic local take on the style, Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale from Berkshire Brewing Company in South Deerfield, MA. Berkshire Brewing has been producing a variety of ales in western Massachusetts since 1994, and Steel Rail is their flagship beer. If you bring up BBC to most local beer drinkers they will immediately think of Steel Rail along with Coffeehouse Porter, the defining styles of the brand. Berkshire started brewing Steel Rail as a way to convert macro-lager drinkers to craft beer, they made this pale ale extra light in color and highly carbonated so it would look like the beers that dominated the marketplace. Needless to say the flavor was very different, I am sure that the combination of 2-row malts and a distinct blend of hops has converted many drinkers over the past couple decades. BBC Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale is widely available on draft, in 22 oz. and 12 oz. bottles and in 12 oz. cans.
Berkshire Brewing Company Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale pours pale yellow with a solid white head and vigorous carbonation. The scent is a mixture of floral hops and some pale malts. The hops lead the flavor, mild by today’s standards but still evident, notes of grass, earth and herbs. This is complemented by a solid malty backbone, touches of biscuit, cracker and toast. The beer is very light and drinkable, not too strong at 5.2% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with just a hint of hoppy aftertaste. BBC Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale is a classic take on the American pale ale style that is still worth a spot in the rotation. It isn’t like the hop-forward IPA-light APAs that are ubiquitous now, but that helps distinguish it in some ways. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous BBC Reviews:
BBC Brewer’s Choice Blonde IPA, BBC Coffeehouse Porter
It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I am fascinated by the way tenured craft breweries are adapting to the changes in the marketplace as well as in consumers’ tastes. While some brewers are still relying on the same beers that they have sold for years, many are brewing new styles to complement or even replace long-standing classics. One brewery undergoing an evolution right now is Berkshire Brewing Company of South Deerfield, MA. One of the most obvious changes is in their labels, but they are also making a number of new beers to complement favorites like Steel Rail Pale Ale and Coffehouse Porter. Gary Dzen recently wrote about Steel Rail Pale Ale in an article in the Globe, and an interesting anecdote was the fact that BBC started brewing the light colored pale ale because so many macro-beer drinkers were reticent to try “darker” beer styles. This was a great idea for that problem – make a beer that looks like the macro lagers people are used to, but has more flavor. With the widespread popularity of craft beer, the brewery is also facing competition from local and national upstarts. BBC is addressing this is by launching their Brewer’s Choice Series of IPAs, allowing each of their brewers to design a limited release hop-forward beers. The third selection in the series is Blonde IPA, available for a limited time on draft and in 22 oz. bombers.
Berkshire Brewing Company Blonde IPA pours a clear copper with a moderate off-white head. The scent is a solid hit of hoppy goodness, grassy and floral. The hops lead off the flavor too, notes of pine, lemon and freshly cut grass along with some mouth-puckering bitterness. This is balanced by a noticeable malt backbone, grainy with just a hint of caramel. The beer is medium bodied and goes down smooth, but packs a little punch at 7.4% ABV. I really enjoyed this beer, it’s kind of a hybrid between the old-school English style IPAs and hop-bomb West-Coast style IPAs. I would definitely look for more beers in this series, and I’m looking forward to revisiting some of BBC’s classics too! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous BBC Reviews:
BBC Coffeehouse Porter
Founded in South Deerfield in 1993, Berkshire Brewing Company (also called BBC) is part of the old-guard of Massachusetts craft breweries. Founders Chris Lalli and Gary Bogoff connected on a mutual desire to brew fresh and high quality craft ales. Berkshire quickly grew into a recognized local brand, leading to an expansion in 1999. They now distribute their year-round and seasonal ales to Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut. While BBC is probably best known for their Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale, they also brew a wide variety of ales and lagers. One of Berkshire Brewing Company’s most popular beers is Dean’s Beans Coffeehouse Porter, a version of their Drayman’s Porter brewed with organic coffee from Dean’s Beans. It is available on draft, nitro, and in 22 oz bottles.
Berkshire Brewing Company Dean’s Beans Coffeehouse Porter pours nearly black with a mild off-white head. The smell is similar to strong, freshly ground coffee with just a touch of chocolate. The coffee also dominates the taste, followed by some dark malts which contribute a touch of chocolate and molasses flavors. There is a little bitterness in the backbone, it is malt forward but certainly not sweet. The beer is full bodied, with a moderate 6.2% ABV. If you really like coffee this is a great brew for you, especially to drink at weekend brunch. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.