I was having an interesting discussion recently about beers in Massachusetts. While the IPA style is king in non-macro circles everywhere, there seems to be a very specific IPA that people in this area covet. This beer is a version of the New England IPA with lower bitterness, a citrus/tropical fruit profile, and availability in cans. I realize that the beer I just described is the most popular variety nationwide, but it seems impossible for a beer of any other style to generate buzz in Mass. While I love these IPAs I also love a variety of other beer styles and would like to see more appreciation for breweries that excel in making a diverse array of beers. I also understand that brewing is a business and you need to cater to your customers. This is why I wasn’t surprised when Brewmaster Jack, who makes a wide variety of well crafted beers, released a new NE-style IPA in 16 oz. cans (their first beer packaged this way). This new beer is called Art and Industry, an IPA brewed with Galaxy and Mosaic hops along with pineapple juice. It is available on a rotating basis on draft and in the aforementioned tallboy cans.
Brewmaster Jack Art and Industry pours a hazy copper with a moderate white head. The scent is all hops, citrus and tropical fruit. The flavor is also very hop forward, notes of orange, lime and mango along with the soft bitterness that has characterized many New England style IPAs. The pineapple flavor is present and melds well with the hops, if I tasted it blind I would have assumed it was a particularly fruit-forward hop blend. Mild malt flavors add some balance, hints of crackers and honey. Art and Industry is medium bodied and very easy to drink, but packs a little punch at 7.0% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with some lingering fruity hop flavors. This is an excellent version of a New England/East Coast IPA, tons of flavor and drinkability. Plus the added bonus where you don’t have to wait in line for an hour to buy it! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Brewmaster Jack Reviews:
Brewmaster Jack Tennessee Prinse, Brewmaster Jack Jan, Brewmaster Jack Ambrewsia, Brewmaster Jack Huell Melon, Brewmaster Jack Motueka, Brewmaster Jack Aquila
I love a well made bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout as much as anyone, but it is definitely not a unique beer style anymore. When they are well done the combination of bourbon and malt is delicious, but there are way too many mediocre versions on the market. Instead off adding to the glut, I would love to see more breweries take some risks with their barrel programs, branch out to different beer styles and different types of barrels. I mentioned last week that an under-utilized beer style, in general but also for barrel-aging, is the Belgian quadruple. Quads are big and boozy but also complex and there is a lot of room to play with malt/yeast combinations to make a delicious beer. Brewmaster Jack’s newest release is Tennessee Prinse, a quadruple aged in Tennessee whiskey barrels. While I love a quality bourbon, Jack Daniels used to be a staple of mine when I was younger and drank whiskey on a somewhat regular basis, and I appreciate the subtle differences in flavor that Tennesse whiskeys provide. I also think it’s appropriate that a brewery with “Jack’ in their name would use whiskey from Tennessee. Brewmaster Jack Tennessee Prinse is available now in 4-packs of 12 oz. bottles.
Brewmaster Jack Tennessee Prinse pours a deep brown with a minimal off-white head. The scent has plenty of whiskey along with some fruity esters from the Belgian-style yeast. The yeast hits the tongue first with notes of apple, pepper and bubblegum. This is followed by full malt flavor, hints of black cherry, date, molasses and currant. The whiskey rounds out the flavor with touches of oak, vanilla and some warming booze. Tennessee Prinse is a full bodied sipper, but drinks very smooth for a beer with 11.5% ABV. The finish has some fruity esters and just a little late alcohol. This beer is great, we really need more barrel aged quads, especially unique and well-crafted versions like this. Definitely worth a try. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Brewmaster Jack Reviews:
Brewmaster Jack Jan, Brewmaster Jack Ambrewsia, Brewmaster Jack Huell Melon, Brewmaster Jack Motueka, Brewmaster Jack Aquila
Pilsner is a proud European beer style that has struggled to find a foothold amongst the American beer snob community, mostly because it was the style of choice for behemoths like Bud, Miller and Coors. For many years smaller American brewers left the pilsner style to the macros while they focused on developing bold IPAs and stouts. As a result most of the pilsners available in the US were mass produced domestically, or imported from Europe and past their peak freshness. Recently pilsner has made a comeback in the beer community. Inspired by the flavorful and refreshing beers in central Europe many American brewers have developed their own take on the style. The original pilsner was developed in Pilsen, in what is now the Czech Republic. The style was immediately popular and pilsner-style beers began to pop up around Europe, but purists insist that true pilsner must be Czech. Czech pilsners use 100% local pilsner malt and the floral and aromatic native Saaz hops. While many American brewers have added extra hops to their pilsners in response to American palates, Brewmaster Jack set out to make a more traditional Czech pilsner with their recent release of Jan (pronounced Yahn). Brewmaster Jack Jan is currently available on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewmaster Jack Jan pours a clear golden yellow with a mild white head. The scent is a mixture of noble hops and bready grains. The flavor is classic pilsner, and by that I mean the flavorful pilsners of Europe not the mass produced adjunct lagers. There is defined malt flavor, touches of crackers and white bread. This is balanced by a solid hit of classic Czech hops (I assume Saaz hops were used but I can’t find confirmation online), notes of cut grass pine and earth. Jan is light bodied, effervescent, and goes down easy at 4.5% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with minimal aftertaste. Brewmaster Jack Jan is a stellar version of a classic Czech pilsner, plenty of flavor and very easy to drink. If you are a fan of pilsner you need to check this out, and if your only experience with pilsner type beers was pounding Miller or Bud at a college party this will change your opinion of what the style can be. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Brewmaster Jack Reviews:
Brewmaster Jack Ambrewsia, Brewmaster Jack Huell Melon, Brewmaster Jack Motueka, Brewmaster Jack Aquila
This beer review is blog post #300 on Hoppy Boston. I am proud to be almost two years into writing this blog and going strong. I am still having a blast tasting beer, writing reviews and trying to mix in other types of posts to keep things fresh. Thank you all for reading and for your feedback. I have a bunch of ideas for the blog moving forward that I hope you’ll enjoy. Feel free to pass along any comments, my goal is to continually improve as I write the next 300 posts on Hoppy Boston!
In addition to writing this blog I follow/read a number of other local and national beer blogs. It is a fun way to learn about beers and to see how different writers communicate information and attempt to keep their posts entertaining and informative. One recent post on another blog caught me off guard a little, they were writing about an IPA (one I personally enjoyed drinking) and the writer basically just wrote “meh, just another IPA” (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea). I don’t think the problem here was a mediocre beer, I think the author was going through IPA burnout. With so many hop-forward beers on the market I find that my palate gets a little burned out every so often and I need to switch it up. This fall/winter I intentionally focused on maltier beers and gave my tastebuds a break, and when I came back to IPAs I felt a renewed interest in the style. Now I am drinking tons of hop forward beer, although I’m intentionally mixing in non-hoppy beers to keep things exciting. One IPA I enjoyed recently was Ambrewsia, the flagship IPA from Brewmaster Jack. Ambrewsia is brewed with 5 varieties of hops and fermented to a low final gravity to accentuate the hop flavor. Ambrewsia is available year round on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewmaster Jack Ambrewsia pours a clear amber orange with a solid off white head. The scent is an aromatic mixture of fruity and floral hops. The flavor is very hop forward, notes of lemon, orange, pine, peach and grapefruit. This is accompanied by aggressive bitterness – this beer definitely bites back a little. The malts are muted, just a touch of grainy bread to add some balance. Ambrewsia is medium bodied and solidly boozy at 7% ABV. The finish is clean and dry with a lingering hop flavor and tongue-numbing (in a good way) bitterness. Overall Brewmaster Jack Ambrewsia is a tasty IPA that celebrates the diverse bouquet of American hops, definitely worth a shot for all of the hop heads out there. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Brewmaster Jack Reviews:
Brewmaster Jack Huell Melon, Brewmaster Jack Motueka, Brewmaster Jack Aquila
I’m probably never going to own a brewery. This is a statement of fact, not of regret. I have an awesome career that has nothing to do with the beer industry. Plus, I brew, drink and write about beer for fun. Sometimes when a hobby becomes a job it loses some of its luster. Still, I like to imagine the kind of beers I would make if I had my own brewery, this tends to influence the beers I buy along with my homebrewing. One thing I would definitely focus on is single-hop beers. I’m a scientist at heart (and professionally), and I like to know exactly how each variety of hop affects the final product. The best way to learn about a particular hop is to use it to make beer. The standard way to do a series of single hop beers is to use the same malt profile and just switch the variety of hop. Brewmaster Jack uses a slightly different tactic for their Hop Essence single hop series, adjusting the malt profile to complement each variety of hop. The newest beer in this series is Huell Melon, an American pale ale brewed with an experimental new variety of hop developed by the Hull Research Institute in Germany. This is one of three experimental hops acquired by Brewmaster Jack. Each is being used to brew a single hop APA with the same malt profile.
Brewmaster Jack Hop Essence Huell Melon pours a red tinted-amber, slightly hazy with a moderate white head. The smell is mostly hops, pine and citrus fruit. The taste is also hop-forward but restrained, notes of orange, guava, resin and grass. There is some bitterness, but this is clearly a pale ale and not an IPA. The malt backbone is solid, balancing out the beer with some hints of grainy bread and a little toffee. The beer is easy to drink, and not overly heavy at 6% ABV – a nice beer for summer. The finish is clean with just a hint of bitter hops and malt sweetness left in the aftertaste. Brewmaster Jack Huell Melon is a solid beer showcasing an interesting new variety of hop. It will be interesting to see if any of these experimental varieties catch on. Hoppy Boston score 4.25/5
Previous Brewmaster Jack Reviews:
Brewmaster Jack Motueka, Brewmaster Jack Aquila
One popular trend in craft beer is single hop brews, which highlight the flavors of a single variety of hops. Many brewers make a series of single hopped beers, typically using the same malts/yeast/water and hop schedule and just switching the variety of hops used to brew. Brewmaster Jack of Northhampton, MA has a slightly different approach to their Hop Essence series of single hopped beers. Each entry in the Hop Essence series is a completely different beer, with the malt and yeast selected to complement the unique attributes of the hop. One of the recent releases in the series uses Motueka, a descendant of the Saaz hop grown in New Zealand. To highlight this hop, Brewmaster Jack constructed a beer with the malt bill of a German Maibock, but fermented at higher temperature with an ale yeast. The final beer is probably more of an IPA than a Maibock, but I’ll stick with the classification provided by the brewer.
Brewmaster Jack Motueka pours a clear bright orange with a solid but quickly dissipating white head. The smell is all hops, mostly resin and dank notes with just a touch of citrus. The taste is also very hop-forward, again favoring woodsy flavors like pine and cut grass followed by a little lemon. There are some malts in the backbone, just a touch of biscuit and caramel, but the hops sing here. Brewmaster Jack Motueka is solidly bitter but goes down smoothly. At 8.3% ABV it has a bit of kick, but the alcohol doesn’t come through in the flavor at all. The finish is very clean with a lasting bitterness on the tongue. Overall this is a great way to showcase a lesser known variety of hops. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Brewmaster Jack reviews:
Aquila Pale Ale
Brewmaster Jack, based in Northhampton, MA, is among the many breweries embracing a focus on local ingredients. All Brewmaster Jack beers use at least 25% organic, locally malted grains from Valley Malt in Hadley, MA. They hope to reach the point where all of their malts are locally sourced, but there are still a limited number of suppliers in New England. In addition to supporting local farmers and malters, Brewmaster Jack encourages homebrewing, based on the belief that brewing your own beer helps increase your understanding and appreciation for craft beer, an ethos I agree with completely. One of Brewmaster Jack’s yearlong brews is Aquila, an American pale ale brewed with five types of grain and four varieties of hops. Aquila is named after a constellation that houses a giant cloud of ethanol, floating in outer space.
Brewmaster Jack Aquila pours an amber gold, clear with a sustained white head. The smell is distinctive of American hops, some citrus fruit and earthy aromas, solid but not overpowering. The first taste is all hops, lemon and grapefruit with a little pine, followed by a touch of malt in the backbone and a pleasantly bitter finish. At 40 IBU’s the bitterness is present without being overdone, exactly what you aim for in an American pale ale. The beer is highly carbonated, with a light mouthfeel, very enjoyable to drink. Aquila weighs in at 5.8% ABV, solid for a pale ale. Overall an easy to drink and appropriately hoppy version of the style. I sometimes find that IPAs can overwhelm food, but a drinkable pale ale like this can provide a bitter complement to your pork chops, fall vegetables or pizza without wrecking your palate. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.