One of the hardest things about starting a new brewery is consistency. Once a brewer gets to the point that they brewing beer professionally they usually have some good recipes, but consistently executing these ideas on large scale can take some time. Some brewers learn from their mistakes as they go, but a select few hit the ground running and make delicious beer from day one. One brewery that seemed to figure things out very quickly is Castle Island, it’s no surprise that they are being recognized as one of the best new breweries in the country, and they need to expand to meet demand. I’ve enjoyed every beer I’ve tasted from Castle Island so far, their flagships Candlepin and Keeper have become a regular entries in my beer fridge. I was excited when they announced that their new Spring beer was a Mosaic wheat IPA named Vern. I am a big fan of Mosaic hops and wheat malts usually help showcase hop flavors and aromas. Castle Island Vern is available this Spring on draft and in 16 oz tallboy cans.
Castle Island Vern pours hazy light orange with a solid white head. The scent is a burst of fruity hops, mostly the tropical aromas that define Mosaic hops. The flavor is also hop forward, notes of mango, melon and orange along with a very mild bitterness. This is balanced by some malt, touches of wheat bread and crackers. Vern is light bodied, smooth and extremely drinkable, but packs a little punch at 6.8% ABV. The finish is crisp with a little lingering malt flavor. I haven’t had a bad beer from Castle Island yet, and this is one of my favorites, definitely worth picking up. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Castle Island Reviews:
Castle Island TBD, Castle Island Festbier, Castle Island Keeper IPA
I had to shovel a little snow when I got home from work this evening, mostly just cleaning the porch and walkway, but enough to conclude that winter is officially here. With the winter months I am moving some more dark beers into the rotation, expect plenty of reviews of stouts, porters, barleywines and Belgian dark styles, especially once I clear out some of the hoppy beers that came back from Maine this Thanksgiving. One interesting take on a stout I sampled recently is TBD from Castle Island Brewing. This was the first beer Castle Island brewed, and the TBD moniker was originally a placeholder until they came up with an official name, but people loved the name (and the beer), so it stuck. TBD is labeled as a “hoppy stout”, which is an unusual designation. I typically like the dark malts to be the predominant flavors in my stouts and was a little concerned that the stout character would be lost with excessive hop additions, but I am always will to give something new a try. Castle Island TBD is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.
Castle Island TBD pours pitch black with a solid light brown head. The scent is a mixture of roasty dark malt with a little floral hoppiness. The flavor is malt forward, notes of black coffee, dark chocolate, toffee and black licorice. This is complemented by a solid hit of hops for the style, touches of grass and pine along with noticeable bitterness. TBD is full bodied but goes down smooth, at 7.2% ABV it isn’t an imperial stout but isn’t a session beer either. The finish is dry and crisp with a little lingering malt flavor and hop bite. When I saw the term “hoppy stout” I was a little worried that TBD would be a black IPA with a different name, but Castle Island did a good job adding an extra dimension of hops without detracting from the flavor profile you associate with a stout. Very good beer to drink in the upcoming winter months. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Castle Island Reviews:
Castle Island Festbier, Castle Island Keeper IPA
Now that we are fully into the fall I’ve finally turned over my beer fridge, the lighter summer beers are mostly gone and the fridge is stocked with darker, heavier and maltier offerings. Marzen/Oktoberfest beers aren’t the kind of beers I want to drink year round, but it’s nice to go on a run of malt forward offerings every fall and give my palate a break from hop-bombs I tend towards. Traditional marzens are lager beers, fermented for longer times at lower temperatures resulting in a smooth and clean flavor. This can be a limitation for small breweries, many don’t have the proper equipment to lager their beer or can’t afford to tie up a fermenter for the required amount of time. Castle Island found a creative way around this limitation, designing an malt forward ale that closely resembles the Oktoberfest lagers many older breweries are releasing this fall. Castle Island Festbier is available not on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.
Castle Island Festbier pours deep orange with a small white head. The scent is mild, just a little malt and a hint of old world hops. The first thing you notice when you taste the beer is that it’s on the light side for an Oktoberfest, I usually expect my fest biers to have a pretty full body. At 4.6% ABV it’s also lower in alcohol than most, a session beer by many definitions. Festbier still packs full malt flavor, notes of caramel, biscuits and honey. This is complemented by noticeable hop flavor, earthy and grassy with a crisp finish. The beer is brewed with ale yeast but you wouldn’t know it, it has the crisp and clean flavor you’d expect from a lager. Castle Island Festbier is different from any other Oktoberfest I’ve tried, but that isn’t a bad thing, it’s a well made and flavorful beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Castle Island Reviews:
Castle Island Keeper IPA
On Saturday my wife took the baby to the in-laws for a visit and I had an increasingly rare afternoon to myself, needless to say I used my free time to hit a couple of breweries. Conveniently there were two new breweries that I was excited to try, and they each opened for business within the last week (and within a few miles of each other). My first stop was Castle Island Brewing Company, which finally opened it’s doors on 31 Astor Ave. in Norwood after years of planning. The brewery is clearly still coming together, but I like what I saw. They have a tasting bar (samples only for now), and retail shop where you can buy their beers in 4 packs of 16 oz. cans, along glassware and other assorted merchandise. The brewery is a big open warehouse with plenty of parking, they clearly have some room to grow into the space. They launched with a hoppy session beer named Candlepin, a hoppy stout called TBD and the beer I grabbed, their flagship IPA Keeper. Castle Island Keeper is available now at the brewery and their tallboys will also be in local bottle shops by early 2016!
Castle Island Keeper IPA pours a clear orange with a substantial off-white head. The scent is a solid hit of hops, mostly pine and citrus fruit. The beer is very hop forward, touches of grass, resin, grapefruit and lemon along with enough bitterness so you know this is an IPA but not so much that it torches your palate. There is just enough malt to add some balance while letting the hops shine, notes of toasted bread and crackers. The beer is medium bodied, very easy to drink, and at 6.5% ABV won’t put you under the table if you want to drink a couple. The finish is crisp and clean with a little lingering hop flavor and bitterness. Keeper reminds me of many of the popular “West Coast” IPAs due to the pine flavor, a nice break from the heavily fruit flavor IPAs that have become popular in New England. This is a very strong start for Castle Island, I look forward to trying more of their offerings in the near future! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.