I was excited in September when Idle Hands Brewery announced that they signed a lease on a new facility in Malden which will open in Spring on 2016. Idle Hands is an underrated staple of the brewing scene in metro Boston and I have enjoyed a number of their offerings over the years. One question that wasn’t answered in the initial wave of press was what would happen to the Enlightenment Ales brand that had merged with Idle Hands in 2013. When the Idle Hands facility in Everett was forced to close this spring Enlightenment founder and Idle Hands/Enlightenment head brewer Ben Howe decided to take a sabbatical to run a farmhouse brewery in Denmark. Last month Idle Hands founder Christopher Tkach discussed the immediate future of Enlightenment in a blog post. While the Enlightenment brand will have a continued influence on Idle Hands beers, for now It appears that the brand hiatus will continue. This is really disappointing, I have always loved Enlightenment beers, they typically combine the highest quality with complex and delicious flavor profiles. I never understood why Enlightenment didn’t reach the wait-in-line for a beer release level of following, maybe because they never produced the hop-bomb beers that so many drinkers seek out. Idle Hands has been bottling and releasing a series of funky/wild saisons that Ben had brewed and was aging when the brewery shut down. The final beer in this release is Beyond The Infinite, a dark saison. Enlightenment Beyond The Infinite is brewed with a house wild yeast blend along with specialty dark malts, oats and bright hops. It is available while supplies last in 750 mL bottles.
Enlightenment Beyond The Infinite pours pitch black with a solid tan head. The scent is a mixture of earthy hops and funky/acidic wild yeast. The yeast leads the flavor, rustic Brettanomyces, apple, pear, pepper and a mild sour tingle. There are also some distinct hop flavors, touches of grass and pine along with a crisp bitterness. Despite the dark color the beer doesn’t have strong roasted malt flavors, just some mild bready notes. This beer fits perfectly into the Enlightenment line-up, extremely complex but all of the flavors work well together. Beyond The Infinite is medium bodied and not too boozy at 5.6% ABV. The finish is complex, with some dry bitterness and tartness along with fruity and spicy yeast. Every saison by Enlightenment that I’ve tried is unique and delicious, a great combination of creativity and quality. I am going to stock up and age some of these saisons and I hope the brand is back soon! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Enlightenment Reviews:
Enlightenment Things Are Beautiful, Enlightenment Biere Brut, Enlightenment Rite of Spring, Enlightenment Illumination Farmhouse IPA
A few weeks ago I shared the news that Idle Hands was closing their Everett Brewery due to the loss of the building as a result of the new casino construction. While Idle Hands is keeping their brand going by guest brewing at Night Shift, this also effects the Enlightenment Ales brand. Over a year ago Idle Hands and Enlightenment merged into a single brewery, keeping both labels but consolidating operations. While the Idle Hands crew is setting up their new brewery Ben from Enlightenment has decided to take a sabbatical to Europe and put the brand on hold temporarily. I’ve enjoyed every beer I’ve tried from Enlightenment, their small batches of Belgian inspired farmhouse ales are always flavorful, complex and balanced. I sincerely hope that the brand returns soon, and the beer sabbatical results in some interesting and delicious new creations. Fortunately for us, Enlightenment Ales had a number of beers in progress, many in the process of barrel aging, and they were all bottled and released ahead of the brewery closing. If I had a real beer cellar I would probably drop some serious cash and fill the cellar with a bunch of these saisons to sample in the months ahead, but my apartment isn’t very well suited for aging beers. I did pick up one of the new Enlightenment beers during my last stock up run, a wild saison named Things Are Beautiful. Enlightenment Ales Things Are Beautiful is a celebration of simple beauty, brewed with two varieties of pale malts, two classic hops and a house cultured mix of saison yeast and Brettanomyces. It is available while it lasts in 750 mL bottles.
Enlightenment Things Are Beautiful pours a hazy bright yellow with a substantial white head. The scent is complex, with some floral hops, funky Brett and a little acidity. The first impression is how light and easy to drink the beer is, but it is also deceivingly complex. The yeast culture adds a whole host of flavors, pepper, pear, barnyard, and a hint of sour lemon. This meshes well with the classic hop profile, notes of cut grass, earth and pine. The malt body rounds out the beer with touches of cracker, bread and a drop of honey. The beer is crisp and goes down smooth, perfect for the warm weather at 5.2% ABV. The finish is bone dry with some lingering yeast flavors. Enlightenment Things Are Beautiful showcases the greatest strength of this brewery, making complex farmhouse style ales where all of the diverse flavors somehow sing in perfect harmony. I loved this beer, I need to remember to pick some more up before it’s gone! Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Enlightenment Reviews:
Enlightenment Biere Brut, Enlightenment Rite of Spring, Enlightenment Illumination Farmhouse IPA
There are very few traditional European beer styles that haven’t been embraced by some portion of the American craft brewing community. There are even brewers in the U.S. who research old recipes that had fallen out of favor decades ago in order to inject new life into previously extinct beers. While much of the beer brewed in Europe comes from centuries of brewing tradition, there are many breweries who continue to innovate. One result of this innovation is the biere de champagne style, a strong Belgian pale ale that is refermented and cellared similar to a French champagne. The resulting beer is effervescent and highly carbonated, with the dry finish you would expect from some varieties of spakling wine. Relatively few American brewers have embraced this style, it seems like a significant process and investment to brew, referment and age the beer. Enlightenment Ales in Everett, MA was founded in part to brew an American biere de champagne. Enlightenment founder Ben Howe learned about the style while working at Cambridge Brewing Company, and set off to start his own brewery with biere de champagne as the flagship beer. Since then Enlightenment merged with Idle Hands in Everett, expanding capacity and letting Ben focus on making great beer. Enlightenment Biere Brut is available semi-regularly in 750 mL champagne bottles. I found a bottle and saved it for my New Year’s Eve celebration. I felt like it was the proper way for a craft beer enthusiast to ring in the New Year in style (I even drank out of a champagne flute!). Happy 2015, look for some updates on the direction of the blog this weekend!
Enlightenment Biere Brut pours a straw yellow with a massive white head and some serious carbonation. The scent is mostly yeast esters, spicy and fruity. The yeast leads the flavor too, notes of pepper, pear and must. There are some bready malts that add just a touch of sweetness. The beer drinks somewhat like a champagne with the light body and high carbonation that results in the bubbly mouthfeel that sparkling wine is known for. The one quibble I would have is the finish, you get a lot of the fruity esters at the end where a small amount of additional hops would have dried it out, similar to a Brut champagne (I’m not sure that is traditional for the style, just a thought). The beer does drink pretty easy for 11% ABV, but I recommend sharing a 750 mL bottle with a friend. This is a very interesting beer. I’m a little surprised the style hasn’t caught on with American craft brewers, but it must be kind of a pain to make. It is worth trying for the uniqueness alone, and a great alternative to champagne for a celebration. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Enlightenment Reviews:
Enlightenment Rite of Spring, Enlightenment Illumination Farmhouse IPA
One issue that many small craft breweries face is how to grow. Any successful brewery starts by making great beer and building a loyal customer base. Once demand starts to exceed supply the brewery needs to find ways to increase capacity and distribution. Enlightenment Ales started as a small specialty brewery in Lowell, MA. As demand rose, they found a creative way to expand production – they merged with Idle Hands brewery in Everett, MA. This collaboration allows both breweries to share equipment, marketing and distribution, while still producing beer under their unique brands. The change has been especially evident for Enlightenment who now has increased production, wider and more consistent distribution, and a number of new styles of beer. Enlightenment Ale’s Spring seasonal is Rite of Spring, a Farmhouse Ale brewed with wild yeast and local honey. It is available in 750 mL bottles during the Spring.
Enlightenment Ales Rite of Spring pours a cloudy orange-tinted gold with a massive cloud white head. The smell is all Belgian yeast, fruity esters and spices followed by a little must and citrus. The yeast dominates the flavor too, strong, funky and a little wild. The fruit esters are evident, pears and ripe berries, along with some peppercorns. This isn’t a sour beer, but you get a very slight tartness that is reminiscent of that style. The hops are present, with notes of pine and earth along with a mild bitterness. There is solid malt backbone balancing the flavor and contributing tastes of toasted bread, biscuits and a touch of sweetness. Enlightenment Ales Rite of Spring is light in body, but the complexity of the flavor makes it more of a sipping beer. At 6.8% ABV it is about average for the style, very drinkable. The finish has a spicy kick with a touch of maltiness on the tongue. Overall this is a very unique example of a saison, with a complex array of flavors from all of the ingredients. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Enlightenment Ales Reviews:
Enlightenment Ales Illumination Farmhouse IPA
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.