Tag Archives: Hoppy Lager

Maine Beer Company Beer V

I am way behind in my beer reviews, first there was the CBC blacklist issue, then end of the year posts and the holidays, and all of a sudden it’s 2017 and I have some beers from November that I still need to review (I’ve already drank these beers and took notes, no worries that I am reviewing old beer). I’ll try to get caught up over the next few weeks and then get some porter and stout reviews up while it’s still brutally cold. Part of our Thanksgiving tradition has been a stop at Gritty McDuff’s in Freeport Maine for lunch on the way to my parents, and then a trip right down the street to grab some beer at Maine Beer Company. In addition to favorites like Lunch, Another One, Mo and King Titus I usually try to grab whatever is new. This isn’t usually much, while some breweries release new beers every month Maine Beer Company tends to focus on their core brews. One exception is the Hop Program series, where they design a beer to showcase an interesting blend of hops. I think the initial idea was for these beers to be one-off brews, but many of the popular versions have been re-released. The most recent release in the hop program is a first for Maine Beer (I think), Beer V is a hoppy lager brewed with a mixture of German, American and New Zealand hops. It is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 500 mL bottles.

mbc-beer-vMaine Beer Company Beer V pours a clear straw yellow with a small white head. The scent is mildly hoppy, mostly floral and earthy. The hops are stronger in the flavor, notes of grass, herbs and lime along with a crisp bitterness. This is balanced by a light malt body, touches of crackers, white bread and hay. Beer V is light and refreshing with reasonably low alcohol at 5.2% ABV. It has the distinct crisp and clean lager finish with just a hint of lingering hop flavor. Beer V is very different from most of the other hoppy beers that Maine Beer Company brews, mixing in the old world hops, but it’s still very tasty. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Maine Beer Co. Reviews:

Maine Beer Co. Thank YouMaine Beer Co. MoMaine Beer Co. Mean Old TomMaine Beer Co. A Tiny Beautiful Something, Maine Beer Co. Beer II, BREWERY OVERVIEW: Maine Beer Co., Maine Beer Co. King TitusMaine Beer Co. Lunch, Maine Beer Co. Another One, Maine Beer Co./Allagash/In’finiti 2013 Ale, Maine Beer Co. Peeper

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Medusa Mesmerist

I think every beer fan has a brewery or two that they are always meaning to check out and for one reason or another just haven’t had the chance to make the trip (except for maybe the Mass Brew Bros, I think those guys have hit every place in the state at least once). I have a list with a few breweries that I really need to visit. Between my crazy work schedule and the family obligations that come with having a young child I don’t make as many brewery stops as I would like and a few places have been on my to-do list for far too long. Possibly the most egregious example was Medusa Brewing Company in Hudson. I had heard great things about Medusa but never made the trip. This was bad when I lived in Watertown, but became inexcusable with my move to Sudbury. Fortunately I finally righted that wrong, the whole family made a stop at Medusa on Saturday afternoon, and after a little tasting I grabbed a couple growlers to go. As a little make up for the amount of time it took to make the trip I’ll be doing back-to-back Medusa reviews, one today and another later this week. I let my wife pick her favorite beer that we sampled for one growler, and her choice was Mesmerist, an India Pale Lager dry hopped with Citra, Chinook and Meridian hops.

medusa-mesmeristMedusa Mesmerist pours a clear light orange with a solid off-white head. The scent is full of tropical and citrus fruit aromas from the hops. The flavor is also very hop forward, notes of grapefruit, lemon, pine and guava along with a mild bitter kick. This is balanced by a mild malt backbone, hints of biscuits and toast. Mesmerist has a medium to light body and the easy drinkability that you associate with a lager, but packs a little kick at 6.6% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with just a touch of hoppy aftertaste. I really enjoyed Medusa Mesmerist when I had a taste at the brewery, and enjoyed it even more with a full pour from the growler! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Clown Shoes Third Party Candidate

I try to keep this blog focused almost entirely on beer, occasionally I mix in some personal stories or something to do with Boston sports, but most of the posts are beer-centric. That doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions about other important topics, I have a number of very strong views about current events and politics. People who follow my personal Facebook page will occasionally see these opinions, mixed in with a heavy dose of pictures of my adorable 15 month old son. I just know that people can have irrationally strong opinions when it comes to politics, and the only debates I want to have on Hoppy Boston are about favorite breweries and beer styles. That being said, it’s a presidential election year and politics is seeping into everything, even the beer world. One example is Third Party Candidate, a beer re-issued by Clown Shoes Brewing Company with a new label and recipe. The new version of Third Party Candidate is an India Pale Lager that also acts as an official announcement of the presidential candidacy of their sales rep Phil “Filthy” Thomas. I’ll be interested to see how many write-in votes he gets, it might be quite a few considering the popularity (or lack thereof) of both major party candidates. Clown Shoes Third Party Candidate is available for a limited time on draft and in 22 oz. bombers.

Clown Shoes Third Party CandidateClown Shoes Third Party Candidate pours bright orange with a small white head. The scent is a scant mixture of floral and citrus hops. The hops lead the flavor, touches of lemon, cut grass, herbs and tangerine along with a little bitter bite. This is balanced by some light malt, notes of pale barley and white bread. Third Party Candidate is light bodied and very easy to drink, but packs a little punch at 7% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with a little lingering hop flavor. Clown Shoes Third Party Candidate is a solid beer, I personally could have used more hop aroma. Hoppy Boston score: 3.75/5.

Previous Clown Shoes Reviews:

Clown Shoes MangoClown Shoes The Peace That Money Can’t BuyClown Shoes Undead Party Crasher, Clown Shoes Swagger

Big Elm Tranformer IPL

Today might have been raw and chilly (and we did get some snow on Monday), but there are clear signs that we are moving into spring and warmer weather is on the way. As the temperatures start to rise I will also be transitioning my beer fridge from dark and heavy porters and stouts to lighter, more refreshing fare. Over the last couple years I have developed a taste for well crafted lagers, especially examples with solid doses of hops. The crisp and clean lager profile is the perfect showcase for the fruity and diverse flavors of American hop varieties. I am hoping that more breweries will venture into the lager space as they grow, there are many interesting traditional and new styles to explore. One brewery that mixes lager styles in with their staple ales is Big Elm Brewing in Sheffield, MA. One of Big Elm’s newer releases is Transformer, an “India Pale Lager” that uses a different blend of hops for each release. Big Elm Transformer is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.

Big Elm Transformer IPLBig Elm Transformer IPL pours a clear golden yellow with a massive white head. The scent is solidly hoppy, mostly the citrus and tropical fruit aromas you expect from popular New World hop varieties. The flavor is also hop forward, notes of stone fruit, tangerine, lemon and white grape along with a mild bitterness. The hops are balanced by a pale malt backbone, touches of toast and biscuits. Transformer is a light bodied, clean lager that is crushable at 5% ABV. The finish is crisp with just a hint of hoppy aftertaste. Big Elm Transformer IPL is just what you look for in a hoppy lager, big hop flavor and drinkability. I’ll probably go through a few of these on my porch this summer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Previous Big Elm Reviews:

Big Elm 413 Farmhouse Ale

Jack’s Abby trIPL

In the early days of “craft beer” (I know, I said I was going to avoid that term, but there is no good way to differentiate the ground-breaking breweries of the 80’s and 90’s with the macro beers that dominated the market at the time) many of the iconic beers and brewers got started with brewpubs, restaurants that served beer brewed onsite. There are pros and cons to the brewpub, running a restaurant is a ton of work and a tough business, but it brings in people who can try your beers, plus I imagine you save a little cash brewing your own. As these small breweries gained a following many moved away from the brewpub model and focused on selling their beer on draft at bars, in bottles or in growlers. Many new breweries didn’t even have a physical brewery, they would contract brew. Recently, with the explosion in popularity of quality beer, many drinkers want to hang out at a brewery and sample all of their wares. This has led some breweries to turn their physical space into full service bars where their customers can drink and the brewers can host special events and limited releases.

Now that many breweries have become popular local hangouts, and having food available to their customers is a big advantage. Food service keeps customers around longer and good food can bring people into the brewery on it’s own. Some breweries have partnered with local food trucks, especially on busy weekend days. Jack’s Abby has taken this to a new level, closing their small tasting room to open a full service beer hall and restaurant in Framingham. The restaurant features a full menu of entrées and pizza, plus an enormous selection of Jack’s Abby brews on draft. One of the releases you can grab right now is trIPL, their “triple” India Pale Lager. Jack’s Abby brews trIPL with Columbus, Chinook and Citra hops. It is available on draft and in bottles on a rotating basis during the year.

Jack's Abby trIPLJack’s Abby trIPL pours a clear deep orange with a minimal off-white head. The scent is a huge burst of hops dominated by citrus and tropical fruit. The taste is led by the New World hop flavors that make so many of Jack’s Abby’s hop-forward beers so delicious. I get notes of papaya, mango, grapefruit and orange along with a solid but not overwhelming hit of bitterness. There is some malt flavor for balance, touches of caramel, fresh baked bread and honey along with just a hint of boozy sweetness. The beer is incredibly easy to drink for 10% ABV, it’s almost dangerous how quickly you can drink this if you aren’t paying attention. Jack’s Abby trIPL has the crisp and clean finish of a lager with a little lingering hop flavor and bitterness. So many big hoppy beers are way overdone, even the huge hop flavors can’t mask all of the booze. This beer is an exception, tons of hops and high ABV, but still drinkable and delicious. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5

Previous Jack’s Abby Reviews:

Jack’s Abby/Otter Creek Joint CustodyBREWERY OVERVIEW, Jack’s Abby Maibock Hurts Like HellesJack’s Abby Hoponius UnionJack’s Abby Barrel-Aged FraminghammerJack’s Abby Bride MakerJack’s Abby Brewery/Hopstitution BAMJack’s Abby Copper LegendJack’s Abby Session Rye IPL, Jack’s Abby Mass RisingJack’s Abby/Evil Twin Jack’s Evil BrewJack’s Abby Wet Hop LagerJack’s Abby Pro-Am Pilsner

Peak Organic Super Fresh

Let’s talk for a minute about beer styles. Styles are really a way to convey to the consumer general information about the flavor profile of the beer they are about to purchase. If I go to a pretty novice beer drinker and ask them the difference between a stout and an IPA they will probably be able to give some general information about color and hop levels. Some of the big beer competitions take it to another level, adding strict guidelines for color, ABV, hop and malt levels and flavors and acceptable yeast contributions in each defined style of beer. These strict guidelines result in some beer drinkers getting bent out of shape when a beer is labeled as a style but falls well outside the typical description. A good example is Super Fresh a relatively new release from Peak Organic Brewing company in Portland, Maine. Super Fresh is an extreme version of Fresh Cut, a very popular pilsner that is dry hopped with a solid dose of New World hops, something that isn’t traditional in a pilsner. Super Fresh takes it to another level with more hops and over 7% ABV, both well outside of the defined style guideline, but it’s still labeled as a pilsner and not an IPL or hoppy lager. Personally I don’t care, a brewery can call their beer whatever they want, and it’s not like Peak labeled Super Fresh as an imperial stout. Good beer is good beer, and with all of the experimentation going on the lines of style are blurry at best. Peak Organic Super Fresh is available intermittently (mostly due to popularity) on draft and in tallboy cans.

Peak Organic Super FreshPeak Organic Super Fresh pours a clear straw yellow with a massive off-white head. The scent is a pungent burst of hops, cut grass and citrus. The flavor is also hop forward, notes of pine, grapefruit, lemon and mango along with a solid hit of bitterness. There is minimal malt flavor, some light touches of crackers and grain. Super Fresh is crisp and very easy to drink, it packs some punch at 7.6% ABV but you don’t get any alcohol in the flavor. There is a clean lager finish with just a little lingering bitterness. I really enjoyed this beer, the hops and the booze really don’t scream “pilsner” to me but the beer is delicious regardless of what you want to call it. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Peak Organic Reviews:

Peak Organic Hop HarvestPeak Organic Fresh Cut PilsnerPeak Organic Simcoe Spring, Peak Organic Hop Noir

H2H Beer Review: Hoppy Lager, Sierra Nevada Beer Camp vs. Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union

Hoppy Lager SN vs JA

Many craft brewers are starting to brew lagers now, accepting that the longer fermentation times are worthwhile to add diversity to the styles of beer they can make. Budweiser apparently missed this fact when they made their Super Bowl ad, which seemed to assume that all craft beer was ale (amongst many other untrue assumptions). It’s no surprise that one of the most popular types of American lagers are beers brewed with large doses of aromatic and flavorful hops. Called India pale lagers or just hoppy lagers, these beers are a truly American creation. When done correctly the clean fermentation leads to a crisp and refreshing beer that highlights the pungent aromas and diverse flavor profiles of the selected hop varieties.

The Competitors: Beer Camp Hoppy Lager, the new spring seasonal from national powerhouse Sierra Nevada and Hoponius Union, one of the flagship lagers from local stalwart Jack’s Abby Brewing.

Sierra Nevada celebrated their touring Beer Camp festival series this summer with a 12 pack of collaboration beers they brewed with brewers from all over the country. One of these beers was a hop-forward lager they brewed with Ballast Point. For their new spring release Sierra Nevada tweaked this recipe for a slightly different take on the hoppy lager style. Jack’s Abby has been a lager-only brewery from the beginning, but they frequently venture outside the boundaries of traditional European lager styles. Hoponius Union is one of their most well known and popular beers, hoppy enough for any IPA fan but with a clean profile due to the cold fermentation with lager yeast. I thought it would be fun to compare the new offering from one of the most popular national breweries to a local favorite in this head-to-head review.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Hoppy Lager

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Hoppy Lager pours straw yellow with a moderate white head, and the scent packs a solid punch of floral and dank hops. The hops lead the flavor, notes of grass, pine and lemon. This is balanced by some mild malts that offset the subtle bitter punch. The beer is clearly a lager, crisp and clean with a very smooth finish. Overall this is a really good beer, tons of hop flavor and aroma in a easy to drink lager.

Jack's Abby Hoponius Union

Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union pours slightly darker, a more full orange, with a mild with head. The first thing you notice about this beer is the huge burst of hops in the aroma, floral with a hit of citrus fruit. The flavor is also hop forward but a little more fruity, touches of grapefruit, mango, tangerine and resin. There is some malt balance here, but this beer is clearly a vehicle to highlight the hops. The bitterness in Hoponius Union is a little stronger than Beer Camp, much closer to IPA level. While it has many of the characteristics of a well-made IPA, this is also clearly a lager, there are no yeasty esters involved and the finish is pristine. Jack’s Abby are truly masters of lager beer, and this is one of my personal favorites amongst their selections.

The Verdict: Despite making some of the best beers in the country, Sierra Nevada can get overlooked by beer geeks because they don’t have many hard to find “unicorn beers”. The thing they excel at is consistency, and Beer Camp Hoppy Lager fits seamlessly into their portfolio of well crafted and delicious selections. As much as I liked this beer, it wasn’t quite as good as Hoponius Union, one of my favorite local beers regardless of style. I’ll give Jack’s Abby the win, but both beers are definitely worth a shot.

Previous Sierra Nevada Reviews: Sierra Nevada Snow PackSierra Nevada Celebration

Previous Jack’s Abby Reviews: Jack’s Abby Barrel-Aged FraminghammerJack’s Abby Bride MakerJack’s Abby Brewery/Hopstitution BAMJack’s Abby Copper LegendJack’s Abby Session Rye IPL, Jack’s Abby Mass RisingJack’s Abby/Evil Twin Jack’s Evil BrewJack’s Abby Wet Hop LagerJack’s Abby Pro-Am Pilsner