There are pros and cons to being a contract brewer. The lack of a physical brewery means fewer start-up costs and eliminates some of the headaches that come with maintaining a space. There are also many negatives, you need to run things on someone else’s schedule, and you don’t have your own space for tasting and sales. There is also the possibility that the place you brew can go out of business and leave you in a tight spot through no fault of your own. While news of brewery openings is currently much more common than breweries shutting down, a local exception was Watch City Brewing Company in Waltham, which unexpectedly shut down last summer. This closure also effected Portico Brewing Company, an upstart contract brewery that was producing all of their beer at Watch City. Fortunately Portico found a new home at Ipswich Brewing Company, and now they have started distributing their beers in bottles as well as on draft. Portico makes traditional beer styles with a twist, usually a key ingredient that is unexpected for the style. One of Portico’s flagship beers is Fuzzy Logic, a German style Kolsch brewed with Belgian yeast. Fuzzy Logic is available year round on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Portico Fuzzy Logic pours a hazy deep yellow with a solid white head. The scent is pretty mild, a little spicy yeast. The Belgian yeast leads the flavor too, touches of apple, pepper and pear. This is balanced by a full dose of lighter malts, notes of crackers and crusty wheat bread. The hops round out the flavor with some earthy and grassy flavors. Fuzzy Logic is light and easy to drink, and moderately alcoholic at 5.4% ABV. The finish is crisp with a mild estery aftertaste from the yeast. Portico Fuzzy Logic is a solid beer, easy to drink with good flavor, but I am not sure what makes it a kolsch. If I didn’t read the label I would have assumed this was a saison, I don’t know that the use of German hops qualifies the beer as a kolsch. I guess the brewer has the power can call their beer whatever they want. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
I cannot believe today is the last day of August, this summer has flown by incredibly fast. I imagine that part of the issue was living in a fog for the last few months as I adapted to fatherhood (and a baby who is incredibly easy in most ways, except for a little problem with sleeping). Despite the fact that every single food and beverage item will be available in pumpkin flavor by tomorrow (if it wasn’t already) summer doesn’t immediately end on September 1st. Hell, we’re going to hit 90 in Boston this week. So while some people will finally give in and drink fall beers tomorrow, I am going to squeeze every drop out of summer that I can. One summery beer that I enjoyed recently is Mango, the new summer seasonal from Clown Shoes. Clown Shoes old summer seasonal was Crunkle Sam, an American Barleywine, because only a brewery like Clown Shoes would pair summer weather with a barleywine. Their new summer release is a little more weather-appropriate. Mango is a kolsch brewed with a healthy dose of hops and the addition of mango. Mango is available in 22 oz bombers while it lasts, grab some and celebrate some of the final weeks of warm weather!
Clown Shoes Mango pours a clear bright yellow with a moderate white head. The scent is a mixture of tropical fruit and floral hops. The mango is present in the flavor but subdued, it adds fruit flavor without overwhelming the beer. The hops also add a substantial punch, notes of orange, lemon, grass and earth. The malts round out the flavor, touches of pale grain and crackers. One minor quibble, some German yeast strains contribute a distinct clove or banana flavor that I don’t get here, without the label I’m not sure that I would have identified this beer as a kolsch instead of an American pale ale. Clown Shoes Mango is very light bodied and easy to drink, with a moderate 6.5% ABV. The finish is clean and dry, a refreshing beer for the last warm weeks of summer. Lots of Clown Shoes beers are in your face with every flavor taken to an 11, but I appreciated the lighter touches here. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Clown Shoes Reviews:
Clown Shoes The Peace That Money Can’t Buy, Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher, Clown Shoes Swagger
Down The Road Brewery in Newton is gradually rolling out their introductory lineup of beers. They recently released Rasenmaher Kolsch on draft and in 12 oz. bottles. If you grab a bottle you’ll probably notice something interesting in their artwork. The label depicts Down The Road character Hans Mowermann pushing a lawnmower in his lederhosen. In his free hand, where you might expect to see a frosty mug of beer, there is a small “censored” label instead. The original art included the mug of beer, but the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (who approves all labels for alcoholic beverages), nixed the art. The full story can be found on Down The Road’s blog HERE. Apparently the TTB consider a lawnmower to be heavy machinery, and every beer contains the warning to not operate heavy machinery if you consume alcohol. I’m glad Down The Road chose to use the censored label instead of re-doing their artwork, it adds a little intrigue and immediately draws the consumer’s eye. While Rasenmaher Kolsch is a perfect Summertime lawnmower beer, it is going to be one of Down The Road’s flagship beers and thus available year-round.
Down The Road Rasenmaher Kolsch pours a clear pale orange with a mild white head. The scent is a mixture of noble hops with just a touch of German-style yeast. The taste starts with the pale malts, notes of crackers and grain. This is perfectly complemented by the noble hops, which add moderate earthy and grassy flavors. The German yeast is less expressive than Belgian styles, but adds some subtle hints of banana and clove. The beer is very light and easy to drink with some spritzy carbonation and sessionable at 4.5% ABV. Rasenmaher Kolsch is a great summer beer, full flavored but crushable, I’ll knock back a few of these on the porch and add this to my BBQ rotation. I’m glad only the label was censored and not the beer! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Down The Road Reviews:
Down The Road Pukwudgie Pale Ale
Despite the snow this morning there have been some recent signs of spring in New England, including occasional sunshine and warm weather this past weekend. As this transition happens I like to switch out some of the dark stouts and porters for lighter bodied beers that complement the warmer weather. Local breweries also begin shipping their spring seasonals (sometimes far to early). Spring seasonal brews trend towards light bodied pale ales, witbiers and saisons. Expect a number of upcoming reviews of spring seasonals in this space, and hopefully some more warm weather to accompany these beers. One new addition to the local lineup of spring seasonals is Ramble from Long Trail Brewing Company in Vermont. Ramble is a German style kolsch, brewed with ale yeast then conditioned at low temperature. Ramble was originally a draft-only special release in 2013, but it was very well recieved and this year became their spring seasonal. Ramble is distributed in 12 ounce bottles and on draft. It is brewed with Carapils and wheat malts, Nugget and Hallertau hops, plus additions of lemon zest and freshly ground peppercorns.
Long Trail Ramble pours a crystal clear golden yellow with a mild white head. There is solid carbonation, evident as you pour. The smell is pretty mild, there are notes of grain, baking bread and a touch of lemon. The taste and body are both light and refreshing. The malts come through first with flavors of crackers, light malt, and a little butter. The German style yeast adds some clove and a little fruity ester character. There is also some mild bitterness from the hops. The lemon and pepper are both present but not assertive, they provide a subtle complement to the malt and yeast flavors. The finish is very clean, and at 5.25% ABV the beer isn’t too heavy. This is a great beer for the upcoming warmer weather. I can easily see myself sipping a few on the porch during a spring afternoon! Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Long Trail reviews:
Watch City Brewing Company is a staple on Moody Street in Waltham, serving a full menu of food along with a rotating selection of beers, all of which are brewed on site. Until recently the only way to get Watch City beer was to go to the brewpub, but now Watch City distributes their beer to a number of local bars and restaurants. They have also started to bottle some of their brews to sell at local liquor stores. One of the beers they are selling is Rescue One Kolsch, a German style light ale. One of the great things about supporting local breweries is their involvement in the community. After the events at the marathon last April it was amazing how many breweries committed time, energy and beer to events that supported the One Fund along with other Boston-based charities. Rescue One Kolsch is brewed for a cause too, a portion of the proceeds go to a fund set up for the three children of Worcester firefighter Jon Davies who was killed fighting a fire in 2011. The beer was designed and brewed with the help of the Worcester Fire Department. For more information visit: http://watchcitybrew.com/greening-the-way-3/john-davis-fund/
While most German style beers are lagers brewed at low temperature, Kolsch is a German style ale. Kolsch is typically fermented at lower temperatures than most ales, and is often “finished” with a secondary fermentation at lager temperature. This result is a clean and crisp ale, usually light in color with low hop character.
Watch City Brewing Rescue One Kolsch pours a clear straw-gold , well-carbonated with a small, quickly dissipating white head. The smell is pretty mild, some buttery malt character with a touch of pine from the noble hops. The taste is light, fizzy and easy to drink, very crisp and clean. The flavor is a touch malty, with some butter and biscuit flavors, balanced by a mild bitterness and some earth from the hops. At 4.8% ABV Rescue One Kolsch is on the lighter side, a great beer to bring to a BBQ or holiday party. The beers are hand-bottled and very fresh, with the date hand-written on the label. If you’re looking for an easy to drink ale that supports a good cause this holiday season, you can grab Rescue One Kolsch at local liquor stores or at Watch City in Waltham. Hoppy Boston Score: 3.75/5