Tag Archives: Mystic

Mystic Voltage and Echo

It is no longer news when a brewery starts canning their beers, in fact I’m struggling to think of any Massachusetts breweries with a significant distribution footprint that don’t can. One of the last hold-outs was Mystic Brewing in Chelsea. For years Mystic brewed a lineup dominated by flavorful saisons and other Belgian styles, mostly distributed in large format bottles. Many of these beers are stellar, but unfortunately almost all of the buzz (and the sales that go along with it) is focused on hop-bomb IPAs. Mystic’s lineup has slowly incorporated hoppy beers over the last year or so. They started with a rotating selection of brewery-only DIPAs and now they’ve revamped their brand by producing cans of a number of these hop-forward offerings. I really wish a brewery could thrive making entirely Belgian styles, but hopefully this change will lead some hop heads to branch out and enjoy some beer styles outside of their comfort zone. I also hope that Mystic still sticks with some of their classics, even if it’s on a rotating or limited release schedule. I guess we’ll see how this all shakes out. I was able to try a number of Mystic’s new beers including their NEIPA Voltage and Echo, which is called a session IPA on the can but seems to be a hoppy saison. Both beers are available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz tallboy cans.

Mystic VoltageMystic Voltage pours hazy light yellow with a solid white head. The scent is a huge burst of fruity New World hops. The hops also dominate the flavor, notes of mango, grapefruit, peach and tangerine along with a mild bitter bite. This is complemented by a light malt backbone, hints of bread dough and crackers. Voltage is medium bodied and very easy to drink but solidly boozy at 7.0% ABV. The finish is crisp and smooth with lingering hop flavor that keeps you coming back for more. This is a top notch IPA, not a straight juice-bomb but plenty of the fruity hops that have become so popular. This will quickly become a go-to IPA for me, just a delicious beer. Highly recommended.  Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Mystic EchoMystic Echo pours slightly hazy bright yellow with a full white head. The aroma is a mixture of fruity and floral hops with expressive Belgian style yeast. These two elements lead the flavor as well. The hops add notes of orange, spruce and herbs with just a little bitterness. The yeast contributes hints of apple, apricot and peppercorn. Touches of wheat bread and cereal from the malts round out the flavor. Echo is light and super drinkable, very much a session beer at 4.3% ABV. The finish is crisp and dry with lingering hop and yeast flavors. I am a big fan of mixing late hops with expressive Belgian style yeasts, and this is a solid version of the style. Mystic is so good at building beers around these strains of yeast, I hope to see more hoppy saisons in their future releases. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Mystic Reviews:

Mystic Kanzu, Mystic Sauvignon Blanc Barrel SaisonMystic Vinland 4Mystic De Varenne, Mystic India Wharf Pale Ale, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Mystic Flor ZMystic Melissa, Mystic DescendantMystic Vinland ThreeMystic Brewery visit and Day of Doom, Mystic Hazy Jane, Mystic Mary of the Gael, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer

 

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Mystic Kanzu

I am a somewhat regular participant in a twitter beer chat on Thursday nights that starts around 9 PM EST. It’s a fun place to chat about beer, anyone is welcome to chime in, just follow the hashtag #beerchat and answer the questions posed by whomever is hosting. A recent topic was coffee beers, with questions about good/bad examples and different beer styles that can/should/shouldn’t be infused with coffee. I’m not a coffee drinker, not because I dislike it per se I just try to limit my caffeine intake, but I enjoy the occasional coffee stout or porter. Someone (and I really don’t remember who or I would give them credit), suggested that a coffee saison could be interesting or terrible depending on the execution. It seemed like a strange idea to me, but the next time I was at the bottle shop I noticed a coffee saison and needed to give it a shot. Fortunately it was from Mystic Brewing, if any brewery knows how to make unique and delicious farmhouse ales it’s Mystic. Mystic Kanzu is a farmhouse ale brewed with Rwandan coffee, it is available now in 375 mL bottles.

mystic-kanzuMystic Kanzu pours deep orange with a moderate off-white head. The scent is a mixture of coffee and esters from the expressive Belgian style yeast. The coffee is well represented in the flavor but doesn’t overwhelm. The yeast is also present, notes of apple, apricot and clove. Light malts round out the flavor with hints of cracker and bread dough. Kanzu is light bodied and easy to drink, not too boozy at 5.4% ABV. The finish is dry with lingering coffee flavor. I don’t know if I would have even tried a coffee infused saison if it wasn’t from Mystic, but years of drinking delicious beers from that brewery have led to an inherent trust that I will enjoy the beer. If you are interested in trying a different style of beer with coffee this is a good place to start. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Mystic Reviews:

Mystic Sauvignon Blanc Barrel SaisonMystic Vinland 4Mystic De Varenne, Mystic India Wharf Pale Ale, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Mystic Flor ZMystic Melissa, Mystic DescendantMystic Vinland ThreeMystic Brewery visit and Day of Doom, Mystic Hazy Jane, Mystic Mary of the Gael, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer

Mystic Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Saison

I am a big advocate for more variety in barrel aged beers. We have plenty of bourbon barrel aged stouts, I want to see more combinations of traditional (or less traditional) beer styles aged in barrels that used to hold various types of wine or spirits. One group of beers that are under-utilized in barrel rooms are the non-sour Belgian styles, dubbels, tripels, quads, saisons and Belgian style pale and dark ales. The expressive flavors imparted by the Belgian yeast strains can be complemented by a number of different types of booze. A number of local brewers seem to agree, you are starting to see more barrel aged Belgian style beers pop up on shelves. Locally, many of these creative takes come out of the barrel aging collaboration between Cambridge Brewing Company and Mystic Brewing. Mystic makes a wide range of beers now, but the majority of their initial offerings were saisons. They have brewed saisons with a wide range of malt and hop profiles, so it makes sense that they would be interested in aging some of these beers to impart flavors that complement their expressive and diverse house yeast strains. One example I sampled recently is a saison aged in sauvignon blanc barrels. Appropriately named, Mystic Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Saison is available on a rotating basis in 750 mL bottles.

Mystic Sauvignon Barrel Aged SaisonMystic Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Aged Saison pours a clear copper with a solid white head. The aroma is a mixture of fruity wine and spicy Belgian style yeast. The flavor is complex, but the flavors added by the barrel aging definitely take center stage. The wine adds notes of white grape, melon and flowers while there is also a strong woodsy/vanilla flavor imparted from the  barrel itself. The Belgian style yeast contributes touches of apple, pepper and pear. The flavor is rounded out by some grassy hops and hints of biscuits and honey from the malts. Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Aged Saison is medium bodied and drinks smooth but packs a little punch at 7.5% ABV. The finish is dry with a lingering complex mixture of flavors in the aftertaste. I love the idea of aging saisons in wine barrels, and sauvignon blanc seems like an appropriate varietal. The flavors imparted by the barrel itself were just a little too strong for my taste, still a good beer but aside from that it could have been great. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Mystic Reviews:

Mystic Vinland 4Mystic De Varenne, Mystic India Wharf Pale Ale, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Mystic Flor ZMystic Melissa, Mystic DescendantMystic Vinland ThreeMystic Brewery visit and Day of Doom, Mystic Hazy Jane, Mystic Mary of the Gael, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer

Mystic Vinland 4

There are a number of local breweries that put out series of one-off or infrequent beers that I look forward to and will buy as soon as I see a new release. At the top of this list is probably the Vinland Series by Mystic Brewery in Chelsea. The term “terrior” is very popular with wine, it is the flavors that are imparted into the grapes by the region where they are grown. Terrior is one of the reasons why a chardonnay from California is very different from a French version, and some wine aficionados can even taste the differences between vinyards that are only a few miles apart. Mystic uses the Vinland Series to show that beer can have the same type of terrior, especially when the yeast is harvested locally. The first three beers in the series used yeast strains isolated from local fruits. It was amazing how the yeast imparted some of the flavors you associate with the fruit into the beer even though no fruit was added. Vinland 4 is slightly different, it was spontaneously fermented using yeast from locally grown barley. Mystic is developing a wild/spontaneous fermentation program similar to the lambic style of Belgium, and Vinland 4 is an example of this style. Mystic Vinland 4 is available for a limited time on draft and in 750 mL bottles.

Mystic Vinland 4Mystic Vinland 4 pours a hazy golden yellow with a small white head. The scent is all wild yeast, acidic and funky. The microbes are the star on the palate as well, notes of green apple, lemon, some Brett-like barnyard/horse blanket and just a little sour tingle. Some lighter malts add body along with hints of whole grain bread and biscuits. There is minimal hop character, this beer is designed to let the wild yeast shine. Vinland 4 is light and easy to drink at 6% ABV. The finish is dry with some of the complex yeast flavors lingering on the tongue. I am a fan of the wild ale style and this is a very solid version. I personally preferred some of the other Vinland beers, it was interesting to taste some of the flavors imparted by yeast from a specific fruit, but the bar had been set incredibly high for this series and this beer is still very good. I will still look forward to each Vinland release, and I might grab a couple more bottles of this to see how it changes over time. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Mystic Reviews:

Mystic De Varenne, Mystic India Wharf Pale Ale, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Mystic Flor ZMystic Melissa, Mystic DescendantMystic Vinland ThreeMystic Brewery visit and Day of Doom, Mystic Hazy Jane, Mystic Mary of the Gael, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer

Mystic De Varenne

It looks like Mystic Brewery is undergoing a bit of a re-branding, new bottle art, an updated website and some new additions to the line-up of beers. As an aside, my two favorite Mystic beers (Mary of the Gael and Day of Doom) are not listed on the website, I would be very disappointed if either is no longer being produced. It is probably no coincidence that the re-branding is happening as Mystic begins to release the first beers from their new wild ale/barrel aging program. Last year Mystic announced a collaboration with Cambridge Brewing Company that would allow both breweries to expand their capacity for barrel aged beers. Mystic was planning on focusing on the wild fermented lambic-type styles, something that we can definitely use more of in this area. Wild fermented ales are quickly becoming one of my favorite beer styles, the good ones have such complex flavors. One of the first releases in this series is De Varenne, a blend of wild ales that have each been aged for at least a year. Mystic De Varenne is available on a rotating basis in 375 mL bottles.

Mystic De VarenneMystic De Varenne pours a clear bright orange with a minimal white head. The scent is fruity with a little hit of acidity. The wild yeast leads the flavor, fruity Belgian style esters with notes of apple, pear and apricot combined with some barnyard funkiness and just a touch of tart sourness. Some pale malts round out the flavor, hints of crackers, bread and honey. The beer is very light and easy to drink but packs moderate punch at 6.5% ABV. The finish is crisp with a little sour bite on the tongue. De Varenne is a very solid start to an ambitious wild ale program, complex and interesting but still very drinkable. Massachusetts needs more beers like this, and I look forward to seeing what else Mystic has in store! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Mystic Reviews:

Mystic India Wharf Pale Ale, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Mystic Flor ZMystic Melissa, Mystic DescendantMystic Vinland ThreeMystic Brewery visit and Day of Doom, Mystic Hazy Jane, Mystic Mary of the Gael, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer

Mystic India Wharf Pale Ale

Before you read this article I’d like you to stop for a minute and try to think of how many breweries you know that don’t brew any beers labeled as an “IPA”. Between standard IPAs and all of the sub-styles and variants that carry the IPA name I bet you’ll have a hard time coming up with more than a handful. The few breweries that shy away from the hop-bomb craze usually fill a specific niche in the beer market, focusing on a particular set of styles like Belgian beers, traditional lagers or sours beers. One local example is Mystic Brewery in Chelsea who specialize in brewing delicious Belgian style beers from house cultured yeast strains. While Mystic does make some beers with generous doses of hops, for example their spring saison Mary of the Gael is a delicious mixture of expressive yeast and aromatic hops, they don’t brew an IPA. The closest they come is probably their India Wharf Pale Ale, an English style pale ale brewed with American hops. India Wharf Pale Ale is part of the Wigglesworth Series, a set of bottle conditioned traditional British ales designed by Mystic co-owner Alastair Hewitt. India Wharf Pale Ale is available year round on draft and in 500 mL bottles.

Mystic India Wharf Pale AleMystic India Wharf Pale Ale pours a deep clear copper with a sizeable white head. The scent is all hops, floral and grassy with a little citrus. The hops also lead the flavor, notes of lemon, pine, cut grass and earth along with a present but not overwhelming bitterness. This is balanced by a noticeable but mild malt backbone, touches of white bread and crackers. The beer is crisp, clean and very easy to drink at 5.1% ABV. The finish has a little hoppy bite and minimal aftertaste. India Wharf Pale Ale is a very well done pale ale, a nice mixture of the classic British style with plenty of flavorful American hops. Mystic might be best known for their saisons (which are amazing), but this shows how versatile they can be. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5

Previous Mystic Reviews:

BREWERY OVERVIEW, Mystic Flor ZMystic Melissa, Mystic DescendantMystic Vinland ThreeMystic Brewery visit and Day of Doom, Mystic Hazy Jane, Mystic Mary of the Gael, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer

Brewery Overview: Mystic Brewery

Mystic Lineup

Location: Mystic has a taproom at 174 Williams St. in Chelsea, MA, right off of the Tobin bridge. They offer sample flights, full pours and growler fills of their flagship, seasonal, and specialty beers including some brewery-exclusives. The taproom isn’t huge, but it has a small bar and a variety of seating, plenty of room to hang out with a group of friends and drink some tasty saisons.

Website: http://www.mystic-brewery.com

Leadoff: Have you ever wondered what a brewery would look like if it was founded by a PhD biologist with a passion for micro-organisms and the products of their metabolism? No need to theorize because that is the (extremely brief and generalized) background of Mystic Brewing founder Bryan Greenhagen. While hops and malt get most of the attention when it comes to beer ingredients if it wasn’t for the microbes that convert that malt into alcohol beer would just be strongly flavored sugar water. Belgian style ales in particular take advantage of the array of flavors that yeast can contribute to beers. Mystic has emerged as a local expert in the development of unique strains of yeast. They have had some incredible successes, from their house Renaud yeast, to Vinland strains isolated from local fruit, to their new wild ale program. Each of these strains of yeast has been used as a significant component in Mystic’s array of Belgian style ales. Regular readers of this blog know how much I love saisons, and Mystic makes some of the best examples of the style.

Mystic Mary of the Gael

My Favorite Mystic Beers:

Mary of the Gael: Probably my favorite beer brewed by Mystic. Bright floral and earthy hops perfectly complement the fruity and spicy notes from expressive yeast strain. The only problem I have with this beer is that it’s only available in the spring!

Day of Doom: Can you think of a more appropriate name for a Belgian style quad that weighs in at 12% ABV? Tons of rich malt flavor is complemented by subtle estery notes from the yeast. This is incredibly easy to drink for a big beer, you can taste the booze but it doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors.

Vinland Series: Each beer in the Vinland series is brewed with a yeast strain cultured from a different fruit grown in New England. Vinland 1 (which I am sad to say I never got to try) used plums from Massachusetts, Vinland 2 used blueberries from Maine, and Vinland 3 used raspberries from Vermont. While no actual fruit is added to the beer, you get subtle notes that are reminiscent of the fruit the yeast came from, which shows how influential native yeast strains are in our perception of flavor. It also helps that each beer in this series has been delicious, tailor made to complement the flavors produced by the yeast. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

Descendant: A hybrid beer that combines the dark roasted malt bill of a Irish stout or an English porter fermented with the house Renaud yeast. The addition of molasses to the brewing process is an ode to an old New England brewing tradition. The final beer is a complex mixture of coffee and chocolate from the malts with fruit and spice from the yeast.

Mystic Hazy Jane

Other Beers You Should Try: Mystic’s flagship Saison Renaud is a stellar saison that showcases their house yeast culture. Summer seasonal saison Hazy Jane uses a generous dose of wheat malt along with an array of hops resulting in a flavorful and refreshing beer for the warmer months. Traditional saisons were often lower in alcohol, and Mystic pays homage to this with Table Beer, a full flavored but sessionable offering. On the other end of the spectrum is Entropy, a boozy beer which is fermented in four stages with four different yeast strains, achieving both high ABV and incredible complexity. Flor Z is a sour saison that combines fruity and spicy Belgian yeast with a mild tartness.

Wild and Barrel Aged Beers: Mystic recently announced a partnership with Cambridge Brewing Company to expand bottling production and produce a series of Belgian style wild and sour ales. This is a huge commitment of time and effort, some of these beers need to age for years before they are ready to drink. In the end Mystic will become one of the leading producers of Belgian style sours in the US, a very exciting proposition considering their expertise in extracting amazing flavor from a variety of microbes.

Mystic Melissa

Gruit: Mystic is one of a handful of breweries trying to revitalize the gruit style, which is essentially beer flavored with herbs/adjuncts other than hops (so technically it isn’t beer in the strictest sense). Mystic is experimenting with a number of gruits. I recently enjoyed Melissa, a gruit brewed with lemon balm, juniper and lavender. Another recently released gruit is Freak Scene, brewed with honeybush and hibiscus.

Wigglesworth Series: While Mystic is renowned for it’s Belgian style ales, they also brew a series of traditional bottle conditioned English ales under the Wiggleswoth label. These beers were formulated by part-owner, accomplished home-brewer and British ex-pat Alastair Hewitt.

Final Thoughts: In the increasingly competitive beer marketplace it is paramount that a brewery has a calling card, something that is unique or that they do better than the competition. With their unparalleled ability to develop novel strains of yeast and use them to make delicious beer Mystic has their calling card. If you love Belgian styles, or even if you are just starting to try them, you need to make the trip to Chelsea and sample some of Mystic’s offerings. I can’t wait to see what they put out when their wild ale program gets rolling!