Otter Creek made a big announcement recently, after 8.5 years their head brewer Mike Gerhart is leaving the brewery. Rumor has it that he is taking a job with Hill Farmstead, which is widely considered one of the best breweries in the world. Gerhart has played an instrumental role as Otter Creek overhauled their brand over the last few years, developing a completely new lineup of beers focusing on hop-forward offerings. This re-branding has included all new artwork that heavily features the bearded and tye-dyed character of Gerhart on the majority of their bottles and cans (usually accompanied by his dog). It should be interesting to see how the brand evolves going forward, their new beers have been very well received and it looks like they have a stable of up and coming brewers who are ready to take the reigns. In addition to all of the varieties of IPA that Otter Creek is brewing, we’ve seen them dabble in dark beers, including a big and boozy Russian Imperial Stout. Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout is available in the winter on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout pours pitch black with a minimal tan head. The scent is mostly roasted malts along with a little alcohol. The flavor is malt forward, notes of dark chocolate, raisin and toffee. You also get some booze in the flavor, but it isn’t overpowering. Some late hops round out the flavor with hints of grass and earth along with a bit of bitterness. Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout is a full bodied sipper and it packs a wallop at 10% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering malt flavor. For a brewery that has focused it’s efforts on hop forward beers Otter Creek makes some tasty dark and malty brews too. This one is worth a shot as imperial stout season winds to a close. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Last weekend I went to a get together at a friend’s house and naturally he asked that I bring some beer (I guess I’ve gained a reputation as a beer expert). Five of ten tears ago this group getting together would have meant a late night and many drinks, but now most of us have kids so it’s pizza and a beer or two on a Saturday afternoon. When I bring beers to a party I usually gravitate towards mix packs, the style diversity means there is usually something that everyone will enjoy. After a quick perusal of a local bottle shop I settled on the Otter Creek Mixed Bag variety pack, featuring Backset Berner IPA, Over Easy session IPA, Kind Ryed rye IPA, and Couch Surfer, their new oatmeal stout. I am a big fan of the new Otter Creek lineup, every beer I’ve tried has been good to great. Apparently I’m not the only one, due to the increased demand for their beers Otter Creek recently announced a major expansion of their Vermont brewery. The one beer from the old Otter Creek lineup that I missed was Stovepipe Porter, with the focus on hoppy beers the new selection really hadn’t found a good replacement for that beer until now. Otter Creek Couch Surfer is available year-round in 12 oz. bottles (mix packs and on it’s own) and on conventional and nitro draft.
Otter Creek Couch Surfer pours a dark brown with a minimal tan head. The scent is mostly roasted malt, rich and dark. The malts also lead the flavor, notes of dark chocolate, caramel, fresh baked bread, weak coffee and roasted barley. There is also a little hit of hops, adding some balance and bite in the finish. Couch Surfer is a little more hoppy than you might expect from an oatmeal stout (no surprise considering the direction Otter Creek has taken recently), but still it’s still a very malt forward offering. The oats help give the beer a full body and rich mouthfeel, but it still drinks very easy at 5.4% ABV. The finish is clean with a little roasty aftertaste. I would love to see more breweries make oatmeal stouts, you can get a ton of flavor without the booze and bourbon that dominate most current stout offerings. Couch Surfer is a great example, malty, complex and delicious but you can have a couple without getting hammered. It is also great to see Otter Creek branch out from the hop bombs, I’ve loved their new line but like seeing a little more style diversity. I can’t wait to try this beer on nitro. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Otter Creek Reviews:
Jack’s Abby/Otter Creek Joint Custody, Otter Creek Backseat Berner, Otter Creek/Lawson’s Finest Liquids Double Dose, Otter Creek Fresh Slice, Otter Creek Citra Mantra, Otter Creek Kind Ryed
If you didn’t know, my “real world” job is as a research chemist – blogging about beer doesn’t pay the bills unfortunately. My time as a scientist has taught me how important collaboration is. Every person I work with has different skills and experience. They bring ideas to the table that help the group innovate, learn and push a project forward. This is part of the reason I love the concept of collaboration beers. While the tangible result of the collaboration is a single batch of beer, the lessons the brewers learn and ideas they exchange during the process can improve every beer each of them brews going forward. I was very excited when I heard that Otter Creek and Jack’s Abby were working on a collaboration beer. Regular blog readers should know that I am a big fan of both breweries, the extensive “previous reviews” sections listed below supports that too. With Jack’s Abby involved I assumed the collaboration beer would be a lager, and Otter Creek has recently re-focused on hop-forward beers, so a hoppy lager seemed to be the inevitable product of this partnership. Sure enough their creation is Joint Custody, a Nouveau Pilsner that combines a traditional Bohemian pilsner build with heavy additions of newer German hop varieties Huell Melon and Mandarina Bavaria. Joint Custody is available for a limited time on draft and in 12 oz. cans.
Jack’s Abby/Otter Creek Joint Custody pours a hazy straw yellow with a solid white head. The scent is pleasantly hoppy, floral and citrusy. The hops lead the flavor, with notes of lemon, grass and pine along with a crisp bitterness. It isn’t IPA-level hoppiness (nor should it be), but this is more hop flavor and aroma than you typically find in a pilsner. The hops are balanced by a traditional pale malt backbone, subtle touches of bready grain. The beer is light bodied, very clean and super drinkable, but packs a little punch at 6.2% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor. I could drink Joint Custody all day, this is a perfect beer for the summer. I had very high expectations for a collaboration between these two breweries, and Joint Custody met even my high expectations. I really hope this beer is an annual release instead of a one-off! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Jack’s Abby Reviews:
BREWERY OVERVIEW, Jack’s Abby Maibock Hurts Like Helles, Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union, Jack’s Abby Barrel-Aged Framinghammer, Jack’s Abby Bride Maker, Jack’s Abby Brewery/Hopstitution BAM, Jack’s Abby Copper Legend, Jack’s Abby Session Rye IPL, Jack’s Abby Mass Rising, Jack’s Abby/Evil Twin Jack’s Evil Brew, Jack’s Abby Wet Hop Lager, Jack’s Abby Pro-Am Pilsner
Previous Otter Creek Reviews:
Otter Creek Backseat Berner, Otter Creek/Lawson’s Finest Liquids Double Dose, Otter Creek Fresh Slice, Otter Creek Citra Mantra, Otter Creek Kind Ryed
The local beer scene continues to evolve. It seems like a new brewery opens in the area every month. This brings increased competition along with innovation, many of the new breweries are producing unique and flavorful brews. It also puts the onus on established breweries to continue to evolve in order to stay relevant. One of the most extreme examples of this is the evolution of Otter Creek Brewing Company in VT. Instead of introducing a couple of new beers to complement their tried and true classics, Otter Creek has ditched all of their older beers and rolled out a completely new lineup over the last year plus. Gone are Copper Ale and Stovepipe Porter, along with the old logo and bottle art. The new Otter Creek brand is focused on hop-heavy beers packaged in bottles and cans featuring art depicting a VW style orange van, Brewmaster Mike and his Bernese mountain dog Oslo. Last year they introduced a series of tasty seasonal brews, and this spring they completed the rebranding by producing a couple of brand new year round beers. One of these year-round releases is Backseat Berner, a West Coast style IPA. Backseat Berner is the first year-round IPA in Otter Creek’s history, which is a little surprising considering how ubiquitous the style has become. Otter Creek Backseat Berner is now widely available on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Otter Creek Backseat Berner pours a cloudy orange with a moderate white head. The scent is a solid dose of aromatic hops, citrus fruit and resin. The hops lead the flavor too, notes of grapefruit, lemon, cut grass, pine and nectarine. This hop flavor is accompanied by substantial but not overwhelming bitterness. While the beer is very hop-forward there is just enough malt to keep it from being overdone, touches of caramel and whole grains. Even with the full flavor and bitterness Backseat Berner drinks relatively easy, at 7% ABV it is not a light beer but not overwhelming either. The finish is classic American IPA, dry with some tongue-tingling bite. This is a quintessential West Coast style IPA, a showcase of New World hop flavor. Backseat Berner is a great addition to the strong Otter Creek line-up, and a good all-occasions IPA. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Otter Creek Reviews:
Otter Creek/Lawson’s Finest Liquids Double Dose, Otter Creek Fresh Slice, Otter Creek Citra Mantra, Otter Creek Kind Ryed
When I started writing this blog I found that social media was a great way to connect with brewers and breweries, as well as other beer writers and enthusiasts. Twitter in particular has been a great medium to share my work and to find other blogs to read. It has also been a great way to find out news about new beers, special events and trends in the industry. Twitter was the first place I heard the term “unicorn beer”, designated for highly rated but hard-to-find special releases. I don’t end up drinking very many unicorn beers, mostly due to my unwillingness to drive for hours or stand in line for the sole purpose of buying a particular beer. This brings me to another advantage of social media, I’ve been clued in from Twitter followers when rare beers come to town, and where I can find them. This happened recently with Double Dose, the once-a-year double IPA brewed by Otter Creek and Lawson’s Finest Liquids of Vermont. While Otter Creek beers are widely available (and very good in their own right), you can only get beers from Lawson’s in VT, so it is a rare treat to find this collaboration beer at a local store. Double Dose is currently available in 4 packs of 12 oz bottles and on draft, I recommend grabbing some if you find it, it won’t be around for long!
Otter Creek/Lawson’s Finest Liquids Double Dose pours a deep orange, slightly hazy with a mild white head. The smell is a huge burst of hops, tons of tropical and citrus fruit. This beer might have the best nose of any IPA I’ve ever tasted. The hops rule the flavor too, significant grapefruit, lemon and resin followed by a little mango and passion fruit. The hop flavor is accompanied by the tongue-numbing bitterness you expect from a double IPA. While Double Dose is a very hop-forward beer, there is enough malt in the backbone to add a little balance. This is also a pretty big beer at 8.5% ABV, and you get just a hint of warming alcohol as you drink. For a big beer it is very drinkable, and finishes with a pleasant bitter bite on the tongue. This beer is awesome, as soon as I finished my first bottle I wished I bought more than a 4-pack, but I will make sure I track more down before it’s gone. Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.
Previous Otter Creek Reviews:
Otter Creek Fresh Slice, Otter Creek Citra Mantra, Otter Creek Kind Ryed
Many macro-lager drinkers are brand loyal – a Bud Light drinker only drinks Bud Light while craft beer drinkers tend to try anything and everything. This presents an issue for established craft breweries as they are constantly competing with new and exciting releases by up and coming breweries. Established breweries have to balance making innovative new beers with continued production of the old favorites that put them on the map. One brewery that has done an impressive job striking this balance is Otter Creek Brewing Company in Vermont. Otter Creek still brews their flagship beers like Copper Ale and Hop Session, but now brews a brand new series of seasonal ales. Their Summer seasonal is Fresh Slice, an unfiltered Belgian white IPA brewed with clementine juice and sweet orange peel. Fresh Slice is available on draft and in bottles and cans.
Otter Creek Fresh Cut White IPA pours a pale gold, very cloudy with a large white head. The smell is very hoppy, tons of citrus and resin. The taste is also very hop forward, notes of pine. lemon and orange. The Belgian yeast is also present, contributing some pepper and a touch of clove. There is some malt flavors as well, spicy wheat and a touch of grainy barley. The beer is very well balanced and drinkable, there is some hop bitterness but it isn’t overwhelming. The finish is complex, with some spice, fruit and a little hop bite. At 5.5% ABV it is not a session beer, but relatively light, perfect for the Summer. Overall this is a very nice example of a white IPA, skillfully melding the flavors of a Belgian witbier with flavorful American hops. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Otter Creek reviews:
Otter Creek Citra Mantra, Otter Creek Kind Ryed
The growing popularity of craft beer has led to an increased interest in the ingredients that make beer. Craft beer enthusiasts often dabble in homebrewing, and even those who don’t at least try to learn about the varieties of malt, yeast and hops used in their favorite styles. The craft beer movement has also led to the development of many new varieties of hops, each species engineered to provide a particular flavor profile in the final beer. This renewed interest and understanding of particular ingredients has led craft breweries to develop beers that highlight a single ingredient. One of the most common ways to do this is through single-hop beers, where a single variety of hops is in focus. A great recent example of this is Citra Mantra, a hoppy lager (or IPL) from Otter Creek Brewing Company of Middlebury, VT. Citra Mantra is a pale lager that has been generously hopped with Citra hops. Citra hops have become one of the standout American hop varieties due to the bright and bold grapefruit, orange and lemon flavors it imparts into the beer (might be where they came up with the name). As a homebrewer who loves citrus-focused American hops, Citra has emerged as one of my favorite hops for flavor and aroma.
Otter Creek Citra Mantra pours straw gold, slightly cloudy with a strong and sustained white head. The smell is what you would expect from a beer brewed with tons of Citra hops, pungent aromas of citrus and tropical fruit. The taste is also a potent mix of hop flavors with notes of lemon, grapefruit, guava, pine and cut grass. There is a touch of light malt in the backbone, but this is a very hop-forward beer. Citra Mantra has the clean drinkability of a lager with a solid, but not overwhelming hop bitterness. At 5.75% ABV this is a beer that is not overdone but not a light either. The finish is clean with a touch of lingering hop bitterness. The hoppy lager style is a great way to showcase a single hop variety. Citra Mantra makes one of my personal favorite hops sing. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Otter Creek reviews:
Kind Ryed IPA