When you ask a beer nerd to name the best breweries in Maine there are a few that will inevitably come up. Hopheads will immediately cite Maine Beer Company and Bissell Brothers, while fans of Belgian styles would point to Allagash and Oxbow. There are many others that would also be mentioned, it’s an incredibly vibrant scene is my home state. One brewery that as crept up my list of favorite Maine breweries in recent visits is Foundation Brewing Company in Portland. Their expanded brewery in Portland is a must visit, especially on a nice day when the fun spills out onto their expansive patio. Unlike some other popular breweries, Foundation also distributes their beer, mostly in Maine but it has now made appearances in Massachusetts too. Foundation’s most popular beer is definitely their stellar DIPA Epiphany, but they feature a strong lineup of diverse offerings. I recently sampled a relatively new addition to their lineup, an American pale ale named Cosmic Bloom. Foundation Cosmic Bloom is brewed with five types of hops and is available on draft and in 16 oz cans.
Foundation Cosmic Bloom pours hazy light yellow with a solid white head. The scent is a big burst of fruity hops, tropical, citrus and berries. The flavor is also very hop forward with a unique new-age flavor profile that includes notes of melon, strawberry and tangerine. There is a little bitter bite, not bracing but this isn’t a straight jooce-bomb NEIPA either. The hops are complimented by a mild malt backbone, hints of white bread and cereal. Cosmic Bloom is light and easy to drink, not too boozy at 5.8% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor. This beer is delicious, well crafted with tons of flavor and a little different than other hoppy beers. Cosmic Bloom is now neck-in-neck with Epiphany for my favorite Foundation beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Foundation Reviews:
Foundation Venture, Foundation Afterglow, Foundation Wanderlust, Foundation Epiphany
Some beer geeks get very excited when a new out-of-state brewery begins to distribute in Massachusetts, they have a list of beers that they want to try as soon as they land. I am not usually in that group, I focus nearly all of my drinking on New England beers so I don’t pay much attention to breweries in states like Illinois or North Carolina. Nothing against beer from other regions, I just have a hard enough time staying current on local beers. The exception is when a brewery from another state in New England expands into Massachusetts. I was excited to see that Mast Landing Brewing Company in Westbrook, ME has signed on with Night Shift Distributing. I’ve heard great things about Mast Landing’s offerings, but hadn’t tried many of their beers. While I haven’t seen cans of Mast Landing in local bottle shops yet, I did grab a sneak preview on my recent trip to Maine. The two beers I found were the double dry hopped version of Mast Landing Tell Tale Pale Ale and Gunner’s Daughter, a peanut butter milk stout. Both are available year round on draft and in 16 oz. tall boy cans.
Mast Landing Gunner’s Daughter pours cola-brown with a solid tan head. The scent is a mixture of chocolate and peanut butter. This beer tastes like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in beer form. The malts and adjuncts combine for notes of chocolate, peanut butter, caramel and lingering sweetness. There is minimal hop flavor, this beer is made to showcase the sweet malt flavors. Gunner’s Daughter is medium bodied and smooth, not too boozy at 5.5% ABV. It finishes with some sugar and lingering roasted malt. This is a really interesting beer, I loved it at first sip but was OK with just one can, anything more would have been overkill. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Mast Landing Double Dry Hopped Tell Tale Pale Ale pours hazy orange with a massive white head. The scent is a huge burst of hops, tons of citrus and tropical fruit aroma. The flavor is also very hop forward, hints of tangerine, grapefruit and mango with a soft bitterness. This is balanced by some light malt flavor, touches of bread crust and honey. DDH Tell Tale is light bodied and crushable at 5.3% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor. This beer is stellar, huge hop flavor and aroma but still easy to drink and not too boozy. I hope cans start hitting the shelves in MA, because this will become a regular part of my rotation. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
I’ve made it pretty clear in this space that I don’t usually go out of my way to chase “unicorns” or “whalez”, the craft beers that are so hyped up they cause otherwise rational people to wait in line for hours in order to buy a couple cans or bottles. That being said, I do have a running list of beers that I’ve heard good things about and will jump at the chance to try if acquiring them doesn’t require anything too crazy. One beer that’s been on this list for a while is Derivative, a series of American pale ales from Proclamation Ale Company in West Kingston, RI. Each version of Derivative features a particular hop variety. Proclamation has been distributing their beers to the Boston area for a while now, but we get limited amounts and they tend to sell out very quickly, so I’ve been looking to try this beer for a while but always seem to just miss it when it lands in stores. I saw on Instagram that Sudbury Craft Beer got in a shipment of the Galaxy version of Derivative the other week, I showed up the next day and was able to grab the final can left in the store. Proclamation Derivative: Galaxy is available year-round (when you can find it) on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.
Proclamation Derivative Galaxy pours a hazy light yellow with a massive white head. The scent is a big burst of citrus hops. The flavor is very hop forward, notes of tangerine, grapefruit and mango along with a mild bitterness. This is balanced by some malt flavor, touches of white bread and crackers. Derivative Galaxy is light bodied and very easy to drink and just a touch boozy for an APA at 6.0% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with a little lingering hop flavor. I was glad that I finally tracked down a can of Proclamation Derivative, and it didn’t disappoint, this is a top notch pale ale. I will still be on the lookout for the other versions, as I tend to prefer Mosaic and Citra hops to Galaxy, but this is still a very good beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
There are so many breweries that have opened in the last few years that I have a hard time keeping track of the beers being produced in Eastern Massachusetts, let alone keeping up with all of the new breweries throughout New England. I’ve considered keeping Hoppy Boston’s focus on MA beers, but it’s fun to try things from across the region. New England isn’t that big anyways, with a short drive can try amazing beers in every New England state. You can also have awesome friends who bring you beers from their travels. My friends Tim and Amanda live in Providence and recently came to a get together at our house with a bunch of local beers that haven’t made their way to Massachusetts yet. Many of these beers were consumed that night, but I set aside a sample pack from Bucket Brewery in Pawtucket. It took me a little time to get around to writing my thoughts, better late than never I guess. A couple of the beer I sampled were Pawtucket Pale Ale, a balanced APA, and Black Goat of the Woods, a milk stout brewed with ginger and cinnamon. All of Bucket’s selections are available on draft and in 12 oz. cans.
Bucket Brewery Pawtucket Pale Ale pours a deep amber with a small white head. The aroma is mild, a bit of fruity hops. The flavor is balanced, much more malty than many of the newer style American pale ales. There is solid hop flavor, touches of orange, guava, grass and pine along with a little bitter bite. This is complemented by the malt, notes of caramel and whole grain bread along with substantial body. Pawtucket Pale Ale drinks easy at 5.5% ABV and finishes with a mixture of sweet malt and bitter hops. This is a solid beer, especially if you like more balanced, British inspired pale ales. Hoppy Boston score 4.0/5.
Bucket Black Goat of the Woods pours pitch black with a small tan head. The scent features some rich roasted malts and a hint of spice. The flavor is very malt forward, notes of cocoa, caramel and weak coffee. The spices are subtle, you get faint hints of cinnamon and ginger that add some complexity. The hops are almost non-existent in this beer, which leans toward sweet. The body is a touch thin for a stout, but the beer drinks smooth and has moderate alcohol at 6.5% ABV. Black Goat of the Woods is an interesting beer, with a few tweaks I think it could be very good. Hoppy Boston score: 3.75/5.
Next week my son turns a year old, it is incredible how quickly the time flies. When my wife was pregnant she completely abstained from drinking, there are plenty of women who have a drink here or there (which is fine, no judgment), but she decided not to and stuck to it throughout. Probably the closest she came to caving was when I sampled a bottle of Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale, the aroma from the hops was so amazing that she nearly gave in and joined me. I promised to get her some after the baby was born, but having a newborn really cuts back on your brewery visits. Fortunately, due to the recent expansion with the facility in Canton, it is now much easier to find Trillium beers, and we’ve had multiple bottles of Fort Point Pale Ale, both the standard version and the varieties showcasing different dry-hopping regimens. Each is stellar, and I though the perfect way to finish up Hoppy Boston pale ale month was to review one of the finest local takes on the style. Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale is available on a semi-regular basis on draft and in 750 mL bottles. My tasting notes are for the Enigma dry-hopped version, but I’ve enjoyed every version of this beer that I’ve tried.
Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale (Enigma-dry hopped version) pours opaque orange-yellow with a small white head. The first whiff is a pungent burst of hops dominated by citrus and tropical fruit. The beer is very hop forward, notes of orange, mango, papaya and grapefruit along with a very soft and mild bitterness. This is complemented by a solid dose of malt, touches of grainy bread and honey. FPPA is light bodied and very easy to drink but packs a little punch at 6.6% ABV. The finish is clean and dry with lingering hop flavor that keeps you coming back for more. Fort Point Pale Ale is an incredible beer, in my opinion it is the finest beer Trillium brews. Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.
Previous Trillium Reviews:
Trillium Free Rise Dry-hopped with Citra, Trillium Pot and Kettle, Trillium Scaled Up, Trillium Launch Beer, Trillium PM Dawn, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Trillium Sinister Kid, Trillium Congress St. IPA, Trillium Farmhouse Ale, Trillium Wakerobin Rye
Hoppy Boston pale ale month continues with a review of Mo from Maine Beer Company. Mo is a great example of a beer that gets lost a little due to the success of other beers produced by the brewery. Popular IPAs Lunch and Another One typically fly off the shelves, and people sleep in their cars for an opportunity to buy rarely brewed DIPA Dinner. These beers have a lot going for them, they’re delicious hop bombs, they’re well-reviewed and hyped on social media, and they all contain the three magic letters for beer sales success (I-P-A). Mo is kind of a little brother to the IPAs, a little less booze, a little less bitterness, but still a delicious beer in it’s own right with the bright hop flavors and aromas that you expect from Maine Beer Company. One other advantage to Mo is that it’s usually much easier to find, it still sells quickly but it doesn’t disappear in a matter of hours like the IPAs. Maine Beer Company Mo is brewed with Falconer’s Flight and Simcoe hops, you can find it year round on draft and in 16.9 oz. bottles.
Maine Beer Co. Mo pours golden yellow with a solid white head. The scent is a big burst of new world hops dominated by tropical and citrus fruit aromas. The flavor is also very hop forward, notes of grapefruit, orange, mango and peach along with a crisp but mild bitterness. There is just enough malt to add some balance, touches of white bread and biscuits. Mo is very light and drinkable while being moderately boozy at 6.0%. The finish is dry and clean with just a hint of lingering hop flavor. Maine Beer Co. Mo is a great APA that routinely gets overlooked, I highly recommend seeking it out. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Maine Beer Co. Reviews:
Maine Beer Co. Mean Old Tom, Maine Beer Co. A Tiny Beautiful Something, Maine Beer Co. Beer II, BREWERY OVERVIEW: Maine Beer Co., Maine Beer Co. King Titus, Maine Beer Co. Lunch, Maine Beer Co. Another One, Maine Beer Co./Allagash/In’finiti 2013 Ale, Maine Beer Co. Peeper
One of the reasons that I enjoy single hop beers (or other beers that showcase a particular hop variety) is my love of homebrewing. I enjoy developing my own brewing recipes, but I occasionally get stuck in a rut with my hop selections. I have a few standout hop varieties that I tend to use in all of my hop-forward beers, Citra, Simcoe, Mosaic, Cascade, etc., but I am always on the lookout for new types of hops that can add different flavors and aromas to hoppy beers. Most brewers focus on single hop IPAs, it’s a hop forward beer and anything with the letters IPA is pretty much guaranteed to sell. I actually prefer single hop American pale ales, the lower bitterness, alcohol and malt content really allows the hops to shine. One of the newest releases from Long Trail is Stand Out, an American pale ale showcasing the Equinox hop. Stand Out is a spring seasonal release, and is a perfect fit into Hoppy Boston pale ale month. Long Trail Stand Out is available on draft and in 12 oz. bottles this spring.
Long Trail Stand Out pours a hazy copper with a small white head. The scent is a solid dose of fruity and floral hops. The Equinox hops lead the flavor, notes of orange, peach, mango, herbs and grass along with a refreshingly crisp bitterness. This is balanced by some light malts, crackers with a touch of honey. Stand Out is super light and easy to drink, not too boozy at 5.2% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with some lingering hop flavor that keeps you coming back for more. Equinox hops are a very interesting variety, I will keep them in mind for future brewing sessions, and I definitely recommend that you give Long Trail Stand Out a shot. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5
Previous Long Trail Reviews:
Long Trail “Sick Day” IPA, Long Trail Harvest Barn Ale, Long Trail Limbo, Long Trail Ramble, Long Trail Double Bag