In the increasingly crowded shelves of a local bottle shop the way you market your beer, including the beer names and artwork, can make a huge difference in sales. Some breweries unfortunately still use sexist art and names, I for one refuse to drink any beer by a brewery that has offensive beer names/labels. I have seen a few people explain this away, insisting they don’t even notice label art and it has no effect on what beers they buy. This is probably BS, the artwork has a subconscious effect on everyone’s choices at the very least. I try to focus on the quality of the beer, but quality marketing can catch my eye and lead me to try something new. With this in mind it’s actually surprising that I haven’t reviewed any beers from Kelsen Brewing Company in Derry, NH yet. I’ve always been a big fan of fantasy novels from Tolkien to Jordan to Martin and beyond, so the swords, axes and dwarves are right up my alley. Recently I grabbed a bomber of Draken, Kelsen’s robust porter which is available year round on draft and in 750 mL bottles.
Kelsen Draken Robust Porter pours pitch black with a solid tan head. The scent is rich and bold roasted malt. The malts lead the flavor, touches of espresso, dark chocolate, caramel and raisin. There is enough hop character to add balance, some herbal and earthy notes along with a solid bitterness. Draken is full bodied with the rich mouthfeel you want in a robust porter, but with 6.8% ABV it isn’t going to put you under the table. The finish is crisp with some lingering roasted malt flavor. Kelsen Draken is a very good robust porter, tons of flavor and great drinkability. I really need to drink and review a few more of their beers in the near future! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
As more breweries join the crowded marketplace it is important for a new brewery to have a calling card, something that sets them apart from their competition. Obviously the most important thing is brewing great beer, but it helps to have a theme that customers immediately associate with the brand. The first session-only brewery in the country was Notch Brewing, and other brands have followed that trend. Surprisingly nobody took up the other end of the spectrum, brewing only high-alcohol imperial beers, until Greater Good Imperial Brewing Company launched last year. All of the beers in Greater Good’s lineup are “imperial”, with ABVs between 8-14%. Greater Good currently contract brews their beers in Connecticut, but they are planning a brewery in the Worcester area and cans of their first five releases are available throughout eastern and central Massachusetts. I tried a few of their first beers, including Greater Good Imperial Milk Porter, a big dark beer brewed with unfermentable lactose to add some sweetness. Greater Good Imperial Milk Porter is available now in 12 oz. cans.
Greater Good Imperial Milk Porter pours pitch black with a solid khaki-colored head. the scent is mild, just a little roasted malt. The flavor is very malt forward, notes of black coffee, dark chocolate, burnt caramel and licorice. There is a hint of sweetness from the lactose, not as pronounced as some milk stouts. There are enough hops to add some balance, hints of grass and earth along with a touch of crispness in the finish. The beer is missing a little body, it doesn’t have that thick mouthfeel you expect from a big dark ale, but it drinks incredibly easy for a beer with 11% ABV. I can think of very few beers with double digit ABV that have no alcoholic flavor or burn, and this is one of them. The finish is dry with a little lingering malt flavor. Overall Imperial Milk Porter is a solid start for Greater Good, I like the concept of a brewery with all imperial beers and look forward to what they come up with next. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
In you told me a few years ago how many fruit infused beers I would drink and enjoy, I would have never believed you. In fairness, the majority of fruit beers on the market even a few years ago were still lighter wheat ales with massive doses of cloying artificial fruit flavor. Over the last couple years creative breweries have found a number of delicious ways to incorporate fresh fruit flavors into an array of beer styles. The most obvious examples are the citrus and tropical fruit infused IPAs and fruit flavored sour beer styles. Some brewers have found even more creative ways to add subtle fruit flavors to a wide range of beer styles, even some combinations that sound strange at first glance. A good example is the Blackberry Porter from RiverWalk Brewing Company. I am a huge fan of porters, but I don’t know that I’ve even tried a fruit infused version of the style. I can see how it would work, good porters have chocolate and coffee notes, and subtle fruit flavors can complement these types of dark malts. RiverWalk Blackberry Porter is available now on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.
RiverWalk Blackberry Porter pours pitch black with a massive purple-tined tan head. The aroma is mostly dark malts, roasty and sweet. The flavor is also malt forward, notes of milk chocolate, espresso and caramel. The blackberry flavor is subtle, enough to add complexity without being assertive. The beer has minimal hop flavor and just enough bitterness to crisp up the finish. Blackberry Porter is full bodied but drinks very easy for a beer with 8.5% ABV. The finish is rich with some lingering dark malt flavor. This is a really well made porter with an interesting twist, definitely a good beer for the upcoming winter months. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Riverwalk Reviews:
RiverWalk Winter Porter, RiverWalk Farm to Kettle 2015, RiverWalk Screen Door
It is somewhat surreal walking into Exhibit A Brewing Company in Framingham for the first time, if you’ve been a patron of local breweries you’ll probably get a sense of deja vu. That is due to the fact that the Exhibit A space used to be Jack’s Abby, before they moved into their bigger brewery. Outside of some new paint, logos and décor the tasting room looks essentially the same, but there is a new crew pouring a very different lineup of beers. On a recent visit the guys at the bar even told me that they’ve made some new customers who hadn’t undated their GPS and tried to go to Jack’s Abby, but decided to stick around and check out the new brewery in Framingham. Exhibit A launched recently with a series of “demo tape” beers, essentially full scale test runs of a number of beers that allow them to tweak recipes before they become a regular part of the rotation. You can buy full pours or samples at the brewery or get growler fills and 16 oz. cans to go. They haven’t started distributing yet, so the only place to get the beer is at the brewery. On a recent trip I grabbed The Cat’s Meow, their flagship IPA, and Demo Tape 5, a brown porter.
Exhibit A The Cat’s Meow pours a hazy light orange with a small white head. The scent is a solid hit of hops, mostly citrus and tropical fruit. The flavor is also hop forward, notes of guava, grapefruit and mango along with a soft bitterness. There is just enough malt for balance, touches of crackers and honey. The Cat’s Meow is very easy to drink, that is one of the first things you notice as you try it, but at 6.5% ABV it packs a little punch. The finish is crisp and clean with a little lingering hop flavor. The flagship IPA is one of the most important beers for a new brewery, it will probably be the way that they introduce themselves to their customers, and this is a very nice start for Exhibit A. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Exhibit A Demo Tape Five pours pitch black with a minimal tan head. The scent features some rich roasted malt. The flavor is malt forward, notes of milk chocolate, coffee and toffee. This is balanced by some mild hop flavor, earthy with a touch of bitterness. Demo Tape Five is full bodied but drinks easy and isn’t too boozy at 6.1% ABV. The finish is clean with a little lingering malt flavor. I am a huge fan or well made porters, especially when they focus on a solid recipe without the need of adjunct ingredients or huge ABVs. This is a very good beer and I’ve heard a rumor that it will soon become a regular part of the Exhibit A rotation (once they come up with a good name)! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Ballast Point brewing has made a lot of news lately. They started a wide release of the flavored variants of their signature Sculpin IPA, the grapefruit version in particular seems to have started a grapefruit infused IPA trend. Even bigger news was their sale to Constellation Brands for a reported price of 1 billion dollars. With the increased production and distribution they are quickly becoming one of the most widespread and recognizable beer brands. With all of these changes it was nice to see one of their newest series of beers go back to their roots. Like many professional brewers the founders of Ballast Point started as avid homebrewers, the brand was started in a local homebrew supply store. To connect with other homebrew enthusiasts Ballast Point is now releasing the Homework Series, a set of beers that each come with a recipe scaled for a traditional homebrewing batch. I spend a lot of time researching potential homebrew recipes, and I love the idea of having a potential recipe attached to a bottle of beer you can sample. The sixth beer in this series is a robust porter, perfect to sample for porter week on Hoppy Boston. Ballast Point Homework Series #6 Robust Porter is available now in 22 oz. bottles.
Ballast Point Homework Series #6 Robust Porter pours a deep brown with a solid khaki-colored head. The scent is a full hit of roasted malts. The beer is malt forward, notes of dark chocolate, coffee, toffee, plum and brown sugar. This is complemented by a touch of earthy hops that add balance and some late bitterness. The beer has a medium-full body but is smooth and easy to drink even though it packs some punch at 7.8% ABV. The finish is clean with some crisp hop bitterness and lingering malty flavor. I could definitely use this recipe as a basis for a future homebrew batch, I would probably make some adjustments to fit my personal preferences (and because I love to tinker), but this is a very good place to start. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Ballast Point Reviews:
Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin
We are in the final week of porter month on Hoppy Boston, I have three reviews this week (all porters) and then I’ll summarize next Monday. Today I am writing up Pot and Kettle, the oatmeal porter from Trillium Brewing Company in Boston (and now also in Canton). Trillium is definitely best known for their hoppy beers, their stable of pale ales, IPAs and DIPAs are the driving force behind their recent expansion. While I love a number of Trillium’s hop-forward offerings, I have also enjoyed an array of other beers from the brewery. Pot and Kettle has been a mainstay in their lineup from the early days. The addition of oatmeal doesn’t add a ton of flavor but it adds body, giving that rich and full mouth-feel that you want from a great dark beer. The addition of oats is usually reserved for stouts, and it’s interesting that Trillium named this beer a porter and not an oatmeal stout. I guess it shows you how fuzzy the line is between the two styles, it is really up to the brewer to call the beer what they want. Trillium Pot and Kettle is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 750 mL bottles. One big advantage of the expansion, you can now also find Trillium beers in many local stores!
Trillium Pot and Kettle pours pitch black with a mild off-white head. The aroma is full of rich and dark roasted malt. The beer is very malt forward, notes of milk chocolate, caramel, espresso, date and tobacco. This is balanced by just a touch of earthy hops that add some late bitterness and help keep the beer from being sweet. The addition of oats means a full body, but the beer is pretty easy to drink at 7.5% ABV, you get just a hint of warming alcohol in the flavor. The finish is clean and dry with a little lingering dark malt flavor. I really enjoy Pot and Kettle, it is different than a lot of porters on the market but still delicious. On your next trip to Trillium to stock up on IPAs you should diversify a little and try a couple bottles of porter! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Trillium Reviews:
Trillium Scaled Up, Trillium Launch Beer, Trillium PM Dawn, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Trillium Sinister Kid, Trillium Congress St. IPA, Trillium Farmhouse Ale, Trillium Wakerobin Rye
I didn’t do an end of the year re-cap, or a favorite beers of the year, or a best new beers/breweries of 2015 article. I do four seasonal best-of articles and thought it would be a little redundant to rehash it all again. That being said, I read a number of these recap articles, especially those written by other local beer writers. I always like to see which beers stood out for others, even if I don’t always agree. These lists also clue me in on some beers that I might have overlooked during the year and gives me a chance to go back and give them a shot. One beer that popped up on a couple different “best of 2015” lists was RiverWalk Brewing Company’s Winter Porter. I have enjoyed a few different RiverWalk beers but hadn’t had a chance to try this one, and now that it’s porter month on Hoppy Boston it seemed like an opportune time. RiverWalk starts with a rich and malty robust porter recipe and then adds vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks for complexity. RiverWalk Winter Porter is available during the winter months on draft and in 500 mL bottles.
RiverWalk Winter Porter pours pitch black with a mild tan head. The scent is a mixture of roasted malts and vanilla. The beer is very malt forward, notes of milk chocolate, espresso, caramel and molasses. The vanilla and cinnamon are present but subdued adding some pleasant complexity but letting the malt flavor shine. The hops are mild, just a little added bitterness and balance. Winter Porter is medium bodied and drinks pretty easy at 6.3% ABV. The finish is clean with some lingering roasted malt flavor. I really enjoyed Winter Porter, I understand why some of my fellow beer writers added it to their best of 2015 lists. I am also really glad that RiverWalk beers are readily available now so I can keep sampling their creations! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous RiverWalk Reviews:
RiverWalk Farm to Kettle 2015, RiverWalk Screen Door