Tag Archives: Pretty Things

A Definitive Ranking of Pretty Things Beers

Over the last 5-6 weeks I have been running a tribute to Pretty Things Beer and Ale project, one of my all-time favorite breweries that recently announced they would be ceasing production and ending the project. As my final article I am doing my first listicle ranking my favorite Pretty Things beers. I included every beer I’ve reviewed (links are to the full reviews) and some others that I am familiar with and never wrote up. I know there are some beers missing, these are beers I never had a chance to try, or beers that I don’t remember well enough to put in the proper place. Just like any list of this type, it is completely subjective and based on my personal taste alone, I hope it starts a little discussion and disagreement, it seems like a perfect way to conclude my tribute. Enjoy the article and let me know which beers you loved (or think I overrated)!

Pretty Things Grampus18. Grampus: A double decoction strong ale brewed to be hoppy and lighter in color than the stouts and barleywines previously brewed with this method. Certainly not a bad beer, I just thought the malty/boozy flavors overwhelmed the hops a bit.

17. Fringe: An American pale ale that fell in between the classic versions of the style and the newer hop-bomb APAs. Light and drinkable but I could have used a little more hop flavor/aroma.

16. East Kent Saison: A saison brewed with old world hops as a tribute to the poor migrant workers that harvested British hops before industrial farming. Easy drinking and flavorful, I would have loved to see a continuation of this series featuring other hop varieties.

15. Magnifico!: A bright and hoppy session ale that weighed in at 3.4% ABV but still managed to have full and complex flavors. A step up from the many one-note hoppy session ales that have flooded the market recently.

14. St. Boltoph’s Town: I have never been a huge fan of brown ales, but there are a few I enjoy, particularly in the fall. St. Boltoph’s Town has been a favorite for years, rich, malty and delicious.

Pretty things our turn13. Our Turn, Your Turn (Collaboration with Yeastie Boys): An American wheat beer brewed with New Zealand hops and linden flowers this was a great one-off summer beer, crisp and refreshing but still complex.

12. Lovely Saint Winefride: A rotating late winter/early spring seasonal Lovely Saint Winefride was a full bodied brown fermented with lager yeast. This beer featured an intriguing combination of rich malt flavor and a clean lager finish.

11. Field Mouse’s Farewell: A fall seasonal saison brewed to celebrate the harvest. Field Mouse’s Farewell was brewed with more malt and rye and fewer hops than Jack D’Or, resulting in a slightly sweeter and spicier beer.

Pretty Things Babayaga10. Babayaga: This is the place in the list where the beers jump from good to great. Babayaga is a full bodied stout with just a hint of smokiness that nicely complements the malt flavor.

9. There’s No Place Like There (Collaboration with Naparbier): Pretty Things was known for their malty beers and saisons more than hop-bombs, but this double IPA could satisfy any hop-head. Bold hop flavors and just enough malt for balance, I was really disappointed that this wasn’t a regular release.

8. Baby Tree: One of my favorite Belgian style quadruples. Baby Tree had a complex mixture of fruity dark malts and expressive yeast and was boozy without being overdone.

Pretty Things Barbapapa7. Barbapapa: A recent release that quickly became one of Pretty Things most popular beers. Their double decoction mashing technique was always perfectly set up for an imperial stout, and this one was stellar. I would have loved to see a barrel aged version, but Barbapapa was pretty perfect as is.

6. Fluffy White Rabbits: I am not sure who first got the idea to brew Belgian style tripels with heavier doses of hops, but this spring seasonal is one of my favorite examples. I made a point to have this beer every spring, it will be missed.

5. Meadowlark: Pretty Things was a little late on the hop-bomb bandwagon, and many were surprised when they released an American IPA. Meadowlark started as a seasonal but was so popular it was soon added to their year-round lineup. A stellar IPA that was often overlooked in the crowded market.

4. Bocky Bier: I love a good Bock, and this one was stellar. Rich chocolate malts in an easy to drink lager body. I was really hoping this would be part of the final run of bottle releases, I would have bought a least a full case.

Pretty Things Jack D'Or3. Jack D’Or: I have told the story before, but I was anti-Belgian beers before Jack D’Or opened my mind, and now saisons are one of my favorite styles. A perfect combination of complex malt flavor, expressive yeast and a full dose of hops.

2. Our Finest Regards: I rarely single out a beer as my favorite version of a particular style, but this is my favorite barleywine. After I found out that Pretty Things was ending the project I started a beer cellar just to store a bunch of Our Finest Regards (Baby Tree and Babayaga were added later).

1. Stingo (Collaboration with Boulevard): This beer blew me away when I first tried it, unique and delicious. I bought a bunch and saved my final bottle to celebrate accepting my first real job post-graduate school. When Pretty Things founders Dann and Martha announced that they would be traveling for a while after closing up shop Jeremy Danner from Boulevard invited them to come down to Kansas City. If they brewed this beer again it would be a small bright spot as I mourn the closing of one of my all time favorite breweries.

Pretty Things Our Finest Regards

I am sad to say that, barring some crazy turn of events, this will be my final Pretty Things beer review. I’ll have one more article in my month long tribute that will act as a summary/capstone, it should be done sometime next week. When I found out that Pretty Things was ceasing production and ending their project I started to stock up on a few of their beers that I knew would age pretty well. I had never done a beer cellar, but this seemed like a perfect impetus to start one. One Pretty Things beer that was very high on my list was Our Finest Regards, a bold and malty barleywine released in the late fall/early winter, perfect for the holidays or to ring in the New Year. I bought out the entire stock at one local bottle shop, and I already wish I had more. Many brewers are releasing beers that are labeled as barleywines but feature huge doses of hops. In reality these beers are more like full bodied double or triple IPAs. Pretty Things went in the other direction, brewing Our Finest Regards as a celebration of malt flavor. This was the first Pretty Things beer that took advantage of the double decoction mash technique, which results in a higher level of fermentable sugars in the wort without adding extra sugar or extract, producing a beer with rich malt flavor along with the high alcohol. Pretty Things Our Finest Regards is available on draft and in 22 oz. bottles where you can find it.

Pretty Things Our Finest RegardsPretty Things Our Finest Regards pours a deep amber-brown with a solid off-white head. The scent is full of rich and sweet malted barley. This beer is truly a celebration of malt flavor, notes of caramel, roasted nuts, molasses, toasted bread and milk chocolate. It’s a big beer at 11% ABV, but the booze is hidden well, just a touch of warming alcohol on the palate. There is minimal hop flavor, aroma or bitterness, I am sure there are some hops in there, but they take a backseat. Our Finest Regards is full bodied but very smooth with a rich malty finish. If you enjoy barleywines at all you really need to seek this out, a few places still have it around. I always hesitate to name my favorite beer in any style, but I am pretty sure this is my favorite barleywine. I will be cellaring my stock and making Our Finest Regards a Christmas tradition for as long as it lasts. Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.

Previous Pretty Things Reviews:

Pretty Things Baby TreePretty Things East Kent Saison, Pretty Things Babayaga, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Pretty Things Jack D’Or, Pretty Things Lovely Saint WinefridePretty Things Bocky BierPretty Things/Naparbier There’s No Place Like TherePretty Things Grampus, Pretty Things Barbapapa, Pretty Things Meadowlark, Pretty Things/Yeastie Boys Our Turn, Your Turn.

Pretty Things Baby Tree

There are many reasons to love quality beer including the diverse flavor profiles, sharing bottles with friends, the excitement in finding something new and delicious and the great memories that come rushing back with the first sip of an old favorite. That last one is a big reason that I was so disappointed to hear that Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project was closing. Jack D’Or will always be a special beer for me, I was anti-Belgian beer styles for years (didn’t like the first few I tried, needed to develop a taste for the estery yeast) and that was the beer that changed my mind. The review that convinced me to try Jack D’Or, and the subsequent exploration of Belgian styles was a turning point that eventually led to the start of this blog. Meadowlark also brings back a number of memories. My wife and I started planning our wedding over pints of Meadowlark at Sunset Cantina after a Red Sox game, a memory that we discussed while we shared one of our final bottles last week. I will also always remember my first taste of Pretty Things Baby Tree, a friend shared a bottle with me and I was blown away by the complexity and how easy it was to drink. At that point I was trying beers at random, just grabbing things off the shelf. Baby Tree convinced me to do more research about breweries and the beers they produced, and made any beer produced by Pretty Things a must-buy. Baby Tree is a Belgian style quadruple and was one of Pretty Things year-round flagship beers. I highly recommend buying some if you still find it around, I have a number of bottles aging and I might need some more.

Pretty Things Baby TreePretty Things Baby Tree pours a deep amber with a mild off-white head. The scent is a mixture of fruity Belgian style yeast and some rich malt. The beer is very smooth and well balanced, no one part dominates the flavor. The expressive yeast contributes notes of apple, apricot and pear. The malts add touches of raisin, date, caramel, honey and just a hint of booze. The hops are minimal, just enough to keep the beer from being too sweet. Baby Tree is full bodied but drinks very easy for 9% ABV. The finish is clean with a little lingering fruity yeast and malt. Baby Tree is an amazing example of a Belgian quadruple, tons of flavor but not overdone, easily one of my favorite takes on the style. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Pretty Things Reviews:

Pretty Things East Kent Saison, Pretty Things Babayaga, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Pretty Things Jack D’Or, Pretty Things Lovely Saint WinefridePretty Things Bocky BierPretty Things/Naparbier There’s No Place Like TherePretty Things Grampus, Pretty Things Barbapapa, Pretty Things Meadowlark, Pretty Things/Yeastie Boys Our Turn, Your Turn.

Pretty Things East Kent Saison

I found a good stock of Pretty Things beers at Craft Beer Cellar in Newton last week, so my tribute to their beer will continue for a few more weeks. One of the beers was probably the last new beer Pretty Things brewed, East Kent Saison. This beer was brewed in honor of the migrant workers that would come out of the cities to harvest the crop of hops in England in he 20th century. These people were poor and the entire family worked hard for a pittance, but their harvest was key for the development of the vibrant brewing culture in Britain. Pretty Things East Kent Saison was the first, and apparently only, beer in a series of saisons named for the patron saint of hop pickers. You have to wonder if they intended on making a whole series of unique saisons before the decision was made to end the “project”. I noticed a discussion by fellow beer enthusiasts on twitter when this beer was released, and it came to two conclusions; that the beer was great and that it would be ignored by too many beer drinkers who only care about hop-bombs, barrel aged stouts and other beers you need to wait in line for. Pretty Things East Kent Saison is available while supplies last on draft and in 22 oz. bottles.

Pretty Things East Kent SaisonPretty Things East Kent Saison pours a clear straw yellow with a solid white head. The scent is a mixture of spicy yeast and floral hops. The saison yeast leads the flavor, notes of peppercorn, coriander and green apple. This is complemented by a full dose of Old World hop flavor, touches of cut grass, earth, pine and herbs along with a mild bitterness. The malts round out the flavor with hints of white bread and crackers. East Kent Saison is very light and easy to drink at 5.6% ABV, it would have been a killer summer beer but works for any season. The finish is crisp and dry with some lingering herbal notes. This is a quintessential Pretty Things beer, well crafted, tells a story and ultimately underappreciated because it doesn’t fall into one of the few buckets that drive beer hype. Pretty Things East Kent Saison is worth a shot while it’s still around. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5

Previous Pretty Things Reviews:

Pretty Things Babayaga, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Pretty Things Jack D’Or, Pretty Things Lovely Saint WinefridePretty Things Bocky BierPretty Things/Naparbier There’s No Place Like TherePretty Things Grampus, Pretty Things Barbapapa, Pretty Things Meadowlark, Pretty Things/Yeastie Boys Our Turn, Your Turn.

Pretty Things Babayaga

My frequent readers have probably noticed that most of my beer reviews follow a similar format, the second part has tasting notes and a score while the first is more varied, with information about the beer, the brewery, the style, a personal story, or any other information that I find interesting or relevant. When I am shopping for beers to review I am usually thinking of stories that fit with the beers I am buying, or look for beers that fit the stories I wanted to tell. When I grabbed a bottle of Pretty Things Babayaga a couple weeks ago I was all set to write about the fact that they didn’t brew the beer last year and talk about the potential strategy of rotating seasonals to help drive demand and have more variety. I really wish I was still writing all about that in this paragraph. In case you missed it, Pretty Things announced last week that they are shutting down operations, they are selling the beers they have already brewed and when they’re gone, they’re gone. I wrote about it last week, you can find my initial thoughts HERE. I am going to grab a bunch of Pretty Things beers and squeeze in as many articles as I can while the beers are still on the shelf. Babayaga is a Pretty Things classic, a robust stout brewed with oats, rye and a portion of smoked barley intended to give the impression of wood smoke. It is available in 22 oz. bottles as long as they last (PS, if you see any in the Boston area please let me know).

Pretty Things BabayagaPretty Things Babayaga pours a deep brown with a solid tan head. The scent is mostly roasted barley with just a hint of smoke. The beer features the rich malt flavors that Pretty Things has always been so good at extracting from their grain bill, milk chocolate, caramel, coffee, toasted bread. The smoked malt is subtle, it adds complexity without overwhelming the other malt flavors. There are just enough earthy and floral hops to keep the beer malt forward but not cloying. The beer is full bodied but goes down smooth, at 7% it isn’t a light beer but it also isn’t one of the double-digit ABV stouts that seem to dominate the market. The finish is clean with a little lingering roasted flavor. Babayaga is an awesome beer and will be missed, I am going to start a beer cellar just to keep some of this and other Pretty Things beers around for the next couple years. If I owned one of the local breweries that specialized in hop-bomb beers I would consider licensing this beer for delicious diversity. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Pretty Things Reviews:

BREWERY OVERVIEW, Pretty Things Jack D’Or, Pretty Things Lovely Saint WinefridePretty Things Bocky BierPretty Things/Naparbier There’s No Place Like TherePretty Things Grampus, Pretty Things Barbapapa, Pretty Things Meadowlark, Pretty Things/Yeastie Boys Our Turn, Your Turn.

An Ode to Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project

Pretty Things glassI had my evening all planned out. I am heading up to Maine tomorrow for Thanksgiving, so I was going to wrap up work, come home, get myself packed and then help my wife get everything packed for the little man, have some dinner then knock out a beer review. Quick and easy post, probably the only one I would write this week due to travel. Then I got out of my afternoon meetings and did a quick check on twitter to hear devastating news, local stalwart Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project has decided to cease production. The last Pretty Things beers will be shipped over the next month and then the brand is essentially done. Pretty Things has been one of my favorite breweries for years and I have a bunch of thoughts on this, so bear with me if this post starts to ramble a little. To be honest this is probably the first of many posts on this subject, but I needed to get down my initial thoughts and then we’ll go from there as the news really sinks in.

The first question I asked when I heard the news was “why are they shutting down”? It seems like new breweries are opening every month but you hear very little news about brewery closures. The blog post announcing the closure can be found here, but it doesn’t give much info about why the brewery is closing. The best reporting on the subject can be found on the twitter feed of Beer Advocate columnist Andy Crouch (@BeerScribe or through this link). I am not a reporter so I won’t be chasing down the story and doing interviews, but I will link to any good articles I find on the subject going forward. Andy reports that the main reason was profit margins, Pretty Things wasn’t making money on keg sales and the sales of 22 oz. bottles have plummeted in favor of 4 or 6 packs of smaller bottles and cans (regardless of the brewery). Pretty Things beer was only sold on draft and in bombers, and they never had a tap room to sell directly to consumers, which cuts out the middle man and helps overall margins. There was also speculation that the pay-to-play controversy had a negative effect on the brand (in you aren’t familiar with these events more details can be found HERE).

The decline of the bomber makes a lot of sense, I think the shelves packed with larger bottles can be intimidating to less experienced drinkers, and the price point per ounce tends to be higher in 22 oz. bottles. Pretty Things also brewed the beer they wanted to brew, you never saw a triple dry hopped DIPA or a 20% ABV jalapeno and marshmallow stout aged in cognac barrels. They also never tried to create whalez/unicorn beers by generating hype online and then intentionally brewing small batches that would make the beer hard to find. They were best known for extracting maximum malt flavors in high gravity double-decoction brews, special beers that unfortunately appeal to a smaller subset of drinkers in these hop-obsessed times. I have dedicated this blog to finding all of the great beers in New England, but especially the great beers that are readily available, and it is no coincidence that Pretty Things appears 5 times in My Favorite Beers (so far). Beers like Jack D’Or, Meadowlark and Baby Tree were always go-to beers for me, and will be missed.

Pretty Things Line-upI am sure more information will be released over the next few weeks that will help explain this shocking announcement, and I am planning a series of Pretty Things posts over the next month so I will have plenty of opportunities to provide more insight and information. If you’d asked me this morning which local brewery I would miss the most if it went away Pretty Things would be at or near the top of my list. Their beer played a huge role in my development as a beer lover and in the start of this blog. I was introduced to Pretty Things beers by the old 99 Bottles blog on Boston.com, and it immediately became one of my favorite breweries. I have previously credited Jack D’Or as the saison that fueled my love of the style and many other Pretty Things selections have expanded my appreciation of beer. I am planning on grabbing every Pretty Things beer I can find (coincidentally I already have a bottle of Babayaga in the fridge), expect a review each week until I run out along with more thoughts as I come to grips with the end of the brewery. Dann and Martha are apparently traveling over the next year and are open to some collaboration beers, which is great news and maybe enough to regenerate some interest in the brand and maybe even fuel a comeback at some point.

Brewery Overview: Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project

Pretty Things Line-up

Location: Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project is based out of Somerville, MA but they don’t have a physical brewery. They rent out brewery space to brew all of their beers. I would love to see a Pretty Things brewery/taproom at some point, but the contract brewer setup seems to fit the philosophy of the brewery and it’s founders.

Website: http://www.prettythingsbeertoday.com/wp/

Leadoff: Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project is the brainchild and passion project of husband and wife team Dann and Martha Paquette. For six years they have been producing some of the highest quality beers in Massachusetts. Dann and Martha find inspiration in their travels and through collaborating and studying with other brewers. They make beers using a combination of classic and modern brewing techniques. They also take pride in researching old recipes and bringing back styles that have fallen by the wayside. Although Pretty Things makes a wide range of beer styles they have an affinity for maltier beer, an anomaly in the hop-centric American beer culture. This was one of the first local breweries that inspired me to learn more about the beers I was drinking, a path that eventually led to me starting this blog.

Pretty Things Bocky Bier

My Favorite Pretty Things Beers

Jack D’Or: The beer that made me a fan of the saison style. This beer is complex mixture of expressive Belgian style yeast, a number of diverse grains and substantial hops, but everything meshes in perfect harmony.

Meadowlark IPA: Many people were surprised when Pretty Things first launched an American IPA, but it quickly became one of their most popular beers. Bright and hop forward but still balanced, this is one of the best local versions of the IPA style.

Barbapapa: Pretty Things uses a complicated and time consuming double decoction technique to extract maximum malt flavors for some of their big beers. Barbapapa is a bold and boozy imperial stout that celebrates dark and roasted malt flavors.

Bocky Bier: I think the bock/dopplebock styles of German lagers are underrated and underexplored by American brewers. Pretty Things released Bocky Bier this winter and it immediately became one of my favorite versions of this style, I really hope it becomes part of their regular lineup.

Pretty Things Lovely Saint Winefride

Other Beers You Should Try:

It was hard for me to limit myself to only four “favorite” Pretty Things beers, I enjoy so many of their offerings. Baby Tree is their flagship quadrupel featuring huge malt flavors that perfectly complement the Belgian yeast. Their spring seasonal Fluffy White Rabbits is a Belgian tripel with a liberal dose of tasty hops. The early winter brings double-decoction mashed Our Finest Regards, one of the best local barleywines. Their other double decoction beer is Grampus, a hoppy ale with lighter color but big boozy flavor. Other flavorful malt-forward offerings include brown lager Lovely Saint Winefride and brown ale St. Boltoph’s Town. All of these beers are worth picking up if you are a fan of the respective styles.

Pretty Things There's No Place Like There

Collaborations: One of the advantages to contract brewing is that it allows Dann and Martha to travel more and from these travels many collaboration beers are born. One of my all-time favorites was a Stingo they brewed with Boulevard Brewing Company. Stingo is a nearly extinct dark and malty British ale style, after tasting this beer I really hope it makes a comeback. More recently Pretty things brewed a deliciously hoppy double IPA called There’s No Place Like There with Spanish brewer Naparbier. I look forward to seeing what collaborations are in store for the coming year.  

Pretty Things Jack D'Or

Artwork and Glassware: Ever wonder who comes up with the interesting and eclectic cast of characters that adorn the Pretty Things beer labels? Dann and Martha do all of the artwork for the brewery themselves. Sometimes they even come up with a design and a name first and have to develop the proper beer to complement their art.  Pretty Things also makes some very unique glassware, including the pint glass boot that I was finally able to add to my glassware collection.

Final Thoughts: It amazes me how many people forget about Pretty Things when they list the best breweries in New England. I don’t think I have ever had a bad beer by this brewery, and many of their beers are amongst my favorite versions of a particular style. I highly recommend tasting any and all beers this brewery produces, I know I will continue to be a frequent customer!