Tag Archives: saison

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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Abandoned Building Lola’s Saison

The total number of breweries in Massachusetts has exploded over the last few years, there are now around 100 that have a physical brewery that you can visit for samples/pours/growler fills, plus a number more that contract brew. It’s honestly hard to keep track of all of them, although one great resource is the Mass Brew Bros. Bay State Breweries page (worth a bookmark for MA beer fans). I did a quick check and found that I’ve visited ~40 of the breweries at least once, a number that is far too low and I will need to amend. Fortunately more and more of these breweries have ramped up capacity to the point that they can start distribution, so I can grab cans at local stores without making trips all over the state. One brewery that I’d heard some good things about but hadn’t sampled was Abandoned Building Brewery in Easthampton. Abandoned Building brewer/founder Matt Tarlecki renovated a former plastic bag factory into a 15 barrel brewhouse with a  taproom and beer to go. More recently some of their cans have made their way east to finer Boston area bottle shops. I was able to procure some of Lola’s Saison, a Belgian style ale brewed with locally malted wheat and a solid dose of classic European hop varieties. Abandoned Building Lola’s Saison is available year round on draft and in 16 oz tallboy cans.

Abandoned Building Lolas SaisonAbandoned Building Lola’s Saison pours hazy light yellow with a mild white head. The aroma is led by some fruity and spicy Belgian style yeast. The flavors imparted by the yeast also come to the forefront with notes of green apple, clove and a touch of funk. There is also some old world hop flavor, floral, grassy and earthy, that complements the yeast strain well. Some light malts round out the flavor with touches of crackers and wheat bread. Lola’s Saison is very light and easy to drink, sessionable at 5.0% ABV. The finish is bone dry with some lingering yeast and hop flavor. This is a really nice beer, a smooth every day type of saison. I look forward to trying more of Abandoned Building’s offerings in the near future! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Bog Iron Drawing a Blank and Fancy French Name

Life is crazy between work and family stuff, so I don’t make as many trips to breweries as I used to. There are a few exceptions, local places that I can sneak into while I’m running other errands or bring the family to for a meal, and the places I stop in Maine of trips North. Unfortunately there are a number of places in Massachusetts that I still haven’t visited, and even more that I’ve been to but it’s been way too long. One place that lingered on that last list for far too long is Bog Iron Brewing in Norton. I’ve always enjoyed Bog Iron’s beers, and they are hard to find outside of the brewery, but I hadn’t made the trip in a while. Recently I had a rare Saturday late morning/early afternoon to myself, so I took the trip to Norton, sampled a flight and bought a wide selection of bottles to take home. Along with some classics (like Middle Child, one of my all time favorite DIPAs), I grabbed a few new-to-me beers. Drawing a Blank is a new school pale ale with fruity hop flavors that was my favorite beer from the tasting flight. Fancy French Name is a saison aged in French Oak Chardonnay barrels with Brettanomyces. All of Bog Iron’s beers are now available on draft and in 16 oz. bottles at the brewery.

Bog Iron Drawing a BlankBog Iron Drawing a Blank pours straw yellow with a small white head. The scent is a big burst of hops, tons of citrus and tropical fruit. The hops dominate the flavor, notes of grapefruit, tangerine, papaya and a little pine along with a crisp bitter bite. This is complemented by a mild malt backbone, hints of bread crust and cereal. Drawing a Blank is light bodied and super easy to drink, with moderate alcohol at 6.0% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor and bite. I love American pale ales that combine big hop flavor and aroma with smooth drinkability and this beer hits all of those boxes. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Bog Iron Fancy Frech NameBog Iron Fancy French Name pours deep yellow with a small white head. The scent is a mixture of white wine and fruity yeast. The yeast leads the flavor with notes of apricot, pear and funk along with just a touch of acidity. The barrel aging melds perfectly with the flavors imparted by the fermentation, hints of white grape, oak and apple. A touch of light malt and a minimal amount of hop flavor round out the profile. Fancy French Name is light bodied, super easy to drink but it packs a solid punch at 7.5% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering fruit and yeast flavors. This beer is crazy good, complex with big flavors that all work together, you taste something new with each sip. Highly recommended. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Bog Iron Reviews:

Bog Iron Devil’s FootprintBog Iron Jump Back, Bog Iron Ryezing Son, Bog Iron Middle ChildBog Iron Stinger IPABog Iron One Down Robust Porter

Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream

Sam Adams releases a number of variety packs over the course of the year, usually changing them with each season. This month they also released a special new pack, called the Brewing The American Dream Collaboration Pack. This 12-pack features two bottles of Boston Lager along with two bottles each of five new collaboration beers. Each collaboration is with a brewery that helped get their start by participating in the Sam Adams Brewing for the American Dream program, which provides training and loans that helped make these brewers dreams a reality. Profits from this 12 pack will be funneled back into the program to help the next generation of American brewers get started. I was very excited to try the beers in this pack (disclosure: they were provided by Sam Adams). Here are my thoughts on each shown in order of how much I liked them, starting with my personal favorite.

Sam Adams Tea Party SaisonBoston Tea Party Saison: Collaboration with Woods Beer Company in San Francisco, CA. Boston Tea Party is a saison brewed with yerba mate tea, coriander and grains of paradise and fermented with the yeast strain used in Sam Adams Kosmic Mother Funk. My favorite beer in the pack, funky yeast on the nose and tons of flavor from the fermentation, apple, pear, a little acidity along with the distinct flavor imparted by the Brettanomyces. The spices add complexity without overwhelming the beer, and the finish is dry and just a touch tart. A complex but still easy to drink saison.

Sam Adams Oats McGoatsOats McGoats Stout: Collaboration with Brewery Rickoli in Wheat Ridge, CO. Oats McGoats is a gluten-reduced oatmeal stout. A little roasted barley on the nose, and full dark malt flavors, milk chocolate, toffee, espresso. A little bit of herbal hops round out this full bodied but still easy drinking beer. You would have no idea the beer is gluten-reduced, it’s a tasty and flavorful stout.

Sam Adams ThreeNinety BockThreeNinety Bock: Collaboration with Roc Brewing in Rochester, NY. ThreeNinety is a Helles Bock brewed with Mosaic and Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops and named after the distance between Boston and Rochester. This is a super drinkable maibock, crisp and clean. The crackers and bread from the malts meld well with grassy and herbal hops. I enjoyed the beer, but I would have liked to see the fruity Mosaic hops shine through a little more, it would have made it a little more unique.

Sam Adams Time Hop PorterTime Hop Porter: Collaboration with ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, Ramona, CA. Time Hop is a hopped up porter brewed with Zeus, Chinook, Cascade and Goldings hops. Dark chocolate and black coffee notes from the malt combine with grass, pine and lemon from the hops. Smooth, drinkable and not too boozy at 5.3% ABV. I have mixed opinions on this beer, it was a interesting take on a porter with the extra hops, but not what I usually love about the style. Hop-heads might love this beer, for me it was just OK.

Sam Adams Desert KaleidoscopeDesert Kaleidoscope IPA: Collaboration with Bosque Brewing in Albuquerque, NM. A West Coast IPA brewed with Zeus, Cascade, Mosaic and Ekuanot hops. This IPA features solid hop flavor, notes of pine, lemon and grass along with substantial malt, with touches of honey and caramel. I would have liked some more hop aroma, for me that pungent aroma is make or break in an IPA and I didn’t get enough of it here.

Previous Sam Adams Reviews:

Sam Adams 26.2, Sam Adams Hopscape and Fresh As HellesSam Adams Rebel RawSam Adams Rebel RouserSam Adams Double Bock, Sam Adams Cold Snap, Sam Adams Octoberfest

 

Idle Hands Proeme

For a while I was convinced that the next “big thing” in craft beer would be hoppy saisons. American drinkers love their hops, and anything with a big dose of popular new varieties will probably sell well. This has led to a proliferation of sub-styles on the IPA, where wheat IPA, red IPA and black IPA are hopped up versions of American wheat ale, amber ale and porter. There have been a number of Belgian IPAs, but I haven’t seen examples that carry the buzz of a high end IPA (the one exception might be Brett IPAs, but I consider this a different sub-style). I’ve never understood this, the fruity and spicy flavors of Belgian style yeast can provide a perfect complement to the citrus and tropical fruit flavors of many hop varieties. My favorite examples are usually saisons with significant late/dry hop additions, when I get a chance to homebrew that is typically my focus. I was excited to see Idle Hands beers becoming regularly available, and intrigued when they launched Proeme, a dry hopped saison. Idle Hands Proeme is available year-round on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.

Idle Hands PromeIdle Hands Proeme pours hazy light yellow with a massive white head. The aroma is a mixture of floral hops with fruity and spicy yeast. The yeast leads the flavor, notes of apple, peppercorn and bubblegum. This is complemented by the hops, hints of lemon, grass and orange. The malts round out the flavor with touches of cereal and bread crust. Proeme is light and very easy to drink, sessionable at 5.0% ABV. The finish is crisp and dry with some lingering hop and yeast flavor. I really enjoyed Proeme, the flavors work well together. It’s nice to have Idle Hands beers back into the regular rotation! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Idle Hands Reviews:

Idle Hands Thing 1, Idle Hands HeideIdle Hands Riding ShotgunIdle Hands Adelais, Idle Hands D’aisonIdle Hands Triplication

Cambridge Brewing Working Class Hero

Cambridge Brewing Company is one of the most under-rated breweries in Massachusetts. I can think of a few reasons that might have contributed to this. One is the styles of beers they brew. I am a huge fan of their barrel aged and wild ales, but beer geek buzz seems to only surround breweries that make 10 different types of IPA. Until recently they also had limited number of beers that made it to distribution, too many of their most creative beers were brewery only. It hasn’t stopped the accolades from flowing in, Cambridge Brewing Company brewmaster Will Meyers recently won the Russell Schehrer award for innovation in craft brewing. While I don’t make it to the brewery nearly as much as I would like, it has been nice to see the variety of CBC cans and bottles that now populate the shelves at bottle shops. Now that we are into spring and summer one of my go-to styles are saisons, so I was excited to try Working Class Hero an American saison brewed with citrus peel and a generous dose of hops. Cambridge Brewing Company Working Class Hero is available on draft and in 12 oz. cans.

Cambridge Brewing Working Class HeroCambridge Brewing Co. Working Class Hero pours a hazy bright yellow with a solid white head. The scent is mostly fruity and spicy Belgian yeast along with a touch of citrusy hops. The yeast leads the flavor, notes of pear, clove and apricot. The citrus peel and hop flavors complement this well, adding touches of orange, lemon, and grass along with a crisp bitterness. The malts round out the flavor with touches of wheat bread and cereal. Working Class Hero is light and crushable, a session beer at 4.5% ABV. The finish is crisp and dry with some lingering yeast and citrus flavors. This is a delicious saison, after we tried it my wife exclaimed “I think I’ve found my summer beer for the year”! I agree and highly recommend grabbing some. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Cambridge Brewing Co. Reviews:

Cambridge Brewing Co. Arquebus, Cambridge Brewing Co. Pearls of WisdomCambridge Brewing Co. Le SaisonniereCambridge Brewing Co. Hay is for HorsesCambridge Brewing Co. Sgt. PepperCambridge Brewing Company You Enjoy My StoutCambridge Brewing Company Remain in LightCambridge Brewing Company The Audacity of Hops

Deciduous Mosaic Sylph

The decision to focus my reviews on non-IPA styles this year leaves some significant grey areas. Many different beer styles have “hoppy” forms, and some of these have been given the “IPA’ designation (usually for marketing purposes). For example some beers are labeled as hoppy amber ales while others are called red IPAs, even though they are essentially the same style. I think the proliferation of session IPAs, black IPAs, Belgian IPAs, red IPAs and all of the other variants has actually fueled some of the burgeoning anti-IPA backlash. So I will try to avoid anything with IPA on the label as part of this experiment. That being said, I still want to enjoy some bold hop flavors on occasion, especially when they complement other styles of beer. One of my favorite combinations is the citrus and tropical fruit flavors and aromas of New World hop varieties with aromatic and assertive Belgian style saison yeast strains. It takes careful work to find the correct combination of hops and yeast, but these beers can be amazing when done correctly. One example I enjoyed recently was Mosaic Sylph from Deciduous Brewing Company in New Hampshire. This dry-hopped version of their flagship farmhouse ale is available on a rotating basis on draft and in bottles.

deciduous-mosaic-sylphDeciduous Mosaic Sylph pours a clear bright yellow with a massive white head. The scent is a mixture of tropical hops and expressive Belgian style yeast. A fruity strain of yeast leads the flavor with notes of apple, apricot and pear. This melds well with the Mosaic hops which add hints of pineapple, mango and grapefruit. A mild malt backbone rounds out the flavor with hints of white bread and crackers. Mosaic Sylph is very light bodied and effervescent, but packs a little punch at 6.3% ABV. It has a dry finish with some lingering fruit flavors from the hops and the yeast. I love a thoughtful combination of New World hops with expressive Belgian style yeast, and this is a very good example of the style. I’ve been impressed with the Deciduous beers I’ve tried and this one is definitely worth picking up. Hoppy Boston score; 4.5/5.

Previous Deciduous Reviews:

Deciduous Sepal