I completely understand why many breweries have shied away from the brew-pub model and focused just on selling beer instead of serving food. Running a restaurant is a whole other headache and a very difficult business in it’s own right. That being said, I love brewpubs, beer goes well with so many types of food and producing both in the same place allows for creative brewers and cooks to collaborate on delicious pairings. One of my favorite food pairings and for quality beer is BBQ, and Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company has been serving the two together since 2000. While I haven’t been able to make the trip to their North Conway, NH location yet, just browsing the menu makes my mouth water. Fortunately I can try their beers without driving up to New Hampshire. In 2013 Moat Mountain expanded by building a brewery barn and cannery that supplies their restaurant, other draft accounts and produces 16 oz. cans of many of their year round and seasonal beers. The production has increased to the point that you can now find the cans in Massachusetts. I recently sampled East Intervale, Moat Mountain’s session IPA, which is available on a rotating basis.
Moat Mountain East Intervale pours deep gold with a solid off-white head. The scent is solidly hoppy, aromas of resin and citrus. The flavor is remarkably balanced for a session IPA, so many tend towards hop flavored water but this beer has some substantial malt flavor and body. The hops are at the forefront, notes of grass, herbs and orange along with a little bitter bite. This is nicely balanced by the malts, hints of toast and honey along with solid body for a session beer. East Interlude is medium bodied and easy to drink, clearly a session beer at 4.5% ABV. The finish is crisp with a bit of lingering hop flavor. Moat Mountain East Intervale is a quality beer, plenty of flavor and more balance than most session IPAs, but still very drinkable. I look forward to trying more of their offerings and maybe checking out the smokehouse in the near future! Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
As more and more breweries open and expand distribution the shelves at a local bottle shop have a wider range of breweries, but often a more limited selection of beers from each. Many of the breweries introduce themselves to new markets with just one or two flagship beers and save their more limited edition beers for local consumers. Usually at least one of these flagship beers is an IPA variant, there are still many beer consumers who drink exclusively hoppy beers and/or judge an unfamiliar brewery based on the quality of their IPAs. This means that the majority of shelf space at any bottle shop is devoted to hoppy beers. While I love IPAs I get a little burned out on hop-bombs from time to time, and it would be nice to see more variety. It is especially disappointing when you look on a breweries website and see a range of creative styles, but only see their IPA on the shelves. A recent example is Hidden Cove brewery out of Wells, ME. While I have seen Hidden Cove pop up at a number of bars and bottles shops in MA, it is usually their flagship IPA and Castoff, their session IPA. Their website lists a number of interesting barrel aged beers that I would definitely be interested in sampling but haven’t seen in MA. I enjoyed their standard IPA on draft and recently picked up Castoff in bottles. Castoff is brewed with Cascade, Chinook and Lemon Drop hops and is available year round on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
(I apologize for the picture, I took a pic with the full glass but had an issue with my phone, by the time I realized the issue I had finished the beer!) Hidden Cove Castoff pours a hazy light orange with a solid white head. The scent is all hops, aromas of citrus fruit and pine. The taste is also very hop forward, notes of lemon, resin, cut grass and grapefruit accompanied by a clean bitterness that doesn’t overpower. The malt flavors are mild, just a hint of crackers and white bread, it is obvious from the first sip that this is a lighter beer. The finish is crisp and clean with a mild lingering hoppy aftertaste, and at 4.5% ABV you can easily have a few of these in a session. Hidden Cove Castoff is just what you would expect, easy to drink with plenty of hop flavor, hopefully they do well in MA and we start to see some of their more creative beers make their way south. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Every summer I make at least one trip up to Maine to visit family and friends. Ideally I make multiple trips, but with the new addition to the family it looks like my recent 4th of July weekend trek to the north could be it for this summer. With that in mind I felt the need to maximize this trip, and I think I accomplished that. In all I managed to visit five breweries over the long weekend, tasting and purchasing some delicious beer along the way. My wife and I have developed a bit of a tradition on these trips, every year we try to stop at Gritty McDuff’s Brewpub in Freeport for either lunch or dinner. We’ve eaten at some pretty strange times to make this work, but it is completely worth it to hold up the tradition. This stop has multiple advantages, it’s right off of 295, the food is good and the beer is solid, and the pub is right down the street from Maine Beer Company, so it would be foolish not to stop there too. The Maine Beer Company stop is always a treat, their incredible IPAs Lunch and Another One might be hard to find in Boston but the brewery typically has them in stock and they are incredibly fresh. They also have a great selection of their other beers, including some limited releases. One of the beers I grabbed on this trip was Beer II, the second release in MBC’s hop program. Beer II is a session IPA brewed with Amarillo, Citra, Simcoe and Hallertau Blanc hops. It is available for a limited time on draft and in 500 mL bottles.
Maine Beer Company Beer II pours a clear straw yellow with a mild white head. The scent is a huge burst of fruity hops, dominated by tropical and citrus. The taste is also very hop forward, notes of grapefruit, passion fruit, lemon and tangerine. The hops also add some bitterness, but it is on the lighter/crisper side. The malts are muted, with just a touch of biscuit and honey. Beer II drinks very easy, with a clean finish, and is very sessionable at 4.7% ABV. This is a well done session IPA, tons of hop flavor without being one-note. I still personally prefer some of their “traditional” IPAs like Lunch and Another One, but this is a very nice lower alcohol alternative. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Maine Beer Co Reviews:
BREWERY OVERVIEW: Maine Beer Co., Maine Beer Co. King Titus, Maine Beer Company Lunch, Maine Beer Co. Another One, Maine Beer Co./Allagash/In’finiti 2013 Ale, Maine Beer Co. Peeper
The recent explosion of the session IPA style has been remarkable. A couple of years ago the style didn’t even exist and now it seems like every brewery is hopping on the bandwagon and brewing a session IPA. I have had mixed opinions on this particular sub-style from the beginning. On one hand it is kind of a marketing gimmick, brewers have realized that anything labeled “IPA” sells better and there is a demand for lower alcohol beers with big hop character. On the other hand, I am a sucker for beers with high doses of New World hops and there are occasions where I’d much rather drink a couple low ABV beers than a single bottle of boozy DIPA. In the end I am going to follow along with the herd and continue to buy/try session IPAs with the goal of finding a few that will be part of my regular beach/BBQ/I-am-going-to-be-up-all-night-with-a-screaming-infant-so-I-can’t-drink-anything-too-heavy rotation. One of the newest additions to the local session IPA stable is Melt Away from Newburyport Brewing Company. Melt Away is brewed with Citra and Amarillo hops and sold on draft and in 12 oz. cans year-round.
Newburyport Melt Away Session IPA pours a hazy orange with a moderate white head. The scent is a huge burst of hops dominated by citrus and tropical fruit. The flavor is also very hop-forward, notes of lemon, grapefruit, passion fruit and mango. The hops also add some bitterness, you feel it on your tongue but it isn’t overwhelming. There is a mild malt backbone that adds a little balance and a hint of grainy bread to the flavor. The beer is light bodied and crushable, perfect for the outdoor and/or day drinking. At 4.6% ABV it is a session beer by most standards, definitely much lighter than their 7.2% ABV Greenhead IPA. The finish is clean with some crisp bitterness lingering on the tongue. Overall this is a very solid session IPA, plenty of hop flavor and very easy to drink. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Newburyport Reviews:
Newburyport Greenhead IPA
My wife and I are home from the hospital with our first child and getting into the swing of things. It is definitely a huge life change, everything revolves around the little guy’s schedule. While being responsible for the life of another human being is a little terrifying, it is also a fun and exciting experience and we are enjoying every minute. With the hours devoted to helping with changings/feedings/cleanings/household chores etc., I haven’t had much time to drink beer let alone write about it. I’m actually writing this post with my son napping on my chest. The other issue I’ve noticed is that even a small amount of alcohol exacerbates how tired I am from the frequent nightly interruptions. I drank a beer while I was making dinner last night and by 7:30 I could hardly keep my eyes open. I know this will get better as I find my groove, plenty of fellow beer enthusiasts and writers are also parents. For the short term I think I’ll focus a good portion of my limited beer consumption on session beers, which allow me to enjoy the full beer flavor without the yawn-inducing booze. One session beer I recently enjoyed was Hop Session, the flagship session IPA from White Birch Brewing Company out of Hooksett, New Hampshire. Hop Session is brewed with a variety of West Coast hops and is available year round on draft and now in 12 oz. cans!
White Birch Hop Session pours a slightly cloudy orange with a moderate off-white head. The scent is solidly hoppy, floral and fruity. The taste features the distinct flavor of New World hops with notes of lemon, grapefruit, mango and pine. The hops also add noticeable but not overwhelming bitterness. Some session IPAs are too one note, omitting any malt flavor, but that is not an issue here, with noticeable touches of biscuits, bread and a hint of caramel. The beer is light bodied and goes down very easy, at 5% ABV it fits into many definitions of a “session beer”. The finish is dry and crisp with just a touch of floral hops in the aftertaste. This is a very tasty session IPA, well balanced with plenty of delicious and aromatic hops. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous White Birch Reviews:
White Birch Belgian Style Pale Ale, White Birch Nyx American Black Ale