As more breweries open or expand and competition for the attention of drinkers continues to increase it is important for a brewery to have a calling-card beer. While flagship beers will make up the bulk of sales and be a good introduction to the brand, having a seasonal or rotating release that people look forward to trying each year helps keep the brewery on the minds of potential customers. Sometimes I’ll go months without picking up a beer from a particular brewery, and then their calling-card beer gets released and reminds me to grab a few of their flagships too. For the sake of clarity, calling-card beers don’t need to be whalez (hard to find/wait in line beers), many times they are widely released and readily available during the appropriate season. Three years after it’s initial release I think it’s safe to say that Yankee Swap has become a calling-card beer for Slumbrew. Yankee Swap is brewed with a different recipe each year, but it’s always a big beer aged in rum barrels. Aging the beer in rum barrels, instead of the bourbon barrels that have become omnipresent in American breweries, really sets Yankee Swap apart. I really enjoyed the imperial stout in 2014, and loved the idea of a Belgian style quadruple for the 2015 Yankee Swap release. Slumbrew Yankee Swap is released each year in the early winter on draft and in 22 oz. bottles. On a complete side-note, I can’t believe I don’t have any Slumbrew glassware yet, that is something I plan on fixing in the very near future.
Slumbrew Yankee Swap 2015 pours a deep amber brown with a massive off-white head. The scent is a mixture of fruity Belgian ale yeast along with a little malt and rum. The flavor is complex, but the components work well together. The malts add robust notes of date, raisin, cherry and cocoa. The Belgian style yeast isn’t overly expressive, but adds hints of pear, apricot and peppercorn. The rum is present, especially as the beer warms, adding some boozy sweetness without overwhelming the beer. Yankee Swap 2015 is full bodied and you get a little alcohol in the flavor, but not too boozy for a beer with 12% ABV. The finish mixes fruity esters, sweet malt and a little rum. This is my favorite version of Yankee Swap so far, the inherent malt and yeast flavors in the quadruple work really well with the rum. I will definitely be grabbing a few more bottles for the cellar! Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Slumbrew Reviews:
Slumbrew Seasonale Creep, Slumbrew Yankee Swap 2014, Slumbrew American Fresh Tap Room, Slumbrew Attic and Eaves, Slumbrew Island Day, Slumbrew Snow Angel, Slumbrew Trekker Trippel, Slumbrew Sittin’ on Hop of the World
Some people can drink any style of beer during any time of year. They will sip an imperial stout on a hot summer day and pound a crisp pilsner on a cold winter night. I am not one of those people. While there are some beers I’ll drink all year round, I tend to move from style to style as the seasons change. This is probably why “seasonal creep”, where breweries release their new seasonal beers months before the actual season, bothers me so much. On a hot day in August I am looking for the light refreshing beers of summer, so it is disappointing when summer seasonal beers have been replaced by fall selections in bars and bottle shops. There were even a few breweries that released their summer beers in March this year, although that might have been a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the brutal winter we just endured. Fortunately some local brewers have listened to their customer base and promised to release their seasonal brews at appropriate times. Poking fun at this phenomenon, Slumbrew has announced that they have found the culprit responsible for the early releases and called him out with their new beer, Seasonale Creep. Slumbrew Seasonale Creep is a Belgian style saison brewed with Galaxy hops. It is currently available on draft and in 22 oz. bombers.
Slumbrew Seasonale Creep pours a clear copper with a solid white head. The scent is a pleasant combination of citrusy hops and fruity esters from the saison yeast. The yeast leads the flavor, with touches of clove, coriander and pear. This mingles effortlessly with the hints of lemon, grass and mango from the hops. The beer is medium bodied and the hops add a light bitterness. The malts round out the flavor with noticeable notes of whole wheat bread and just a hint of toffee. The beer drinks easy and isn’t overly strong at 6% ABV. The finish is dry with just a little fruitiness in the aftertaste. I love the combination of expressive Belgian saison yeast and new world hops, and Seasonale Creep is a very solid version of this style. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Slumbrew Reviews:
Slumbrew Yankee Swap 2014, Slumbrew American Fresh Tap Room, Slumbrew Attic and Eaves, Slumbrew Island Day, Slumbrew Snow Angel, Slumbrew Trekker Trippel, Slumbrew Sittin’ on Hop of the World
The final beer review in Hoppy Boston’s barrel-aged beer week is Yankee Swap 2014, Slumbrew’s imperial stout aged in rum barrels from Turkey Shore distilleries. The first iteration of Yankee Swap (2013) used the same type of barrels, but was a completely different beer, an American strong ale instead of an imperial stout. I was a little hesitant to try Yankee Swap, I can have a bit of a taste aversion to rum. Many people I know had a period in their life where they occasionally over-indulged, and usually had a particular type of liquor that was the culprit. Mine was rum, Bacardi in particular, and after my first two years in college I swore off the stuff. As I have grown older my tastes have changed, and while the smell of Bacardi Superior still turns my stomach, I have enjoyed an occasional Dark and Stormy or other cocktail made with higher quality dark rum. So I decided to be brave and give Yankee Swap a shot. I was also encouraged by numerous very positive reviews of the 2014 batch from beer drinkers I respect. Slumbrew Yankee Swap 2014 has limited availability in 22 oz. bombers and on draft. It is also a good beer to age, so grab a few bottles if you have a cellar!
Slumbrew Yankee Swap 2014 pours pitch black with a minimal tan head. The scent is a pleasant mixture of dark roasted malts, rum and a little alcohol. The taste is very malt forward, notes of milk chocolate, caramel, plum, toasted bread and roasted barley. The rum is evident but not strong, you get some sweet molasses and vanilla. The barrel aging adds a lot of complexity here, but doesn’t overwhelm the underlying beer. There is no real hop character however the beer isn’t overly sweet either. This is a full bodied and boozy beer at 12% ABV, and you get just a touch of warming alcohol in the flavor. Despite my mild aversion to rum I really enjoyed this beer. If you are a fan of barrel aged imperial stouts, it is a unique and complex take on the style. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Slumbrew Reviews:
Slumbrew American Fresh Tap Room, Slumbrew Attic and Eaves, Slumbrew Island Day, Slumbrew Snow Angel, Slumbrew Trekker Trippel, Slumbrew Sittin’ on Hop of the World
My wife and I have hit the phase in our lives where the idea of going out to an overpriced and overcrowded bar in order to ring in the New Year with a bunch of drunken strangers is far from appealing. The last few New Years have been spent sharing some quality beverages in the comfort of our home. Instead of the crowds at night we have started to do a New Years Eve lunch, find a fun spot and have a good afternoon meal with some of the money we saved staying in at night. This New Years we went over to Assembly Row in Somerville, the new hotspot for shopping and dining. As part of this mid-day trip I finally made it to the American Fresh Taproom, the beer garden opened by Somerville Brewing Company aka Slumbrew. The taproom was initially supposed to open in the late summer, but there were a series of issues with special ordered building materials that delayed the opening. It is very accessible between on site parking and the new Assembly Station MBTA stop on the orange line.
The American Fresh Taproom is designed as an open air beer garden, but during the winter months the side flaps come down and it is a heated tent. We were there on a particularly chilly afternoon and were quite comfortable under the tent. They serve a selection of food from charcuterie and snacks to sandwiches. The atmosphere is very casual, that afternoon there were a number of families with younger children enjoying food and drinks as well as a group of people playing Jenga. There were a number of posters in the tent advertising events ranging from afternoon meet-ups for stay at home moms and dads to trivia nights. It is clear that the taproom is meant to be welcoming to all, a great philosophy in a big shopping area that includes family destinations like LEGOLAND.
All of the beers available at American Fresh Taproom are brewed by Slumbrew, from their flagships like Happy Sol and Porter Square Porter to seasonals like Attic and Eaves and Yankee Swap. They also have Assembly Row Ale, a tap-room only selection, which was the beer I chose to try. Assembly Row Ale is a Double IPA that drinks smooth for 9.2% ABV and packs some great hop flavor and bitterness. This beer alone is worth the trip out to the taproom, next visit I may grab a growler and do a full review. This is one of the most unique local taprooms, I love the idea of an open-air beer garden, and Slumbrew really pulled off their vision. I can’t wait to go back this spring/summer when the weather gets warm!
I mentioned at the beginning of the fall that I had a little hop burn-out. I love IPAs but I needed a little break from the big bitter beers. While I’ve still sampled the occasional hop-bomb, my focus this fall has been on malt forward lagers along with a few ales. One style that catches a lot of flak is the brown ale. Brown ales have been a staple of British brewing for centuries, and were a common style during the early days of the American craft brewing movement. The development of the ultra hoppy West Coast style IPA was a major factor in the ascent of the craft beer industry in the US, and many hopheads are not a fan of some milder malt-forward styles like brown ales. It is unfortunate, because there are many breweries that make tasty versions of the style. I’ll admit that brown ales aren’t usually my first choice if I go to a new brewery I’m probably starting with their IPA, porter, or a Belgian style. That being said, I do like the occasional brown, especially in the fall when I want a more hearty brew. Slumbrew apparently agrees. For the last few years their fall seasonal has been their take on the brown ale, named Attic and Eaves. Slumbrew brews Attic and Eaves with an assortment of roasted grains along with Cascade and Fuggles hops. It is available on draft and in 22 oz. bombers during the fall season.
Slumbrew Attic and Eaves pours a chocolate brown with a small off-white head. The scent is mild, with some roasted malts at the forefront. The malts dominate the flavor, notes of toasted grain, milk chocolate, toffee, honey and roasted nuts. There is a bit of hoppiness, touches of earth, pine and lemon with a little bite in the finish. The beer is medium bodied and drinkable so it hides the 7.5% ABV very well. The finish is clean with just a hint of malt sweetness in the aftertaste. This is a very solid version of a brown ale, complex malty flavors with enough hops for balance. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Slumbrew Reviews:
Slumbrew Island Day, Slumbrew Snow Angel, Slumbrew Trekker Trippel, Slumbrew Sittin’ on Hop of the World
Although I have been drinking a lot of craft pilsners during these warm summer days, I also love light-bodied hoppy beers when it’s hot and humid. In particular, the bright and fruity flavors of American style hops are a perfect complement to a summer BBQ. A couple summer beers I tried recently fit this description. They are light and drinkable, but feature big bursts of disntictly new world hops. The first is Simmer Down, the summer seasonal from Sebago Brewing Company in Gorham, ME. The second is Island Day, the new summer beer from Slumbrew (Somerville Brewing Company) in Somerville, MA. Neither beer specifies a style (not that it matters), they are both on the borderline between an American pale ale and IPA. Regardless of style designation, both beers are a celebration of American hops and brewed to be enjoyed during the few short months of warm weather we get in New England.
Sebago Brewing Simmer Down is a summer session ale brewed with El Dorado, Mosaic and Ahtanum hops. Simmer Down pours a copper-orange, slightly hazy with a very mild white head. The smell is lightly hoppy, some fruity scents but not overpowering. The hops come through a little stronger in the flavor, with touches of orange, mango, lemon and passion fruit. The bitterness is pretty mild and nicely complemented by some malty grain flavors. Simmer Down is very light and crushable, at 4.9% ABV it can be classified as a session beer by some definitions. The finish is clean with just a hint of bitterness lingering on the tongue. Sebago Simmer Down is a great beer for summer. The mild hoppiness and low alcohol make you think of outdoor parties on a hot summer day. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5
Slumbrew Island Day is a golden ale brewed with Ella, Pacific Jade and Calypso hops. Island Day pours a cloudy pale orange with a small white head. The smell is all American hops, big bursts of citrus and tropical fruit. The hops dominate the flavor profile too, notes of pineapple, guava, lime and orange. The hop flavor is accompanied by a nice mild bitterness, you get some bite but it isn’t mouth-numbing. There is a little malt for balance, but this is clearly a beer brewed to showcase these varieties of hops. Island Day goes down smooth so I was a little surprised that it had 6.5% ABV. The finish is hop-forward with a pleasant bitter tingle on the tongue. This immediately became one of my favorite Slumbrew releases. A great hoppy beer for a warm summer evening. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5
Previous Sebago reviews:
Sebago Frye’s Leap IPA
Previous Slumbrew reviews:
Slumbrew Snow Angel, Slumbrew Trekker Trippel, Slumbrew Sittin’ on Hop of the World
I think it is really important for breweries to continuously experiment with new beers. The best way to do that is one-off seasonal brews. The brewer can play with a recipe then brew a batch and listen to the feedback from customers. Many times these beers undergo a few iterations and later become brewery staples. One brewery that continues to experiment with new ideas is The Somerville Brewing Company, aka Slumbrew. Their one-off beer this winter was Snow Angel, a double IPA brewed with a mixture of American hop varieties.
Slumbrew Snow Angel pours a cloudy amber/orange with a mild off-white head. The smell is a pungent blend of everything you love about American hops, tons of citrus fruit with some pine and floral notes mixed in. The hops start the flavor profile too, with touches of grapefruit, lemon, orange and tropical fruit. This is followed by significant malt flavors, led by caramel and brown sugar. There is a bit of residual sweetness in the beer, not really what you’d expect from a double IPA. There is also some bitterness and a little bit of fruity ester flavor from the yeast. The body is medium towards full, with a thick mouthfeel. It’s a pretty big beer at 9.0% ABV, and a little of the alcohol comes through in the flavor. The beer finishes with some malt sweetness and a little residual bitterness on the tongue. This is a solid beer. I think with a couple of minor tweaks it could be spectacular. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Slumbrew reviews:
Sittin on Hop of the World