Tag Archives: Smuttynose

Smuttynose Single Digit Dubbel

My beer review articles are never just tasting notes, I always try to start each article with some information about the style, the brewery, relevant news, an opinion, or a personal story. This is always the more challenging part of the article (it’s easy to write out the tasting notes), so when I am shopping for beers to review I am usually doing it with these stories in mind, searching for beers that will fit the stories I want to tell. Things can change really quickly though. I picked up Single Digit Dubbel from Smuttynose with the intent of writing about dubbel as an underappreciated style perfect for the cold winter months, and how I would much rather drink a good dubbel over a spiced winter warmer. Then last week Smuttynose announced that the brewery is going to be put up for auction by a bank. This doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the brewery, it sounds like revenue was still acceptable but the current owners over-expanded and took on too much debt right as sales started to plateau due to increased competition. Hopefully a buyer can come in and save the brand, but until this gets resolved the fate of the company is very much up in the air.

Smuttynose had a huge impact on my growth as a craft beer fan. My college buddy Tim worked outside of Portsmouth in the summer and became a big fan of their beer, which he introduced to me. Selections like Shoals Pale Ale, Old Brown Dog and Robust Porter were early favorites and in some cases introductions to their respective styles. More recently I thought Smuttynose did a good job of staying relevant in a changing beer scene. Their Smuttlabs and big beer series were creative and constantly changing, which are important factors with promiscuous modern beer drinkers. I think the modern industry is going to be really hard on regional and lager craft breweries, they are getting squeezed by big beer (with their crafty brands) who can usually offer a lower price point and also by small local breweries who specialize in fresh, creative offerings. Some of the best Smuttynose beers are also in styles that don’t fuel much buzz with many current drinkers, like porter, brown ale and dopplebock. I hope next winter I’ll still be enjoying a bottle of Single Digit Dubbel and other Smuttynose offerings, but that remains to be seen.

Smuttynose Single Digit DubbelSmuttynose Single Digit Dubbel pours cola brown with a minimal tan head. The aroma is a mixture of rich malts and fruity Belgian yeast. The flavor is malt forward, notes of brown sugar, raisin and toffee. This is complemented by the flavors imparted by the yeast, hints of clove, bubblegum and apple. There is minimal hop flavor, which fits the style, but you get a touch of bitterness at the end which keeps the beer from being cloying. Single Digit Dubbel is medium bodied and drinks very easy but packs some punch at 8.3% ABV. The finish starts rich and then dries out a bit, with some lingering fruity esters and malt. This is a really good winter beer, I would much rather drink a well crafted dubbel than a spiced winter warmer and Smuttynose packs a ton of flavor in here. Hopefully this beer and the rest of the Smuttynose lineup have a path forward. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Smuttynose Reviews:

Smuttlabs TruccoSmuttlabs ThelemaSmuttynose S’muttonator DopplebockSmuttynose Vunderbar PilsnerSmuttynose Bouncyhouse IPA, Smuttynose Durty Brown AleSmuttynose Finest Kind IPA



Smuttlabs Trucco

I used to drink a considerable amount of whiskey, it is the only spirit that I’ve ever had much of an appreciation for. Now it’s pretty rare that I enjoy a glass, I drink a lot less than I used to and most of my alcohol consumption is in beer form. With this in mind it’s no surprise that my favorite barrel aged beers are mostly coming out of whiskey barrels. While there are many delicious beers aged in this way, the vast majority are imperial stouts and it would be nice to see a little more variety. I’ve started to see a few barrel aged saisons make their way onto shelves, although they are mostly aged in wine barrels. This makes sense, as the bold flavors imparted from aging in liquor barrels could overwhelm some of the more delicate flavors from saison yeast strains. One exception that I found recently is Trucco, a saison aged with Brettanomyces in whiskey barrels brewed by Smuttlabs, the experimental arm of Smuttynose Brewing Company. Smuttlabs Trucco is available on a rotating basis in 500 mL bottles.

smuttlabs-truccoSmuttlabs Trucco pours a clear amber orange with a minimal white head. The scent features a little whiskey mingling with estery Belgian style yeast. The flavor here is complex, no one component stands out over the others. The fermentation adds substantial character, barnyard funk, pear and apple along with a touch of tartness. The whiskey and oak from the barrel aging are noticeable but subtle, which is key with a lighter beer style like a saison. The malts add body along with notes of biscuits, honey and bread crust while the hops are minimal. Trucco is medium bodied and drinks very smooth for a beer with 10% ABV. The finish is dry with lingering yeast flavors and a little puckering bite on the tongue. Smuttlabs Trucco is a very good beer, lots of different flavors but they all work together. I like seeing some barrel aged saisons, and this is a great version of the style. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Smuttynose Reviews:

Smuttlabs ThelemaSmuttynose S’muttonator DopplebockSmuttynose Vunderbar PilsnerSmuttynose Bouncyhouse IPA, Smuttynose Durty Brown AleSmuttynose Finest Kind IPA

Smuttynose Smuttlabs Thelema

As more and more new breweries open and many beer drinkers focus their attention (and dollars) on what is new and exciting it is important for established veterans of the brewing community to continually innovate. While some breweries have re-vamped their entire lineup of beers to meet changing consumer tastes, others try to balance their classic styles with new releases. One of the interesting ways a brewery can achieve this balance is to set up a special series of small batch one-off or rotating releases that highlights experimentation. A great example of this is Smuttlabs, the series of rare and unusual small batch beers released by Smuttynose. Smuttlabs is focused on tapping into the creativity of Smuttynose’s brewers without the constraints of large batch size, allowing them to experiment with barrel aging, different strains of yeast and sour beers. Some Smuttlabs releases rotate while others are one-offs, they typically release 1-2 beers a month. One of their fall releases was Thelema, a Belgian style golden ale. Thelema is available for a limited time in 500 mL bottles.

Smuttynose ThelemaSmuttynose Thelema pours a pale orange with a minimal white head. The scent is mostly the Belgian yeast, a significant whiff of fruity esters. The yeast also leads the flavor, notes of clove, apple, bubblegum and pear. The malts are also well represented, touches of honey, crackers and candi sugar along with a hint of boozy sweetness. The hops are mild, just a little earth and grass and enough bitterness to help dry the beer out. Thelema is medium bodied and at 8.5% ABV has enough booziness to keep you from drinking too quickly. The finish is crisp with some lingering fruity yeast flavors. I have always enjoyed Smuttynose beers and I am glad to see them branching out and experimenting to complement their traditional lineup. Smuttlabs Thelema is a worthwhile addition to the catalogue and I look forward to sampling more Smuttlabs releases in the near future! Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Previous Smuttynose Reviews:

Smuttynose S’muttonator DopplebockSmuttynose Vunderbar PilsnerSmuttynose Bouncyhouse IPA, Smuttynose Durty Brown AleSmuttynose Finest Kind IPA

H2H Beer Review: Porter, Henniker Working Man’s Porter vs. Smuttynose Robust Porter

When I review beers for this blog I try to cover breweries from all over New England, although beers that are distributed to the Boston area tend to be the focus for practical reasons. With all of the renowned breweries in Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont it is easy to occasionally overlook the brewing scene in New Hampshire. New Hampshire has a few grizzled veterans that have been producing great beer for years, and a strong cast of up-and-coming breweries. Unfortunately many of the newer breweries don’t distribute out of state, so I can’t taste their beer without taking a road-trip. Note to self, plan a New Hampshire brewery road-trip this spring. One brewery that has started to distribute to MA relatively recently (I think, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) is Henniker Brewing Company in Henniker, New Hampshire. Since I haven’t had the pleasure of sampling many of Henniker’s offerings I though it would be fun to compare one of their beers to a similar style produced by Smuttynose, the most well known brewery in the Granite State.

The Competitors: The classic-for-a-reason Robust Porter from Smuttynose Brewing Company and the new-to-me Working Man’s Porter from Henniker Brewing Company.

I have long stated that porter is one of my favorite beer styles, especially in the winter months. A well made porter features rich, dark, malty flavors that are perfect for cold weather and subtle hop additions that balance the beer out. While many people sampling their first beers from an unfamiliar brewery would gravitate right to the IPAs (and I admit to doing the same on occasion), I thought it would be fun to start with Henniker’s Working Man’s Porter. This also gave me a good excuse to buy some more Smuttynose Robust Porter, one of my favorite local takes on the style. It’s a very high bar to set for Henniker, but I think every new brewery wants to be compared to the best.

Henniker Working Man's PorterHenniker Working Man’s Porter pours a cola brown with a pillowy tan head. The smell is roasty dark malts, not strong but noticeable. The taste is solidly malty, with plenty of coffee and a little chocolate, toffee and toast. There is also substantial hop character in this porter, earthy and floral flavors with a kick of mouth-drying bitterness. Working Man’s Porter is medium bodied and at 5.2% ABV is on the light side alcohol-wise. Overall this is a really solid beer, lots of malt flavor with a big (for the style) kick of hops.

Smuttynose Robust PorterSmuttynose Robust Porter pours an almost identical brown color, it would be difficult to distinguish the beers by sight alone. The malty/roasty smell is a little stronger here, as are the rich dark malt flavors. Significant mocha, milk chocolate and molasses dominate the flavor along with just a touch of sweetness. The hop flavor is more muted in the Robust Porter, you get a little kick in the end but not as strong. The other difference is in the body, Robust Porter had a fuller mouthfeel overall compared to Working Man’s Porter. At 6.2% ABV this isn’t a boozy beer, but it’s not a session beer either. There is a reason that this beer is a classic, it has tons of flavor while still being well balanced.

The Verdict: I noted that Smuttynose Robust Porter was one of my favorite local takes on the style, so I am really impressed at how tough a decision Henniker made this. Overall I would buy one over the other based on my mood, if I wanted a hoppier, drier porter I would go with Henniker, while Smuttynose is better if I’m in the mood for full malt flavor and body. Since I have to pick one as my “favorite” (based on arbitrary rules I made up myself), I’ll go with Smuttynose by a whisker, but I recommend trying both of these.

Previous Smuttynose Reviews: Smuttynose S’muttonator DopplebockSmuttynose Vunderbar PilsnerSmuttynose Bouncyhouse IPA, Smuttynose Durty Brown AleSmuttynose Finest Kind IPA



Smuttynose S’muttonator

Hoppy Boston Dopplebock Week continues with a review of S’muttonator, the bold and malty lager from Smuttynose Brewing Company in Portsmouth, NH. I think Smuttynose has set a blueprint for how a brewery can grow and expand distribution while still staying cutting edge and innovative. In addition to their regular lineup (which has undergone some recent changes), Smuttynose brews many seasonal and specialty releases. One new series is Smuttlabs, single batch releases of experimental brews. S’muttonator is part of the Smuttynose Big Beer Series, seasonal brews that run the gamut of style, but all trend towards high alcohol. This is the perfect place for a dopplebock, one of the highest alcohol lager styles. Smuttnose S’muttonator is sold during the fall on draft and in 22 oz. bombers.

Smuttynose S'muttonatorSmuttynose S’muttonator pours a deep amber with a very mild off-white head. The smell is a mixture of semi-sweet malts and a little booze. The taste is very malt forward, as you would expect from a dopplebock, notes of dark chocolate, caramel, fresh baked bread and a little dark fruit. There are minimal hops, just a touch of bite in the finish to help balance out the big malt flavor. This is definitely a big beer at 9.2% ABV, and you do get a little alcohol in the flavor. S’muttonator is full bodied with a thick mouthfeel, so combined with the booze it is definitely a sipper. It finishes clean with a little malt sweetness and warming alcohol in the aftertaste. This beer is awesome, perfect flavor profile for the style, boozy but still drinkable. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.

Previous Smuttynose Reviews:

Smuttynose Vunderbar PilsnerSmuttynose Bouncyhouse IPA, Smuttynose Durty Brown Ale, Smuttynose Robust PorterSmuttynose Finest Kind IPA


Pilsners: Smuttynose Vunderbar and Cambridge Brewing Remain in Light

I’ve been drinking a ton of pilsner lately since it is the perfect beer for the summer. There are a bunch of good to great craft pilsners out on shelves now. Some are year-round beers while others are summer seasonals. I thought I’d share a few more good ones in a quick and dirty double review. The first is Smuttynose Vunderbar, which was once a limited release beer, but it is now their regular summer seasonal. It is brewed with a minimal number of ingredients, just pilsner malt, acidulated malt and Czech Saaz hops. They use the hops in the boil and in the dry hop to add crispness, flavor and aroma. The second is from Cambridge Brewing Company, who has just started to release their hoppy pilsner named Remain in Light in cans. Remain in Light is brewed with pilsner malt and flaked rice along with German and Czech hops.

Smuttynose VunderbarSmuttynose Vunderbar Pilsner pours a deep golden yellow with a mild white head. The smell has some floral noble hops, not strong but evident on the nose. The taste starts with a nice little hoppy bite, notes of forest floor, cut grass and a hint of citrus. There is a solid pilsner malt backbone, subtle touches of white bread and butter. Smuttynose Vunderbar is very refreshing and easy to drink at 5.1% ABV. The beer isn’t bitter, but nice and crisp. The finish is very clean with just a hint of hoppiness left on the tongue. Overall a very well done traditional European pilsner, a great beer for a hot summer evening. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5

CBC remain in lightCambridge Brewing Company Remain in Light pours a clear straw yellow with a mild white head. The smell is mild with some earthy hops and light malts. The taste starts with the pilsner malts, notes of cereal grain, hay and crackers. The hops are present too, just a touch of lemon and pine along with a refreshing crispness. Remain in Light is light in body and very drinkable at 5.0% ABV. The finish is dry with a pleasant little hoppy bite on the tongue. This is a very solid pilsner, worth a try if you like the style. I would have liked a little more hop flavor since it is labeled a “hoppy” pilsner, but part of that is my over-hopped American palate. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Previous Smuttynose reviews:

Smuttynose Bouncyhouse IPA, Smuttynose Durty Brown Ale, Smuttynose Robust PorterSmuttynose Finest Kind IPA

Previous Cambridge Brewing Company reviews:

Cambridge Brewing Company The Audacity of Hops


Smuttynose Bouncy House IPA

Session IPAs are officially the trend in craft beer this Spring/Summer. Just a year ago you would struggle to find a single beer labeled as a session IPA, but now many of the heavy hitters in craft brewing have released low alcohol hop-forward beers in this category. It makes sense! IPAs are the most popular style of craft beer, but beers that approach 7-8% ABV can be overwhelming to some, especially if you’d like to drink more than 1-2. Many of the vocal detractors of the session IPA trend need to remember that brewing is a business, and breweries need to balance creativity with brewing beers that are going to sell. One of the main criticisms of session IPAs is that most are just American pale ales with a better marketing strategy. This is fair in many cases, the difference between APAs and IPAs is usually lower ABV and less bitterness in a similar overall flavor profile. One of the recent session IPAs to hit the market is Bouncy House, brewed by Smuttynose Brewing Company in Portsmouth NH. Bouncy House was originally released as part of the short batch series, and by their own admission the brewers were careful in avoiding the terms “session” and “IPA” when referring to the beer. Now Bouncy House is a regular, year-round release, available on draft and in 12 oz. bottles, and it’s labeled as an IPA.

Smuttynose Bouncy HouseSmuttynose Bouncy House IPA pours a dark gold, slightly hazy with a medium white head. The smell is solidly hoppy, some citrus and tropical fruit with a touch of pine. The taste is extremely hop forward, resin, lemon, grapefruit and a little mango and peach. There is also substantial bitterness, some session IPAs drink like pale ales while this has some serious bite. There is just a hint of malt character in the backbone, but this beer is all about the hops. The finish is clean, with a mouth puckering bitterness on the tongue. At 4.3% ABV this is definitely a sessionable beer as it goes down pretty easy. While I understand many of the criticisms of the session IPA style, sometimes it’s nice to have a hoppy beer that won’t get you hammered if you have a few. Under these circumstances, Smuttynose Bouncy House is a solid choice. Hoppy Boston score 4.25/5.

Previous Smuttynose reviews:

Smuttynose Durty Brown Ale, Smuttynose Robust PorterSmuttynose Finest Kind IPA