Otter Creek made a big announcement recently, after 8.5 years their head brewer Mike Gerhart is leaving the brewery. Rumor has it that he is taking a job with Hill Farmstead, which is widely considered one of the best breweries in the world. Gerhart has played an instrumental role as Otter Creek overhauled their brand over the last few years, developing a completely new lineup of beers focusing on hop-forward offerings. This re-branding has included all new artwork that heavily features the bearded and tye-dyed character of Gerhart on the majority of their bottles and cans (usually accompanied by his dog). It should be interesting to see how the brand evolves going forward, their new beers have been very well received and it looks like they have a stable of up and coming brewers who are ready to take the reigns. In addition to all of the varieties of IPA that Otter Creek is brewing, we’ve seen them dabble in dark beers, including a big and boozy Russian Imperial Stout. Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout is available in the winter on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout pours pitch black with a minimal tan head. The scent is mostly roasted malts along with a little alcohol. The flavor is malt forward, notes of dark chocolate, raisin and toffee. You also get some booze in the flavor, but it isn’t overpowering. Some late hops round out the flavor with hints of grass and earth along with a bit of bitterness. Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout is a full bodied sipper and it packs a wallop at 10% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering malt flavor. For a brewery that has focused it’s efforts on hop forward beers Otter Creek makes some tasty dark and malty brews too. This one is worth a shot as imperial stout season winds to a close. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
My wife has to travel locally as part of her job, and we’ve started to do a little research to see if there are any brewery stops that are out of the way normally but on her travel route. This is the place where you can rave about how awesome my wife is, you know it’s love when she goes on a work trip and brings back beer. One of her regular stops is in Amherst, MA and the office she visits is right down the road from The Hangar Pub and Grill which doubles as the home of Amherst Brewing Company. I think the last time I was in Amherst was for a rugby tournament my junior year in college (which was more than a few years ago), so this was my first opportunity to try any of Amherst Brewing Co.’s beers. My wife grabbed a nice selection, and we have sampled most of what they had available at the time. I’ll just review two of the beers here (for now), but I enjoyed a number of the beers I tried. All of Amherst’s beers are available on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans to go.
Amherst Two Sisters Stout pours deep brown with a massive tan head. The scent is full of roasted malt aromas. The flavor is also malt forward, notes of milk chocolate, toffee and brown sugar. There is minimal hops, some earthy notes and a hint of late bitterness. Two sisters has a medium-full body, drinks easy and isn’t too boozy at 6.7% ABV. The finish has a touch of sweetness with some lingering roasted malt flavor. I’ve been asking for more non-imperial, non-barrel aged stouts and this is a nice example, plenty of malt flavor and a little sweetness without being cloying. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Amherst Jess pours a hazy orange with a small white head. The scent is a huge burst of New World hops, tons of citrus and tropical fruit. The flavor is also very hop forward, notes of grapefruit, guava, honeydew and orange. There is also a little bitter kick, it’s still a New England style IPA but not the zero-bitterness hop juice that many breweries are making. There is enough malt to add a little balance, touches of bread dough and honey. Jess is medium bodied and very easy to drink but packs a little punch at 7.3% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor that keeps you coming back for more. This is a very good IPA and worth the drive out west to grab! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Well, that escalated quickly. There was no new snow on the ground when I woke up this morning, and by late this afternoon I had almost a foot to clean up. Fortunately I have become a good suburbanite and purchased a snow-blower, that investment has already paid off despite the relatively low snowfall totals this winter. I am also fortunate to work for a company that told everyone yesterday that the office was closed today and we could work from home. Cold and snowy days call for rich and malty dark beers. A great example is Whoopie Pie Stout from SoMe Brewing Company in Maine. Did you know that as many as five states claim to be the original home of the whoopee pie? One of the states with a strong case is Maine, where it is the official state treat and the town of Dover-Foxcroft hosts the annual whoopee pie festival. It makes sense that a Maine brewery would use this chocolate and cream sandwich as the inspiration for a beer. SoMe Whoopie Pie Stout is a milk stout brewed with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans. It is available year-round on draft and in 22 oz. bottles.
SoMe Whoopie Pie Stout pours pitch black with a small tan head. The scent is a mixture of rich roasted malt, cocoa and vanilla. The flavor is very malt forward, notes of milk chocolate, coffee and licorice. The adjuncts blend in well, adding subtle complexity. There is just enough hop character to balance out the sweetness, which is present but restrained. Whoopie Pie Stout has a medium to full body, smooth mouthfeel and isn’t overly boozy at 6.3% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering chocolate and roasted malt flavors. This is an exceptional milk stout, complex and tons of flavor without being cloying. A perfect beer for a cold and snowy day like today! Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous SoMe reviews:
SoMe Templeton Saison
After that amazing, unbelievable football game last night I am physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted (not a complaint at all), but I needed to knock out a #MassBrewMonday review in honor of the greatest dynasty in NFL history. On Saturday I had a very small amount of free time and made my first trip to Cold Harbor Brewing Company in Westborough. They have a cozy taproom with tasting flights and full pours along with growlers to go, but unfortunately I couldn’t hang out and sample beers. I was out running errands and had just enough time to run in and fill a couple growlers. Fortunately I got some recommendations on Twitter (thank you @MassBrewBros!) and grabbed 32 oz growlers of their Indian Summer IPA and Truffle Stout, a dark ale brewed with blackberries and Taza chocolate.
Cold Harbor Indian Summer IPA pours a murky dark yellow with a solid white head. The scent is a big burst of tropical fruit from the late hop additions. This is very much a New England style IPA. There is tons of fruity hop flavor with notes of peach, mango, guava and papaya but minimal bitterness. There is a little malt, touches of wheat bread and biscuits. Indian Summer is medium bodied, not too boozy at 6% ABV and finishes with lingering hop flavor but no bitter bite. I am a big fan of many of the New England style IPAs, and this is a good version, but I could use just a little bitterness or non-tropical fruit flavors as an added dimension. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Cold Harbor Truffle Stout pours dark brown with a small off-white head. The scent is full of rich roasted malt and cocoa. The flavor is very malt forward, notes of milk chocolate, espresso and toffee. I don’t get much blackberry flavor, just a hint for complexity. Some earthy hops add balance and a little late bitterness. Truffle Stout has a full body but drinks easy, with just a touch of malt sweetness in the finish. This is a delicious stout, tons of flavor, complex but approachable, and worth the trip to Westborough to try. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
I am a huge IPA fan, but I am getting a little burned out on all of the hop bombs. Most breweries are making multiple IPAs and adding huge doses of hops to everything, it feels like half of the bottles on the shelves at any good bottle shop are IPAs. I understand why this is the case, IPAs pay the bills, but beer can be amazing without being loaded with hops. So I’ve made a decision, in 2017 I am going to make an active effort to predominantly buy, drink and review non-IPAs. I’m hoping to find amazing local beers that cover a wider range of styles. In the winter that it going to mean a large number of porters and stouts. Night Shift is probably best known for their barrel aged and sour specialty releases along with their hop-forward flagship beers, but they also make some delicious dark and malty ales. This year Night Shift decided to release Bennington, their oatmeal stout brewed with Dutch cocoa and maple syrup, in cans. Night Shift Bennington is available now on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.
Night Shift Bennington pours dark brown with a mild tan head. The scent is a mixture of rich roasted malts and cocoa. The beer is very malt forward, notes of milk chocolate, toffee and mocha. The cocoa and syrup meld well with these flavors, also adding a little sweetness. There are minimal hops, just enough to add a little balance and crispness to the finish. The oatmeal leads to a rich and full body that sips easy, it packs a little punch at 7.4% ABV but is far from an imperial. The finish is clean with a little malt flavor and lingering sugar. I have been asking for more tasty stouts and porters with more moderate ABVs, and this is a very nice version. My only quibble is that it skews slightly sweet for my personal taste, but it is still an interesting and flavorful beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Night Shift Reviews:
Night Shift Whirlpool, Night Shift Awake, Night Shift Santilli, Night Shift Maracuya, Night Shift Mainer Weisse, Night Shift Thunder Moon, Night Shift Morph IPA, Night Shift Ever Weisse, Night Shift Grove, Night Shift JoJo, Night Shift Taza Stout, Night Shift Simcoenation
I had to shovel a little snow when I got home from work this evening, mostly just cleaning the porch and walkway, but enough to conclude that winter is officially here. With the winter months I am moving some more dark beers into the rotation, expect plenty of reviews of stouts, porters, barleywines and Belgian dark styles, especially once I clear out some of the hoppy beers that came back from Maine this Thanksgiving. One interesting take on a stout I sampled recently is TBD from Castle Island Brewing. This was the first beer Castle Island brewed, and the TBD moniker was originally a placeholder until they came up with an official name, but people loved the name (and the beer), so it stuck. TBD is labeled as a “hoppy stout”, which is an unusual designation. I typically like the dark malts to be the predominant flavors in my stouts and was a little concerned that the stout character would be lost with excessive hop additions, but I am always will to give something new a try. Castle Island TBD is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.
Castle Island TBD pours pitch black with a solid light brown head. The scent is a mixture of roasty dark malt with a little floral hoppiness. The flavor is malt forward, notes of black coffee, dark chocolate, toffee and black licorice. This is complemented by a solid hit of hops for the style, touches of grass and pine along with noticeable bitterness. TBD is full bodied but goes down smooth, at 7.2% ABV it isn’t an imperial stout but isn’t a session beer either. The finish is dry and crisp with a little lingering malt flavor and hop bite. When I saw the term “hoppy stout” I was a little worried that TBD would be a black IPA with a different name, but Castle Island did a good job adding an extra dimension of hops without detracting from the flavor profile you associate with a stout. Very good beer to drink in the upcoming winter months. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Castle Island Reviews:
Castle Island Festbier, Castle Island Keeper IPA
There are so many breweries that have opened in the last few years that I have a hard time keeping track of the beers being produced in Eastern Massachusetts, let alone keeping up with all of the new breweries throughout New England. I’ve considered keeping Hoppy Boston’s focus on MA beers, but it’s fun to try things from across the region. New England isn’t that big anyways, with a short drive can try amazing beers in every New England state. You can also have awesome friends who bring you beers from their travels. My friends Tim and Amanda live in Providence and recently came to a get together at our house with a bunch of local beers that haven’t made their way to Massachusetts yet. Many of these beers were consumed that night, but I set aside a sample pack from Bucket Brewery in Pawtucket. It took me a little time to get around to writing my thoughts, better late than never I guess. A couple of the beer I sampled were Pawtucket Pale Ale, a balanced APA, and Black Goat of the Woods, a milk stout brewed with ginger and cinnamon. All of Bucket’s selections are available on draft and in 12 oz. cans.
Bucket Brewery Pawtucket Pale Ale pours a deep amber with a small white head. The aroma is mild, a bit of fruity hops. The flavor is balanced, much more malty than many of the newer style American pale ales. There is solid hop flavor, touches of orange, guava, grass and pine along with a little bitter bite. This is complemented by the malt, notes of caramel and whole grain bread along with substantial body. Pawtucket Pale Ale drinks easy at 5.5% ABV and finishes with a mixture of sweet malt and bitter hops. This is a solid beer, especially if you like more balanced, British inspired pale ales. Hoppy Boston score 4.0/5.
Bucket Black Goat of the Woods pours pitch black with a small tan head. The scent features some rich roasted malts and a hint of spice. The flavor is very malt forward, notes of cocoa, caramel and weak coffee. The spices are subtle, you get faint hints of cinnamon and ginger that add some complexity. The hops are almost non-existent in this beer, which leans toward sweet. The body is a touch thin for a stout, but the beer drinks smooth and has moderate alcohol at 6.5% ABV. Black Goat of the Woods is an interesting beer, with a few tweaks I think it could be very good. Hoppy Boston score: 3.75/5.