I think I mentioned this pre-hiatus, but it’s worth re-visiting. The Mass Brew Brothers have started Mass Beer Mondays, trying to get more drinkers to focus on local offerings. You can join in by using the hashtag #MassBrewMonday on twitter. I try to keep most of my drinking to the weekends, but to stay in the spirit I will be focusing Monday reviews on Massachusetts beers as much as I can. One MA brewery that has been impressing me lately is Cambridge Brewing Company, they have always brewed some great beers but many of their most interesting offerings were brewery-only. Their recent collaboration with Mystic brewery on a joint facility devoted to wild and barrel aged ales has allowed for an expanded capacity, which means more beers available in bottles. A great example is Pearls of Wisdom, a wild blonde ale re-fermented in oak with multiple strains of Brettanomyces and then blended and dry-hopped in stainless steel. I tried Pearls of Wisdom pre-hiatus and didn’t get a chance to write it up, but it was so good I needed to do the review now even if the beer might not be widely available currently.
Cambridge Brewing Co. Pearls of Wisdom pours a hazy copper-orange with a solid white head. The scent is a mixture of funky Brett and floral hops. The flavor is complex, but everything works in harmony. There is plenty of hops, notes of mango, white grape, grapefruit and passion fruit. The yeast is also well represented, touches of sour apple, barnyard, peppercorn and apricot. The malts round out the flavor with hints of bread crust and honey. The beer is medium bodied and very easy to drink, not too boozy at 6.3% ABV. The finish is crisp and dry with a combination of hop and yeast flavors lingering on the tongue. I was really excited when Cambridge Brewing Company and Mystic announced their collaboration, and Pearls of Wisdom is the kind of beer I was looking forward to. This beer is really good, I am not sure if it’s still around or if they will be brewing it again, but I highly recommend trying it if you get a chance. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Cambridge Brewing Co. Reviews:
Cambridge Brewing Co. Le Saisonniere, Cambridge Brewing Co. Hay is for Horses, Cambridge Brewing Co. Sgt. Pepper, Cambridge Brewing Company You Enjoy My Stout, Cambridge Brewing Company Remain in Light, Cambridge Brewing Company The Audacity of Hops
There are a number of local breweries that put out series of one-off or infrequent beers that I look forward to and will buy as soon as I see a new release. At the top of this list is probably the Vinland Series by Mystic Brewery in Chelsea. The term “terrior” is very popular with wine, it is the flavors that are imparted into the grapes by the region where they are grown. Terrior is one of the reasons why a chardonnay from California is very different from a French version, and some wine aficionados can even taste the differences between vinyards that are only a few miles apart. Mystic uses the Vinland Series to show that beer can have the same type of terrior, especially when the yeast is harvested locally. The first three beers in the series used yeast strains isolated from local fruits. It was amazing how the yeast imparted some of the flavors you associate with the fruit into the beer even though no fruit was added. Vinland 4 is slightly different, it was spontaneously fermented using yeast from locally grown barley. Mystic is developing a wild/spontaneous fermentation program similar to the lambic style of Belgium, and Vinland 4 is an example of this style. Mystic Vinland 4 is available for a limited time on draft and in 750 mL bottles.
Mystic Vinland 4 pours a hazy golden yellow with a small white head. The scent is all wild yeast, acidic and funky. The microbes are the star on the palate as well, notes of green apple, lemon, some Brett-like barnyard/horse blanket and just a little sour tingle. Some lighter malts add body along with hints of whole grain bread and biscuits. There is minimal hop character, this beer is designed to let the wild yeast shine. Vinland 4 is light and easy to drink at 6% ABV. The finish is dry with some of the complex yeast flavors lingering on the tongue. I am a fan of the wild ale style and this is a very solid version. I personally preferred some of the other Vinland beers, it was interesting to taste some of the flavors imparted by yeast from a specific fruit, but the bar had been set incredibly high for this series and this beer is still very good. I will still look forward to each Vinland release, and I might grab a couple more bottles of this to see how it changes over time. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Mystic Reviews:
Mystic De Varenne, Mystic India Wharf Pale Ale, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Mystic Flor Z, Mystic Melissa, Mystic Descendant, Mystic Vinland Three, Mystic Brewery visit and Day of Doom, Mystic Hazy Jane, Mystic Mary of the Gael, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer
I resisted the urge to start a beer cellar for a long time. Some of it was a stage of life and space issue, but even when those problems were amended I didn’t feel a big need. I typically stock up on quality beers 1-2 times a month and finish most of them before I buy more. This changed when Pretty Things announced that they were closing, I immediately stocked up on some of their beers and started a small cellar, and later added a few ither additions. The issue many beer enthusiasts run into with their special bottles is when to finally crack them open. You want the perfect occasion, but what good is a beer that sits in your cellar forever? Allagash Brewing Company came up with a solution to this with their Drink It Now campaign, a call for all beer enthusiasts to pull out those special beers and share them with friends. You can read more about it HERE. I love the idea of making any Sunday into a special occasion worthy of opening a great beer. Allagash has a number of beers worthy of either holding onto or drinking now, especially their barrel aged and wild ales. A great example is Tiarna, a blend of an ale aged in oak with Brettanomyces and another aged in stainless steel with a combination of Belgian yeast strains. Tiarna is available on a rotating basis in 375 mL bottles.
Allagash Tiarna pours crystal clear pale yellow with a massive white head and vigorous carbonation. The scent is a little like a dry champagne along with a touch of acidity and some fruity hops. Like many of Allagash’s barrel aged beers the flavor is complex but everything seems to work together. The yeast adds some apple and pear along with funky Brett and a mild tartness. The hops are present with notes of pineapple, orange and white grape. Their is also a touch of bready malt and a little oak flavor from the barrels. Tiarna is light and bubbly and drinks very easy for 7.1% ABV. The finish is dry and crisp with lingering flavors from the expressive blend of yeast strains. If you are a fan of wild and barrel aged ales I don’t know that anyone does them better than Allagash, and this is another impressive offering. Buy some and drink it now! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Allagash Reviews:
Allagash Confluence 2015, Allagash Curieux, Allagash White, Allagash Dubbel, Allagash/Maine Beer/Rising Tide Prince Tuesday, Allagash Saison, Allagash Black
It looks like Mystic Brewery is undergoing a bit of a re-branding, new bottle art, an updated website and some new additions to the line-up of beers. As an aside, my two favorite Mystic beers (Mary of the Gael and Day of Doom) are not listed on the website, I would be very disappointed if either is no longer being produced. It is probably no coincidence that the re-branding is happening as Mystic begins to release the first beers from their new wild ale/barrel aging program. Last year Mystic announced a collaboration with Cambridge Brewing Company that would allow both breweries to expand their capacity for barrel aged beers. Mystic was planning on focusing on the wild fermented lambic-type styles, something that we can definitely use more of in this area. Wild fermented ales are quickly becoming one of my favorite beer styles, the good ones have such complex flavors. One of the first releases in this series is De Varenne, a blend of wild ales that have each been aged for at least a year. Mystic De Varenne is available on a rotating basis in 375 mL bottles.
Mystic De Varenne pours a clear bright orange with a minimal white head. The scent is fruity with a little hit of acidity. The wild yeast leads the flavor, fruity Belgian style esters with notes of apple, pear and apricot combined with some barnyard funkiness and just a touch of tart sourness. Some pale malts round out the flavor, hints of crackers, bread and honey. The beer is very light and easy to drink but packs moderate punch at 6.5% ABV. The finish is crisp with a little sour bite on the tongue. De Varenne is a very solid start to an ambitious wild ale program, complex and interesting but still very drinkable. Massachusetts needs more beers like this, and I look forward to seeing what else Mystic has in store! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Mystic Reviews:
Mystic India Wharf Pale Ale, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Mystic Flor Z, Mystic Melissa, Mystic Descendant, Mystic Vinland Three, Mystic Brewery visit and Day of Doom, Mystic Hazy Jane, Mystic Mary of the Gael, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer
At the beginning of the year I had an admittedly aggressive goal regarding my new series of brewery overview articles. I had hoped to write one article a month and eventually have an overview of every major brewery in New England. I think I underestimated the amount of time it would take to prep and write each article. So even though it is going a little slower than planned I’m going to keep knocking the articles out as I can. This week (hopefully tomorrow) I’ll publish my brewery overview of Mystic Brewery in Chelsea. I stopped by the brewery recently and sampled some of their new and classic creations. One of the newer beers that I really enjoyed was Flor Z, a saison brewed with a house wild yeast strain. This wild yeast mixes varieties that contribute the fruity and spicy esters of traditional Belgian beers with microbes that add the tart flavors present in sour styles. Mystic is in the process of opening a new facility that will expand their capacity to brew barrel aged and wild fermented beers, an exciting prospect considering the breweries experience with culturing amazing strains of yeast. Mystic Flor Z is available currently on draft and in 750 mL bombers.
Mystic Flor Z pours a clear straw yellow with a solid white head and vigorous carbonation. The scent is a mixture of yeasty esters and a little tart acidity. The yeast is also the major flavor, notes of pear, pepper, lemon and sour apple. The “sour” component is present but not overkill, it complements the Belgian yeast flavors without overwhelming them. The beer is rounded out by solid malt flavor including some noticeable wheat and just a touch of floral hops. Flor Z is spritzy and super drinkable, a perfect beer for summer. At 6% ABV it isn’t overly boozy, and the finish is crisp with a touch of lingering tartness. If this is the quality of beer we will see more of as Mystic expands their barrel aging and wild ales program I am really excited for more trips up to Chelsea! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5
Previous Mystic Reviews:
Mystic Melissa, Mystic Descendant, Mystic Vinland Three, Mystic Brewery visit and Day of Doom, Mystic Hazy Jane, Mystic Mary of the Gael, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer
The business world can be brutally competitive. In most industries each company views any other business that produces a similar product or service as a potential threat. An immense amount of effort is spent on protecting business secrets and trying to corner as large a share of the market as possible. When a competitor falls on hard times it is generally looked on as a positive, a way for your company to fill the resulting void and strengthen your own position in the market. While there is some of this cut-throat attitude in parts of the beer industry, it is refreshing to see how much individual breweries try to support one another. Sharing ideas, collaborations, and even sharing ingredients and equipment has become commonplace across the industry. Night Shift Brewing took this to another level recently. While they could have easily capitalized on the void created when neighbor Idle Hands lost their brewery, Night Shift instead allowed Idle Hands to keep their brand going by guest brewing at their Everett facility. Night Shift even keeps a dedicated tap for an Idle Hands beer. This is the type of business I want to support, doing the right thing even if it isn’t necessarily the best way to maximize profits. It also helps that Night Shift makes some delicious beer. One recent example is Maracuya, an American wild ale brewed with passion fruit. Night Shift Maracuya is available on draft and in 750 mL bottles on a rotation basis.
Night Shift Maracuya pours a cloudy deep orange with a mild white head. The scent is a mixture of tart acidity and tropical fruit. The passion fruit leads the flavor, strong but not overpowering and contributing just a hint of sweetness. This is balanced out by a the sour flavor, which adds a little bite without being tongue numbing. The malts round out the flavor with some whole wheat bread and added body. The beer is very drinkable, some sour beers wear out my palate over time, but I could sip this on the porch all afternoon. Some of the beer-info websites list Maracuya at 7.4% ABV, which would be a little strong for the style, but the batch I bought is much more reasonable at 5.6% ABV. The finish is clean with some lingering tart fruitiness. Maracuya is a really nice beer, complex and flavorful but balanced and easy to drink. Night Shift remains the masters of adding a wide range of adjunct ingredients to beer without overwhelming the core flavors. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Night Shift Reviews:
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