Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Two Breweries - One Day

To celebrate my first FULL day as a thirty year old, Adam and I both took the day off from work and headed into the city for the day.

We spent the morning at the New England Aquarium, which neither of us have been to in twenty years or so. It was fun but far smaller than I remember! The penguins are still my favorite part though. We stopped to lunch on crab cakes and oysters at Legal Sea Foods before heading over to The Harpoon Brewery, down the street on Northern Avenue. I had been to the one in Vermont, which we checked out on our way home from Woodstock last year, but never the Boston brewery. Adam had been before and enjoyed it so we figured, what the hey.

The Brewery is easy to find, right off of Northern Ave on the water, and has ample free parking (a score in the Seaport District).

Since it was a weekday, they were not doing tours but they were doing VERY generous tastings. We were handed tasting glasses, shown to the tap and got to taste away to our heart's content. I started off with the Chocolate Stout and Adam with the IPA. I LOVED the stout. Very smooth and velvety and hello, chocolatey. I loved it in a way I have not loved a stout since a night of Vanilla Stout's I enjoyed at Milly Tavern in Manchester NH, long ago. I enjouy stouts in general because they are less carbonated, and this one has quickly become my new favorite.

We sampled a few more, before stepping into the actual brewery to check things out (though no tours were offered we could walk into a roped off area and look around).

To be honest when you have gone as as many tours as we have, though we always appreciate the education, it's kind of nice to skip right to the tasting!

The hit of the day was by far their latest 100 Barrel Series offering: Island Creek Oyster Stout. Are you freaked out by the idea of oysters in your beer? What if I told you that each barrel is made with over 500 actual oysters (don't worry they are eventually strained out!) The result is not what you might expect. Not seafoody. Not super briny. Just a rich, malty brew with this mineral note that just makes it finish crisply and beautifully. The oyster takes the heavyiness out of the malt and makes it a truly refreshing and truly delicious beer. Look for the 22 oz bottles in your local liquor store and snap it up quickly since our sources tell us this is the most popular of the 100 barrel series yet and is flying off the shelf (and as all 100 barrel series beer, is in limited supply).

After sampling a few more bres, we perused the gift shop and left with some t shirts, a few bottles of the Island Creek Oyster Stour and three growlers of beer (Chocolate Stout, Munich Dark and the Leviathan Baltic Porter).

If you live in the area a trip to the Harpoon Brewery is definitely in order. You will get to sample (responsibly of course) to your heart's content, learn a lot (the tourguides are informative and the bartenders will answer any questions, no matter how lame. Believe me) and it will all only set you back $5.

Tours are only offered on weekends and usually sell out so get there early!
Saturday 11:30AM - 4:30PM (every 1/2 hour)
Sunday Noon to 3pm (evey hour).

Luckily tastings are free, less busy and offered on weekdays.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays @ 4PM
Fridays @ 2Pm and 4PM.

Don't forget to check out their St Patrick's Day Festival!

Visit the Harpoon Brewery at
360 Northern Avenue
Boston, MA 02210

Moving on, we decided since the day was still young to head over to another favorite local brewery, the Sam Adams Brewery in Jamaica Plain! This would be our third time touring the facility (we even got to take a tour with Jim Koch himself thanks to the awesome dudes over at BeerAdvocate.com).

We probably haven't been in about two years and I was surprised how much the brewery had changed. Much roomier, better displays and an actual area to listen to the tour guide tell us all about Jim Koch, Sam Adams, and their amazing line of beer.

There is a cardinal rule for going on the Sam Adams tour, particularly if there is a large group. Stand towards the back. You can still hear and see everything that's going on, and more importantly, the tasting room is directly behind you so you get first pick of seats in there when the group moves on! See? This is why you read this blog. Wise words.

Anyway, at the Sam tastings you may not get as many beers to taste as you do at Harpoon but you do get more of the beer that you do taste. In our tasting we sampled three (in order from left to right below) - The Boston Lager, Noble Pils, and new offering Brick Red.

Adam loves him some Noble Pils (though he was somwhat devastastaed that it replaced his beloved White Ale as the Sam Adams spring offering). IN his words "It's crisp and hoppy, but not overly bitter. It's got a great color, and a nice floral bouquet. Most importantly, you can drink several of them and not feel like you have to switch to a different beer".

Me? I am not a hops girl so I preferred the Brick Red. I loved it's toasty maltiness and it was just bitter enough to give it an edge. Furthermore, for every pint of this delicious beer ordered in Boston, a portion of the proceeds go to Jim Koch's Brewing the American Dream Fund which gives low income entrepeuneurs the support they need to succeed! Drinking and charity = a winning combo if you ask me!

We also learned about more about their Barrel Room Collection.

Celebrating Sam's long history of aging beer in wood barrels - these three offerings are bottled in a 750ml bottle and finished with a champagne cork.

Samuel Adams New World Tripel: Pale gold in color, this ale is big, flavorful and complex. A special Belgian yeast strain adds tropical fruit and spice notes to the crisp dry ale, while Saaz hops add a subtle herbal note. (~10% ABV)

Samuel Adams American Kriek: The intense black cherry character in this beer comes from Balaton cherries, which were discovered in Hungary and are now grown in Michigan. These special cherries are prized for their depth of flavor. The tartness from the cherries is balanced by a rich, malty character with toasted oak notes added from the barrel aging. (~7% ABV)

Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red: This unique brew defies traditional beer style definition. The rich, malty brew combines notes of tart fruit from the yeast with a toasty oak character from the barrel aging. The long dry finish is almost wine-like. This is a beer that is satisfying on its own and also pairs well with many foods such as braised or roasted meats, beef stews and strong salty cheeses. (~9% ABV)

(descriptions from the website)

Adam and I bought a three pack of the Barrel Collection offerings and look forward to trying them all (and reporting back our findings) .

In any case the Sam tour is something everyone should do at least once and you have no reason not to since it's cheap (usually a suggested donation of $5). They offer tours on the following schedule:

Mondays - Thursdays 10AM-3PM
Fridays 10AM-5:30PM
Saturdays 10AM-3PM
All tours depart every 45 minutes and last about an hour.

The Sam Adams Brewery is located at
30 Germania Street
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

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