Friday, April 30, 2010

2010 Bacon & Beer Festival

This past weekend, Sarah, Peter, Peter’s friend Jessica, and I went to the 2010 Bacon & Beer Festival in Southie. When I first heard about it, I was psyched. I mean, c’mon…Who doesn’t love bacon? Who doesn’t like beer? What would the two be like if paired together? What would it taste like if the two were used to make a beer? Well, we certainly found out!

Fortunately for the four of us, we got there early! When we first arrived, there were maybe 20 hardcore bacon and beer fans waiting in line. After a 15 minute walk to find an ATM, I returned to find the line in a serpentine fashion around the building. I asked one of the workers how many tickets were sold, and was astonished (or not so much) to find out that they sold almost 1500 tickets. We knew we had to make a plan of attack, so that we could get some food and beer before the place started to get packed.

This was aproximately one hour after the doors opened

The event featured close to 20 brewers, including some of our favorites- Cape Ann Brewing, Smuttynose Brewing Co., Mayflower Brewing Co, Magic Hat, Mercury Brewing Company (Ipswich), Harpoon, and several more. Some of Boston’s great restaurants were featured too, which made some truly delicious food! I know my personal favorite was from Picco Restaurant, which was a spicy, pulled pork chili. It paired very well with Cape Ann’s Fisherman’s Tea Party, which is a barley wine which uses three types of tea- the same ones which were dumped during the Boston Tea Party.

It wasn’t long before we ran into my buddy Josh, who is a fellow home brewer, and his girlfriend Brynn. I actually brewed my first batch with Josh in early 2009, and he’s helped out with some tips over the past few months since I’ve been brewing.

We have to point out that both Cape Ann Brewing and Mercury Brewing Company had the best beer delivery mechanisms- Cape Ann’s was an old converted VW Bus, and Mercury’s was a converted Chevy box truck, which both had external tap handles, drawing from their kegs located on the inside.

Ipswish Ale & Stout

Besides the awesome Fisherman’s Tea Party barleywine, the best blended beer (as we’ll call it) belonged to Harpoon Brewery. They made a special beer for the event, their Bacon Bock, which was actually very good.

It had a subtle smoky bacon flavor, but didn’t mask the body of the bock itself. I wonder if we can find it anywhere to enjoy at home? Smuttynose Brewing Co. also had a bacon beer, which was their Old Brown Dog Ale with Bacon. Maybe it was because I’ve had, and thoroughly enjoy the Old Brown Dog Ale, that I was not quite a fan of the version with beer, but I give them full marks for trying it out!

While we felt the overall beer selection was very good, as was the food that we tried, we felt that there were far too many people there. Unlike Lam Jam, which was on the smaller side and saw no lines at any stations, the Bacon and Beer Festival had many lines once everyone was inside. I’m not saying we didn’t have a good time- we certainly did; however, it could have been more enjoyable with about 500 less people. Although, I have to hand it to the dude from Mayflower Brewing Co. and the woman from Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project for recognizing me from Lamb Jam.

From Lamb Jam 2010

Tuesday Night Tasting- Fireman’s Pail Ale & Brewmaster’s Series Coffee Stout

So because I love beer so much, I decided once again to do two different beers. Truthfully, they've been sitting in my refrigerator for several weeks (which is quite an oddity for me), so I figured it was time to try them!

Pennichuck Brewing Co. – Milford, NH
Fireman’s Pail Ale, American Pale Ale
1 pint 6oz (650ml)

I finally picked this beer up at Curtis Liquors in Weymouth, MA a few weeks ago. I had heard about Pennichuck Brewing Co. before, but hadn't had any of their beers, so I figured I'd try it out.

As I mentioned, the Fireman’s Pail Ale was my first beer from this small brewery out of southern New Hampshire. From the pour, I had a feeling I was in for a treat. It has a nice amber color, with a minimal head. It’s definitely a malty brew, with soft bitterness (but not overly hoppy), with subtle caramel tones. It has a dry, sweet aftertaste, but not very overbearing with sweetness. It’s not a fruity beer by any nature, but has some similar characters, such as the sweetness.

It also has a malty and caramel fragrance. It’s lightly carbonated and doesn’t blow you over like some American Pale Ales. It’s a good beer, but would probably be best served with food such as a burger, fish & chips, or a sandwich.

I was looking forward to trying more beers by Pennichuck Brewing Co. and perhaps visiting their brewery over the course of the summer; however, I read online that they closed their brewery in late 2009. The bottle I purchased unfortunately didn’t have a date on it, which means the beer probably wasn’t so fresh.

Let this be a reminder that it's incredibly important to check the freshness dates, or dates the beer was bottled, to insure you get the best flavor. The beer can go stale, or the ingredients can turn bad, producing off flavors.

Long Trail Brewing Co. – Bridgewater Corners, VT
Brewmaster’s Series Coffee Stout
Fermented with Vermont Coffee Co.’s coffee
8% ABV, 50 IBU, 1 pint 6 oz.

Long Trail Brewing Co. is one of my favorite breweries, not just in New England. So, when I saw this Coffee Stout, I knew I had to try it!

This beer pours a creamy, smooth brew with a medium brown head. The beer itself is a dark rich black, as you can see. It has a full bodied mouth feel, and is mildly bitter- which is often common with stouts.

Sarah and I both agreed that it would make for one hell of a coffee ice cream beer float! It has a slight hint of vanilla, and leaves a pleasant coffee aftertaste. This stout would be paired well with a premium chocolate, or ice cream…you could always substitute it for your morning cup of Joe too!

SO, I will do my very best to make sure next week's Tuesday Night Tasting arrives on time. I have had a very special beer that I have been waiting to try, White Birch Brewing's Wrigian, which is a Belgian Style Ale. I'm making a trip up to New Hampshire next weekend, and will be stopping by Bert's Better Beers in Hooksett again, to restock my beer fridge, and make sure I have ample beers for the Tuesday Night Tastings.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Brewer's Association 2009 Top 50 Breweries

The Brewer's Association posted their 2009 Top 50 Breweries Lists last Wednesday, in Boulder, CO. The BA compiled two separate lists: the Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies, which are made up of small and independent companies, and the Top 50 Overall Brewing Companies. Craft brewers make up over 75% of the list!

Where do your favorite New England breweries rank on the Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies list you ask? Well...

#1 Boston Beer Co. Boston, MA
#8 Magic Hat Brewing Co. Burlington, VT
#10 Harpoon Brewery Boston, MA
#21 Shipyard Brewery Portland, ME
#25 Long Trail Brewing Co. Bridgewater Corners, VT

Or how about the Top 50 Overall Brewing Companies?

#5 Boston Beer Co. Boston, MA
#15 Magic Hat Brewing Co. Burlington, VT
#17 Harpoon Brewery Boston, MA
#31 Shipyard Brewing Co. Portland, ME
#35 Long Trail Brewing Co. Bridgewater Corners, VT

I'd say that's a pretty impressive listing. They're competing against some truly great breweries in California, and the Pacific Northwest, and of course others throughout the US.

Check out the full listing at the Brewer's Association website!

Tuesday Night Tasting- Smuttynose Big A IPA & Shipyard XXXX IPA

Today we'll feature two beers, as last week's Tuesday Night Tasting got pushed back to today....

Smuttynose Brewing Co. - Portsmouth, NH
American Double / Imperial IPA
9.4 % ABV, 12 oz.

This is a full-bodied, India Pale Ale, which features a fresh, piney, floral aroma. The flavor certainly matches the aroma, and the initial though is HOPS. Upon the initial sip, you’ll notice that it is rather bitter; however, it’s a subtle bitterness. Unlike other big IPAs, this one doesn’t punch you in the face with hops. While it’s bitter, it doesn’t linger.

The bottle I picked up at Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett, NH was bottle conditioned in March of 2010. Although it was amazingly fresh, this may have contributed to it being low in carbonation. It appears to be unfiltered, but it has a mellow orange hue. It hangs bitter in your mouth, but once you have swallowed it, the bitterness is gone. It certainly makes you want to drink some more!

This is certainly a great beer in the Smuttynose line up!

Shipyard Brewing Co. - Portland, ME
Pugsley’s Signature Series - Shipyard XXXX IPA
9.25 % ABV, 70 IBU
12 oz (also available in 22 oz or on Draft)

This was another beer I picked up from Bert’s Better Beers a few weeks back. I had tried the Pugsley’s Signature Series Barley Wine and Imperial Porter after visiting the Shipyard Brewery last year, and enjoyed both, so I was excited to try the XXXX IPA.

This beer is extremely drinkable! It has a great amber color, with a minimal head. It’s not overly bitter, despite the 70 IBUs. It has a sweet mix of malt and hops. It’s a great new beer to the Signature Series!

It had subtle carbonation, and doesn’t fill you up. It’s another IPA for people looking to get into the style, and would go great with some bar-b-que or a nice grilled steak.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Adventures in Home Brewing- 4th Edition

Because I had put off brewing last weekend, I knew I had to do it this weekend. SO, I decided to brew this morning! Unfortunately I was woke up around 8am by Sarah, who is known to get up early on days off, and I decided to get things done early.

Some quick stats:

Style: Belgian Wit
6lbs Weizenmalt (wheat & malt) from Williams Brewing
2oz. Sterling Hop Pellets, Alpha Acid = 6%
125ml Belgian Wit (Activator Wyeast) yeast
Original Gravity = 1.042% @ 78% F

I typically start off brewing with about 3 to 3 1/2 gallons of water, to make my wort.

Adding the malt extract to the boiling water

I was going to add a second variety of hops, but I opted to simply use the extra ounce of Sterling hops that I had already opened. It's my intention to perfect my own recipe of this particular style, seeing how it's one of my favorites- so the next time I brew, I'm going to change the type of hops and yeast, until I find a combination of ingredients I like.

I should mention that this is my first non-kit beer. In addition, it's also my first time using the Activator Wyeast. I've heard very good things about the Wyesast from a few of my friends who brew, so I'm quite excited to see how this turns out.

I'm still trying to find ways to make my brewing experience both easier and quicker, which will soon come in the way of an immersion wort chiller. This will mean I can pitch the yeast (add it to the cooled wort) sooner, which will aid in the fermentation process.

I'm also going to try a secondary fermentation with this beer, in addition to dry hoping with an ounce of German Hallertau Hop pellets. The secondary fermentation will help with the quality and clearity of the beer, and the dry hoping will add to the aroma of the beer. I had planned on adding an ounce of bitter orange peel, but figured I'd see how this came out first, and then try it again with the orange peel and probably some coriander.

Speaking of fermentation though, I tasted my Red on Friday night.

It tasted quite nice actually! It had a pale red color, was a bit on the sweeter side- which I find somewhat common in red ales- but unfortunately was not very carbonated. According to The Homebrewer's Companion this could be due to inconsistent and low temperatures. The stat sheet I got with the kit stated it should be between 60-75 degrees, which it was; however, we did have a variation in temperatures over the past three weeks. So, I'll let it condition in the bottle for another week or two before trying it again. I'm hoping the added time will resolve the situation.

I've had issues with over carbonation with my first few batches, so I've tried to reserve a few ounces of priming sugar. It could be that I left out too much, but it didn't seem noticeable at the time. I'm going to assume it was the temperature and we'll go from there.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Adventures in Home Brewing - 3rd Edition

Tonight's the night....

that I try my 3rd concoction- an Irish Red. Truthfully, the kit says it's only a Red, but isn't it more fun to consider it to be an Irish Red? Perhaps there's a subtle difference between the two, but I haven't figured out what it is yet...perhaps someone with more knowledge than me can clue us in.

Well, it just dawned on me moments ago that I have been patiently waiting the minimal three weeks for the beer to condition (carbonate), and now it's on!

You may remember from my last 'Adventures in Home Brewing' post that I had a feeling this would be my finest beer to date. Unlike that monstrosity that I made as my second batch- some may call it an Amber, I call it the worst beer I've ever tasted - this one should come out pretty good. At least I'm hoping that's the case!

With that being said, I'm preparing to brew again either Saturday or Sunday of this weekend. You may not be aware of it, but American Craft Beer Week* is happening May 17-23rd and if I play my cards right, the 4th batch of beer will be ready to drink that week!

Though the Home Brewers Association has a dedicated beer each year, I didn't know about it in time to get the ingredients. Therefore, I'm going to brew what I have (which is somewhat similar). The beer I'm ready to brew will be a Belgian Wit and is going to be my first non-kit beer.

I ordered the ingredients from Williams Brewing, and opted to get a few different malts, yeast, and hop varieties, in order to create something I can "call my own". Though I haven't come up with 100% of the recipe, I'm going to experiment a bit to see how good this beer can be. Once I come up with something I really like, I can consistently brew it. Anyway, it should be interesting and fun. I'll make sure to get some pics and throw them up soon!

*BrewEngland is gearing up for American Craft Beer Week with some exciting stuff. Stay tuned for more information!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Boston Beer Co. & Sam Adams Turns 25!

I have a man crush, and I'm not afraid to tell the world. Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Co. and the Samuel Adams brand, is a hero of mine.

Back in 1984, Jim found his great-great-grandfather's recipe in his attic, and began testing it out in his kitchen. On Patriot's Day in 1985, he introduced the world Samuel Adams Boston Lager, and forever changed the history of American beer.

When Jim first started, he didn't have enough money to distribute the beer in kegs or six packs, so he sold and delivered cases of loose bottles to 33 specific bars in Boston. Six weeks after taking Boston Lager public, he won first place at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, CO. Since then, the company has earned many, many more awards, far too many to list, but you can review their impressive records here.

What's equally as impressive is that Boston Beer Co. has grown so quickly! The climb began in 1985 when they projected sales of 5,000 barrels of beer, and now they ship just under 2 million barrels! Yet still the craft beer industry still only captures a little over 4% of the total domestic beer market, with the major commercial brewers - Anheiser-Busch, Miller, and Molson Coors - produce over 169 million barrels.

What I still can't believe is that so many people drink the major brewers' beers. Though it is true I occasionally drink a Bud or Pabst, I just find these beers incredibly bland and boring. Many craft breweries offer light-ish beers too, which are relatively low in alcohol and very easily drinkable like the Bud Lights, Miller Lights, or Coors Lights of the world (which I believe is the main reason people drink from these companies), but offer more flavor and aren't as watered down as the big beer company's offerings.

I know we've talked about our love for the Samuel Adams brewery, but if you have not been there and either live in the area, or will be visiting Boston, you MUST take a visit to the Jamaica Plain brewery. We've been lucky enough to go on the tour at least five times, including a private tour by Mr. Koch himself. Jim was extremely nice, and you could see how in love he is with beer and his job.

Check out for a great article that came out today, where I pulled much of the statistical information.

Friday, April 9, 2010

International Beer News

Now this is what we like to see - people standing up for what's!

"Scores of Carlsberg workers walked off their jobs in protest yesterday after the Danish brewer tightened rules on workplace drinking and removed beer coolers from worksites, a company spokesman said."

Read the rest of the article here on

My favorite part is the truck drivers at the plant are striking too, even though they are still allowed to drink on the job. That is some solidarity right there.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Day I Died and Went to Heaven – Brew England Visits Bert’s Better Beers

Bert's Better Beers

There’s no doubt that I’m constantly looking for new package stores that have good micro brew selections. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of them in my general area, though I do get pretty excited when I visit places like Curtis Liquors in Weymouth, Lukes Liquors in Rockland, and Marty’s in Newton. When I heard that there was a place in my hometown of Hooksett, NH that specialized in micro brews, I knew I had to check it out.

With life being so busy these days, I haven’t had a chance since Christmas to go through Hooksett; however, if I needed a reason to go to New Hampshire, Bert’s Better Beers is a very good one. Sarah and I took the opportunity to make a stop at this small specialty store this past weekend, as we were on our way to a family bar-b-que a few towns over.

From the moment we arrived, we were not disappointed- it was if I had died and went to beer heaven!

Bert's Better Beers

Bert's Better Beers

We entered the store and took no more than three steps before we were greeted by Bert Bingel, the energetic and very friendly owner of Bert’s Better Beers. We introduced ourselves and were invited to take a navigated tour of the store and talk beer with Bert and his business partner Ron.

Bert, a 17 year veteran of home brewing, knew that he wanted to open a store that lovers of beer or even those looking to get into the world of craft beer could enjoy. He said that every day he is getting new beers, and some how manages to find a spot on the shelves for them. He truly appreciates beer, and more specifically the quality of the beers he puts in his store. If a beer is past its freshness dating, they remove it immediately. It doesn’t matter if it’s one of the larger, more popular lines of beers, if it’s not of the highest quality or freshness, you will not find it in this store. Bert said “it’s not Bert’s beers, it’s Bert’s Better Beers!”

When you first walk in you’ll see the newest arrivals, which usually never fall short of four or five different beers.

Bert's Better Beers

There are three main racks, going left to right, and are sorted alphabetically by style of beer. Mixed in are some familiar New England beers, with many more you probably haven't heard of.

One of the coolest things about Bert’s is that all beers are priced individually, in addition to being priced in six packs. Bert and Ron strongly encourage their patrons to mix and match their six packs. This gives customers a great chance to experience new beers, while reducing the fear of being disappointed by buying too much beer they may not like. Bert's also presorts some mix packs, such as ciders, dark and light beers, or even mead. This is great for people who know what kind of beer they prefer, but would like to check out new brews in that category they may not have known about.

Bert's Better Beers

We also happened upon this fun Boston/New York sixer.

Bert's Better Beers

This featured three Massachusetts and three New York beers, inspired by Opening Day between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. The packs often include food items, tasting glasses, and tasting notes.

They also have an amazing singles cooler, which is found in the back of the store. The cooler houses almost 200 different beers!

Bert's Better Beers

They also have a rotating list of tap handles that are used as make shift cooler door openers, which adds to the overall decor of the shop.

Bert's Better Beers

You’ll also find several more beers on the sides of the store, including displays of Harpoon’s Leviathan series, Unibroue, and Hooksett, New Hampshire’s first and only brewery White Birch Brewing.

Bert's Better Beers

Bert's Better Beers

"We are turning the beer industry on its ear," said Bert with regards to his store and owner and brewer Bill Herlicka of White Birch.

What I think is also the most unique is that Bert's gives a short description of each beer they sell. Dispayed in front of each beer, it includes the name, style, IBU, color, description of the beer, and even food pairings, which all help patrons decide which beer to pick. These descriptions are also printed out with each mixed six pack so you can remember why you picked each beer once you get home!

Bert's Better Beers

Neither of us has ever seen this kind of attention to detail, nor this kind of regard for the beer consumer's experience with in a liquor store environment. You could literally walk into the store with no idea about beer, and leave with a 6 pack of an aassortment of beer you are sure to love.

If the impressive beer selection isn't enough for you, there is also a cooler at the front of the store that features artisan cheeses. These cheeses are made by farmers such as Boggy Meadow Farm in Walpole, NH, Sandwich Creamery in Sandwich, NH, and Robie Farm in Piermont, NH. Bert’s has beer and bar ware specific art and d├ęcor available for purchase as well.

It’s very clear to see both Bert and Ron care about their products and for sure their customers. They don’t hesitate to educate and recommend new beers to customers, without judging or pontificating about their extensive knowledge of beer. They personally sample each beer that comes in the door, prior to it hitting the shelves.

If you’re in southern New Hampshire, or looking for a great place to visit on a sunny afternoon, you must visit Bert’s Better Beers! It’s located at 1100 Hooksett Road (NH-28/US-3) in beautiful Hooksett, NH.

To see more photos from our visit, please click here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tuesday Night Tasting- Hop Monster Blonde

Paper City Brewery- Holyoke, Massachusetts
Hop Monster Blonde
9.5% ABV
1 pt 6 oz

The Hop Monster definitely lives up to its name! This beer is NOT for the run of the mill India Pale Ale fan and certainly packs a punch.

According to the Paper City Brewery website, this Imperial IPA is brewed with “an unreasonable amount of Hops”, and they are not lying. The color is beautifully golden blonde, with a minimal head. It’s very bitter, but still has a subtle crispness to the flavor. It has a full mouth feel while not being overly malty, is quite dry (leaves only the slightest aftertaste) and leaves a great coating on the glass.

This beer is certainly recommended for hop lovers looking for a bold beer! It’s not available in six packs, but you should be able to find it in the 650ml bottles in package stores.

Sarah and I will be checking out the Paper City Brewery, Co. in the upcoming month, and will give a full report on our trip. For now, check out their website for additional information on their wide array of beers!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Adventures in Home Brewing, 2nd Edition

A few weeks ago I decided it was time to brew again. My Bavarian Hefeweisen was starting to run out, and the second beer I did, and Amber, didn’t turn out as anticipated. I had the ingredients for an Irish Red, which I felt was appropriate as it was closing in on St. Patrick’s Day, so I began the process of brewing.

Now I have to admit, I thought I had all my ducks in a row when it came time to brew the second batch, but it turns out I didn’t add enough water to get the correct gravity- hell, I actually forgot to take the initial gravity of the beer before adding the yeast, so it’s no surprise it wasn’t good (though I am aging it a bit to see if it gets better). I swore I’d make up for that swill, so I paid even closer attention to detail. It was especially important, considering the Red was a partial grain beer (my first non-all-malt extract).

The instructions didn’t tell me I had to mill the grain, so I proceeded to do what I thought was right, which was to steep the 4oz. of grain in the steeping bag. After a half hour, it was time to bring the water back up to a boil, and then add the malt extract and bittering hops.

After the boil was done and the wort was cooling, I decided in an effort to save some time (and make my life easier), I would filter the water needed to bring the batch up to five gallons. This proved not only to be time saving, but super convenient when taking the initial gravity reading – something I plan to continue so I can get the yeast added quicker, and cut down on the overall time spent in the “brewery”.

Fermentation started overnight, and after a week of sitting in the primary fermenter, it was time to bottle. Unfortunately Sarah was under the weather, so I was flying solo this round. Needless to say, the color, aroma, and flavor was nicer than the Amber, and on par with the Hefeweisen, so in two weeks from today I hope to be enjoying a few of the Reds after work!

Note: It appears the photos from the last session have gone missing! They will be uploaded if found, otherwise just imagine how awesome they were...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tuesday Night Tasting - Samuel Adams: New World Tripel

Here's to Being Single, Seeing Double and Drinking Tripel*

This is a modified toast my friends and I used to say. And may have also been the introduction to my speech at my friend Jenn's wedding reception. But that is a story for another time.

Tuesday Night Tasting this week brought with it a hum-dinger of a beer. Yes I said hum-dinger and it is the most apt description I could come up with.

12-26-10 - FRIDAY 042

The Sam Adams New World Tripel (our third and final selection from their Barrel Room Collection.) This trappist style ale is a light amber color with a thick and creamy head that eventually fades to a thin film

12-26-10 - FRIDAY 047

It tastes floral, light and crisp but do not get me wrong. When I think of "floral" in regards to beer I usually think "bitter" since I live with a hop head. But this clever beer is floral and fruity in the crispest of ways with barely any hop flavor which makes it extemely drinkable...and also extremely dangerous since it is 10% ABV. Yikes!!! It definitely sneaks up on you. You feel like you are drinking this crisp light-tasting delicious beer that has hints of herb and orange and then suddenly you are really buzzed. The lack of bitterness really makes it seem like it would have way less alcohol in it. Sneaky little Tripel!!

So to recap, an equation.


I would serve this with some smoked gouda or sausage. Or I would just drink it by itself and have a grand old time. The choice is yours. This is both of our favorite beers of Sam's Barrel Room Collection!