Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Brew England Vistis: Harpoon Brewery (Boston, MA)

This past weekend we once again visited one of my favorite brewing companies, Harpoon Brewery, in Boston, MA with some of my closest friends. We're celebrating the fact that I’m turning old or otherwise known as 30, this week. Sarah organized a group of friends to join us in taking the tour for the first time. Though we’ve been there in the past (see Two Breweries, One Day), we had yet to actually take the tour.

Sarah went in the morning to purchase our tickets, so we could avoid the line that began stretching into the former parking lot. The brewery is now in the midst of expanding, so they have temporarily relocated their parking lot (despite previous mentions of having to park in the garage across the street) to just before the entrance to the actual brewery, so the free parking was a plus!

My best friend PJ and I are pumped to visit the brewery!

If you haven’t been to the Harpoon Brewery in Boston (or Windsor, VT), I highly recommend it. In my opinion, they are tied with the Magic Hat Brewery (Burlington, VT) in terms of awesomeness when it comes to their tasting area. It’s reminiscent of an Irish Pub, and c’mon…who doesn’t love an Irish Pub? More on the tasting in a bit…

We waited for the balance of our guests to arrive, and they did just in time to join the tour. We started on what I like to call “the observation deck”, to talk about the general brewing process – basic four ingredients (water, hops, grain, and yeast), mashing, lautering, the boil, etc. I call it the observation deck because the previous two times I visited the brewery, I only went as far as the deck which overlooks the brew house.

This was taken in Feb 2010 on the "observation deck"

After our talk of the brewing process, we headed to the brewery floor to talk about fermentation and get a sample of green beer. Green beer is fermented beer that has yet to be carbonated. We were given samples of the IPA, Harpoon’s flagship beer, and were told we’d taste the beer again after the tour to compare and contrast uncarbonated and carbonated beer. I’d say the green beer had similar flavors if it were to come out of a cask- which is served lightly carbonated, unlike bottel conditioned or force carbonated beers. It was flat, but still pretty good!

After talking about green beer (and trying to drink an entire tank of liquid goodness), we proceeded to their keg filling area, as well as the bottling line. Their state of the art keg washer/sanitizer/filler can fill kegs in a matter of minutes. Because their Vermont brewery doesn’t have this machine, and we were told it can take upwards of 30+ minutes to wash and fill a keg by hand, the Boston brewery is put in charge of 100% of the kegs produced by Harpoon. They estimated they produce approximately 60% of the bottles as well.

The storage area was next, which holds approximately 25,000 cases at any given time. That may seem like a lot, but in the wide scheme of things it’s not, considering how much beer they produce and how much is consumed on an annual basis. I don’t exactly remember what the stat was, but it was pretty big…I’m sure I help them out quite a bit myself.

Finally, it was back upstairs to the tasting room. That day their tap line up consisted of UFO Hefeweizen, UFO Raspberry, UFO Pale Ale, UFO White, Munich Dark (my favorite that day), Leviathan Imperial IPA, Belgian Pale Ale, Summer, Pott’s Landbier (100 Barrel Series), Ale, and Harpoon Cider. I tried most of these beers, and they were all good! (stay tuned for a Tuesday Night Tasting of Pott’s Landbier) It was great to taste these beers and share my thoughts with my friends. It definitely gave a different dynamic to the tour/brewery experience.

All in all, the tour was a great time. Their retail shop is located within the tasting area, and you can also purchase growlers, single beers, six/twelve packs, and cases to go. My recommendation is to grab a few growlers to go, which is a great way to take home some brewery fresh beers. If you're like me though, you'll probably spend $50-$100 on cool beer related stuff!

L to R, Top: Sarah, Chris, Eric, Andy, Jill, Peter, Nicky, PJ, me, Joe
L to R, Bottom: Meaghan, Jenn, Mike

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Beer, Beer, and More Beer!

So, aside from getting to sample some new beers over the next week or so for our Tuesday Night Tastings, Sarah and I are planning some new beer inspired trips.

Last Saturday, we once again trekked to the land called Old Orchard Beach, Maine for some fun with my family. My parents are seasonal campers at Wild Acres Camp Ground, which is located about a 5 minute walk to the beach. When we showed up, much to our surprise, we wound up arriving to an empty camper. So, after downing a couple RedHook Brewery Rope Swing Summer Pilsners, we decided to go to our favorite local spot - Jimmy the Greeks.

If you're a beer lover and you ever find yourself in OOB, you have to stop at Jimmy's (we are found of calling it Yimmy's). If I counted correctly, they have 48 taps, and over 60 bottles. They have waaaaay too many good beers to list, but they are all craft taps - with the exception of Miller Light. We were also told by our Beer Goddess that they are renovating their back room/club area, and are adding another 40+ different beers back there too.

Unfortunately, we didn't have our camera on us (for some reason we left it in the camper), so we'll have to give a full review of it later.

Anyway...my 30th birthday is next week (can't quite believe it...). In celebration, we'll be heading into town Saturday to FINALLY take a tour of the Harpoon Brewery in Boston (been there twice, never for a tour), followed by dinner and plenty of drinks at the Atlantic Beer Garden - both located in the Seaport District. I'm very excited for both!

If that wasn't totally kick ass by itself, we're also going back to one of our favorite spots on the 29th (my bday)- the Samuel Adams Brewery in Jamaica Plain, MA. Not only do I get to hang out at a brewery, but it's an official rally for the American Homebrewers Association (AHA). This means Sarah and I will get to drink great beer, eat some cool bbq from Northeast Catering, and have a chance to win cool prizes thanks to Beer & Wine Hobby (The rally is only available for AHA members, but there is still time to register! You can do it online, or sign up next Thursday at the door).

Between these two brewery visits, I can't think of a better way to celebrate my 30th birthday!

On top of that, we're in the planning stages of visiting Ebenezer's Pub in Lovell, ME, which was rated the #1 Beer Bar in World by Beer Advocate Magazine for the fifth year in a row. They have over 35 Belgian beers on tap, with over 700 additional "well kept" bottles.

We're also going to revisit the Tuckerman Brewing Company in Conway, NH as we didn't take pictures and notes when we visited them last summer. Who knows, maybe we'll find another place to stop at on the way back through?!?

If you know of any great spots along the New Hampshire and Maine borders, or along the coastline of the North Shore in MA that we should visit, please let us know! We're always looking for suggestions!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tuesday Night Tasting - Smuttynose Summer Weizen Ale

Smuttynose Brewing Co. - Portsmouth, NH
Summer Weizen Ale
5% ABV, 12 oz.

This is Smuttynose Brewing Co’s summer seasonal wheat ale, which pours a golden, pale blonde color. It’s rather clear for a hefeweizen, but it doesn’t deter from the overall color. It also features a wonderful frothy head, which hangs out in your glass for a short while. The weizen has a gentle and smooth flavor and mouth feel, with a subtle citrus flavor. Its smell accentuates the flavor as well.

The beer leaves little aftertaste, which compared to other summer wheat ales, is somewhat different. It is certainly a drinkable beer, and would pair well with fish, or salads. It is notably different than Sam Adams or Harpoon’s summer seasonal beers, so if you haven’t tried one of these, I would recommend it. It’s not my favorite Smuttynose offering, but is a suitable seasonal brew!

The Smuttynose Brewery, which is located in beautiful Portsmouth, NH is now offering tours on Saturday mornings at 11am. They formerly only had tours on Friday afternoons at 3pm (still do!), which although made for a great afternoon of sampling and learning about their beers, was a bit inconvenient for anyone coming from somewhere outside the seacoast area. Thankfully they're making it a little easier for fans of their beer to come and see their facility.

Sarah and I visited their brewery last March and had a blast! Check out "Brew-Trippin' in Portsmouth" to read about our trip!

*Sorry for the stock photo - ours will be added soon!