Wednesday, September 29, 2010
So Sarah and I were contacted last week by Norman Miller (aka: the Real Beer Nut)- a columnist for the Metrowest Daily News, asking for some information on an upcoming story he was doing for his column on New England Beer Bloggers. We had met Norman back in 2006 or so at the Boston Wine School, where they were holding a special beer event - with the head brewers of Magic Hat (where we tried Wacko for the first time), Cambridge Brewing Company, and Russian River Brewing. We also happened to be at a Boston Tweet Up at Lord Hobo two weekends ago with Norman, but it took Sarah and I a few minutes to realize where we had met him before.
Well, since the Tweet Up I have been following Norman on Twitter (@RealBeerNut - you should follow him), which is where I saw that he in fact posted his story about Brew England, as well as four other beer blogs. It was a great read, and I think you will all like it.
Please take a minute to visit the Metro West Daily News website, where you can read Norman's full story - or just click here. To check out Norman's own blog, click here.
We've had a surge in followers on Twitter recently, but if you're not yet following us, please click the link to the right to follow the madness!
Belgian Style Pale Ale
Bottled June 17, 2010
Batch 5, Bottle 402 of 420
8.5% ABV, 1pt 6oz.
This brew pours a very golden pale ale, which is very similar to a Belgian white – except it is much clearer (filtered). The beer also features a medium head that dissipates fairly quickly. It has a very nice carbonation as well, which is helped by the clarity. The fragrance is crisp, clean, and reminiscent of a Czech Pilsner.
The beer is slightly bitter, though I was unable to really pick out the hop characteristics. The beer also has a full body, as it coats your entire mouth. The description on the bottle explains that there are hints of pear, and although I was unable to find that flavor, it was mildly fruity – which becomes more noticeable as the beer warms up.
To be honest, I was not particularly a fan of this beer. It shared too many characteristics of a pilsner, in my opinion, which I am not typically fond of. I do, however, love the care and attention brewer Bill Herlicka gives to his beer. His beers are all brewed in small batches, as indicated by the individually numbered bottles, and are dated for ultimate freshness. While this beer wasn’t quite for me, Bill brews many different styles, and I look forward to trying more of his beers.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
So, I have a lot of beer in my apartment. I mean sure, most people have a six or twelve pack on hand most days, but I literally have a TON of beer at home. Okay, well I don’t technically have a ton, but I still have several gallons. Yes, there is a good amount that is old homebrew which I must sadly dump as it is getting to the 8+ month mark, but there is still a good number of fresh beers ready to be pulled from my beer fridge (and big fridge).
I must admit that I’ve been completely busy over the past few weeks. I just started a brand new semester at UMass Boston, taking two new courses while trying to finish two incompletes I have after my last broken leg in November. Add to that the fact that Sarah and I are moving this weekend, and I have been neglecting my beers. I know – it’s sad! I was going to do a Tuesday Night Tasting last night, but after getting out early from work and selling some pieces of furniture, Sarah and I were starving and opted to go to our favorite local sushi joint Fuji 1546.
After drinking the largest Japanese beer I’ve ever seen – Asahi, clocking in at 33.8 fl oz, I ordered a few bottles of Sam Adams Oktoberfest to end the night. Needless to say, a Tuesday Night Tasting was not going to happen.
For that I apologize. Once we’re moved, I’ll be able to really focus on making sure these takes place AT LEAST once a week. Quite frankly, trying new beers and writing reviews is one of my favorite things to do!
So to make it up to you all, what I can do – and will do (seeing how I didn’t get to one last night), is tell you what I have in my beer fridge! I’m probably going to forget some, but you’ll just have to stay tuned for more!
Okay…we still have some leftovers from our trip to our favorite New Hampshire beer store- Berts Better Beers in Hooksett as well as Barb's Beer Emporium in Concord from Labor Day weekend. I have a White Birch Brewing Belgian Style Pale Ale (really excited to try), a Sierra Nevada Porter, a Stone Brewing Co. Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale (PSYCHED!), and I believe a Tuckerman Brewing Seasonal brew. Some REALLY good stuff (I’m assuming as I’ve not had any of them) to try out.
We also went to one of our favorite Massachusetts stores on the 13th – Marty’s Fine Wines who have an AMAZING beer section, and I have the following (I think): Berkshire Brewing Co.’s Oktoberfest (also bought a Steel Rail, but drank it already), a Smuttynose Brewing Co.’s 2008 Really Old Brown Dog Ale as well as their Farmhouse Ale.
I’m pretty sure there are at least two or three that I have, but can’t remember. I definitely know that I have an Abita S.O.S., which stands for Save our Shores. Abita Brewing Company will donate 75 cents from each bottle purchased towards those impacted by the Gulf Coast oil disaster. Aside from being a great cause, I’m hoping the beer is awesome.
So there it is! Full disclosure (or as close as I can get)! I still need to do reviews on most of these beers, and I also intend on picking up some more beers in the near future, including the most recent Harpoon Brewery 100 Barrel Series beers. More to come soon!
Monday, September 20, 2010
When Tavolo first opened two years ago, we were both excited since we were already big fans of of Chris Douglass's other Dorchester restaurant, Ashmont Grill (located only a stone's throw from Tavolo). Offering elegant yet comforting Italian dishes, delicious pizzas and a to die for antipasto plate, Tavolo also has a great cocktail and wine list and some of the friendliest people (working the bar, and regular customers) you will meet. It's no surprise this place quickly grew to be one of our go-to places for great food, drink and company.
When we first started this blog and were looking for local bars and restaurants that made an effort to serve local beer, Tavolo popped right up on our list (you can read our original rave review here). We love Chris Douglas's commitment to small and local business, and especially to local beer!
In any case the anniversary party featured a special $2 menu as well as $2 bellinis, live music and an incredible turnout.
The music was great, the atmosphere was festive and while I partook of the martinis, Adam enjoyed Tavolo's latest offering from the Harpoon Leviathan series, the Bohemian Pilsner. While he is not normally a fan of pilsners, he thoroughly enjoyed this one stating that it's richer body made it more drinkable than other pilsners he has tried.
We couldn't leave without getting a photo of Chris and our favorite bartenders, Brian and Donna.
Tavolo is a true friend of local beer and a fantastic place to grab dinner and a drink. It's worth checking out the next time you have an empty spot on your calendar and a yen for some great local beer, delicious food and fun people to enjoy it with.
Tavolo is located at 1918 Dorchester Avenue in Dorchester. Find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Sarah and I are getting ready to move and are in the process of packing, so naturally (at least to us) we haven’t done much for cooking lately. We figured this was as good an excuse as ever to revisit the Sea Dog Brew Pub in Hull, MA, so that’s exactly what we did this past Wednesday.
The Sea Dog Brew Pub opened in June of this year, much to my surprise. I hadn’t heard any buzz about it, until about a week prior to its doors opening. Located on Sunset Bay in the northern portion of Hull, passed the summertime haven that is Nantasket Beach, the restaurant perches itself on the third floor of a beautiful waterfront building. What makes this place unique is that it is a converted school house, which we learned during our initial visit. There is a great open floor plan, with exposed beams, ample bar seats, with a few dozen additional tables in the dining area. Also, they feature a great outdoor deck and seating area, where you get one of the best views in Hull, overlooking the bay with views of the Boston sky line.
The view of Sunset Harbor from the roof deck
Adam posing for a pic, in between sips of his Hazelnut Porter
Mug Club members have individually numbered mugs
Sea Dog actually has three other locations, all in Maine, but the Hull restaurant is the first independently licensed location outside of the state. Unfortunately they do not brew their beer on premises; but, they do get all their draft beer direct from the Maine brewery. They do, however, feature five or six Sea Dog beers that you probably haven’t had before. Of course, their flagship beer – Blue Paw Wheat Ale (blueberry), is in ample supply, but so are their Old Gollywobbler Brown Ale, Riverdirver Hazelnut Porter, Owls Head Light Ale, Apricot Wheat Beer, and their Pumpkin Ale.
The pub also invites its patrons to join their Mug Club. For around $50 a year, you can join their Mug Club, have your own individual larger mug kept on hand (for same price as pints), a Mug Club t-shirt, as well as special Mug Club days which members can purchase 1/2 priced appetizers. You even get a free lunch on your birthday!
The food there is a good mix of American comfort and seasonal dishes, and of course features some extensive seafood options. The first time we went, I ordered the fish sandwich and a cup of clam chowdah, and Sarah had a blackened haddock caesar wrap. This time, I opted for the bbq bacon burger with onion rings, and Sarah had the veggie burger with sweet potato fries. Overall I would say the entrees (and chowder) we’ve had were good, and the sides were excellent!
I have to say the beer is the shining star at the Hull brewpub though. The expanded selection, versus simply the Blue Paw Wheat Ale, is awesome. Until we went to the pub in July, I actually hadn’t tried any other beers offered by Sea Dog. Fortunately, they had several options, which helps keep this beer loving fool happy.
The sampler from our first visit: Blue Paw, IPA, Porter, and Brown Ale
Both Sarah and I had a few pints of the Pumpkin Ale, as we’re in total fall beer frenzy already. Our very friendly and helpful bartender/server offered a sugar, spiced rim, which Sarah certainly enjoyed.
L to R: Pumpkin Ale, Riverdirver Hazelnut Porter
Another highlight of the night was meeting Emily Turner, the manager of the Sea Dog Brew Pub. She is a reader of our blog, but more importantly a beer nut like us! We probably spent a good half hour throughout the rest of the night chit-chatting with her about BrewEngland, the Sea Dog pub, joining the American Homebrewers Association, beer books (like Beer School, and the Naked Pint), and more. She also spoke about how she’s has plans to have special beer events – such as brewers dinners, possible movie screenings, and other cool happenings in their second floor event space.
Sarah relaxing in the downstairs lobby
Overall, this was another great stop on our everlasting beer journey. The Sea Dog Brew Pub is located on 2 A Street in Hull, MA. If you're in the area, stop by for a bite to eat and a few pints, and let Emily know Adam and Sarah from BrewEngland sent you!
Thursday, September 16, 2010
It occurred to me also that this might be the greatest idea I have ever had.
First of all, I had to pick a great pumpkin beer. Something really pumpkin-y (i.e. made with real pumpkins) with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg and maybe some cloves. I went to Marty's in Newton on my lunch break and perused their pumpkin offerings (of which there are many!). Ultimately I decided on Cisco Brewer's Pumple Drumpkin Spiced Ale since I had never tried it but had heard great things about it, and also due to the fact that it is a New England beer and it did not hurt matters that I love the label design!
Now second, it wouldn't be right to use this beer in a recipe without tasting it right. So I poured some for Adam and myself and we gave it a try.
Of all the pumpkin beer I have drank in my life, this is my favorite so far. Delicious rich tasting pumpkin ale with strong spicy notes that tastes like how it feels to jump into a pile of leaves after an afternoon of apple picking and pumpkin carving. Too sentimental for you? Sorry but a good pumpkin ale brings out the poet in me what can I say? Adam, who tends not to love fruit beers or the like, loved this as well and ranked it right up there with his new fave, Shipyard's Smashed Pumpkin which is high praise indeed!
So after determining this beer would be perfect in my cupcakes, I set about making them. The ingredients could not be easier.
Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes
(yields 20 cupcakes)
1 package of spice cake mix
12 oz Pumple Drumkin Spiced Ale (or whatever pumpkin beer you love)
1 container of cream cheese frosting
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Combine the cake mix and beer (adding it slowly) in a mixer and blend on medium for 2 minutes. Spoon into cupcake tin (you will want to fill them 3/4 of the way). Bake according to package directions.
Once baked, let cool thoroughly. Combine frosting with spice and vanilla (I find this trick really gets rid of the "store bought" flavor and fools people into thinking you made the frosting yourself!). Frost the cooled cupcakes and then chill an hour before serving.
What is great about these cupcakes is they actually retain some of the "beery" taste. While richly pumpkin-y and spicy, there is the faint taste of malt and spice beneath the sweetness that makes these cupcakes a real treat . Now I wouldn't necessarily make these for your child's Halloween party but any adult who appreciates beer and cupcakes will love these for sure!
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Beer Works is located in the back area of the newly (re)built Hingham Shipyard, which is "being transformed into a waterfront village of luxury town homes, apartments, condominums, restaurants, shops, etc..." Basically, that means it'll be a new attraction in the town, but more importantly the home to what will likely be one of our new favorite places to visit.
Because it was the opening night, we were able to grab a parking spot directly in front of the entrance; however, to our surprise, it was quite packed. We were quickly greeted at the door, as we made our way to the bar. The bar seating was actually filled up, but to our luck there happened to be two spots open - it was meant to be! We were greeted by our server/bartender, and we ordered our first beers: mine was a Hingham Pale Ale, and Sarah opted for the Oktoberfest (guess whose is who).
Both beers were quite good, and an excellent start to our first visit. The Hingham Pale Ale was slightly bitter, but with a soft sweetness. The Oktoberfest was light in body, and pretty malty, as one would expect from a Marzen. We then ordered our dinner, while taking in the beautiful sites of Beer Works' new digs.
Beer Works has 16 beers on tap, with room for more!
Now, this is the third location I've visited, but is instantly my new favorite. If you're not from Boston, you probably don't know that Beer Works has two downtown Boston locations. One is in Fenway, directly across from our beloved Ball Park, as well as on Canal Street, next to my personal favorite place - the TD Garden, where my boys in Black and Gold play (as well as the Celtics). Beer Works also has locations in Lowell, MA(where they bottle their beer for retail), two locations at Logan International Airport, as well as one in Salem, MA.
The dining area at the new Hingham Beer Works is incredible. They have a very large, open dining area, with additional booth seating, and high top tables adjacent to the bar. It should be noted that the bar is incredibly large and L shaped, with the capability of seating at least 35-40 people. There is also an outdoor patio space, which (I'm assuming) will open in the spring. There is even a side room, capable of being used as a function room.
Anyway, our dinner came, as did our next round of drinks - I had the Double Pale Ale, and Sarah ordered the Black Rider.
The Double Pale Ale is an unfiltered, over-hopped, American Pale Ale. It is incredibly floral and fragrant, and was exactly what I love in my beers...bitter! The Black Rider is a Black Lager brewed with a small percentage of roasted malt, which gives it its amazing black color. However, it is incredibly smooth and tasty. It is lighter than a Porter, but has similar characteristics- slightly smoky, smooth as ever, and not very bitter.
For my last round, I went with a tall Oktoberfest, inspired by Sarah's enjoyment as well as my own curiosity of trying the beer for the first time. Sarah enjoyed a Hendricks Martini, which she noted was pretty good!
Because it was the grand opening, the Chief Brewer for all locations, Tim Wilson, offered to take us on an impromptu tour of the brewhouse. Tim has been with Beer Works since 2007, but started his professional career at Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, CA, and also worked at John Harvard's.
Shown in the following pictures are the seven new 300 gallon fermentation tanks.
From our seats at the bar
From the brewhouse
Tim took us all around, along with a two other guests, including the cooler room - which pumps the beer right to the bar out of their tanks or half-barrel kegs.
A gift from the Gods!
At any rate, it was a great tour, and Sarah and I were able to talk beer with Tim for a good 20 minutes. It was an excellent end to our first experience at Hingham Beer Works, and we will definitely be going back soon for more fresh beer.
If you haven't been to these excellent brewpubs, it's worth a trip to the Boston area. Hit up a Sox game, go to a Bruins or Celtics game (make sure to go early for both, it will be crowded), or one of their other locations for some great beer!
Redhook Ale Brewery – Portsmouth, NH / Seattle, WA
8-4-1 Expedition American-Style Imperial Brown Ale
9.5% ABV, 55 IBU, 1pt 6oz
I’ve had this bottle in my beer fridge for a few weeks, waiting for the right time to sample it, and that time was last night. Although this is a Spring/Summer Limited Release beer, it has a shelf life of up to one year!
As you can see, the beer pours a dark but soft amber color, with a medium white head. The smell is a rich, full, and fragrant blend of malt, caramel, and a bit sweet, as the 8-4-1 is oak aged and brewed with honey. The taste is heavy on malts, but had a subtle sweetness to match its aroma. It also has hints of maple too, likely picked up by the oak barrels. The 8-4-1 Expedition has a full mouth feel, and leaves a moderate aftertaste.
The beer is reminiscent of a Belgian double or tripel, as it is high in alcohol. It certainly packs a punch, and like many of the bombers I’ve had, are best as a once in a while brew.
If you haven't made the trip to Portsmouth, NH, (as with most breweries we've visited) I definitely recommend it. Sarah and I went Brew Trippin' in Portsmouth last year, and had a great time! It's a cool town, with a lot to do!
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Now I am a bit of a pumpkin beer aficionado. My favorite beers are typically released in the fall and winter. I love spice, warmth and hints of pumpkin. Shipyard's Pumpkinhead is one of my perennial favorites so I was intrigued to see their Smashed Pumpkin for the first time. The latest in Shipyard's Pugsley's Signature Series, Smashed Pumpkin is offered in a 22 oz bottle, with a very respectable 9% ABV, I knew I had to try it. Adding even more intrigue, Bert recommended pairing it in a glass with Shipyard's Bluefin Stout - referred to as a Smashed Stout. The richness of the stout is said to cut the pumpkin-ness of the Smashed Pumpkin and create almost a taste of pie crust in your mouth.
First, we tried each beer on it's own. The Smashed Pumpkin was a pumpkin explosion in my mouth, definitely more in your face than Shipyard's other pumpkin offering, Pumpkinhead. The 9% ABV doesn't hurt matters either. I would consider this a manly pumpkin beer.
The Bluefin Stout is smooth and comforting (as most stouts are to me). Hints of dark chocolate and coffee round out the taste and had me immediately thinking Bert was onto something with his pairing recommendation.
Next step? Mix 'em up!
I filled each glass about halfway with the Smashed Pumpkin, then carefully layered the stout on top, using a spoon so as not to pour too quickly.
The result was exactly as Bert had prescribed! The richness of the stout cut the sweetness of the pumpkin and did create a toasty pie crust effect with enough of the fruitiness in there to actually taste like a delicious spicy pumpkin pie in a glass, not too sweet, and with a little bite. This is an ideal pairing for a cold September evening! We would definitely recommend picking up a few bottles of each the next time you are heading out to a party this season and mixing up some Pumpkin Pie in a glass for your friends. We will definitely be adding this to our fall beer rotation!
Friday, September 3, 2010
Mayflower's flagship beer
I should preface that we were already big fans of Mayflower Brewing Company, and have been since our first encounter at Lamb Jam back in March. Up until then, I had only tried one or two of their beers beer at the American Craft Beer Festival, but quickly learned in March that this was a great brewing company. When Sarah, Peter, Andy, and I went to Lamb Jam, we were literally the last four guests in the room, and Mayflower was the last brewery still serving beer. I struck up a conversation with the guys pouring the beer earlier in the event, and frequented their booth many times there after. We also ran into the same fine people at the Bacon & Beer Festival in April, where I was recognized by the people at Mayflower (and Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project).
Previously, Mayflower only gave tours on Thursday and Friday afternoons; however, for the course of the summer, they were offering Saturday tours from 1-4pm through Labor Day Weekend. But, knowing we would be in the area, we couldn’t pass up one of the final opportunities (at least for now) to see their facility on a Saturday.
The brewery is currently located in a cluster of small businesses in Plymouth, very close to the mall. It also wasn’t very hard to find, thanks to our GPS. We immediately got excited once we spotted their sign.
When we walked in, to our surprise, there was no one in the lobby/tasting room. We figured they had just started a tour, so we took it upon ourselves to peruse their merchandise. It wasn’t more than a few minutes later when the tour guide/sales rep Ryan – the same guy we met at Lamb Jam and Bacon & Beer Festival, made his way back to the tasting room. He once again recognized me, and offered us a sample before heading back into the brewery for the 2nd half of the tour.
Now, I’m still trying to find out if it’s a good or bad thing that I’m recognized when visiting breweries or beer events. Could it be that I ask such awesome questions that I’m someone who should be remembered? Probably not. Is it that I love talking about beer and figure the guys and gals pouring their samples do as well, and proceed to talk their ears off? Eh, perhaps. Or could it possibly be that I am really annoying, so they’re forced to remember the obnoxious guy from beer events? The question remains to be answered, but I hope it’s not the later.
Adam and Andy being classy
At any rate, we got our samples, and headed back into the brewery. Ryan showed us their keg filler, which must be similar to the one that the Harpoon Brewery in Boston has, which allows them to sanitize and fill the keg in about three minutes! They have a more intense, and less cooperative bottle filler, which often short changes the beer. So, the guys working the line return the bottles to the line, so they can be topped off. Talk about a hands on process!
Once the kegs and bottles a filled, they get moved to the cold storage area. It should be noted that all the beer that Mayflower produces, gets stored in refrigeration, right next to some of their several varieties of hops. They also have two delivery trucks, which distribute the brew all over Massachusetts. The company brewed 2,000 barrels last year and their current facility has the capacity to top 5,000 barrels. However, they’re in the process of expanding their brewery, which should allow them to produce up to 6,000 barrels! It’s the company’s goal to build their own brewery in Plymouth sometime in the future, but for now this expansion will certainly help them get their beer to a larger market.
Sarah and Meaghan enjoying their samples
We made our way back to the tasting room for a few more samples, where we were met by John and Matt, who came down from the North Shore to enjoy some beer. We quickly struck up a conversation with them and soon became best of buds, talking about beer festivals we’ve attended, the beers we’ve tried, and the breweries we’ve visited. Ryan took us back into the brewery for round two of the tour, before wrapping up with a final taste test.
L to R: Sarah, Adam, Meaghan, Ryan, Matt, Ryan's buddy, John
Mayflower Brewing Company’s beers are currently only available in Massachusetts, and if you haven’t tried their beer you are definitely missing out. Their IPA has quickly become one of my favorites. It has a full, rich, and malty body, which is complemented by the bitter hop aroma and finish. It is extremely enjoyable and drinkable, as is their Porter – which happens to be Sarah’s favorite. You can expect to see a full write up about both beers in the near future, and eventually their Imperial Stout which is currently aging in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels (the same used for Sam Adams Utopia) and set for release in January '11.
It was certainly worth the drive to Plymouth to check out this brewery. If you're thinking about going, I highly recommend it. Sarah and I have been on many brewery tours, and have enjoyed them all, but Mayflower was definitely one of the best ones we've been on to date. Their selection of hand crafted beers is not to be missed.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Blue Hills Brewery – Canton, MA
6.75% ABV, 22oz.
The beer pours an extremely dark color, with a tinge of dark amber notes. It leaves a moderate and fluffy head, with a coloring of a cream stout or porter. The beer retains the head decently though, as it takes some time to dissipate. The smell is fitting to the color, giving hints of roasted malt, chocolate, and coffee.
At the same time, the brew features a very dark, chocolate and porter-esq flavors. It is very mild, and not very bitter, contrary to the description given on the Blue Hills website. Certainly my pallet is different than theirs, but I’m also accustomed to hoppier or bitter beers like IPAs and Imperial IPAs. Any bitterness or citrus aroma was masked by the body of the malt. The beer is very filling, and considering it’s only available in 22 oz. bombers, it’s probably a wise choice.
I do however like to support local breweries and small businesses, so I was happy when the Black Hops didn’t share that same weird flavor. It may take another bottle or two to say that I actually like the beer, which I will pick up soon, but this is a step in the right direction for Blue Hills Brewery.