Friday, December 31, 2010
And so we did! We went from blogging (sadly) only nine times in 2009 to 92 in 2010. It's still not as much as we wanted, but I think we did a much better job. We created a Facebook Fan page, and as I write this have 447 fans! I wonder where we'll be this time next year? We also started to use Twitter (@brewengland), and have had a great time with that.
In all, this year has seen the following:
32 Beer Reviews - I found 3 that I never put up...those will come soon.
11 Breweries visited - we visited White Birch Brewing, but didn't post
8 Adventures in Homebrewing Posts
5 Beer Events
3 Brewpubs reviewed
BrewEngland was also featured in an article written by Norman Miller (aka: the Real Beer Nut) in his column for the Metrowest Daily News on New England Beer Bloggers. You can read the full article here.
So what were my favorites of this year?
Top 3 Beers (reviewed)
1.) Wachusett Milk Stout
2.) Smuttynose Big A IPA
3.) Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project Baby Tree Quadrupel
Top 3 Beers (not reviewed)
1.) Mayflower IPA
2.) Harpoon 100 Barrel Series Oyster Stout
3.) Cape Ann Brewing Greenhorn IPA
Favorite Brewery Tour
Mayflower Brewing Co. - Plymouth, MA
Favorite Beer Event
So what's up for 2011?
Well, the most exciting event happening in the near future is the "Cure Me I'm Irish" charitable event happening on March 5, 2011 in Randolph, MA. We're very much looking forward to solidifying the brewers line up, and hoping that you all can make it.
Sarah and I are planning to visit the new Cape Ann Brewing Co. brewery and pub in Gloucester as well as the Sea Dog Brew Pub in Woburn, MA in the upcoming weeks. We're definitely going to get to the Public House, American Craft, and Deep Ellum in the Boston area, and Novare Res in Portland, ME soon as well.
Expect reviews of the Horseshoe Pub & Restaurant, which is located in Hudson, MA. I've been there twice, and is a great place. You can expect a review of Jimmy the Greek's, located in Old Orchard Beach, ME, one of our favorite stops in the summertime. We'll also bring you a review of the Portsmouth Brewery, a sister company of the Smuttynose Brewing Co.
You can also look forward to brewery tours of (likely) Wachusett Brewing Co, Wormtown Brewery, Willamantic Brewing Co, Coastal Extreme Brewing Co., Allagash Brewing, Peak Organic, and more! We'll be on the look out for new brewpubs to visit as well.
We're also hoping to redesign the site quite a bit, to make it more user friendly. New logos, new links, etc. I'm working with Chris Cappella, a web designer and graphic artist, on a new look that will be nice! He did a lot of work for the Edison brand beer, and has been designing for a while. I look forward to the upgrade.
Finaly, I'd like to brew more of my own beer. I only got to brew four or five batches, but need to kick start the homebrewing back up. I have ingredients for several beers at home, now I just need to make time to brew them.
We want to thank all of our readers, fans, and anyone who has stumbled upon the blog. We look forward to bringing you more great beer related stuff from our great New England area breweries and brewers in 2011!
Adam & Sarah
A festive Macy's
the Oriental Theater
the Chicago Theater
We did a little shopping, and a little more walking, before deciding that it was time for a break. While walking in the Loop area the previous day, Sarah had spotted a pizza place near Michigan Ave, so we headed that way. As it turns out, we found Pizano's, which I guess is pretty famous for their deep dish...which was great, because that was exactly what we were looking for!
All of Pizano's deep dish pizzas take at least 30 minutes to make. But, we were still somewhat full from our lunch hat Goose Island Wrigleyville, so that bought us some time to digest. Of course, New Belgium Fat Tire and martini helped too!
Again, like most of the places we went, we had some of the most friendly bartenders around. It didn't hurt that they were young, pretty women; however, more importantly they were friendly to a couple of Bostonians. We also ran into a local/regular, who we chatted with as well. I can't recall his name, but I do remember he said he made high-end suits for many of the local politicians, business men, and others and their suits were upwards of $4k each. What was funny is that he was also sporting a lot of Pittsburgh Steelers clothing items, which I found interesting considering he was from Chicago.
Sarah and I were pretty beat after a long day of roaming around, so after a few beers and delicious deep dish pizza (the best pizza I've ever had, quite frankly), we made our way towards home. Of course, we managed to walk through Millennium Park again, as they had a few extra photo ops at night.
We quickly stopped into the Disney Store on the Magnificent Mile to get some shopping done for my niece Kaylyn, before walking back to the hotel for the night.
We still had one more day in Chicago, but unfortunately the weather was pretty miserable. It was cold and raining, but that wasn't going to stop us from enjoying our last hours in such a great city. After some breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and decided to talk downtown again. Despite the rain, we were able to get some more cool pics.
We stumbled on the Chicago Cultural Center, so we used it as a break to get out of the rain. As it turned out, it was free admission, but it was a great time. I've been reading the book "Devil in the White City" by Eric Larson for what seems like forever. It's about the murder and magic that took place at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, which saw many iconic items show up, like the world's largest Ferris Wheel, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer (it's when it won the blue ribbon!). Nevertheless, the city needed to build many, many buildings. The head architect Daniel H. Burnham designed many of the buildings, and the Chicago Cultural Center had a HUGE section dedicated to him. Although we didn't see most of the buildings he designed, we plan on doing so during our next visit.
We walked around a little more, and found a place to grab some lunch. The place was called the Tilted Kilt, which we assumed was a small Irish pub - just our style; however, it was not quite what we were expecting. It turns out it was the Scottish Hooters, with the waitresses and servers in knee high white socks, skimpy kilts, and even smaller shirts. Their food was actually pretty good and their beer was decent as well (I didn't realize until I linked their site that they're seemingly all over the place, especially in the Midwest and south). The train runs right along the building, and the CTA Santa Holiday Train made a (very) quick stop just outside the Tilted Kilt's window. Unfortunately Sarah missed it, but it was pretty cool to see.
After lunch we made one last stop at O'Toole's as I wasn't leaving Chicago without trying a Ska Brewing Co. beer. When we landed at the bar for the first time, I saw that although they didn't have anything by Ska Brewing on tap, they had a bottle of it. I figured I would seek it out on tap first, and if not I'd go back to O'Toole's to try it out. Surprisingly, I couldn't find it on tap anywhere we went, so I ordered a bottle of True Blonde Dubbel.
The beer was a nice, smooth, and potent concoction. It comes in at 8% ABV, but is clean and crisp. It had that subtle flavor you see in great Belgian beers, and was very drinkable. It's a shame I couldn't find it anywhere, but Sarah and I are interested in visiting Colorado soon, so this will be a must see brewery while we're out there.
Sarah enjoying one last martini at Timmothy O'Toole's
We also met a guy named Randy from Cincinnati, who happened to be sitting at the bar. We talked beer, and especially homebrewing as we both partake in the craft. He was an extremely nice guy, and before leaving I gave him one of our business cards. I hope he finds the site and keeps in touch!
Alas, it was off to the airport. Chicago was about to get hit with a major snow storm, so we were lucky, but sad, to be leaving. As we pulled up and checked our bags, we learned that Southwest Airlines had cancelled ALL of their flights for the next day, so we were getting out at the right time. We found Miller's Pub at Midway Airport, had a few drinks, got our picture taken with Santa, and boarded our plane for the trip back home.
To date, Chicago is the greatest city I've ever visited. Granted, I haven't visited too many places, but Sarah and I have fallen in love with the city. We were lucky enough to have her cousin take us to a place we wouldn't have seen, but there were many that we didn't get the chance to visit. We're already planning our next trip back, and we hope to visit in March or April for more antics!
Thursday, December 30, 2010
For anyone who is on the North Shore of Massachusetts, or is looking for a new brewery/brewpub, starting today you can visit the brand new Cape Ann Brewing Co. brewery in Gloucester, MA. Sarah and I visited their old brewery in March and loved it. Our bartender that day was Dylan, who is also one of the brewers, and he couldn’t have been nicer. We chatted about their different brews, snacked on a delicious cheese plate, while enjoying their fresh brews!
This visit was our first, but certainly not our last. Their full line up of beers couldn't have been better. Although we liked them all, our two favorites were the Pumpkin Stout – which I still have one or two at home – and of course their Greenhorn IPA.
Now, I’m definitely a hop head, so I was in love with this beer from the first sip. The Greenhorn goes through a process called hop backing, which is essentially a canister that holds several ounces of hops, and the beer is strained through this mechanism called a hop back. The beer picks up all the aroma and flavor of the hops, and it’s left with a CRAZY IBU level of 120 IBUs. However, it’s not as ferocious as you would expect, which is why Sarah enjoyed it so much. We couldn’t resist taking a growler home with us that day (as well as a t-shirt and pint glass).
We’re also very excited that they are on board with the Cure Me I’m Irish event in March of next year. If you haven’t had their beers, please pick up a six pack from your local package store. Sarah and I know you will love their selection!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Wachusett Brewing Co - Westminster, MA
The Public House Series - Larry Imperial IPA
1pt 6oz. 7.5% ABV, 85IBU
I had first tried the Larry Imperial IPA at the Curtis Liquors' Fall Beer Tasting, and picked up a bottle while I was there. I'm not quite sure why I didn't open it earlier, but nevertheless, I was glad I did last night!
The bottle pours a smooth body and great foamy head, which likes to take its time working its way down. It leaves nice traces on the glass to show you where it has been. The color is a nice golden and copper hue most often found in a good IPA. The aroma is pungently citrusy, piney, yet clean. You can definitely smell the hops on this one!
After my first sip, I said out loud, "Man, is that good!" Nerdy? Yes. True? Yes. So what? Who cares?
Anyway, Larry is a perfect blend of bitterness, subtle maltyness, and hop character. While it's less intense than other Imperial IPAs, that shouldn't discount the fact that this is one hell of a beer! The brew has a full, but not heavy mouth feel. It certainly coats the entire palate, but doesn't linger very long. It has a subtle aftertaste, which makes it hard to resist going back for another sip.
I really wish this beer came in six or twelve packs, because it is that good. I would definitely buy more, and drink more. You could definitely get through 1-2 bombers, but be careful as Larry carries a 7.5% ABV.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
We posted in November urging our readers to Vote "YES!" on Question #1, and the vote passed by a ratio of 10-to-1. Originally a non-binding ballot question, there was curiosity to find out if the tax would ultimately be repealed. Thankfully it is going into effect!
See, when we were planning out our trip, we thought it would be funny/cool to rent a car and drive to Milwaukee for a few hours...simply to say we went to Milwaukee. I mean, from what I hear they have some good brewpubs like the Milwaukee Ale House, Milwaukee Brewing Co. and a few others I can't recall. But, aside from beer, I'm not quite sure what else is there. Anyway, we decided that we could get more done if we stayed in Chicago, which is what we did.
After we finished out meals, we headed to the Magnificent Mile to catch the bus. We were on our way to the Sears Tower. Now, technically it is called the Willis Tower, but no respectable long-time Chicagoan will EVER refer to it as anything other than the Sears Tower. It just doesn't happen.
Nevertheless, after a short line for the security check in, we were on the elevator to the pinnacle of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and 5th tallest building in the world.
Here are some quick stats:
From the Skydeck at the top of the Sears Tower is a massive 1,353 feet (412 meters for the metric crowd) from the ground, perched on the 103rd floor, and has a speedy elevator that takes approximately 60 seconds to ascend to the top. The building itself is 1,450 feet tall and 110 stories in all. On a good day, you can see four states. Fortunately it was a mostly clear day, and we could see all of Chicago, and DEFINITELY get an idea for how unbelievably massive Lake Michigan is.
We poked around the deck, which is similar to the Top of the Hub in Boston, and even spent a few quarters trying to find Wrigley Stadium through a view finder (no such luck...).
We also "dared to stand out" onto the Ledge, which is four separate glass boxes which literally allow you to stand over the streets of Chicago.
Notice the Cape Ann Brewing Fisherman's Brew T-shirt!
Now, I'm not scared of heights. Flying is no big deal, and I could handle walking around the Skydeck with no issues; however, I have to admit that going out onto the Ledge is pretty nerve racking. Sure, it has to be safe, but you still get a bit freaked out being that high up without a parachute and being separated from death by only four inches or so of glass. Anyway, it was a great experience and something I'll always remember. Though, I'm sure I'll visit it again some day.
After coming back down to earth, we wanted to visit the Unity Temple, built by the amazing architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which is located in Oak Park. Due to a snafu with our Google Maps app on our Blackberry, we took the bus to a remote location which was really nowhere near it. Thankfully it was the middle of the day, as this was a part of Chicago you probably don't want to find yourself late night.
We gave up hope on finding the Temple, and instead caught a cab to the Goose Island Brew Pub in Wrigleyville for some lunch. Success! It was one of the places on our list we wanted to visit, and we were finally there.
The Goose Island pub was pretty big. You'd figure they'd have to be, considering they're only about 250 feet from historical Wrigley Field. With it only being around 1-2pm, we had no problem bellying up to the bar for lunch and several beers. Sarah ordered the turkey burger, and I got the cheddar burger (both were delicious), so while we waited for the food to come we ordered a beer flight.
The sampler came with a choice of four beers, so we went with the Green Line Pale Ale, Nut Brown Ale, Christmas Ale, and Bourbon County Stout.
L to R: Bourbon County, X-Mas, Nut Brown, Green Line
The Green Line had a nice floral aroma with a slight bitterness, the Nut Brown was malty, and a little sweet, and the Christmas Ale was also sweet, but with a nice spiciness to it. The Bourbon County Stout was something entirely different. This stout is aged in wood barrels, which completely shines through this beer. In fact, it tastes more like bourbon than it does stout...and at 13.5% ABV, it packs a serious punch. Don't be surprised to see it reviewed here soon.
We both ordered another beer before heading back out into the cold.
We thought about going to the Goose Island Clybourn location, but going to Wrigleyville was better as we could also poke around the stadium afterwards. So with our bellies full, and a nice little buzz, we walked over to Wrigley Field.
"Let's Play Two" says Ernie Banks
Unfortunately, legendary Cubs 3rd baseman and color commentator Ron Santo passed away the week prior. His funeral included a lap around Wrigley Field, which was televised on every Chicago news channel that day. We could see about four helicopters while at the Skydeck, flying down Lakeshore Drive towards the ballpark. People had made a shrine along the wall, leaving pictures, cards, and cans of beer.
We even witness a young girl jump out of a car and dart across the street to leave a memento. It was a sad day in Chicago for many sports fans, but we thought the tribute was very nice. I had never heard of Santo prior to going to Chicago, though I had heard the week before that he passed away. But to put it in perspective for Bostonians, it would be as if Jerry Remy passed away.
Before heading to the train station, we walked around and thought of how much fun it must be to go to a Cubs game. They have a Harry Cary's attached to the ballpark (go figure, right?), and have some other cool bars in the area.
We also snapped this Comcast billboard across the street:
We hopped on the Red Line back to downtown, to continue with our antics...
Stay tuned for Chicago, Part V soon!
I tweeted the picture in response, which was then picked up by UniversalHub.com. I figured I would share the link with everyone! Click here to see Adam @ UH's post.
Universal Hub blogs many times per day, as well as Tweets some good stuff. Check him out at http://www.universalhub.com/!
Monday, December 27, 2010
Kind of like the Frog Pond in the Boston Common, the Loop area of Chicago has an outdoor skating rink. Just beyond the rink was our first stop - Cloud Gate, otherwise known as "The Bean".
We then made an attempt to head over to the Buckingham Fountain, but as you would expect it wasn't on. Perhaps that was because it was about 30 degrees and windy out? At any rate, we needed to warm ourselves up, so we opted to head back into the Loop to find a bar to get a drink while warming up.
We landed at Miller's Pub, located on S. Wabash. Miller's Pub was a cozy, dark, and warm place for us when we needed it. Sarah ordered one of their "famous" Tom & Jerry, which was an eggnog drink served warm. I opted for a Goose Island Honker's Ale.
We figured it'd be a good idea to head back to the hotel and rest for a little while before heading out that night with Sarah's cousin Paul and his wife Christie, but of course not before picking up some beer for that night. I ended up getting a six pack of New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale and a six pack of 2below Winter Ale. Did I mention that I fell in love with Fat Tire after the first sip?
Paul and Christie decided to take us to a very cute restaurant called Home Bistro, located on the North Side of Chicago.
Paul and Sarah happy to see each other!
HB is a very quaint and cute BYOB restaurant. Seating is extremely limited to around 40 or 50 guests, and the servers were some of the most friendly we've experienced anywhere. I have to say that we had some of the more interesting food. We ordered a few starters - escargot and crispy veal sweetbread. Both were surprisingly very delicious. For our entrees, Sarah had Kentucky Lamb burgoo, and I went with the roasted quail...though truthfully, the four of us shared each other's dishes.
Sarah's amazing entree
After dinner, a few bottles of wine, and a six pack of New Belgium beers, we headed out (into the snow) to head to iO for an improv comedy show. As we pulled up to the theater, we noticed that we were literally right down the street from the Goose Island Brew Pub Wrigleyville, a place that we would need to visit while in town. It also helped that we were about 100 feet from Wrigley Field, which I noticed as we hopped back in our cab to head back to the hotel.
All in all, quite possibly the perfect day spent in Chicago!
Stay tuned for Chicago, Part IV tomorrow!
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Sarah and I decided last night, of course knowing we were going to get blanketed with snow, that we were going to need to stock up on some necessities. Sure, most people get eggs, milk, and bread, but what the hell were WE supposed to do? Naturally, we had to stock up on beer!
Truthfully, we would have preferred to do it last night, but most places were closed on account of this little holiday called Christmas. But, we decided we would go either just before or after the snow started. Unfortunately, that happened to take place around 8:30am this morning.
Either way, we still had to get a few items, so we headed out. But, as you would expect, there were no package stores open when we went out. Fortunately, the snow tapered off a bit, which allowed a safe travel to one of our local places - Shop-N-Save Liquors - in Quincy.
I wound up getting a 12 pack of Red Hook WinterHook Winter Ale, as well as a Saranac Brewing Company 12 Beers of Winter mix pack.
I figured with these beers, in addition to the beers I had at home, should get me through our first major snow storm of the '10-'11 winter season. The snow has also given me the perfect excuse to blog and tweet, so don't be surprised if you see a few more posts before the end of the day!
I wonder what everyone else is drinking?
Sometime last year, Sarah's cousin Anna shared with her a bottle of Berkshire Brewing Co.'s Coffee House Porter with her. Sarah enjoyed it so much, she bought a bottle for us to try. Although I had heard about the brewery before that, it wasn't until then when I tried one of their beers for the first time. That was the day I fell in love with Berkshire Brewing Co.
Since trying the Coffee House Porter back in March of this year (which you can read about here), We have just about all of their year round beers, and several of their season offerings. So far, I'd have to say Steel Rail Ale and their Oktoberfests are my two favorite beers, but I really haven't had a bad beer by them. Because we love their beers, we decided it was time to make the trek out west to Deerfield, MA to visit their brewery.
Knowing that my friend Mike loves BBC about as much as I do, and that brewery tours are ALWAYS more fun with friends, we invited he and his wife Jenn. Our friend Andy and his brother Pat were around too, so we recruited them for the tour as well. Mike, Jenn, and Andy also attended my 30th birthday tour at the Harpoon Brewery in Boston, so I knew they would enjoy the BBC too.
Despite the traffic along the way, we arrived (just) in time for the 12pm tour. As of right now, Berkshire Brewing Co. only offers tours on Saturdays at noon, but it didn't disappoint.
When we first arrived, we filed into their tasting area. Fortunately for us, their Oktoberfest was readily available - as we went in October - so we got our first sample prior to heading into the brewhouse. Even though we got some great pictures, there were something around 75 people on the tour. According to our tour guide, they typically have about 8-12 people on the tour each weekend; however, it was the first few weeks of the new semester, so many students from UMass Amherst and other colleges decided to stop in that day.
Nevertheless, that wasn't going to stop us from having a good time!
Our first stop was the grain room. It's a rather small room, but they have quite the mill. They have their grain trucks pull up outside this garage doored room, but blow a good deal of their grain in through an air duct. Some of their specialty grains are stacked on pallets, as you can see in the picture.
The next stop was the actual brew area. BBC is set up with one mash tun and one kettle. According to our tour guide, who is also one of the brewers, the company tours five or six times per week. They have many primary and secondary fermenters, many within a cold storage area (to make lagers) which store their supply of year round beers. They also reserve a few for their seasonal beers.
We then head to the bottling room. We were told that the company started, they filled all of their bottles by hand. For anyone who brews their own beer, you know how annoying it is for a regular five gallon batch - imagine doing that for several barrels! Anyway, they wanted to spend as little time bottling their beer, so they decided to go for the biggest bottles they could get, 22oz bomber bottles. Therefore, the only way you can get their bottled beer is in the bombers. I guess that's not too bad, eh?
Anyway, BBC utilized many volunteers to help them with the bottling process. This helped them meet the demand of their many local consumers.
Much like our friends at Mayflower Brewing Co. as well as Harpoon in Boston, they have one of those kick ass keg washers/fillers. This allows them to fill a keg in a matter of a couple of minutes.
Our final stop was back at the tasting room for a few more samples. Some of the River Ale, a Steel Rail or two, a new Imperial Pint Glass and T-shirt later, and we were off.
L to R: Mike, Andy, Jenn, Adam, Pat, and Sarah
If you get a chance to make the trip, this brewery does not disappoint. Bring some friends and then stop off at the Northampton Brewery for some lunch, and it'll make for a great day!