Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year in Beer - 2011

This is our way of closing out 2011 with a bang! The Year in Beer - 2010 wrapped up what was a busy year. We managed to post 92 times, but we vowed to increase that in 2011. Well, I think we succeeded at doing that. But even still, we weren't able to get in all the things we had hoped to.

2011 was an incredible year in both Sarah and my personal lives, as well as the New England Craft Beer world. As you might have read, Sarah and I were married on June 18th. We had awesome beer on draft - Harpoon IPA and Summer, which was a small, but significant detail that made the day even more enjoyable for us and our guests. I also graduated from UMass Boston in August, finishing up my undergraduate degree that I've been chipping away at two or three classes at a time since 2005.

2011 started of with a furry. In the first three months we posted almost as much as we did the prior year. We also organized our first ever beer festival as part of the annual "Cure Me I'm Irish" event on March 5, 2011 at Lombardo's in Randolph, MA. Mayflower, Cape Ann, Cody Brewing, Blue Hills, and Magic Hat poured hundreds of samples for the 1,000 guests in attendance. Truthfully though, it was all pretty stressful. So, we took an unexpected, and unannounced break for the month of April. But, we came back with a fury in May covering American Craft Beer Week with a slew of beer reviews.

Hurricane Irene also hit Vermont incredibly hard, flooding the Longtrail Brewery in Bridgewater Corners and completely destroyed the Alchemist Pub and Brewery in Waterbury. Also, the great debate on the Farmer Brewer License issues that plagued the folks at Idle Hands Craft Ales for a while was eventually worked out. The ruling eventually turned out favorable, and allowed the brewery to acquire an affordable license to begin commercial production.

Twitter and Facebook became an even bigger part of Brew England in 2011! Although I'm unsure how many Twitter followers we had coming into '11, but as I write this we have 743 followers. This time last year we had 447 Facebook fans, and now we have 735! Hopefully we can get to 1,000 very soon. Thanks to our friend Chris Cappella, we also got a new logo and banner and couldn't be happier about it!

Instead of breaking down all the other posts, I strongly encourage you do revisit some of the posts by clicking through each month on the right hand side of the page. Please let us know your thoughts as well.

I will, however, highlight some of our favorite's from 2011...

Top Beers of 2011:

Baxter Brewing Co. Stowaway IPA - This is by far one of my new favorite New England IPAs. It's bold, it's malty, it has a nice crisp and floral character to it. Baxter is currently available throughout Maine, and in Eastern Massachusetts; however, the brewery has plans to be distributed throughout Massachusetts by March of 2012. Look out for this brewery, as they're making a lot of noise.

Notch Session Pils - To my delight, Chris Lohring is making beer. Not only is he making beer, he's making great beer. The Pils is a well balanced brew that is high in flavor and low in ABV...meaning you can enjoy several of these in a sitting and not be stumbling out the door of your favorite pub. It's really how beer should be.

Mayflower Brewing Spring Hop Ale - This was a great seasonal beer introduced in 2011 by Mayflower. The first time we had it was at the 2011 "Cure Me I'm Irish" event, and it did not disappoint. It took a while to find it afterwards, but was worth the search. Hoppy, malty, and moderate drinkability made this a great offering!

Maine Beer Company Mean Old Tom - This was the third beer I tried from Maine Beer Co. this year, and was by far my favorite. I'm becoming more fond of Stouts, and this coffee stout from Maine did not disappoint.

Throwback Brewery Fat Alberta - You might not expect a beer to be rich and creamy, but the awesome peanut butter and chocolate flavor from the Fat Albert is incredible. Sadly Throwback's beers are only available in the Granite State, but they are growing in a grassroots style, but their buzz is growing rapidly.

Mystic Brewery Descendant - Dark and tasty, this beer from Mystic Brewery is available in both oaked, and unoaked varieties, which adds notable differences to the liquid. One of Massachusetts' newest, their 'Fermentorium' is located in Chelsea, MA, boasting a large set up where they meticulously monitor the fermentation process of their brews, with an incredible attention to quality and detail.

Rising Tide Brewing Company Ursa Minor - Unfortunately, when I visited the Rising Tide Brewery during the AHA Rally Portland, I only got one bottle of Ursa Minor. This beer is a Weizen-Stout, which is basically a stout fermented using a Hefeweizen yeast strain. It yields an awesomely light and fruity beer, with some nice dark malt notes you expect from a typical stout.

Very Honorable Mention: Jack's Abby Hoponius Union India Pale Lager, Backlash Beer Convergence, Slumbrew Flagraiser IPA, Ipswich Ale Brewery 5 Mile Stock Ale, Clownshoes Beer Blaecorn Unidragon, Wachusett Brewery Imperial Pumpkin

Favorite Beer Event:

Beer Summit Winter Jubilee - Held at the Castle at the Park Plaza in Boston, the Beer Summit does a great job putting together a solid line up of breweries, and not overselling the event. There never seems to be super long lines, unless a particular brewery has a special beer they're bringing to the party. Even still, you don't wait very long at all.

So what's up for 2012?

Beer, beer, and more beer of course! Even though we upped the posts from 91 to 168, we'd still like to provide more content. That means more beer reviews, more Guest Blog entries, more Adventures in Homebrewing posts (sadly took a nose dive this year), and more "Meet the Brewer" segments. We'd also like to get to attend more beer events, and take a beer vacation to Vermont to hit several of the smaller breweries off the beaten path.

There's also a possibility that we'll make the trip to Colorado next year for the Great American Beer Festival. Our buddy Dave Lagueux is about to begin his new job brewing at New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, CO, and he suggested we come out in the fall. After seeing Brian of Seacoast Beverage Lab's updates and recap of the 2011 Kate the Great Day in Portsmouth, NH, we look to attend part of the Portsmouth Beer Week in March as well.

Finally, and in the more near future, we'll be organizing the beer festival as part of the 2012 "Cure Me I'm Irish" being held on March 10th at Lombardo's in Randolph, MA. We announced there would be 10 breweries next year, as opposed to only five this year, and that the first five breweries were already confirmed. We're close to solidifying the last five as of this week, and the event is going to be even better. More details will be posted in the next few days on tickets and how you can help out!

We hope you had as great of a year that we did, and we look forward to bringing you more in 2012! Thanks for reading and supporting Brew England and New England craft beer!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Tuesday Night Tasting - Samuel Adams: Old Fezziwig Ale

Boston Beer Co. / Samuel Adams – Boston, MA
Old Fezziwig Ale, Brewed with Cinnamon, Ginger, and Orange Peel
5.9% ABV, 12oz available in Holiday Mix 12-Pack

For being my clear favorite seasonal brew within this winter mix pack, I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to actually review the Sam Adams Old Fezziwig Ale. I’ve been a fan of this beer since the first time I tried it, which must have been back in 2004 or 2005.

The Old Fezziwig pours a rich, earthy brown and slight reddish tinge liquid, with a light brownish head. Although the head doesn’t linger too long, it does leave a nice layer of foam which sits atop the brew inviting you in to take a sip. The beer features a pleasant nutty and slightly sweet malty aroma. Subtle hints of the spices used in the brewing process come through as well.

The Fezziwig has a slight sweetness from the caramel malts, balanced by rich notes from the chocolate and specialty grains. It’s pleasantly sweet without being too one dimensional. It should also be pointed out that although it’s brewed with cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel, no one of these ingredients overpowers the other.

The mouth feel of this beer is mild and quite silky smooth. I find that it finishes rather dry and isn’t too heavy. Because of this, and despite the fact that the ABV is moderate at just under 6%, the Old Fezziwig Ale is a very drinkable beer. Sadly though, this is only available in the winter Holiday Mix Pack (and allegedly available on draft, though I’ve never seen it before) and not in six or 12 packs alone. However, if it were, I would happily purchase more! This is, in my opinion, the highlight of this winter mix twelve pack.

Cheers and Happy Holidays to everyone!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cure Me I'm Irish: Update

Wow. All we can say is wow. In the course of about 10 days (we'll call it seven, considering the holiday weekend), we were able to solidify half, or five of the breweries, for the beer festival at the 2012 "Cure Me I'm Irish" event. Sarah and I were actually able to book a few of them within the first few days of reaching out, and wrapped up two more in the past week or so.

So, you're probably wondering who will be on hand (so far) pouring their awesome, and I mean AWESOME brews for you. You may remember some of them from this year, but we've added a few more that we're PUMPED about! Well, without further delay, here's who's coming so far...

Mayflower Brewing Company - For the second straight year, our friends at Mayflower were the first to confirm. Last year they even debuted their Spring Hop Ale at the 2011 event, which was a huge hit. Who knows what they'll have in store for us all in a few months?

Smuttynose Brewing Co. - What can we say about Smuttynose? Well, for one, they make great beer. They also have a cool brewery and tour. They're also a staple in New Hampshire's Seacoast (Adam's home state), and we're excited to have them on board!

Cape Ann Brewing Co. - Tom and TJ will once again be pouring their fine Fisherman's beers, and you know they always come with a great attitude and are ready to party. They are always a hit, and I expect the same from them in '12. We've made a request for their Greenhorn Double IPA, but it's typically only available at their pub. We'll see if it makes an appearance.

Cody Brewing Co. - Sean Cody and his team returns for their second year as well. This year they had two beers that were big hits, both their No Name IPA and Wheelers Brown. I ran into Cody in November and talked about the event and said if the event was happening, he wanted in! Well, we spoke over the weekend, saying Cody Brewing would be there!

Baxter Brewing Co. - Rori from Baxter called this afternoon saying "We are a go!" What better news could we have received? Well, we say equally as awesome was the news is that Amber Road (much to our surprise) was already creeping into the Massachusetts market, but that they hoped to have all three of their beers distributed to the entire state of Massachusetts by the time of the beer festival!

So there you have it folks...The first five breweries to confirm for the 2012 Cure Me I'm Irish / Brew England beer festival. If we were only having five, this list would be killer. What makes it even better is that we still have five more breweries to add. If all goes as well as the first five, the next five should be confirmed within the next few weeks.

Check back often for further updates on the last five breweries to be confirmed. There's a Friends of Will meeting tomorrow night at the new Dave & Busters in Braintree, which will provide an update on ticket information and other details. Once we have full details on ticket pricing and availability, it will be posted here!

Adam & Sarah

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Under Construction

It's never a bad thing to get an email from Ipswich Ale brewery simply with this picture inserted...

As you may recall, we reported in May that the investors for the new Ipswich Ale Brewery had filed for bankruptcy, halting any plans for new construction. Well, one can only assume the brewery has found new investors, and has resumed construction!

More to come on this exciting news!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Harpoon Looking to Add Beer Hall

Hopped-up tours on tap at Harpoon -

I just read this on the Boston Herald and saw it linked on Facebook! Hopefully Harpoon gets approval by the city of Boston to build a beer hall as the brewery in Windsor, VT has a great pub area, which would fit in nicely in the Seaport area!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rare Craft Beer Tapping @ BBC Pembroke

I got an email from Graham at the British Beer Company, who asked me to share an event they're having tomorrow. It looks like they're going to have some choice seasonal brews on tap, which is not to be missed!

One of the great gifts that the holiday brings us now-a-days is a smashing variety of Christmas style beers. That’s enough of an excuse for the British Beer Company to celebrate – Christmas Cheers to the Beers! This Saturday December 17th in Pembroke the BBC will be tapping several rare/seasonal beers.

They include: Goose Island's Nut Brown, Troeg's Mad Elf, N'Ice Chouffe (from Belgium), Avery's Old Jubilation, Gritty McDuff's Christmas Ale and St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. Santa will be dropping in to see who’s been naughty and nice from 1-2pm and we’ll be collecting unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots all day. A unique specials menu featuring these beers and pairings will be available for lunch and dinner.

Here's a quick peek at some of the lunch and dinner specials:

Goose Island Duck Confit Egg Rolls
N'Ice Chouffe Smoked Haddock
Old Jubilation Roasted Red Beet Salad
Gritty McDuff's Smoked Prime Rib

If you go, please try to bring a new unwrapped toy (if you go between 1-2pm) as it was reported this morning on the Boston news outlets that the Toys for Tots were experience an extreme shortage of gifts this year.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

2012 Cure Me I'm Irish Beer Tasting!

As you may recall, the 2011 Cure Me I’m Irish event was a great time! It was the first time Sarah and I had set up a beer tasting, and it seemed to run smooth and was a huge hit to the guests. We had Mayflower Brewing Co, Cape Ann Brewing Co., Cody Brewing, Blue Hills Brewery, and Magic Hat all come and pour samples of their beers for the guests in attendance.

A while back we posted on our Facebook page that we were asked once again to set up a beer tasting as part of the 2012 Cure Me I’m Irish celebration. After a few weeks, it didn’t look as if we were going to be able to work the tasting into the event. However, I’m happy to say that the details have been worked out and we will once again be helping out the Friends of Will Cancer Foundation with their event!

Although the line up is yet to be determined for the 2012 event, it does project to be even better than the 2011 event. This year we are happy to announce that there will be 10 regional breweries pouring their fresh, handcrafted beers from 8-11pm for those in attendance.

The celebratory fundraiser event will be taking place on Saturday March 10, 2012 once again at Lombardo’s in Randolph, MA. The 2011 event was also held at Lombardo’s and we were able to help raise over $89,000 for the Friends of Will Cancer Foundation and the NB Alliance. Finite details of the event, as well as ticket information are still being worked out, but once we have that information we will definitely be posting it here!

Stay tuned for much more information on the 2012 Cure Me I’m Irish event in the upcoming weeks!

Adam & Sarah

Monday, December 5, 2011

NH BrewFest Raises $19k

I got the following press release from Redhook related to their New Hampshire BrewFest we gave away VIP Tickets for. I was happy to hear the event was such a success, and that local organizations were the beneificiaries of significant donations

Here's the presser:

New Hampshire BrewFest Raises $19,000 for Local Organizations
New England Beer Lovers Turned Out in Record Numbers at Redhook Brewery

Portsmouth, N.H. – Nov. 22, 2011 – The third annual New Hampshire BrewFest, hosted at Redhook Brewery on Oct. 15, attracted a record number of attendees and raised more than $19,000 for the Master Brewers Association of the Americas New England Chapter and Prescott Park Arts Festival. The BrewFest featured more than 120 quality brews from 31 breweries as well as food and music. This year‘s BrewFest saw record breaking attendance of more than 4,000 tickets sold with both sessions selling out days before the Fest. Each organization will receive $9,556, nearly $2,000 more than the previous year.

“This year’s BrewFest was a great success and showcased New England’s diverse brewing talents. We want to thank Redhook Brewery for being an exceptional host,” said Jason Perkins, president of Master Brewers Association of the Americas New England Chapter. “The proceeds will go toward an annual two week training course scholarship for brewers, send a brewer to the MBAA National conference, and continue to bring in brewing experts for our quarterly meetings.”

The Master Brewers Association of the Americas works to improve members brewing skills through scholarships and professional training sessions.

“We are proud to be supported by the NH BrewFest; an event that encourages the art of craft brewing,” said Ben Anderson, executive director for Prescott Park Arts Festival. “The funds go directly toward our programs, and have allowed us to continue to grow and expand our offerings, as well as help keep all of our events free of fixed admission.”

As a nonprofit organization, the Prescott Park Arts Festival has presented music, art, theater, and dance to families on the banks of the Piscataqua River for the past 36 years, and was just voted Business of the Year by the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Harpoon Beer Dinner @ Jerry Remy's

Jerry Remy's in Boston's historic Fenway area will be hosting a Harpoon beer dinner on December 14th. It's looking like a fun event with great food and drink. Tickets are $48 per person, plus tax and gratuity, but Friends of Harpoon can receive $5 off the ticket price.

Here are the full details about the event:

Harpoon Beer Dinner at Jerry Remy's Fenway (Boston, MA)
Boston, MA
Date: 14-Dec-2011 Wednesday
Time: 06:30 PM - 10:00 PM

Delicious beer and food have always gone perfectly together, so make sure to come and enjoy the expertly crafted menu at Jerry Remy’s Fenway on December 14th at 6:30 PM during the Harpoon Beer Dinner!

Executive Chef Jacqueline Kelly and Harpoon brewer Jesse Brenneman worked together to create a menu that highlights the flavors of both the food and the beer.

The menu is as follows:

Roasted Whole Garlic Bulbs on German Style Wort Bread

Beer and Cheddar Soup, paired with Leviathan Barleywine

First Course
Ceviche of Pacific Northwest Steelhead Salmon, paired with UFO Pale Ale

Second Course
Korean Style Pork Buns with Yuzu pickled onions and salted bacon mole, paired with Harpoon Munich Dark

Third Course
Roasted Long Island Duck Breast Hen of the Woods with Herb Spaetzle, paired with Leviathan Triticus

New York Style Chocolate Stout Egg Cream

Is your mouth watering yet? Tickets for the dinner cost $48 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Stop by Jerry Remy’s Fenway or call them at (617) 236-7369 in order to make reservations!

We also have a great deal for our Friends! Just mention that you are a Friend of Harpoon when making your reservation and bring your card to the dinner and you will receive $5 off your ticket price.

You won’t want to miss out on this delicious event!

Jerry Remy’s Fenway
1265 Boylston Street
Boston, MA

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesday Night Tasting - Goose Island Brewing Co: Christmas Ale

Goose Island Brewing Co. – Chicago, IL
Christmas Ale 2011 – American Brown Ale
6.2% ABV, 12 oz and on draft

We first tried the Goose Island Christmas Ale when we visited their Wrigleyville brewpub in Chicago last December, but saw the four pack at Luke’s in Rockland over the weekend. It instantly brought us back to one of our favorite cities to date, and despite their recent agreement to be sold/distributed by InBev (which was incredibly sad news), we had to pick it up.

This year’s Christmas Ale has a rich cherry brown/garnet color, with a light off white, fluffy head. The head lingers for a bit, before dissolving into the beer. We used a snifter style glass to taste the beer, and in the right light it actually looks like a Christmas bulb, which helped us get even more into the Christmas spirit!

The beer has a mildly floral nose, with slightly sweet and spicy notes. You can catch a glimpse of cocoa and ginger, and the brew also has a nice malty balance.

Although the 2011 Christmas Ale is a brown ale, it definitely has a sweeter flavor to most browns. It certainly has the malty characteristics you find in the average brown ale, but it finishes sweeter. Sarah feels that it might be a bit to hoppy, but I think it could use a slightly bigger hop profile. It does end with a moderate bitterness factor though. As the beer warms, as in most cases, the malt begins to dominate as well as increases its sweetness.

The mouth feel of the beer is mild. Despite the color and ABV, this beer is not all that heavy. The sweetness lingers, but not in a bad way.

The Goose Island Christmas Ale comes in a four pack, but is also available on draft (may be difficult to find in the general Boston area). With a mild balance and moderate ABV, you can definitely handle one or two pints or bottles in a single sitting.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday Night Tasting - Throwback Brewery: Fat Alberta

Throwback Brewery – North Hampton, NH
Fat Alberta Imperial Stout brewed with Peanuts and Cocoa Nibs
10% ABV, 78 IBU, OG: 1.101, 22 oz and possibly soon on draft

Although both Sarah and I tried Fat Alberta, as well as the full line up of Throwback’s beers when we visited Annette and Nicole in March, this was our first try of their beers at home. On our way back through New Hampshire’s seacoast on Sunday, we decided it would be fun to stop by Throwback to pick up a few bottles of Fat Alberta, and to our surprise it was PACKED. Little did we know, the brewery was having an actual launch party for the beer that day.

But, on to the review…

The color of this Imperial Stout is a dark espresso toned body, with a thick, fluffy, chocolaty brown head. The head itself fades rather quickly, but is a really nice color! The aroma…well, the scent of roasted peanuts immediately hits your nose, but is pleasantly blended with a rich chocolate aroma. We have to say, it’s quite inviting.

The flavor of the stout is of rich dark chocolate covered peanuts. Perhaps the hops (notice the high IBU) help give it the slightly bitterness of dark chocolate, but it’s incredibly subtle – fear not if you’re not big into a bold hop profile, because this is nowhere near beers like that.

Sarah and I have slightly altered views on the flavor. Sarah says that the Fat Alberta has an earthy, nutty peanut flavor, which is enhanced by the beers dark chocolate flavor. She also says (which I do agree with) that it’s rare for a “flavored” stout to taste like what it’s supposed to. Southern Tier tends to do a great job at matching their beers to what the label says they’re supposed to be. Unfortunately, other brewing companies fall short of doing that.

While I didn’t entirely disagree with Sarah’s assessment, I thought the peanut flavor to me is creamy like you get with peanut butter. It's not sweet though like in peanut butter, which is probably balanced by the dark roasted malts.

We both thought the mouth feel is moderate to full, but without being too heavy. Most "regular" stouts are rather lighter bodied (despite their color) and low in alcohol, but this is an Imperial Stout and is a bit heavier. Still very nice.

The Fat Alberta Imperial Stout is seductively drinkable. It is incredibly smooth going down, and simply tastes amazing. Be careful though, as the brew clocks in at 10% ABV and can easily sneak up on you. If you're drinking this by yourself, you can probably put down the bomber, but it's also a great beer to share with a friend!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Make Mine a Mead!

Mead, also called honey wine, is made primarily from water, honey, and yeast – and then different flavorings like vanilla, cinnamon, orange or berries and spices or whatever kind of flavor combination sounded interesting/delicious to the mead maker. It has basically the same alcohol content as wine and to me it tastes a little like those honey-straws I used to see as a kid – which come in the same wide array of flavors. Only the mead has alcohol in it, so in that way it is actually a step up from the honey straws.

Adam and I spent Saturday night in Portland ME and one bar we had heard a lot about was Novare Res Bier Cafe – famed for its Belgian beer and local brew selection. I was immediately drawn to the Blueberry Mead from Maine Mead Works because when in Maine, one must try something that involves blueberry. It was incredible and led me to order the Dry Hopped Mead immediately after, also a stellar choice. I knew that I would be leaving Maine the next day with at least a couple of bottles of mead to try.

After checking out of the hotel on Sunday morning, we popped next door to Downeast Beverage Co. to purchase some souvenirs. Lucky for me, they had a nice supply of mead from Maine Mead Works (though not the blueberry – boo!). I selected the Lavender Mead and the Dry Hopped Mead to come home with me and could not resist opening up one of them last night.

The Lavender Mead from Maine Mead Works smells deliciously of, guess what? Lavender! Not in your face guest soap Lavender but mild and sweet and almost a little spicy lavender. In fact the slight “edge” that Lavender has really cuts the sweetness of this honey wine. It was very fragrant and smooth – which is why I thought it would be best served in a tulip style glass (the glass pictured is actually an “Ice Wine” glass we purchased on our honeymoon).

I think this would be a great addition to a tea party, maybe served with Madeleines or scones. It is also, and I speak from immediate recent experience – an excellent before bed beverage.

Stay tuned this week for more reviews from our trip to Portland, including our experience at Baxter Brewing Co. in Lewiston, ME and Throwback Brewery in North Hampton, NH!

Visit Maine Mead Works
51 Washington Avenue
Portland, ME
(207) 773-6323

Monday, November 21, 2011

2011 Infinium Pre-Release Party

Last Thursday night the Boston Beer Company celebrated the upcoming release of the 2011 Infinium Ale by hosting a pre-release tasting at their brewery. This is the fourth event over the course of the previous week, and the second one I attended, and could’t have been more fun.

I brought my buddy, and occasional Guest Blogger Mike Micalone, as well as my buddy Mike Talley along with me, and from the moment we walked in I knew we were going to have a great time.

Mike Talley next to a 134 bbl wooden fermenter

There was a special pre-gala portion of the event set aside for media personnel, such as bloggers, as well as the spot local celebrity, which was held inside the Barrel Room Collection room within the brewery itself. Meg, one of the reps Mike Micalone and I have run into at the AHA Rally, MA BrewersFest, and Beer Summit/Sam Adams Octoberfest, guided us to the room, where we saw some familiar faces. Brian Aldrich from Sea Coast Beverage Lab, Sean from, Becca, Lindsay, and Heather from MA Girls Pint Out were all inside enjoying the Infinium and light spread that was laid out.

After about 15 minutes of socializing, Jim Koch came into the room to everyone’s delight. He right away came up to myself, Mike Talley, Brian, and Sean, introduced himself, and asked for feedback on this year’s Infinium. He was genuinely interested in finding out our thoughts on it, which I thought was incredible, considering whom he is.

Jim then gave a brief speech, giving the 30 some odd people in the room an idea of how they came about collaborating with Weihenstephan on the beer (which was quite amusing), the process of making the beer itself, and the specific purpose behind the particular style of beer that Infinium has developed into. After his chat on the beer, he then introduced three of the Boston area’s finest mixologists, who had each concocted “beer-cocktails” specifically using the 2011 Infinium Ale.

Ran Duan, Mixologist at Sichuan Garden Restaurant and Bar created his Sowa Market Shandy, which consisted of cardamom pomegranate syrup, lemon juice, celery bitters and Infinium. Adam Lantheaum, of The Boston Shaker, made his Germania's Toast with Jo Snow cardamom rose water syrup, aphrodite bitters, and Infinium. Lastly, Bob McCoy, of Island Creek Oyster Bar prepared his Winter Shandy with cinnamon syrup, fresh meyer lemon juice, angostura bitters, soda water, and of course Infinium.

L to R: Ran, Adam, and Bob

All three of these gentlemen spoke as passionate about their beer cocktails as Jim Koch himself spoke about his Infinium Ale. It was really cool to see how psyched Ran, Adam, and Bob were about mixing these drinks for us, and they were all some really interesting drinks for sure. They're not the typical drink I would go for, but it was a great opportunity to try something new.
After everyone gave their speeches, the rest of us continued to mingle, take pictures, and meet some new people. There were some folks from Yankee Brew News, as well as Brewing News, which all have a vast knowledge of the regional breweries and brews, which was nice to chat back and forth of where we had each been as well as spots I need to check out. As it turns out, and I knew to a certain extent, that there are many places in Vermont that I must visit in the next year or two.

Dan Hausle of WHDH TV, Channel 7 in Boston made an appearance as well, sans camera crew. I introduced myself and managed to chat with him for a good 10-15 minutes. As it turns out, Dan is a craft beer lover, and according to his profile on the WHDH website he's also a homebrewer (I wish I knew that last night). It turns out he's from Buffalo, NY as well, so it provided a good opportunity to talk sports as well (and make fun of him for his teams performing rather poorly at times).

After hanging out in the Barrel Room for a while, we headed into the brewery and other tasting rooms to get a few more samples of some of the other fine offerings by Samuel Adams. While in the tasting room the Mikes and I met Chris, a military veteran who currently works as the building manager at the Boston Beer Company's corporate headquarters, who happened to be helping out pouring drinks. We shared a few funny stories about trips to Cooperstown, NY and where to find Old Fezziwig on tap - we're still waiting to see where in the Boston area you can find it (I've never seen it on tap). Once we find out, we'll make sure to share with you!

Overall, it was a great evening. Jess, Meg, Chris, and Jim all made this night a really enjoyable experience that I hope to partake in again sometime soon.

Infinium Ale will officially be released next week, and should retail for around $20. Last year I managed to try a few bottles, and really enjoyed it. This years is equally as good, if not better than last year's release, and is definitely a bottle you can enjoy with friends.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesday Night Tasting- Baxter Brewing Co: Stowaway IPA

Baxter Brewing Co. - Lewiston, ME
Stowaway India Pale Ale
6.9% ABV, 12 oz cans and on draft

This was the second beer I've had from this all-canery brewery out of Maine, with the first being their Pamola Xtra Pale from a few months ago. I have to say, I couldn't be happier with the Stowaway IPA. The first time I had it was back in September when I was in Portland, ME, and found it on tap. It's equally as good in a can!

The Stowaway pours a pale mix of orange and red hues. It's nicely carbonated with a light, foamy head that rests peacefully on top of this hoppy treat. The aroma is vibrant! It's hoppy, floral, and you can pick up the maltiness of this brew. It even has a faint sweet scent to it as well.

The flavor is down right enjoyable, which backs up the aroma with a great balance between the malt, hop, and bigger characteristics. It finishes with a nice floral and slightly malty ending, certainly not dry, but gives you a feeling that you just want more!

The mouth feel on the Stowaway IPA is moderate. It's quite bold, which is what I like in an IPA. The balance between the ABV and IBU fits in perfect for this brew.

Without a doubt, the drinkability level on this beer is high. This is by far one of my new favorite regional IPAs, and Baxter Brewing has a winner and keeper with this beer. Any hop head must try this beer, so keep your eyes out for it. Baxter's beers are popping up all over Massachusetts, so it shouldn't be difficult to find.

Sarah and I are spending this weekend up in the Portland, ME area, and have plans to make the trip to Lewiston to visit the Baxter Brewing Co brewery. I'm also excited as I'll be able to pick up their newest release, Amber Road, while we're there. I've been told it's a great time, and I don't doubt it!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Craft Beer Cellar Turns 1!

Happy birthday to Craft Beer Cellar! One year ago today, Kate Baker and Suzanne Schalow opened this quaint little craft beer store in Belmont to hundreds of thirsty patrons. One year later, they are still growing and celebrating the greatness that is beer!

Yesterday, Kate and Suzanne sent out an emailed newsletter detailing how they plan on celebrating. Here is a list of events for today, from the newsletter:

12 to 2 Peak Organic Brewing Company
Co-Owner Rob Lucente will be tasting us on their newest brew, Local Series MA, boasting all MA ingredients (take that ABCC)! Also, Rob should be properly honored for christening our space . . . he was the first person to bring us a beer, for samplin', of course.

2 to 4 Cape Ann Brewing Company
Tom Ryan, First Mate O'Sails, will surely have his fish net strung all over the darned place, but that's definitely one of things we love about these guys - they are passionate.

4 to 6 Mayflower Brewing Company
Christiana Bencivenni will be rockin' some Thanksgiving Ale, and should be noted for being the first person to bring us coffee, when we were still rippin' down walls.

6 to 8 Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project
Martha Holley-Paquette, Co-Founder, Dann Paquette, BrewMaster, and Anya, Captain of all Things Pretty, will be towin' the rubber on our anniversary, and what a class act of a brewery to do so; awesome in so many darned ways! PS: Our #1 selling beer since day one is Pretty Things Jack D'oR!

Aside from the tastings, the ladies have some other surprises in store for those who visit throughout the day.

Sarah and I first visited Craft Beer Cellar in February, and have been back several times since then. However, what stood out to me more than their incredible selection is that Kate and Suzanne are ridiculously generous and genuinely kind people. As you may recall, Sarah and I were asked to set up a beer tasting as part of the 2010 Cure Me I'm Irish event. In addition, we gathered up donations to be raffled and auctioned off. Suzanne and Kate didn't think twice about getting involved, and donated several gift certificates to their store, after literally meeting us once. We knew we had crossed paths with great people.

What also adds to their awesomeness was also contained within their email yesterday. It read, "...we've decided to get behind a couple of local organizations, in 2012, in hopes that the little we can give will help in some small way. The idea is very simple, we do good, and well, we do good by giving back. We'll be donating 10% of our net profits to these two organizations, for the year:

Belmont Food Pantry


Belmont Affordable Shelter Fund "

This just really stands out as a good company helping their community, and it makes me happy to read that.

If you have an opportunity to get to Craft Beer Cellar today to take part in their one year anniversary, I definitely suggest you do. If you can't get there today, make it a priority to go sometime soon. You WILL NOT be disappointed, I guarantee it.

Happy birthday again to Suzanne, Kate, and Craft Beer Cellar!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Beer Summit Harvest Fest

The annual Beer Summit Harvest Fest is just 10 days away, and tickets are going fast! Per usual, there are three sessions - Friday night from 5:30-9pm, Saturday Session I: 12:30-4pm and Session II: 5:30-9pm.

Beer Summit has confirmed 61 brewers who will be pouring 200+ beers over the course of the weekend. They even make it easy for you to navigate the floor, with this PDF version of their brewery layout. If you haven't been to a Beer Summit event before, you're definitely missing out as they are a good time. In fact, my buddy Joe and I volunteered for the Winter Jubilee this past January and had a blast.

All three sessions are being held at the Castle at the Boston Park Plaza at 130 Columbus Ave. Click here to purchase your tickets, but don't delay as all three sessions are likely to sell out.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Samuel Adams Taste of Boston

This free event 'sold out' so quickly that I didn't even have time to post it for you, which is another great reminder of why you should sign up for some brewery's monthly email newsletter...

Samuel Adams will host their monthly open house, which they have dubbed the "Taste of Boston" and will run from 6-8pm tomorrow at their Jamaica Plain brewery.

More specifically, there will be:

- Private Brewery Open House
- Samples of Limited Release Beers
- Keepsake Pint Glass & T-Shirt
- Traditional Boston Appetizers (Boston Creme Pies, Clam Chowder, Clam Cakes)

I'm not entirely sure what other things are in store for those who RSVP'd yes, but Sarah RSVP'd for us (fortunately) so we'll be there. We'll make sure to tweet about it, and recap the event later this week!

Slumbrew Launch at the Independent

Friday night marked the official launch for Somerville Brewing Company, aka Slumbrew, at the Independent in Somerville, MA. They had an unofficial, official launch at Craft Beer Cellar the previous Friday, but unfortunately due to a car fire and heavy traffic I was unable to attend. However, I was making sure that I didn't miss the event at the Independent!

Although I'm not entirely familiar with Union Square in Somerville, the Independent was rather easy to find. I have to say, the GPS/Maps function of my new iPhone 4s is incredibly accurate, so I was able to find the bar fairly easy. The event was starting at 5pm, and with the traffic I got there right around then.

When I walked into the Independent, I realized that this was a place I would need to come back to. They have a great line up of craft beers, including brews from Pretty Things, St. Bernadus Apt 12 (which I've never seen on draft anywhere), Berkshire Brewing Co. and so many more. But, the most important part is that they were serving fresh kegs of Slumbrew!

The two beers on tap were Flagraiser IPA, which is a hoppy and pleasantly bitter. It clocks in at 80 IBU and 7.5% ABV, which gives it a bit of a punch. The other beer available was Happy Sol, which is an incredibly drinkable hefeweizen which is brewed with 1,000 lbs. of blood oranges per batch. My initial thought was that the Happy Sol would be overly fruity and too sweet, but to my surprise and enjoyment, it was so smooth and balanced that I really enjoyed it.

While sitting at the bar, I ran into Slumbrew owner Caitlin Jewell's cousin Sam, and her friend Bill, who both live in Bermuda. I was flying solo that night, but I didn't fear as I can always start up a conversation and meet new friends over a few pints. We had a great time hanging out, and it helped make the night.

In a short time, the bar started filling up. By filling up, I mean getting packed. I had to feed the meeter, and I noticed a line of at least 20 people deep outside, trying to get in. The bar seemed to already be over capacity, but that didn't matter as there was such a great turnout for the Slumbrew launch and everyone seemed to be in great spirits.

Before leaving, I got a chance to speak with Caitlin and her husband Jeff, the brewer and other owner of Slumbrew. The two of them are incredibly sweet and gracious, and were a pleasure to speak with. They both invited Sarah and I to come check out their pilot brewery in Somerville, and then to go out to dinner, which we'll have to take them up on soon.

Jeff happened to have a few bottles of their Porter Square Porter, which even though it wasn't on draft, he was giving out samples. The porter has a noticeably sweet chocolate body to it, and it should as it's brewed with Taza Chocolate nibs. It's going to be a great late fall/winter drink, so stay tuned for more info on this brew soon!

Overall, it was a great night. I was happy to see so many people turn out for the launch, and you'll definitely be seeing these Slumbrew beers on draft and in your local package stores very, very soon.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Beer Trade

Today, I finally completed my first beer trade. See, Sarah's cousin Tracy, who is originally from Massachusetts, currently lives in San Francisco and has access to some great beers you just can't get out here. Back in March we decided to do a trade so we could get some beers that are impossible to get on either coast.

I had only one real request - that she send two bottles of Russian River's Pliney the Elder and/or Pliney the Younger. I had also stated that I wouldn't mind something from Alaskan Brewing Co. as I have a few friends who live in Anchorage, AK and figured it'd be cool to see what they can drink up there.

Well, Tracy came through! She sent two bottles of Pliney the Elder, a bottle of Russian River Damnation, Alaskan Brewing Co.'s IPA, and one more that I simply can not remember. Unfortunately, with the wedding, school, work, etc. I couldn't find the time to return some beer. Having chatted with another one of Sarah's cousins that just moved to southern Oregon, we decided to do a beer trade as well...but, I couldn't do one with him until I sent Tracy some beer. This was the week to get it done

I wasn't going to drop the ball again, so I hit Supreme Liquors in Quincy for most of my beer needs on Monday. Originally I was going to send her Mayflower Brewing Co's Porter, Wachusett Brewing Co's Green Monsta IPA, Berkshire Brewing Co. Steel Rail Pale Ale, Pretty Things Jack D'or, Baxter Brewing Co's Stowaway IPA, and Smuttynose Brewing Co's Old Brown Dog Ale. Through the powers of Twitter, Martha of Pretty Things let me know that their beer is actually available for purchase in San Francisco, so I knew I couldn't send that to her. I mean, the point of the trade was to send beer you can't buy instead of sending the bottle of Jack D'or, I replaced it with a bottle of Backlash Beer's Convergence.

I still had all the packaging Tracy sent my beer in, so I simply reused it. It made it super convenient, as we essentially sent each other the same size bottles, so I knew hers were going to fit. With lots of bubble wrap, and large zip lock bags in case of breakage, I packed the little buggers into their box for the week long journey from the East Coast to the West Coast.

With good luck and weather, Tracy should receive her beer next Friday...just in time for the weekend! I look forward to seeing what she thinks of the beer I sent, but I know she's going to love them.

It's Time to Get Blatant!

Blatant Brewery, the brainchild of owner and brewer Matt Steinberg, officially 'opened its doors' to the Bay State on September 30th, 2011 when Matt brewed his first batch of Blatant IPA. Matt, who has been a brewer for many years, was probably most noted as being the Director of Operations at Mayflower Brewing Company in Plymouth, MA. From '07-'10 Matt helped Mayflower first came to the market and grow within the state, before deciding to start his own brewing company.

Founded in 2010, Blatant Brewery is currently brewing his beers at the Buzzards Bay Brewing Company in Westport, MA. The system he uses is capable of producing 50+ barrels per batch, and accounts are starting to order Matt's India Pale and Session Ales. Available as draft only (for his first batch of IPA & Session), he is going door-to-door so to speak bringing samples of his beers to bars, restaurants, and taverns, in an effort to get the word out about his beer.

The British Beer Company in Framingham is getting in on the action by hosting a launch party on Thursday November 10th.

Here is the full press release:

What: Launch Party for Blatant Brewing
Where: British Beer Company in Framingham
When: Thursday November 10th from 6-9pm
Who: Join Brewer/Founder Matthew Steinberg

It’s time to stop fooling around and be Blatant about your beer.

The British Beer Company welcomes the most recent Massachusetts based artisanal brewer into the family with open arms. On Thursday November 10th the BBC will celebrate the launch of Blatant Brewing with founder and brewer Matthew Steinberg in attendance. The BBC is thrilled to offer their customers a chance to be one of the first people in the world to enjoy the hoppy goodness of Blatant.

Matthew has been brewing craft beer for 15 years. He has worked in many sectors of the industry, including small brewpubs, a large brewpub chain, a large craft brewer, a contract brewery, and most recently a start-up craft brewery. At Offshore Ale Company on Martha’s Vineyard (‘03-‘07) Matthew designed and brewed many world class beers, earning him a reputation as a creative and innovative brewer. As the Director of Operations for a start-up craft brewery, Mayflower Brewing Company (’07-’10), Matthew designed and introduced four new year round beers to the Massachusetts market plus 2 seasonal offerings.

Come hoist a pint of Blatant IPA (6.5% ABV – 65 IBU) or Session Ale (3.9 % ABV – 22 IBU) with Mathew from 6-9pm at the BBC in Framingham. All Blatant beers are handcrafted by the brewer at Just Beer, Inc. out of Westport, MA. As with any new craft brewery, we’re sure that Mathew will be looking forward to customer comments and feedback as we all blatantly enjoy the first pours of Blatant Beer.

Be Blatant!

Media Contact
Graham Wilson
Twitter: @BritishBeerCo

Blatant Beer
Mathew Steinberg
Twitter: @BLATANTbeer

British Beer Company
120 Worcester Rd. Framingham, MA

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sam Adams Releases Limited Series

The Boston Beer Company, famously known as Sam Adams, has released four limited release beers, which are now available in stores. I'm not entirely sure how long they'll be on the shelves for, but I saw two of them yesterday at Supreme Liquors in Quincy.

The beers are...

The Vixen - a chocolate chili bock, sure to add a kick

Tasman Red - described as a Red Ale meets IPA, the Tasman Red clocks in at 50 IBU, which should give it a nice bitter aroma and flavor

Third Voyage - a Double-IPA (yes please!) that is brewed with Cascade Hops from around the globe

Griffin's Bow - a blonde barleywine that's aged on oak, giving it vanilla, lemongrass, and coconut notes

I saw The Vixen and Tasman Red yesterday, but I will definitely be on the hunt for Third Voyage soon. Truthfully though, I'll probably try them all.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Slumbrew to Debut Today at Craft Beer Cellar

Today marks the official first day you can taste, and purchase, your very own bottle(s) of the Boston area's newest brewery - Somerville Brewing Company, or simply known as Slumbrew. Run by Caitlin Jewell and Jeff Leiter, Slumbrew will officially release three of their beers today at a special 'launch' party at Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont from 5-7pm.

You'll be able to sample (and purchase):

Flagraiser IPA - 80 IBUs with the illusive Galaxy Hop (sounds like my favorite already)
Happy Sol - a Blood Orange Hefeweizen, brewed with over 1,000 Blood Oranges
Porter Square Porter - a dark beer made even more rich by dry-hopping with Taza Chocolate Nibs

In addition to tasting the brews, you'll also be able to meet and speak with Caitlin and Jeff, who have been developing recipes for these beers (and others) in their Somerville Brewlab. The Brewlab, which always seems to remind me of the Beat Laboratory Dale has in the movie Step Brothers, is a nano-scale (non-commercial) brewery inside a small 350 square foot building. Caitlin and Jeff hold monthly get togethers, where they sample test batches and enjoy the company of their fellow beer enthusiasts. Sadly, I haven't been able to attend on of their meetings yet, but I plan to meet the both of them this evening at Craft Beer Cellar.

Slumbrew's beers don't officially go on sale to the general public until next week (I believe), but this is an exclusive pre-sale party at one of the finest craft beer stores in New England. If that wasn't enough, there will be some free tasty pizza from Stone Hearth Pizza right next door.

Visit Slumbrew's website, visit them on Facebook, and meet them tonight at Craft Beer Cellar, which is located at 51 Leonard Street in Belmont.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beer Dinners at 5 Napkin Burger in Boston

So I heard it through the grape vine (read: I read it on the Massachusetts Girls Pint Out Facebook page) that there are two upcoming, sure to be awesome, beer dinners happening at 5 Napkin Burger in downtown Boston.

The first of what may be several beer dinners is set for next Thursday November 3rd at 6:30pm. The fine brews of Smuttynose Brewing Co will be on hand to pair their Star Island Single, Old Brown Dog Ale, Robust Porter, and Homonuculus, with the tasty treats offered by 5 Napkin Burger. The menu includes: Spicy Tuna Taquitos, Grilled Lamb Kofta Skewers, Deep Fried Pickles & Pastrami, Spinach & Artichoke Crostini, Beer & Cheddar Soup, choice of 5 Napkin Burger or Italian Turkey Burger and a Smores Pie.

Tickets are just $35 and includes tax and gratuity, beer, and food and can be purchased through by clicking here.

5 Napkin Burger's second beer dinner will be on Thursday November 17th at 6:30pm and will feature beers from Gloucester's own Cape Ann Brewing Company. Tickets are also $35 and includes tax and gratuity, beer, and food, but the menu and beer have not been finalized.

For the true hardcore beer and burger joint loving fools, you can purchase tickets for both events for $70.

5 Napkin Burger is located within the Prudential Building at 105 Huntington Avenue.

Baxter Brewing to Release Amber Road

If you are friends with me on Untappd, you've probably seen me check in Baxter Brewing Co's Stowaway IPA or Pamola Xtra Pale Ale over the course of the past few months. That's because Baxter, a Lewiston, ME (sorry guys) based all-can brewery (beers also available on draft), officially began distributing their beers in Boston and the North Shore of Massachusetts. If you have not had either of these beers, I highly recommend it; however, if you have had these beers before and are like me, you've been pining for a new beer from Baxter Brewing.

Well, you won't have to wait too much longer, as November will see the launch of their third offering - Amber Road. According to the company's October newsletter, Amber Road will clock in at 5.5% ABV, 35 IBUs, and have a nice malty presence.

Amber Road officially launches November 1st, so keep your eyes out for it in your local package stores! According to an email I received about two minutes after posting this, Amber Road will not be available in Boston until the new year, but if you're in Maine, you can get it before it's released to the public by visiting their brewery as there is a limited supply available.

It looks like I'll be taking a ride to Maine in the next few weeks!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wachusett to Launch Homegrown Hop Ale

I received an invitation to the first taste, along side the follow press release about a new beer being launched by Wachusett Brewing Company. I attended the first taste of the Imperial Pumpkin Ale back in August, so if this event is anything like that it will be a great event!

Wachusett Brewing Company Introduces Homegrown Hop Ale

Westminster, MA -- Wachusett Brewing Company’s Homegrown Hop Ale is hitting the taps for the first time since its release in 2009’s Hometown Brewery Series. The 4%, 28 IBU unfiltered and wet-hopped session ale will be released in late October and is the lightest beer they’ve ever brewed.

The limited-time offering will only be available for sampling and growler-fills at the brewery. With a crisp hop character and clean finish, Homegrown Hop Ale was a favorite upon its release in 2009, and they are expecting to fly through the 70 kegs being filled.

The First Taste: Homegrown Hop Ale release party will be held on October 27th, 2011 at the brewery. A limited amount of tickets will be available for the event, and can be purchased in advance for $20 by contacting or calling 978-974-9965 x28.

For more information on the release party, visit their website at Enjoy With Friends.

The brewery is located on 175 State Road East Westminster, MA. For more information on the release party, visit their website at

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

And the Winner Is...

I'd first like to thank those who posted comments for the ticket giveaway. Everyone had great reasons they should win, but unfortunately there could only be one winner. So after reading all the stories of who should win the tickets to the New Hampshire BrewFest, I have decided to award the tickets to...


Portsmouth, NH is a great city to visit, and no one should have the prominent memory of having piss dumped on them. I hope you're able to erase (or ease) the memory of that fateful day by enjoying many a tasty brew this weekend at the Redhook Ale Brewery.

I have to say though, it was a tough decision as everyone had great reasons for wanting the tickets, and I'll have to reconsider how I pick winners, because let me tell you...drawing a number is a much easier decision.

SO Lane, please email me (brewengland at gmail dot com) your full name and if you know who you're taking, please include their name. Your name(s) will be placed at the will call window for Saturday's VIP Session, which runs 12-1pm (VIP portion), plus the afternoon session from 1-4pm.

Please report back and let me know how it went!


Friday, October 7, 2011

Ipswich Ale Brewery to Release 5 Mile Series

In the wake of the recent Farmer-Brewery licensing issue which came into the light during the month of August, the Ipswich Ale Brewery is set to release a limited-edition, single batch (aprox. 60 barrels) series of beers beginning this month. Their new series will be called "5 Mile", which aims to use at least 50% of its beer's ingredients from the state of Massachusetts, along with at least one ingredient used to brew the beer from within 5 miles of the brewery in Ipswich, MA.

The first beer in the series is called 5 Mile Stock Ale, which is an ale dry hopped with Cascade hops (grown on the brewery's grounds), as well as malted barley acquired through the Massachusetts BSA (Brewers Supported Agriculture). Based on the description of the new brew, it sounds like it's going to be hoppy and delicious.

To kick off the new series, the Ipswich Ale Brewery will be hosting an official 5 Mile Stock Ale Release Party, where you can by the beer straight from the brewery. The release party will be Saturday October 29th from 11-4pm at the brewery itself, which is located at 23 Hayward St in Ipswich, MA.

The release party comes as a bit of a surprise, as I don't recall any actual events like this being put on at their brewery (I seem to recall someone saying it was due to a licensing issue), at least over the course of the past two or three years. Hopefully this is a successful event, and that they can put on more events like this in the future.

Meet the Brewer: Helder Pimentel

Last month while hanging out at the Beer Summit / Sam Adams Octoberfest at the Castle, guest blogger Mike Micalone and I ran into Helder Pimentel and Maggie Foley of Backlash Beer Co. We had met the previous week at the MA Brewers Fest, and recognized each other.

The four of us ended up chatting about beer (who would have predicted that!?) and wound up hanging out for most of the night. I mentioned to Helder that I had just posted Part I of Meet the Brewer: Dave Lagueux, and asked if he would be interested in being the second brewer to be interviewed, and he happily agreed.

Here's what we had to discuss...

Brew England: Some people probably already know this, but Backlash's beer is contract brewed at Paper City Brewing Company in Holyoke, MA. What made you decide to contract brew versus opening your own brewery? Do you have future plans for opening your own facility?

Helder Pimentel: Choosing to go contract was mostly a function of how little start up capital we had. We felt like we had a really good concept for the beers we wanted to brew and the brand in general, but gathering the necessary funding to open a brewery seemed like it would take too long. So instead we reached out to Paper City and have had great success with them thus far.

In terms of opening our own facility, it's definitely a really romantic idea for us. I feel like every homebrewer wants their own brewery some day. Realistically though, it just seems like a longer term goal. We want to stay focused on making the best beer possible and getting out to meet as many people as we can. It's what we do best!

BE: Unlike some other brewing companies who have the local brewery brew, package, and ship their beer, you actual go to Paper City to brew the beer yourself. Does Paper City give you cart blanche as far as using their facility? Do they only give you a certain barrel size for each of your batches, or can you tell them how much you'd like to brew? Do they help you scale up your recipe to yield a certain quantity?

HP: While we do show up for each brewing session and we hand label/dip/stamp each of our bottles- we do have a distributor (Burke distribution). We have a great working relationship with Paper City where I bring in my recipe that I've developed on our pilot system and the head brewer (Jay Hebert) at Paper City gives me some pointers for scaling up the recipe on his particular system- because all systems have their own intricacies and ultimately, he's been brewing on that system for 20 years.

Helder applying labels to bottles of Groundswell at Paper City Brewery

BE: How did you come up with the name Backlash Beer? Your logo is pretty distinct, and rough around the was that created as well?

HP: People often ask what we're "Backlash'ing" against. The Backlash to us really represents the craft beer movement and an effort to take back beer from what it has become in the past few decades. We want to help energize the craft beer movement by recruiting new people to it. Our logo pretty much embodies the aggressive approach we're taking in fighting back against the big, old beer establishment.

BE: Groundswell was your inaugural beer, and it seemed to be met with much anticipation. When you decided to launch your beer, what made you decide to go with a Belgian style beer?

HP: We initially planned on launching a little bit later than we did (September versus July). Being that we were going to launch in the summer we wanted something that was refreshing and approachable on a hot day. Also, we wanted a style that we both loved drinking. I first developed Groundswell some time ago at home and felt that it was really appropriate as a launch beer because it's a brew that seasoned craft beer drinkers seem to respect and enjoy, while at the same time appealing to folks who have just entered the craft beer realm or are curious about craft beer.

BE: How many barrels of Groundswell were produced?

HP: Groundswell was produced in a really small quantity. In terms of brewery barrels (BBLs), it was only 20 barrels in size. When you take into account how much was bottled into bombers, we only had 32 kegs left to sell.

BE: I know there were a few Boston area beer stores that carried fast did it sell and are there any bottles left? Do you plan on brewing this beer again in the near future? Any plans for it being your flagship beer, or is it too early to tell?

HP: Groundswell flew- The bottles literally sold out of the distributor in 4 days. We initially hadn't planned on brewing it again for some time, but our customers have been quite adamant in us making it again. We're leaning towards Groundswell being our year round beer.

BE: The MA Brewfest was the first beer festival for Backlash Beer. Can you tell me about the experience - did you receive a lot of feedback at the event? Was there a lot of Tweets and Facebook Messages afterwards? Did you see a spike in sales after (not sure if you have that information)? Also, do you have any confirmed beer events coming up?

HP: Wow- the MA Brewer's fest was insane. We have worked/poured for other companies at beer events but doing our own was really special. And the reception was just wicked. Our line got to be pretty long, which is a good and bad thing. We only brought one keg so it seemed like a lot of people were coming to our table first, which is flattering to say the least.

We promoted the event mostly through Twitter and Facebook, so we did see a lot of feedback on there. It's hard to tell if we had a spike in sales, but we definitely saw a spike in Facebook 'likes' and Twitter followers. We do actually have a confirmed event coming up. We're doing the beer summit in November at the Castle. We'll be pouring Convergence, our next beer (Saison).

BE: According to your website, "Declaration" is your next beer to be launched. Can you give the readers some insight as to what they can expect from this beer, and do you have a release date yet for it? Are you planning on brewing the same number of barrels you did of Groundswell?

HP: Declaration was supposed to be our second beer, but sourcing hops for it at this point in the year is nearly impossible. For that reason, we decided to launch Convergence (our Super Saison) in the meantime. We're hoping that by waiting one brew, we'll have a new season of hops to choose from, and be able to brew the recipe the way we intended it rather than try to work with what hops are available.

BE: The hops were held up for Declaration? Does that mean they weren't enough produced to meet the demand for the hop varieties? Out of curiosity, what hops go into Declaration?

HP: The hop varieties that we had designed Declaration around are always in high demand and because they're proprietary strains, the supply is often limited. Also, being that we're at the tale end of the 2010 season, many varieties are sold out- so that doesn't help. A few of the varieties we have ear marked are Simcoe and Amarillo.

BE: So with Declaration on hold for now, can you tell me more about your Super Saison "Convergence"? What makes it so special?

HP: Convergence is brewed with a shit load of rye to add some spicy character to it aside from what the yeast itself contributes. It's different from a typical Saison in that it has a good amount of Belgian fruit esters to compliment the spiciness- it's almost a hybrid style. We call it a "Super Saison" because typically Saisons are lower in ABV and Convergence clocks in at 7.5%

BE: With the success you saw selling out of Groundswell so quickly, are you brewing the same amount of barrels of Convergence?

HP: No, we're brewing twice as much of Convergence and putting more of it into bottles this time. A lot of people who found out about Groundswell a little later never really got a chance to try it- so we want to avoid that this time around.

BE: With the rapid sales of Groundswell, have accounts already made requests for the next batch from Backlash Beer?

HP: Yes almost immediately after selling out Groundswell a bunch of accounts started to ask about what was next. It seems as though Convergence will be met with much anticipation!

BE: Do you have an official release date for Convergence? According to your Facebook page, it hasn't been released, so can you give Brew England the scoop??

HP: The beer is making it's way to our distributor's warehouse today actually. Once it's in inventory and orders come in, I would expect it to be on shelves a few days later. I'm thinking early next week.

BE: Besides the aforementioned brews, do you have any idea what other types of beers you're likely to produce over the next year or so?

HP: We definitely want to do Declaration as soon as we can source the hops. We have our chocolate espresso stout (Stealth) slated for the winter as well. Somewhere in there we'll make one of our brews year round. I'm always tinkering with recipes/ideas so a new brew could pop up at a moment's notice- but that is as far as we've planned out for now.

We again want to thank Helder for taking the time to submit to a barrage of questions! If you haven't started following them on Twitter, or become a fan of them on Facebook, definitely do so to keep up to date on new releases and future projects!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tuesday Night Tasting - Backlash Beer Co: Groundswell

Backlash Beer Co. – Boston / Holyoke, MA
Groundswell – Belgian Style Blond Ale
7.3% ABV, 22 oz and on draft

A lot of buzz had been brewed up for the release of Backlash Beer Co.’s first beer, Groundswell. Both owner/brewer Helder Pimentel and his business partner Maggie had been attacking the beer world from a social media standpoint leading up to the release, which was great from a marketing perspective. I had Groundswell for the first time at the 2011 MA Brewers Fest where Backlash had the longest line, which eventually was the reason their keg went dry. When I saw a bottle at Curtis Liquors in Weymouth over the weekend, I knew I had to pick up a bottle and give it a try!

The bottle itself is pretty cool. It’s a dark brown bottle, with a black label, and white lettering. What makes the packaging even better is that the bottle is wax dipped (only other wax dipped bottle I’ve found was Ska Brewing's True Blonde Dubbel while in Chicago), and their brass knuckle emblem was stamped onto the cap within the wax.

On to the beer itself…

The bottle pours a medium golden blond liquid, which features a medium white foamy head. It didn’t linger too long before fading into the brew itself. It had a notably nice carbonation level as well.

The aroma was full of fruity, slightly spicy, and citrus notes. The flavor was similar to the aroma as well, as it was crisp, yet soft. It had far more hop characteristics than I expected; however, considering I’m a hop head I enjoyed the nice surprise. You can certainly pick up the citrus from the hops, and the fruitiness from the yeast, which gives Groundswell a nice balance. It’s not overly malty, which is good for this style of beer.

The mouth feel was moderate, which is surprising based on the color. You might expect the beer to have a lighter flavor and mouth feel, but it was not, which I liked. Groundswell also packs a medium drinkability level. It has a pleasant flavor, isn’t too heavy, and is quite enjoyable. It’s a good beer to share with friends, and would probably work well as a four pack due to its 7.3% ABV.

If you haven’t checked out Backlash Beer’s Groundswell yet, I would suggest giving it a go. The new brewing company has recently bottled their upcoming release of Convergence, a Super Saison, which should be hitting the shelves and tap lines very soon!

Follow Backlash Beer on Twitter and check out their Facebook page for all their beer related news, not to mention right here for an interview with Pimentel

Friday, September 30, 2011

Meet the Brewer: Dave Lagueux, Part II

In case you missed Part I of the interview, I would strongly suggest catching up on that first!

Here's Part II:

Brew England: How did your parents feel about you going to Chicago to learn how to brew beer? Did they see that you could succeed at it and be happy doing that for a living? Were they skeptical?

Dave Lagueux: They weren't skeptical. They saw me working a lot for free, and how interested I was in making beer. I've always had an interest in mechanical/technical things, and they were happy to see me use that side. I think my parents understood that it was a trade like anything else. I can't thank them enough for being supportive and putting up with all the beer I had (and still have) around their house.

BE: You mentioned that you worked for Lowell Beer Works for about a year...What brought you to Trumer Pils in California? Did you transition immediately from New Hampshire to California?

DL: We toured a lot of breweries in Europe, but one of my favorites was the Trumer Brauerei in Salzburg. The tour was great, and the brewery is incredible. I saw an opening for a shift brewer at the Trumer Brauerei in Berkeley and sent my resume out. The next thing I knew, I was in California for a week-long working interview. I guess they liked me, because I've been at Trumer for over two years! I left Beerworks after a year to come out and work here. It's been a great experience so far!

BE: Moving from New Hampshire to California must have been a big move for you! When you were deciding to take a job in California, what were some of the things that influenced your decision? What was the working interview like?

DL: I think the biggest factor in me moving to CA was that my brother Mike was living in the Bay Area as well. I knew it would be nice to move to some place new, and it would be great to hang out with him while he was living here. I went to visit my brother for a few days and happened to see the opening at Trumer around the same time. I got in contact with them and said that I'd be in the area for a day or two.

I knew that working at Trumer would be a great experience for me, so I just went for it. They asked me to extend my trip and work for a few days. The working interview was a great way to figure out if I liked California enough to live here, and if I liked working at Trumer. It was also a good way for them to figure me out as well. I met all of the guys at the brewery, and shadowed them as they did their jobs. I remember washing kegs for a very long time. I busted my ass doing that. I wasn't about to leave that place after 4 days of work without a job.

A picture of the brewery at 2am

BE: You said you're a shift brewer at Trumer, correct? Was this the position you were hired for initially?

DL: Yes. I came out here with enough experience to do all of the necessary tasks. Though being a "shift brewer" at Trumer is sort of different than most places our size. We are cross-trained to do every job in the brewery. I rotate around every 2 months, and switch between an AM shift (5am-3:30pm) and a PM shift (3pm-1:30am) Monday to Thursday. I might run the brewhouse for a few months, then to the cellars, then filtration. It keeps us really on our toes. It's easy to forget little things that can have a huge impact.

The Trumer Pils bottling line

Six 800bbl (25,200 gallons each) Maturation Tanks

This helps figure out the scale of the brewery!

BE: What do you like most about the brewery there? Do the other brewers have similar backgrounds as you?

DL: I'd say I like the 4 day work week the most! No, I like the fact the we rotate around the brewery and get our hands involved in everything. My favorite shift is probably filtration, just because it's so complicated. It was probably what I was least familiar with when I started. It still seems funny to me that I can filter 12,000 gallons of beer in my shift. The guys I work with have all kinds of backgrounds. A few guys have related degrees, like Chemistry and Food Science. Other guys got into brewing some other way, like I did. Most of us have had some formal training as brewers either at Siebel or UC Davis.

BE: It seems like being a brewer can be a lot of fun, but at the end of the day it's still work. What do you do outside of work for fun?

DL: My girlfriend and I ride our bikes a lot. We do a lot of outdoor activities and cook a lot of food. We've been making a point to see all the important spots out here in California like Yosemite and Big Sur. Just last weekend, we did a kayaking/camping trip in Half Moon Bay which was really awesome.

BE: California is home to many great breweries, and a lot of us on the East Coast only know about some of them (Stone, Russian River, Sierra Nevada, etc). What are some of your favorite beers out there? Are there some small breweries or brewpubs that you really like?

DL: I love Ballast Point, down in San Diego. Upright Brewing in Portland is another one of my favorites. They're brewing lots of interesting Saisons. There's a lot of great brewers out here doing interesting things. Locally, I like Drake's, Black Diamond and Firestone Walker. We're really spoiled out here with the selection of Belgian beers, too.

I'd really like to thank Dave for being the first interview conducted here at Brew England. He gave a lot of great insight on his transition from homebrewer to commercial brewer. Stay posted to new posts coming soon, including a Meet the Brewer segment with Helder Pimentel of Backlash Beer!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Contest: NH BrewFest at Redhook

As announced last week, Redhook Ale Brewery in Portsmouth, NH is the host for the 3rd Annual NH BrewFest on Saturday October 15th, and we have a pair of VIP Session Tickets to give away!

Just a quick reminder about the finer points to the festival overall:

- 30+ Breweries
- 100+ Beers
- Live Music
- Food
- Session 1 runs 1-4pm
- VIP Session 1 gets you in at 12pm, an hour before the general public
- Session 2 runs 6-9pm

Now to the important to win the FREE VIP SESSION TICKETS!

In the past, we have simply asked those who enter our contests to simply state their favorite beer by XYZ brewery, but we've decided to change things up a little bit. While we still want to know what your favorite Redhook beer is - mine is Longhammer IPA, we also want to comment on this post letting us know why you should get the tickets.

You'll also want to be following Brew England on Twitter and be a fan of us on Facebook, because I mean hey...why not be following or liking us on Twitter and Facebook? You'll earn extra bonus points if you Tweet "I just entered for a chance to win free NH BrewFest tickets at!" (please Cc: us using @BrewEngland so we can see) or by writing on our wall on Facebook...but, remember the comment here is the 'official' way to enter the contest!
The cut off date to enter is Friday October 7th at 11:59pm, and the winner will be announced at noon on Tuesday October 11th.

Good luck!

Monday, September 26, 2011

22nd Annual Harpoon Octoberfest Boston

Harpoon Brewery will be hosting their 22nd Annual Octoberfest this Friday and Saturday at their Boston brewery. Both sessions will give incentives for Friends of Harpoon card holders, but you don't have to be a FOH to attend.

Friday's session runs from 5:30-11pm with doors closing at 9:30pm. If you show your FOH card, not only will you have an exclusive line (pretty much guarantees you'll skip many people), but you'll receive 1/2 price admission! The ticket is $10 and includes one drink ticket. You can bring one other person to skip the line, but if they aren't a Friend of Harpoon they'll be stuck paying full price for their admission, not to mention all their beers.

Saturday's session runs from 2-9pm with doors closing at 7:30pm. You and a friend can still use the FOH entrance, but unfortunately the admission is full price and does not include any of your beers. However, all Friends who enter through that line and have your FOH card scanned are entered to win a prize package!

Get more information on this cool event here.

Friend of Harpoon Night on Thursday

Harpoon Brewery, in conjunction with the British Beer Company Pembroke, will be having a Friends of Harpoon Night this Thursday from 7-9pm. The BBC will still be pouring their other selection of beers, but all FOH card holders should show the Harpoon rep their cards, and they will buy you a pint of their Octobefest. I also highly recommend you get there early, because there will be a limited supply of Harpoon IPA glasses handed out (while supplies last).

Last year Sarah and I went to the British Beer Company Walpole for Harpoon's 100 Barrel Series Pint Night, where we not only received a free pint of the latest 100 Barrel Series beers (which was the Glacier Harvest '10 Wet Hop Ale), the special 100 Barrel Series glasses, but the rep who was there also hooked Sarah and I up with free tickets to the Harpoon Octoberfest Friday Session! I can neither confirm nor deny they will be handing out tickets again this year, but the pint and glass alone were worth the trip.

British Beer Company Pembroke is located at 15 Columbia Road.