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.