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