Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Homebrew: It Must Be Wedding Saison

I can hear it already. My success has gone straight to my head! Yup, Mr. Cedrone is going to tear me apart for rating my homebrew higher than those in the same style put forward by such reknowned brewers as Jolly Pumpkin, North Coast, and The Lost Abbey. Here is the thing though: mine is better. I can't think of a saison that I didn't enjoy, but this did happen to be a pretty lackluster bunch. And while there is a special place in my part for my homebrews, this was an excellent beer.

Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere
750 ml -- Lighthouse, Manchester, ME
very light color with frothy head... nice aroma of fruit and yeast... taste is of white grapes... very, very dry. a very odd farmhouse, for sure. has a delicate, champagne-like taste i have come to associate with jolly pumpkin. not neccessarily a good thing either. i think i may have gotten ahead of myself with this brewer...
Score: 6

North Coast Le Merle

Bottle -- Chris Gasbarro's, Seekonk
very active head... very spicy aroma paired with funky yeast... quite sour, not altogether pleasant either... fruitiness is present, but not as dominant as in some farmhouses... liveliness in mouthfeel is kind of distracting to be honest... not the best saison i have ever had, but this style is always enjoyable.
Score: 5

The Lost Abbey Carnevale
22 oz -- Luke's, Rockland
pretty light for the style. yeast was missing desired level of funkiness too. kind of simplistic too. being a belgian from lost abbey i had pretty high expectations... i suppose a little too high.
Score: 5

It Must Be Wedding Saison
Bottle -- Brockton
so this seemed like the perfect style for a wedding brew: light and sessionable, flavorful yet accessible to non-craft beer drinkers. the style has a springy-feel to it too. unfortunately, i wasn't able to serve it at the wedding itself, but honestly, i had to ration it even though it was just available before and after the reception. anyways, it seemed to go over well. pours ruby-orange color, opaque, with big head and tight bubbles... spice, yeast, hint of alcohol, and cherry cough syrup... banana and yeast hit taste buds first, center of taste is nutty malt and earthy, fresh hops, with building bitterness at end... taste is quite fruity, while yeast dominates -- funky and tart... dry, textured, and lively. a lovely beer to drink. without a doubt my favorite homebrew yet and the first beer i would consider brewing exactly the same the next time around... high praise.
Appearance: 4/5, Aroma: 9/10, Flavor: 8/10, Palate: 3/5, Overall: 15/20, Total: 4.0
Score: 8

Monday, July 27, 2009

West Coast Beers

Sadly, the last of the beers I brought back from the honeymoon are listed below, along with a few west coast brewers that are a little more widely available.

21st Amendment IPA
Can -- Superstar Discount Beverage Center, Huntington, NY
sold to me as a drinkable ipa, and it was all of that. very enjoyable. one notch below dale's pale ale, but that is all.
Score: 7

Alaskan Smoked Porter 2008
22 oz -- Cork, Portland, OR
big aroma: smoke, cola, and coffee. smoked meat features in flavor, but it really does fit. very smooth and lively. its a shame i won't see any more of these alaskan beers for a while.
Score: 9

Hair of the Dog Blue Dot Double IPA
22 oz -- Cork, Portland, OR
first thing that strikes you about this beer is the somewhat unusual aroma. sweet, with citrus hops and fruity esters... and very heavy, hanging in your nostrils. malts balance hops nicely, but still finishes with some punch. a fun beer.
Score: 8

Heater Allen Pils
22 oz -- Belmont Station, Portland, OR
a czech pilsner with simple, classy label. nice golden color with thick lacing that clings to my stange glass. sharp aroma of fresh hay. decent bitterness up front. textured mouthfeel, but easy to drink. highly recommended but you may have to be on the west coast to find it...
Score: 8

North Coast Old Plowshare Stout
Bottle -- Luke's, Rockland
an organic stout from one of my favorite brewers. somewhat see-through black. nice coffee aroma and some molasses, i think. tasty, with bitterness giving edge to beer. almost thin, but doesn't necessarily detract from beer. delicious.
Score: 8

Port Brewing High Tide Fresh Hop IPA
22 oz -- Luke's, Rockland
yet another fresh hop beer -- these are really hot lately. hazy, dark golden pour... distinctive cascade hops at work here... sharp bitterness on finish... wears a little thin over the course of the bottle.
Score: 7

Pick of the litter:
Alesmith IPA
22 oz -- Shoreline Beverage, Huntington, NY
especially impressive head on this one, perfectly proportioned. what a great smell: rich and tropical fruit. and the flavor is almost as big, grapefruit and bready malt. as hoppy a beer as you will find, but without being over-the-top. excellent.
Score: 10

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Last night I went to a really good BBQ/house warming party at my friend Steve's house. That said, my drinking expectations for the night were pretty low. Beforehand there had been talk of a keg of Miller or Bud or whatnot, so Dan and I brought some Smuttynose, Fort Collins, and homebrews. And it would get even better.

At the party we ran into my college friend Devon, who I had not seen since graduation. Devon has been busy since I last saw him. For starters, he and a friend started DrinkCraftBeer.com. This is a really impressive blog so check it out now. I'll wait.

They really do cover a lot of cool stuff: beer ratings, chat forums, beer and food tastings, homebrewing tips, beer trips and interviews with the brewers, you name it. I especially loved the posts about drinking local and the adventure of being a commercial brewer for a day. Talk about putting some legwork into your blog! These two really seem to have their fingers in a lot of pies. There is even talk of hosting a couple of upcomming events, something I certainly to hope to attend at some point.

I know I am really going to enjoy adding Drink Craft Beer to my blogroll and recommend you do the same.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pretty Things Baby Tree

Pretty Things Baby Tree
22 oz -- Wine Palace, West Bridgewater
there is this little wine store in neighboring west bridgewater that i really want to like, but just can't. it's called the wine palace and they have set aside a nice little area for craft beer. and as much as i want them to, there is never anything more exciting than dogfish head. until now. another beer from pretty things! i see the jack d'or regularly now (which i love) but i haven't found any of their other five beers. until now! this is a "quadruple with dried plums." great hook. i kind of like their painted labels, and interestingly, this has a band-aid looking seal over the top of the cap. for some reason i am always surprised at how dark the quads pour. could swear it has a purple tint to it. doesn't produce much of a head, but what is there really lasts. the plums definitely make their mark in the aroma, as it is very fruity. the sugariness tastes entirely like gumdrops to me. taste is lots of dark fruit, closest to prunes and raisins, i think. brown sugar plays prominently (perhaps too prominently...) bitterness registers in both flavor and mouthfeel. it also drinks unusually smoothly for a quad, to the point that the 8.7% goes right to your head. with a lot of new brewers going straight for the drinkable styles, it is refreshing to see such a challenging and well-executed beer as a second offering.
Score: 8

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Allagash Confluence Ale
750 ml -- Luke's
this wild ale has been atop my most wanted list since last february when i thought i would have the chance to try it at the great lost bear in portland, only to have it be sold out. i love the name... confluence! very light color with some fascinating spiderwebbing on the head. aroma is spicy first, with a very appealing (and apparently wild) yeast. fruity nose too -- green apples, definitely. yeast tastes more tart than funky, as i kind of expected. taste is of citrus hops, but also some dark fruit. pepper, grassy, and herbal elements all at play here. so much going on that this beer is probably a little more chaotic than complex. extremely drinkable though. i polished off a bottle with no problem, and that was after a couple of beers and a meal. worth the $22? maybe not. but if your feeling a little flush come payday, give it a try!
Score: 7

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wedding gifts

So guess what my favorite wedding gifts were...

Grado Plato Chocarrubica
750 ml -- Portland, OR
a wedding gift from kathryn... because she read that i hadn't tried an italian beer yet! why aren't the rest of you reading that closely?! sadly, this one didn't really work out. exploded out of the swing top-bottle, with ever rising head. smell starts hoppy, but gives way to an odd soft cheese aroma. taste is not good: think robitussin... or rubber. something must have went wrong here; i think i got a bad bottle...
Score: 1

Hook Norton Hooky Gold
16.9 oz -- RSVP Discount Beverage, Portland, ME
poor nate really had to search to find some beers that i had not tried yet. going the import angle was very wise. but i digress. almost clear golden with measured head. smell is unique: wheat, earthy hops, and... plums. huh, that was unexpected. grassy hop bitterness ontop of wheat. crisp, clean, and light. fits what you are looking for on a summer evening.
Score: 7

St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout
11.5 oz -- RSVP Discount Beverage, Portland, ME
oatmeal stout from quebec. struck more by creamy tan head than anything else on pour. burnt coffee, alcohol, and sour earthiness (good though...) bitterness blends very nicely with rich roastiness in flavor. lively, with bitterness that is almost biting on mouthfeel. a very nice beer.
Score: 9

Wynchwood Fiddler's Elbow
16.9 oz -- RSVP Discount Beverage, Portland, ME
being from england and having cartoon elf's on label, i thought at first this might have been the infamously overrated bad elf. it was not. very hazy. smell is sweet biscuits. flavor is of wheat and faint citrus. nice mouthfeel. funny aftertaste. didn't excite me.
Score: 5

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Microbrewery Gets Smooth Start in Canton

My friend Mark recently emailed me this article about Blue Hills Brewery in Canton. Now this isn't the first I have heard of Blue Hills (I have rated their Xtra Pale Ale a 6 and their IPA an 8) but I never got the full story on the brewery until now. Best news is, tours are available by contacting them through their (very sharp looking) website: http://www.bluehillsbrewery.com/ I'll be reporting back on the tour before too long. In the meantime, welcome to the neighborhood, Blue Hills!

New Microbrewery Gets Smooth Start in Canton
Boston Globe, Emily Simon

Latvia or Massachusetts.

Andris Veidis and Peter Augis chose the latter, and the result is the Blue Hills Brewery in Canton, which was established nine months ago and produced its first draft on Jan. 15.

Named after the nearby slopes, the company is the newest addition to Greater Boston's vibrant microbrewery scene. But if European history had been a little different, the partners today could be brewing on the other side of the Atlantic.

Augis and Veidis, who live in Westwood and Canton, respectively, are of Latvian descent and met in the early 1990s through the area's Latvian community.

Veidis has been brewing since 1994. He cut his teeth as an intern at the Harpoon Brewery in Boston, then worked in a Worcester brewery before enrolling in a professional brewers program at the University of California, Davis. He later worked for brewpubs throughout the Northeast and helped set up Boston Beer Works on Canal Street in Boston.

Augis has a background in architecture and construction, and in addition to overseeing the brewery operations and managing sales, he creates the tap handles for the Blue Hills line.

In 2002, the pair began discussing the possibility of a brewpub in Latvia with their friend Marty Grots. They hoped to take advantage of the nation's inexpensive real estate, but after Latvia joined the European Union in 2004, land prices began to skyrocket.

Veidis wrote up a business plan for a microbrewery in Greater Boston and began looking for space. The group signed a lease on the Canton property last May. In addition to Augis, Veidis, and Grots, there are two other partners: Veidis's father and 2-year-old son.

"We haven't told my son he owns a stake yet," said Veidis. "But when we do, he'll probably be the coolest kid in school."

The brewery occupies a small warehouse that used to house a yoga studio. Downward dog and "om" have given way to "bottoms up" and "burrrp."

The floor space is filled with brewing equipment, and there's a small gift area in the front, with hardwood floors and a mahogany bar in the shape of a pilsner glass designed and built by Augis.
The facility can brew up to 20 barrels (31 gallons each) at a time. From start to finish, the process takes about three weeks, and Veidis brews once a week. By midsummer, he plans to boost the rate to twice a week, and hopes to produce 1,500 to 2,000 barrels over the course of the year.

Blue Hills's products are Xtra Pale Ale and an India Pale Ale. Additional ales are under development, and the partners plan to unveil a Hefeweizen in late May and an Irish red by mid-June. They also hope eventually to brew a lager, most likely a pilsner.

For now, though, they're focused on ales and settling into a community that has welcomed them with open arms.

On move-in day neighboring contractors provided forklifts and trucks. The brewery works with local firms for printing and gives excess grain to a farmer in Sharon. And nearly all of the brewing equipment is composed of recycled or repurposed materials.

"We're a real neighborly operation," Augis said. "We try to be involved in the community and work with local purveyors whenever possible."

Now that's good karma.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bukowski's Tavern

Over July 4th I found myself with a few friends back in Cambridge for the fireworks. The highlights of course weren't the pyrotechnics but a new beer bar and an old favorite.

Bukowski's Tavern
1281 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA
Bukowski's has one of the best reputations among beer bars in Boston; Cambridge is their second location. For some reason I had it in my head that it would be a bit of a dive, but it was really almost trendy, if anything else. Very dark, with a diner-esque sort of feel to it. I was impressed with the beer list; Pretty Things, lots of top-notch west coast beers, and all the way down to 40's of malt liquor. Beer menu is well put together, food looked good, and service was responsive. Really dug this place -- recommended.
Atmosphere: 4/5, Selection: 9/10, Quality: 8/10, Service: 4/5, Overall: 14/20, Total: 39/50
Total rating: A-

Brooklyn Cuvee de Cardoz
Tap -- Bukowski's Tavern, Cambridge
a belgian strong pale ale. served in brooklyn glass, but with an overly carbonated pour. lots of different spices and a hop presence. brooklyn really does a great job with belgian styles for such a large craft brewer.
Score: 8

Lagunitas A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale
Tap -- Bukowski's Tavern, Cambridge
a pale wheat ale and lagunitas' summer seasonal, which i was excited to see. i would say this was very hoppy, but not quite astringent. not your typical wheat ale, but i suppose we should have expected it with lagunitas being from the west coast and all. nice.
Score: 8

The Tap Ascension
Tap -- Bukowski's Tavern, Cambridge
a belgian ipa this time. huge pillowy head. subtle hops. chalky and dry. very drinkable. vastly exceeded expectations.
Score: 8

CBC Benevolence
Sample -- Cambridge Brewing Company
murky maroon... dates and medicine in smell, which i think turned off my drinking buddy George... lots of dark fruit in flavor, and quite sweet... powerful stuff at 12.6%. i see why George didn't like it.
Score: 4

CBC Imperial Skibsol Danish Smoked Dark Lager Beer
Sample -- CBC
what a mouthfull this name was, huh? smoke does make it to aroma, while taste is of liquorice and note of coffee. finish is bitter, mouthfeel is lively. pretty good.
Score: 7

CBC Spring IPA
Sample -- CBC
served in flute, which seems odd. fresh hop aroma and quite bitter. strong but drinkable. easily my favorite of these three new beers.
Score: 8

Monday, July 13, 2009

Homebrew: Bia Kahawa Afrika

Ah, breakfast beer! I have written a lot about breakfast stout's in this blog, but what about a coffeehouse porter for breakfast? Well, why not? (Besides the obvious...) That was part of the thought when drawing up my latest homebrew. I started with the recipie for my fairly successful Promised Land Porter and tried to make it even more robust with 4 oz of Cascade, Fuggle, and Williamette hops. And to make it a coffeehouse, I cold brewed 1/2 gallon of Fair Trade coffee from Kenya. Thus the name in Swahili, Bia Kahawa Africa (African Coffee Beer.) Before we get there though, let's see how it stacked up to some other pretty good breakfast beers.

Redhook Double Black Stout (with Coffee)
22 oz bottle -- People's Liquor Warehouse, Fall River
very nice head to top black body... chocolate malt and cola-like smell... coffee does assert itself in flavor, along with sweet nuttiness and a hint of vanilla... creamy, smooth feel. very enjoyable. i think a lot more of redhook because of this beer.
Score: 9

Long Trail Brewmaster Series Coffee Stout
22 oz bottle -- Chris Gasbarro's, Seekonk
very pleased to see long trail get into some more specialty beers with this series. classy label. pours perfectly into my tulip glass. nice strong roast coffee smell that melds nicely with alcohol. alcohol presence in the aroma isn't always welcome, but it works very well here. malt flavor is heavily roasted, but not yet charred. slight pepperiness too. bitterness is there, but is off-set by subtle sweetness. good carbonation in the mouthfeel, but aftertaste is not quite as smooth as you might expect. liked this a lot.
Score: 8

Bia Kahawa Afrika
Bottle -- Brockton
pours very dark, with sizable off-white head. smells more like an ipa with all of the cascade hops here, followed in hot pursuit by the coffee. coffee flavor comes on strong in the taste (some might say too strong... but not me.) cocoa flavor from chocolate malt accompanies. bitterness is quite earthy. very smooth, with a little more heft to the body than my last porter. that is a good thing, and taste was pretty close to what i was looking for as well. gonna call this a victory.
Appearance: 3/5, Aroma: 8/10, Flavor: 7/10, Palate: 4/5, Overall: 15/20, Total: 3.7
Score: 8