Mini road trip! This weekend’s adventure was a trek down Route 3 to Plymouth, MA, for a tour of the Mayflower Brewery and some bar-hopping in downtown Plymouth. One of my former coworkers lives down there, and is always up for shenanigans in town, though I’m fond of saying that Plymouth is a 45 minute drive from everywhere. The Lady Friend and I had been to Mayflower for their open house back in May, and got to sample the full range of beers then. However, we’re always up for a repeat performance, and this time I’d get to document it properly.
We met up with the coworker, Tresstastic, and her boyfriend at her apartment, and pounded a quick Sam Octoberfest before heading over the the brewery, meeting up with two other friends. Mayflower, like most breweries, is located in an industrial park. It’s hard to spot, so keep an eye out for the delivery trucks parked next to the building. As soon as I walked in the door, the Man Behind the Bar asked “Hey… Man with the Camera… are you from somewhere important?” No, but I like to pretend. Then, the girl working there said “Hey… I recognize you…” Yup. Getting recognized at breweries. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing. Like the liquor store near my apartment that stopped carding me long ago. It’s nice, but probably not a good sign for the future of my liver.
There is a bit of a story to that one. Back in May when LF and I were at the Open House, we hung around the bar area towards the end and chatted with the staff, one of which was the girl working this weekend, Sarah. She swore I had been there before, even though I had never been to Mayflower. Apparently I have a doppleganger, because she insisted it was me, or someone who looked exactly like me that had been in there about two weeks before. I made some comment about having to hunt him down because THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE. Anyway, apparently either I made an impression, or my doppleganger is still lurking about Mayflower Brewery, since Sarah remembered meeting me before.
Like most breweries now, Mayflower has a tasting room/retail area front, including some bar tables and small seating area, while the actual brewery lies down a small hallway into the back warehouse section. We were pretty much the only ones in the place, which made it nice and casual for our tour. Before beginning, we started with a beer. “Can’t take a tour without a beer in your hand,” remarked Man Behind the Bar, as he poured a sample of the Golden Ale for each of us. We headed into the back, and Sarah started the tour.
The usual: blah blah blah, beer beer beer. Mix grain with water and hops, boil it up, add yeast, and let it sit and ferment. Here’s some of the interesting bits about Mayflower: the founder, Drew, is a 10th generation descendant of a man named John Alden, who was the cooper (barrelmaker) on the Mayflower. Yes, that one. Why is that important? Well, the cooper was responsible for building and maintaining all the barrels stowed on the ship during the voyage. Yeah, those weren’t water barrels either… they were full of beer. Water wasn’t very clean in those days, and most people drank healthy, nourishing and refreshing beer all day long. Even kids. Especially kids. Gin wouldn’t become the drink of choice until a bit later. Anyway, the story goes that the Mayflower was destined for Virginia, but ran into Cape Cod instead, and decided to land because they were out of beer. Not finding any suitable fresh water (it was pretty stagnant on the Cape) they set off again and landed in Plymouth, where they found an adequate supply of fresh water, which is the same source used to make Mayflower Brewing’s beers today. The founder, Drew, got tired of being retired, and started up Mayflower in 2007 which is currently a 2,000bbl facility. Pretty good for a four-year-old place.
So, we poked around and gawked at their grist mill, mash tun, fermenters and runoff buckets bubbling happily with C02-and-wort foam released from the top of the fermenters. Bubbling gunk means fermentation, and fermentation means alcohol! Go little yeasties, go! As usual, I was snapping pics for the duration leading Sarah to chide “What ARE you taking pictures of?” However, the first time I pointed the lens in her general direction, she jumped as if scalded with boiling hot mag-ma. The main room is all one unit where the fermentation tanks take center stage. Some time ago, Mayflower expanded into the next room where their shiny new Italian-made bottler lurks. It’s a two or three person operation and will bottle both 12 oz bottles and 22 oz bombers. Mayflower has 15 employees, including a couple of delivery drivers. The brewery cranks out four year-round beers and one rotating seasonal, plus a few elusive experimental bottles of their Thanksgiving beer, which changes every year.
That’s enough touring… time for TASTING.
We congregated back in the front room and lined up at the bar. Taps were pulled, and mighty beer plunged forth. Mayflower gives you some decently generous samples, in the 4-5oz range served in mini-pint tasting glasses. They serve lightest to darkest, and everything is deliciously free. Free beer always tastes better. Especially when it’s fresh.
We started off with the Golden Ale to sip during the tour. Mine didn’t make it past the grist mill.
Nose: Light, with a bit of malty cereal sweetness
Taste: Mild hop with a nice malt balance. Light and refreshing. Almost lager-like.
Now, I first had this back in May at the Open House. I’d had the IPA many times before, and enjoyed it, but tasting the pale ale was my real flash-of-lightning “A-HA” moment. The trick is, in many breweries, the pale ale doesn’t really have much presence, and the IPA is a real hop bomb. There’s no similarity. With Mayflower, the pale ale tastes like a lighter version of the IPA. You can really taste the progression from one to the next. I had never experienced that before, and it was wonderful.
Nose: A mild hoppy nose. Definite aroma, but not too strong.
Taste: Deliciously hoppy bitter. Mayflower leans towards the English style ales, with a more bitter hop, but their brews are very well-balanced.
India Pale Ale
I’ve had this many many times, but still not as often as I should. Harpoon usually wins my purchase for a local IPA due to the convenience and price, but I really do need to make an effort to buy Mayflower more often. I’m not saying it’s better, but, well, yeah, it’s better.
Nose: Sweet, tree fruit. It reminded Lady Friend of a Citra hop, though not as strong. They use a combination of Nugget, Simcoe, Amarillo and Glacier hops, with the Simcoe and Amarillo in particular adding citrus aromas.
Taste: Yum. Bitter hop up front, malt sweet rushes in with a sweet clean slight fruitness, then leaves a dry hop bitterness lingering. So. Good.
Autumn Wheat (Seasonal)
This is the, well, autumn seasonal. LF and I had the Summer Rye back in May, and this is described as an American Dark Wheat beer. Interesting. Also of note: the next seasonal will be an Oatmeal Stout. We’ll have to visit again in winter.
Nose: Very roasted and malty. Don’t really get any of the yeasty/ wheaty banana smells as in a Belgian Wit.
Taste: Roasted bitter. Malted sweetness. There’s a slight nuttiness, due to the roast, but a rounder sweetness from the wheat. Very nice. Again, not overpowering, and well-balanced.
A great Porter. Lady Friend liked it so much after our trip in May that she’s purchased it several times since. This is a girl who about 10 months ago preferred Coors Light.
Nose: Coffee bitter. Not much sweetness.
Taste: Roasted. Bitter roast. I’m not a coffee fan, but I’ll drink this. If you ARE a coffee drinker, you’ll love this. There’s not a whole lot of chocolate in there, but there is a touch.
While chitchatting with Sarah and The Man Behind the Bar, I eventually found out that his name was Mike, and he also has a blog, cunningly titled “The Best Beer Blog.” And here I am stuck with “Squirrel Farts.” Shucks. We discussed the hassles and happiness of writing blogs about alcohol, and I showed him the magical scam of free business cards. Finally, the rest of the group grouped and grew restless, and they dragged me away. We dropped the car back at the apartment and cabbed it over to the Main Street Grill in downtown Plymouth for dinner, where the Lady Friend waited way too long for some turkey tips (they were comped) and I scored a 22oz “Main Street Brew” for a paltry $3.50. She had something Octobery with a sugared rim. After the foodening, a quick saunter around the corner brought us to the British Beer Company. This was a goal of mine for some lovely imported brews (I was obliged to take a draught of Fuller’s London Pride pale ale, or, as it’s ordered in London, a “Pint ‘o Pride”) and cozy leather wingback chairs in their upstairs lounge. Too comfortable in fact, since the group lost its momentum, and we all decided that the adventure was flickering out. No matter; the trip was a rousing success, and even ended with some ice cream for the Lady Friend and I before returning to the Bastion of Beer, Squirrel Farts Headquarters.