I certainly hope you’ve heard of Blatant Beer by now.
If not, prepare for a trip to the liquor store.
BLATANT! Brewery is the ale-producing offspring of brewer/owner Matthew Steinberg, Massachusetts brewing legend. He’s been involved with breweries such as Offshore Ale, Harpoon, Rapscallion, and helped Drew Brousseau with his startup brewery, Mayflower. He left Mayflower in 2010, and decided to finally start his own brewery, though as a contract brewer without his own facilities. He’s since brewed at Just Beer in Westport, and Paper City in Holyoke. Steinberg sees nothing wrong with the stigma of contract brewing (brewing your own beer in someone else’s brewery, or even having them brew it FOR you with your recipe) but strongly advocates growing the local beer community. He and I actually seem to share a lot of similar views when it comes to beer, and Honest Pint has a GREAT interview with him here. But I want to talk about the beer.
Last summer I bought myself a bomber of a boldly graphic-ed local IPA called Blatant and was blown away. It was a true American-style IPA, combining the best of East Coast dry bitterness and West Coast sweetness. Absolutely incredible. So I gushed about it to anyone who would listen, and may have called the brewer “a magnificent bastard” on Twitter after downing 22oz of his 6.5% abv hoppy wonderfulness. He actually responded, and after some bantering and an exchange of emails, I finally got to meet up with the man himself, Matthew Steinberg. He had a couple tastings scheduled in Cambridge, and suggested that I stop by. So I did.
This is a man who knows his beer. And is excited about it. Very. In fact, he’ll talk your ear off about beer, which is kind of awesome. During our chat, in between sample pours to curious shoppers, he described his beer as being “a brand without branding appeal.” He wants the beer itself to be the important part, rather than the label. Curious, as I find the simple graphic very eye-catching and appealing. He was pouring samples of his two beers: the aforementioned IPA (which was in such short supply at the time due to wild demand he had to score some bombers from a friend’s stash) and his Session Ale.
A session ale is a low(er) alcohol beer designed to be tasty, yet, well, sessionable. Depending on who you ask, a session beer has no more than 4/ 4.5/ 5% abv, so in theory you could drink many of them in a session without getting smashed. After the arms-race of insanely hopped high-alcohol double/Imperial/triple ales coming from the West Coast the past several years, the pendulum is swinging in the other direction: session ales, a notable local example being Chris Lohring’s Notch Brewing, with no beer over 4.5% abv. Among brewers, it’s said that a true test of a brewer is to make a flavorful yet low alcohol beer, as it takes more attention to detail and craft. Blatant took the challenge, and Steinberg was kind enough to give me a bottle to sample (and a pint glass!).
Well, it’s got a lovely amber glow, and a nice thick head that dissapates slowly. The nose is certainly hoppy, but very pleasing. It smells like an IPA or strong pale ale, with sweet spruce pine, a darker, resinous sap, and a slight undercurrent of overripe tree fruit. There’s a touch of cereal grain in there, like the first whiff of a fresh box of Cheerios, but it’s blown away by the hoppy delightfulness. Let’s have a taste.
Let’s have another taste.
Ok. I can type now. It’s certainly a flavorful beer. The malt is MUCH more apparent in the flavor, with a nice barley cereal flavor and a good dose of toastiness, though not to the level of a brown ale or stout. Toasted not roasted. A little bit of metallic sharpness, again from the malt, and some hop bitterness in there, dry and powdery, like a good East Coast style, which itself borrows from English style ales. It’s very reminiscent of Mayflower’s Pale Ale, with a bitter dry hop and solid malt back. This is maltier, however, though not in a caramel-syrupy-sweet-mess, but rather clean and breakfast-like. Good solid grain. Liquid bread. It starts hoppy, moves to the lovely grain in the mids, and finishes with a mix of both. Smooth, incredibly tasty, and still under 4% abv.
It’s pretty amazing. You don’t get beers like this from amateurs, and Steinberg is one of the Massachusetts pros, having worked in the brewing industry for the past 15 or so years. It’s hard to believe this brew clocks in at 3.8%… the flavor would have you thinking it’s at least 5% abv. A fantastic session ale. The IPA blew my socks off, but the session ale shows what a true crafted beer is. I wouldn’t waste time with a low-alcohol beer if it weren’t phenomenal. Go get some.
Squirrel Farts is now accepting solicited product reviews! Send me a bottle and I’ll take a pretty picture and talk it up in the amusing tangential manner you’ve come to expect. Beer, spirits, mixers, whatever. Contact here for details. Note: I will mention that the review was solicited, hell, I’ll even brag about it. Free booze? Damn right. But The Man says I have to say I got it for freebies. I’m excited about free stuff, so whatever. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’ll like it, or that I’ll give it a good review. But chances are if you read this blog, then we’ll get along. Put it to the test: send me your booze!