- August 1st, 2011
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If you’re a beer nerd, live on the South Coast of MA (or anywhere reasonably close) and haven’t been to the Rose Alley Ale House, you’re a dbag. Seriously. Why didn’t you people tell me about this place?? There’s some craft beer craziness going on there.
Following our visit to the Pour Farm Tavern, Yelp pointed my Lady Friend and I towards this place down on Front Street, across from the docks. Next door in a cool old stone building is Cork Wine & Tapas Bar, which is supposedly pretty good. I wouldn’t know. I was on a mission. There’s another stone building that doesn’t appear quite as old or cool, as if it was built to mimic the look of the first. That’s the one you want. Rose Alley Ale House. Go up the stairs, and be warned: it’ll look like a typical sports bar. Stay on target. Have a seat and get the ever-changing beer list. Like the Pour Farm, this place blows through kegs, so there’s a constant changeover of drinkables.
Also, like the Pour Farm, I had trouble deciding what to get. Lady Friend and I knew we were both going for the flight of five beers, but which five? I wanted to try to stay in a flavor neighborhood, so mine mostly went hoppy. She went towards fruity sweetness, and found it hard to stay with. It’ll eat your stomach, unless you have the countenance of Wifey, who can take down a sixer of Smirnoff Ice and still want cake frosting.
Firestone Walker Double Jack
This was supposed to be the Great Divide Chocolate Yeti Russian Imperial Stout, but they were out of it. I’ve had this beer before, and it’s INCREDIBLE. Unbelievably good. Will sneak up and hit you on the head at 9.3%.
Nose: Strong hop and malt. Sweet, floral.
Taste: Heaven. Hop balanced with malt.
Great Divide “Rumble”
Irish Lad and I had recently been discussing oak-aged ales, so I snagged this one.
Nose: Mild hop, sweetness, fruit.
Taste: MALT. Caramel. Slight hop. Toffee and vanilla. Excellent.
Pretty Things Baby Tree
Belgian Quad with Plum Juice
I ordered this feeling inspired after seeing earlier that day where Pretty Things is brewed.
Nose: Belgian wheat/yeast. Banana.
Taste: Syrupy, fruity/banana. Belgians are not my fav.
To be clear: I didn’t drink these in order. I did a taste of each, weakest to strongest, while I had a reasonably fresh palate (before the dIPA and barleywine mushroom clouds) and then sipped on them individually. I started with the Rogue Bitter to be fair, since I knew flavor-wise it’d be blown away by the hop-pocalypse I had waiting. These were big samples, somewhere in the range of 5oz if I had to guess. I was driving, and didn’t finish mine, and Lady Friend left a few wounded soldiers as she was going into insulin shock after so much sugary fruit beer.
Her flight consisted of:
- Fruli Strawberry White Fruit Ale (Very good, but sweeeeet. “Like strawberry soda!”)
- Southern Tier Jah’va Imperial Coffee Stout (Just like coffee. Too roasted/bitter for me.)
- Kasteel Rouge Brown Cherry Ale Fruit Ale (Very tasty. Real cherry tang, not like sugary imitation “cherry” or “red” flavor.)
- Leinenkugel Summer Shandy Lemonade/lager mix (Light and lemony. A good palate cleanser. I told Lady Friend to save that for the end to help get the sugar out of her mouth but she took that to mean “drink it all now.” Le sigh.)
- Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial IPA (She had several other selections, but they were out, so I suggested this one. I’ve enjoyed it several times. Delish)
So. Rose Alley was awesome. There was an older crowd, mostly late 30s and up, so it didn’t have a wild party vibe. It was a more grown-up place where people can enjoy their meal with a great craft beer. Pretty casual dress, and some younger folks did start to filter in later on, as a live band was setting up. As usual, we took this as our cue to leave, snagged a slice of pizza from nearby Pizan’s, and headed back to home base. Smell ya later, New Beige.
New Bedford, on the south coast of Massachusetts was once one of the most important whaling ports in the world, along with Nantucket. Herman Melville lived and worked in New Bedford, and wrote the novel Moby Dick in the early 1850s. When whaling died out, the town industry turned to textiles and fishing. They… have a whaling museum. That’s about all I know about N’Bedfid (the New England accent pronounces “ford” as “fid,” as in Chelmsfid, Bedfid and Medfid.)
Lady Friend and I parked downtown after our brewery and winery tours, we checked out the Whaling Museum, which was very cool, thanks to a free pass from my coworker. When they kicked us out at 5pm, we set off looking for a good local brewpub or bar for adult beverages and some grub. While wandering down Purchase Street, I noticed a sign for wine tastings. We went in, and it turned out to be a place called Travessia Urban Winery.
Yeah, I didn’t know what an “urban winery” was either. Turns out, they buy local/regional grapes, to blend and ferment them at their facility/storefront in downtown New Bedford. Lady Friend sported me the $3 for the tasting (listed as $5 on the website), and we got three wines: vidal blanc, rosé, and pinot noir.
I didn’t take notes, but my impressions were that the blanc was kind of pear-y and dry, the rosé was GROSS (sour, almost vinegar mouth pucker) and the pinot noir had a lot of cranberry taste to it, almost as if they had cut the wine with Ocean Spray. I actually dumped the rest of my glass of rosé, since it was so bad, before Lady Friend could stop me. She didn’t mind it and would have had my share. Oops. Ironically, the rosé was their “special” wine, and they wouldn’t tell Lady Friend what grapes were in it, saying it was a “proprietary blend, and the only secret they have.” I love when places do that, as if we’re going to go off and make our own wine with their confidential recipe. Lame.
So to get the taste of wine and arrogance out of my mouth, we headed to our original destination, the Pour Farm Tavern. Reviews on Yelp seemed favorable, and once I saw the chalkboard sign out front boasting “twenty-four ice cold draft beers” I got excited. There’s no way that 24 drafts are going to be all macrobrews. It was about 5:15, and the place was empty, so we sat at the bar. I took a look at the beer list, and started to get tingly. All the right names: Bear Republic, Founders, 21st Amendment, Lagunitas, Firestone Walker, Full Sail… wow. A couple of those, like Firestone Walker and 21st Amendment, have only been making their way to the east coast over the past year or two, so to see them on draft is a big deal. However, if you’re a beer-hole like I am, you find yourself in a difficult situation. Despite the fantastic offerings, I had already tried most of the stuff currently on draft, and I wanted something I had never tasted before. Lady Friend had no such problem, and started right away with a 21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat, which I had tried a sip of at Irish Lad’s last beer night. I didn’t like it so much, but Irish Lad, and now Lady Friend, both thought it was good. I LOVED 21st’s (canned) IPA that Irish Lad had snagged for me last winter.
Finally, after ordering food, I made my choice: a Rapscallion Blessing American Amber Ale, 8% abv. A fruity and slightly malty nose. Taste was malt sweet with a mild bitter. Wheaty taste up front, followed by malt smoothness. It was a good ale. By this time, Lady Friend had already moved on to a Heavy Seas “Red Sky at Night” saison/farmhouse ale, which she found too sweet. I didn’t think it had quite the “earthy” flavors that a farmhouse ale normally would. She finished with a Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale, wanting something a bit less sweet, and seemed satisfied. I went with a half pour of Left Hand’s Milk Stout, 6% abv, with a roasted and vanilla sweet aroma. The taste was roasted, smooth and creamy, like coffee with CREAM, not milk, and a slight hint of bitter spice from the roast. Almost like ice cream. Delicious, and perfect for an after-dinner treat without being syrupy sweet or filling.
The Pour Farm was perfect. When we first sat down, the bartender and I struck up a dialogue and discussed various craft beers. She enjoyed Harpoon’s Rye IPA which we all hated on our last beer night, and gave me a sample to try to change my mind. No dice, chica. I’m sorry I didn’t catch her name, but she was very knowledgeable and friendly, and poured us a couple samples before we made our choices. Unfortunately, her shift ended, and we got stuck with a pair of bartenders who clearly didn’t want to be there. How do you tip in that situation? Do you leave a bigger tip for the first bartender, or does it go to the one who enters the check?
Other than the gratuity dilemma, the food was great, and beer selection VERY impressive. Our first bartender was incredibly helpful, and knew what she was talking about (aside from liking the Harpoon Rye… ugh). With a solid meal in the gullet, it was time for the next target: Rose Alley Ale House.
So it’s come to this. A wine post. Yikes. I’ll down a beer, savor a cocktail and wax poetic on the magical properties of a good whiskey, but when it comes to wine… that’s my exit on the highway of booze. However, Lady Friend is a big fan, and chose red zinfandel (I’m told it’s way different than white zin) as her drink of choice. Well, that and lousy mixto/sour mix margaritas, until I showed her what blue agave and fresh lime juice could do. So, on our southerly trip to Just Beer in Westport, MA, we made a visit to the nearby (seriously, less than a mile from the Just Beer brewery) Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery.
From what we gathered, there were tours and tastings available for $10, including a souvenir wine glass. Lady Friend already has way too many memento wine glasses, hates clutter, and didn’t care to acquire another. We sidled up to the end of the tasting bar, and I’m not sure if we snuck past a bouncer or what, but our tasting was free. Perhaps they hit you with the fee if you take the tour, which we skipped. Anyway, we were about to dive into the tasting when I looked down the bar and saw a familiar face.
EyeDoc is a mutual friend of mine and Wifey’s (went to college with Wifey) and was doing a tasting with two of her friends. It was the birthday of one of them, and they were taking various winey tours around the area. Introductions were made all ’round, but the sparkling was getting warm and flat, so it was back to the booze.
Westport Rivers makes several sparkling wines, and we started with those. I actually tend to like sparkling/ Champange wines, so that wasn’t too difficult. From there we moved onto several whites, and a syrupy dessert wine. Thoughts:
- 2000 Blanc de Blancs (sparkling)
Nose: Pears. Fruit.
Taste: Sweet syrupy, but cut short with dryness. Yum.
- 2005 Westport Brut RJR (sparkling)
75% Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier, 25% Chardonnay
Nose: Grape. (seriously, like Welch’s grape juice)
Taste: Oakey and syrupy. Grapey finish.
- 2009 Chardonnay
Nose: Yeasty, like a Belgian beer. Slight pils skunk; wet paper towel, rubber.
Taste: Sour and sticky. Coats the mouth. Gross. Has a sweet finish, which tastes delicious compared to the rest of the mouthful. Ew.
- 2010 Pinot Noir Rosé
Nose: Slight berry fruit, a hint of raspberry.
Taste: Brief sour start, a touch of vinegar. Sweet berry finish.
- 2009 Riesling
Nose: Sunblock. Yup.
Taste: Slight syrup. Tasty, and a bit citrusy.
- Pineau de Pinot (dessert wine)
Nose: Communion wine. Vermouth. Brandy. Aromatic.
Taste: Thick, syrupy. Imperial stout minus the roasted flavor. Mouth-coating. Wow.
After the tasting, we wandered outside to do a pic for EyeDoc and to poke around the grounds. Lady Friend had made a point to ask if all the grapes are grown on the premises. Apparently, they are.
My impression of the place is that it’s a New England winery desperately trying to LOOK like a winery. The dog and pony show of vineyards, tractors, vine-covered walkways and Saab-driving women in their late 40s who shop at Talbots. It’s faux-quaint. Their cheapest wine is $16/bottle, which is just a bit much for wine that wasn’t great. (They also sell the Just Beer bombers for about $4, which, while not an outrageous price for a bomber, is $1.50 more than what we paid less than a mile away.) I’m sure it’s a popular location for Cape visitors, but it just seemed like they were trying a bit too hard. This is, of course, in contrast with the brewery we had just come from, which had the impression of being very laid-back, honest, and more concerned with substance over style.
I don’t remember where or when I became aware of Just Beer brewery, but it’s been in the back of my mind for awhile. Since we had nothing planned for the weekend, on a whim I proposed doing a trip down to the south coast of Mass. The Just Beer brewery is located in Westport, not far from New Bedford, where my coworker lives. He suggested meeting up for brunch at a local diner (which was delish), and also mentioned that there was a winery in the area. Lady Friend is a winer (not whiner), so I threw that into the mix to sweeten the deal, as one brewery starts to look like every other brewery after a few tours. She thought it’d make a good day trip (I’m kind of grossed out at how relationshippy/ couple-y that sounds), so we hopped in her Corolla (named Phantom) and headed south. Hit a massive downpour on the way, and battled the rain off and on for several more hours.
After some diner-riffic vittles, and clearing weather, we drove through Cowville, USA. Seriously, there’s a lot of farm down there in Westport. Eventually, we found our destination: Just Beer, which is apparently a farm-based brewery. Makes sense.
We arrived around 1:30, half an hour early for the only Saturday tour at 2pm. Wandering past the growing hop vines, we started looking into the retail shop. I snapped a pic, and the girl working the register quipped “Are you going to be doing that the whole time?” I’ve been in the place for about four seconds, and someone’s already busting my balls. I like this brewery.
Since the tour wasn’t ready yet, she offered us a tasting of the four beers currently brewed:
Golden Flounder Wheat Ale
Made from a 30% wheat bill.
Nose: Light, slightly fruity
Taste: Light with a touch of bitter. Very refreshing.
Darker color than most summer-style beers. They wanted to do something different and more flavorful than (without naming names) the typical lemony, light summer beers. They call it a bronze ale.
Nose: Slight malt sweetness.
Taste: WOW. Hop bitter, completely unexpected for a summer ale. Dry hopped with Sorachi-Ace hops. Nice bitter bite, smooth finish. A surprising pleasure.
Moby D Pale Ale
This is one of their most popular beers.
Nose: Sweet, fruit.
Taste: Malty and fruity with a slight hop bite. Mild. No overwhelming flavors. Crisp and light.
Horseneck Golden IPA
IPAs are my go-to for brewery tastings. If a brewery makes one, I have to taste it. This one uses all Cascade hops.
Nose: Floral hop. Very light aroma.
Taste: Bitter hop. Slight malt, but mostly fresh, almost green, hoppy bite. Good, but would prefer a touch more malt to balance.
I’d say the summer ale was the clear winner here. The Golden Flounder and Moby D didn’t have a whole lot of flavor to them, but were very refreshing. The IPA was good, but was a bit on the bitter side. The summer ale, however, was a complete surprise… full of flavor, balanced and tasty. Again, not what I’d expect from a typical summer style ale. I wound up buying a bomber (only $2.50 each!) of the IPA and the summer to share with Irish Lad on a future beer night and get his thoughts.
Time for the tour. We started about 10 minutes before 2pm, so heads up if you get there close to start time. They were super laid-back, so I’m sure there’d be no problem joining a tour that’s already started. Our tour guide was Sam, who was very easy-going and friendly, wearing his bright green “Just Beere” tshirt. More on that later.
Aside from the usual “how to make beer” speech, here’s some of the interesting bits from the tour: apparently this place is actually Buzzard’s Bay Brewing, d/b/a Just Beer. There was some sort of dispute with their distributor, so to get out of the contract, they changed their brand to “Just Beer,” and began make ales rather than lagers. They plan to bring the lagers back eventually, but ales are easier and quicker to produce, so it’s worked out well so far. All of their bottles are pasteurized, so the beer has a longer shelf life. The growlers and kegs are not, so they are a tad fresher than the bombers. I doubt anyone would really notice a difference in the taste, but some purists will tell you that it makes a big difference.
The brewery is part of a 500 acre farm, and is considered a “green” brewery. They source their water from a natural aquifer, originating in the White Mountains of NH. Brewing byproducts, like spent wort, are re-purposed as livestock feed, and brewery wastes are sent back into the fields as fertilizers.
Just Beer will also contract out their equipment to other brewers, especially in the slower winter season. Among these is Offshore Brewing Company from Martha’s Vineyard, and Pretty Things, a self-described gypsy brewery based in Sommerville.
Just Beer was great. A brewery tucked way out in the middle of farm land. You’d never know it was there, if it weren’t for the chalkboard signs by the road. The staff were young and enthusiastic, but with just the right amount of sarcasm. Their retail front sells cases for about $25 (a full case, or mix and match) but will also hook you up with a discounted case if you pick it up around back, since it’s being sold as wholesale, not retail. It’ll run you $20, but only full cases… no mix & matching of varieties. This seemed to be a bewildering ordeal to some of the patrons, but it makes perfect sense to me. I snagged a pint glass for the collection ($4 or so), and two bombers at a fantastically inexpensive $2.50 each. We saw the bombers for sale at our next stop, a winery just up the road, and the price was about double. Well worth going to the brewery if you’re planning to stock up.
The John Beere cluster.
APPARENTLY, at some point, someone at Just Beer decided to have a little fun and make a parody tshirt, with a similar color palette to a certain tractor manufacturer. This tractor manufacturer didn’t find much humor in the situation, and sent a cease-and-desist letter from their intellectual properties department, which is now proudly displayed on the brewery door.
Last week, Lady Friend clued me in to something she noticed while flipping through the Improper Bostonian.
It seems that a craft distillery had opened in Boston.
Let’s just get everybody on the same page here. A distillery. Not a brewery. Breweries make beer. We have a bunch of those in/around Boston… Sam Adams and Harpoon being the most well-known. Not talking about that. Distilleries make distilled spirits. Liquor. Rum. Vodka. Gin. Whiskey. Tequila. Brandy. All of them start the same way, from a distilled spirit. You have a grain or a fruit, and you add yeast. The yeast feeds on the sugars, and makes alcohol. Put the whole thing in a big still, boil off the alcohol, condense it back into liquid. That is a distilled spirit, as basic as I can explain it.
And for the first time since Prohibition, they’re doing it in Boston.
Ok. Yeah. That picture is kind of anti-climactic. But the future is in there.
Rewind. Immediately after finding out this place existed, I fired off an email to the distillery asking/begging/pleading/hoping for a look inside their doors. I got a very friendly response back saying
Taking a personal day from work (hey, I had a dentist appointment too), I made my way to a section of South Boston known as the Newmarket District, a sort of no-man’s-land of industrial zoning, warehouses, food-processing plants and a prison.
I poked my head in the door, wondering if I was in the right place. And then I saw it.
It doesn’t look like much, unless you know what you’re looking at. Some counters, a desk with laptop, bottles of liquid, some giant plastic containers, and A STILL. A combination copper pot still with dual reflux columns. I hesitantly walked in, and met Dave Willis, the co-founder along with his brother, Will. They grew up on a farm in Sherborn, MA, near Natick/Framingham, and have been passionate about distilling for some time. The whole process of starting a distillery really became a possibility in 2003 when Massachusetts passed legislation allowing farms to use their products for distilling. Dave and Will looked for inspiration from their grandfather’s vault of Prohibition-era liquors, and took the name of his favorite horse, Bully Boy, as the title of the distillery, keeping a strong connection to the family farm.
They finally decided “now or never” and began to battle the bureaucratic forces of federal, state, and city licensing boards. Now, Massachusetts is not known for its easygoing and understanding liquor laws, and I can’t even imagine what they went through to get everything approved. Even with their backgrounds in law and real estate, it was not an easy process. Dave says one of the major sticking points was the building permit from the City of Boston, and they had to explain many times what the distilling process was, and that their building wouldn’t suddenly explode in a fireball of moonshine. Somehow, everything got done, they leased the building, ordered some German distilling equipment, and began making Bacchanalian nectar.
Dave gave me a tour of the space, and an overview on their process. Most spirits at Bully Boy start from wheat. Originally, they wanted to source it locally, but no Massachusetts farm was up to the task, so their red winter wheat comes from Aurora Mills & Farm in Maine, and is all-organic.
The rum uses blackstrap molasses from New Orleans, stored in giant plastic bins. Apparently it’s a colossal mess to work with, and the still has to be hosed down after every rum run.
This is the mash fermenting. The yeast is feeding on the sugars from either the wheat or the molasses (I don’t remember which liquor this was) and creating alcohol and carbon dioxide, hence the bubbles. At this point, it’s around 12% abv, and is essentially beer. The cogeners from the last batch can be added in here to bump up the abv to around 18% before distilling, and add some extra flavor.
So. The silver drum on the left separates the liquid from the solids. From there it goes to the wonky looking copper piece in the middle, which is a pot still. Steam heats up the bottom, and begins to boil off the alcohol into vapor. It collects in the top of the pot still and goes into the first column still. This vaporizes the liquid again, and it travels up the column in stages (each one of those little portholes is another level). For a vodka, they send the distillate up through the SECOND column as well. Eventually, everything winds up in the silver column on the far right, which is the condenser. The vapor is cooled back down to a liquid, and comes out of the spout as alcohol in the neighborhood of 80abv, or 150 proof.
Ok. Now you’ve got liquor. What do you do with it? Well, if it’s vodka, you filter out all the impurities to make it as neutral as possible, dilute it down to 80 proof and bottle it. Done. If it’s a white rum, you dilute to 80 proof and bottle. A white (clear) whiskey is a little trickier. To be called whiskey, you have to age it, otherwise it’s just unaged wheat spirit. Bully Boy ages theirs for eight hours. They tried 24 hours, but got too much smokey char flavor that they didn’t want.
That takes care of the clear liquors. The aged liquors have to be, well, aged. The amber colors of whiskey and rum come from time spent in wood (oak) casks, as the liquors absorb the colors and flavors of the wood. This is where you get vanilla in rum, and the smokey char in whiskey. Bully Boy expects to age their rum for about 8-9 months, and the whiskey for about a year and a half. Or whenever it’s ready. Basically, throw it in the barrel until it tastes good.
So while the aged liquors were busy aging, Dave let me taste the clear varieties. We started with the vodka.
Nose: Alcohol. No other smells. Clean.
Taste/Mouthfeel: With vodka, there really shouldn’t be anything to taste, so you have to go with smoothness and mouthfeel. This one was pleasing, without an oily or syrupy mouthfeel. Some vodkas will coat your mouth and feel almost slippery. Not this one.
Very clean, very good.
Wheat Whiskey (White)
Nose: Banana. Alcohol burn.
Taste: Sweet, fruity. Banana. Apparently the banana essence comes from the use of wheat, which is why you get that aroma/flavor in a wheat/wit/hefeweizen beer. Young whiskey, so there is a mouth-numbing alcohol finish. Much mellower with a splash of water, allows the flavors to come through past the burn. Yum.
Nose: Sweet. Alcoholic nose sting. Vanilla buried under alcohol.
Taste: Vanilla up front, sugar finish. Sweet, but not fruit; brown sugar sweet.
As Dave describes: “Like an aged, dark rum that isn’t aged.” Perfect.
The white rum was my favorite of the three. Despite all three spirits being (nearly) unaged, the rum had the most flavor (ok, I guess the vodka doesn’t count, so it’s just compared to the whiskey). I am a whiskey fan, and did enjoy the white, but wasn’t as excited about the banana notes and flavors. I’ve enjoyed Maker’s Mark, which is predominantly corn, being a bourbon, but uses mostly wheat to fill the rest of the bill, giving it a clean, refreshing taste to cut some of the corn sweetness. This all-wheat variety was indeed sweet, but a bit too fruity for my taste. That said, I cannot wait to taste the aged version. It’ll still be a “younger” whiskey, aging for only a year and a half, but I’m really looking forward to a lot more of the vanilla char to play with the banana sweet.
The rum really blew me away. I wasn’t expecting so much flavor and sweetness. Coming from blackstrap molasses, you can really taste the brown sugar, without a syrupy mouthfeel. Dave had several varieties of rum as comparisons, and even had an agricole variety that smelled like tomato paste. He said it tasted awful, and I’m inclined to believe him. The aged rum should be a real star after snoozing in red wine casks for 8 months, and I’m really looking forward to it. I plan to buy a bottle of the white as soon as I get to a liquor store that carries their brand (there’s one in Southie near the distillery, but it didn’t occur to me to stop by until I was halfway home).
This really was a visit to my happy place. Dave could not have been more helpful and welcoming, and I even called him a liquor geek at one point, which he freely agreed to. The passion is evident at this distillery, and they’ve made a very important step, becoming the first to make it this far in Boston. Hopefully it will make the process a bit easier for more distillers to follow, as with the craft brewery revolution of the 1980s. Bully Boy is the first craft distiller in Boston in over 75 years, and went up against one of the most notoriously juvenile alcohol legislative states in New England. And succeeded. They have a great attitude, a beautiful space, and great products. Now go buy their stuff and support this local business trying to get you drunk.
Website: Bully Boy Distillers
(Very nicely done site, also good photography by Heath Robbins. Check out his writeup on the shoot here.)
Blog: Read it here.
Irish Lad and I are comrades in beer. His counterpart, Wifey, is not a beer drinker, and has started to get irritated when we hang out, because he and I geek out with beer talk, for hours if left uninterrupted. We both enjoy a wide variety of craft brews, as well as an ice cold PBR on a hot summer evening, or, sometimes, a cold winter night. I’m afraid that I’m responsible for that influence, as PBR was my affordable beverage of choice during the Great Unemployment period of 2009. Now that I’m back to contributing to society, rather than taking from it, we like to get together for beer tasting nights every couple of weeks. He and Wifey enjoy trips to the liquor store (or “packie” in Massachusetts, apparently) almost as much as I do, and we’ll usually pick up an interesting 22oz bomber or two on our respective excursions to sample later on. Living on opposite sides of Boston (North versus South) means we occasionally find things not available to each other, so we’ll snag a sample to share.
So we’ll wind up with several bottles of various brews, and get together to have a tasting. Wifey was having a “game night,” as she is wont to do, so there were more people than usual present. And a wider variety of drink choices.
The womenfolk stuck to a jug of sangria the size of a lobster pot, and the lads tucked into the beers. When Irish Lad and Wifey moved into their house, they inherited an extra refrigerator in the basement, and this became the holy beer fridge where all the nice brews live.
Irish Lad also does quite a bit of home brewing, so one of his latest was first on the tasting list.
Citra Pale Ale Homebrew
My favorite beer of the VT Beercation was a Citra hopped IPA from 3 Needs taproom, so I was excited to try Irish Lad’s attempt at a pale ale version.
Nose: Very fruity. Peach/nectarine.
Taste: Sharp, hop bite, nectarine fresh fruit.
Nose: Fruity again, but picking up hints of tart apple as well.
Taste: Slight tart with hop bitter. Fruity and sweet, but in a tree fruit way,
not berry sweet. Juicy and refreshing instead of syrupy.
Verdict: STILL delicious. Nectarine made an excellent companion.
Verdict: Tasty, but forgettable.
Nose: Malty, but as a standard IPA. Nothing noteworthy.
Taste: Sigh. STRONG metallic copper aftertastes, as with some Irish red ales, only much more intense. Copper and metal.
Irish Lad: “Tastes like it was dry-hopped with pennies”
Other: “Green (unripe) hops.” “Tastes unfinished.”
Verdict: Um… is this a black IPA?
Tastes like a slightly hoppy brown ale.
Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA
I’ve had Sierra Torpedo several times (Irish Lad is a big fan)
and it’s never been a bad choice.
Nose: Earthy and farmy. Malt sweet with good floral hop. Cow pie.
Taste: A medium hop bitter taste, no bite.
Verdict: BITTER hop, but not sharp. Excellent.
Somewhere in there, Lady Friend arrived after an adventure in Moo Hampshire, and sampled some of the EXCELLENT chocolate chip cookies that one of the guest baked. Thick, soft, and a slight hint of coconut. Amazing.
Apparently, I was mistaken by saying the Pegu Blog was my first official blog shoutout. The Irish Lad accomplished that right after the public launch of my ramblings. Oops.
I comment as “O’Flanagan” on his blog. I have many aliases. Never tell an Irishman your real name or he can steal your gold.
This is Part Five of an ongoing series chronicling the Grand Beercation of July 2011. To start at Part One, click here.
Following the suggestions from our 3 Needs bartender, the Lady Friend and I strolled over to The Farmhouse, and rather than sit in the noisy bar/dining area, decided to sit in the outdoor beer garden bar area behind the building. It was about 8pm at this point, and the evening light was starting to dim, while the strands of lights in the beer garden glowed yellow. It was purty.
Once again, I didn’t make the best of beer decisions for my mood, and went with the Long Trail Brewmasters’ Series Coffee Stout, thinking it would be the opposite of hoppy bitter, and would be suitable for my tired taste buds. At 8% abv, it’s a big boy. Very tasty… chocolate with a touch of bitter roasted flavor, but without that syrupy, viscous mouthcoat you get with some other big or imperial stouts. I couldn’t tell you what Lady Friend was drinking, but she had caught a second wind and went for another round. I nursed the stout and did some people watching. I’m a photographer… it’s ok.
There was cowboy hat/ striped polo shirt combo dude…
…and a group of girls who were having a BLAST hanging out, squealing, and pinching each other around the large boulder in the corner of the patio. Which I was totally ok with.
Not pictured: the two prowling cougars, who sauntered in dressed in all their white vinyl and 6″ heeled glory, sniffed the air a couple times as they peered across the deck, then retreated back to the indoor bar with its dimmer, and perhaps more flattering, light in search of easier prey. There isn’t a picture because I hadn’t applied my cougar repellent before we went out, so I was sure to sit perfectly still, as their vision is based on movement.
Those were the amusing characters. However, the rest of the crowd seemed a bit too frat-douchy for my taste. I saw way too many popped polo collars, plaid shorts and flip flops. Only one case of Sunglasses-at-Night syndrome. I was pretty much done, and ready for air conditioning.
Overall, the Farmhouse was great. I can’t speak to the food, but it was steadily busy in the dining room for the couple of hours we spent there. The indoor bar was also busy, but the beer garden offered a relaxing alternative to the crowd. I don’t know if people didn’t know it was there, or if they were just hoping to get pounced on by an indoor cougar, but it worked out quite well for us, as we were able to enjoy our drinks outside on a warm summer evening. The beer list (outside) wasn’t terribly long, but did have some impressive offerings. A more extensive list is available at the main bar, but we made do with the beer garden varieties.
This was our last stop in Burlington, and after a ride back to the hotel driven by a very talkative and amusingly-opinionated Italian cab driver, we hit the sheets in preparation for a journey north across the border, Drink Destination: Montreal.