Posts Tagged ‘Imperial IPA’


Fresh from our CBC visit, the Lady Friend and I were still in Soviet Cambridge, “where beer drinks YOU!” Our lunch beers nestled happily in our gizzards as we meandered back towards the Kendall/MIT Red Line but with one very important beer-centric detour: Meadhall.

Close enough.

Meadhall is a relatively newish place to the Cambridge beer scene, opening in April of 2011. Their website looks like it’ll be a nice clean design… when they finally get around to finishing it. Back in September, the Irish Lad had ventured out for a look, and had a less-than-ideal time of it, but at least the beer was impressive. So I had to see for myself. Impressive is not the correct word. This place is uberphantasmagorical. All you need is one number: 110. That’s how many TAPS they have. Not bottles, taps. One hundred and ten draft beers. It’s like the owners wanted a bar, but a bar that’s bigger and better than all the other bars. “They have 20 taps? We’ll have 50! No, 80! No, 100!!”

“Nah, make it 110. That’s my high bowling score.”

I just polluted my britches with delight.

So yeah. 110 taps, plus 10 more upstairs in the leathery loungy area, which partially overlooks the bar below. On the way up the stairs you can see scribbled signatures from the likes of Todd Alström (Beer Advocate), Pretty Things, and Long Trail. Apparently since our visit, Beer Advocate brother Jason has also signed the wall.

They’ve got a revolving-door entrance, perhaps as some sort of cruel prank for the inebriated. When first entering, you find that the poured-concrete floor of the main room is dominated by the huge oval-shaped bar surrounding a lengthy expanse of tap handles. An enormous chalkboard mounted to the wall lists the available beers, and has to be about 20 feet wide. The second floor balcony overhangs the bar, leaving the main wall exposed with huge swatches of vertical window panes looking out onto Broadway. It’s a cool space. I’d hate to see it crowded… all those people in the way would just detract from the oversized nature of the layout.

It was cold out so I didn’t do a shot of the exterior. This will have to suffice.

Naturally, the horror of reality in a place like this is trying to decide what the hell to drink. It’s the opposite of the beer ennui I experience in liquor stores, where nothing jumps out at me. At Meadhall, I wanted one of everything. Happily, they divide the menu up by STYLE which is a fantastic way to organize it. At least, for someone who is knowledgeable about beer. I was in a hoppy (not happy) mood, which is my usual mood, so I went with a pour of the Green Flash Imperial IPA, clocking in at 9.4% abv. It nosed piney, with a savory-spruce sensation. A bit wet, with some skunky musk. This is where that cannabis-hop relationship becomes more apparent. The taste? Slightly syrup, as expected from a high abv dIPA. Savory, herbal hop, green and wet. A mint-like quality opens it up nicely.

This is only one side of the beer menu.

The Lady Friend went with a Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar. When I wandered off to take some photos of the space, SOMEONE scrawled in my notebook that it “tastes like a fall beer should – nutty with a little sweetness. Like a pecan pie. Yum!” I guess she liked it. Or, whoever mysteriously chicken-scratched that in my notes. I had a taste and found it to be too nutty for me, but it is a hazelnut brown after all.

During all the beer drinking and covert notebook defacing, the older couple a few stools to our right provided the entertainment. A purple swathed woman was talking very animatedly, to the point of dancing out of her seat, while her male companion sat there, chin in hand watching tiredly. My guess was that he was feigning interest in her antics so that he could eventually poke her dried-up babymaker. I have no problem with that. What irked me was that she was drinking wine. *Sigh* We’ve been over this. You’re at an establishment with OVER ONE HUNDRED BEER TAPS, and you’re drinking wine. GO ANYWHERE ELSE. At least it wasn’t Bud Light. Still, another small piece of my soul hacked a pitiful little cough on its way to an untimely demise.

If you look closely, you’ll see wine glasses on the right side of the frame.

They did eventually earn my favor, in some small way. They had noticed me with the camera (it was hard to ignore as I was doing panoramic shots from my bar stool) and asked if I would take their picture. Apparently, they were friends, and the woman wanted a picture of them to give to a friend of HERS, who she was trying to set up with this guy. Actually, she said that she wanted him to marry her. Women. They never give up. So, I snapped the shot, and in return, they bought me a beer. Yes, as a professional photographer, I am generally more than happy to work for beer. I went with a Left Hand Milk Stout, a tasty beverage for a winter day. The Lady Friend had already started on her Luna Coffee Stout which tasted very much like coffee, and not so much a stout.

The view from above.

While the Irish Lad had to struggle to get a food order to his liking, we didn’t bother to look at the menu with solids on it. Being Cambridge, I imagine it has things like “vegan veal chops,” “dairy-free iced milk wafers,” and “free-range organic dolphin-safe tofu curds” on it. The dining area seems ample, so I imagine the Cambrigonians find something worth ingesting.

They’ll see everything… they’ll see the Big Board!

So, we finished our beers and ventured back into the Siberian cold. It was all too fitting that the Kendall T stop displayed an American flag over the stairs, as if to say “Freedom: This way!” We had survived our ordeal in the bleak empire across the river. America beckoned. Time to go home.

Do svidaniya, Comrades. Thanks for the beer.

The Monday Hangover: Nov 12-13

The Monday Hangover:
Other drink adventures of note from the weekend.

Following last weekend’s trip to Cal-ee-for-nee-ah, it was nice to get back into the weekly routine of cocktail night on Friday. There were Rule 37 fufillments, a whiskey sour made with an overripe lemon (yargh… not recommended) and a cracking of a new bomber, imported from the west coast: Ballast Point’s Victory at Sea Imperial Coffee Vanilla Porter. The Lady Friend was quite keen to try this one, as she’s been gaining an interest in stouts and porters (she found an Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout in Healdsburg that was quite enjoyable for her and JJ.) The Ballast Point, however, was WAY too coffee bitter for my taste. It was more coffee than porter, with cold-pressed beans overpowering the other chocolate and vanilla flavors in the brew. I’m not a coffee drinker, and called it quits on this one after a couple sips. The Lady Friend took down the whole bomber. I guess she liked it.

The following day brought a Tröegs Hopback Amber Ale to sip on mid-afternoon, with a Negroni before supper. The Lady Friend had picked up a bottle of Gallo sweet vermouth for me, a brand which I hadn’t tasted before. It has much more of a wine quality than some of the other brands, thought it blended quite well, assuming its place behind the bold Campari and schizophrenic gin flavors of the cocktail. The Lady Friend rather enjoyed a Tröegs Pale Ale with dinner, but there was much more beer to be tasted.

Saturday night was the main event. I had been talking to the Irish Lad about coming down for a sampling of the brews I brought back from Cali, when we got an email from JTops the Engineer, whose wife was busy babysitting that night. He went to college with Wifey, and is a craft beer drinker, as well as cocktail/spirit geek. Initially, he wanted to go out for some beers at a couple Boston-area craft bars. Instead, we invited him along to the beer tasting night, which helped to add a new element to the group, as he is generally strongly opinionated about most things. When I say “generally”, I mean “always”. And when I say “most things”, I mean “everything.” And he’ll be the first to tell you that. But, he does have the knowledge to back up his opinions, and is prepared to cite specific examples and show his work when called upon. Wifey was along as well, and sugared herself with some Smirnoff Ice, a couple Dark & Stormys (Stormies? Also, “Dark ‘n Stormy” is a trademarked term owned by Gosling’s Black Rum. Because of this, a “Dark ‘n Stormy” legally must only be made with Gosling’s. What a douchy move on their part.) and a pina colada that was half gone before I could turn around. The rest of us loosened our belts and tucked into the brews.

Nelson Golden IPA Alpine Beer Co., Alpine, CA
Hopped with Nelson Sauvin, a New Zealand hop. I was talked into two bombers from Alpine in the City Beer store by the very helpful clerk, Stephanie. Alpine is about 30 miles from San Diego, and according to Stephanie, was flying off the shelves. They got several cases in the day before I was there, and the stock was already quite dwindled. She suggested I snag it while I could, so I grabbed the Nelson and one other, Pure Hoppiness.

Nose: Citrus right away. Strong tree/ stone fruit. Sweet and delicious. With my nose close to the liquid, I found an undercurrent of some cannabis-like bitter, lurking beneath the citrus explosion. Though I was initially dismissed for that, the Irish Lad came to my defense, smelling a bit of dank, and pointing out that hop plants are related to cannabis. So there.

Wifey said it smelled like tropical Mike & Ikes.

Taste: Doesn’t taste like it smells, and that becomes apparent right away with a sharp, dank, bitter start. It’s almost like a rye bitterness, which the Engineer suggested. It does have that spicy snap to it, then the expected citrus/ grapefruit sweetness washes in. I was getting a bit of mint/ menthol underneath which helped to open up the flavor. But again, the others thought I was crazy.

Armageddon IPA Epic Brewing Co., Auckland, New Zealand
The Lady Friend read somewhere that only 1,000 litres of this have been created. We weren’t sure if that meant 1,000 litres just this year or in the history of the beer. Allegedly, it used to be brewed with Simcoe hops, but was recently changed to Falconer’s Flight. According to their website, they use Simcoe, but there was no brew date on the bottle, so we have no idea what batch this was from. This was a 500ml bottle, a little more than a pint.

Nose: Mild piney bitter hop with some sweetish maltiness to the aroma. Also a slight citrus, and a reddish colored pour.

Taste: Much stronger malt than the previous Nelson. A hop spiciness, with some dry resin finish. Drinkable, and very well balanced. We all liked this one, but the Engineer was harder to please, noting that the nose died off too quickly, with a low alcohol push. He was “tasting the bittering hop by the end of the glass.”

Sculpin IPA Ballast Point, San Diego, CA
The only Ballast Points I’ve found out here are the Big Eye IPA, and whatever fishy names they chose for the pale ale and porter. I snagged this in the City Beer store intrigued by the promise of a citrusy West Coast style IPA. Apparently it won a gold medal at the 2010 World Beer Cup.

Nose: Tropical! Sweet and juicy.

Wifey said it smelled like a Jolly Rancher.

Taste: Piney hop start. Wet, juicy melon. Watery and refreshing. This time, the Engineer came to my defense with the watery comment. I don’t mean watery as a weak flavor, but rather a wet, clean, and opening sensation on the tongue that allows more flavor to come out. It’s the opposite of syrupy sweet.
The Engineer and Irish Lad both spoke of cucumbers and melon rind, with some puckery citrus. Wifey had a sip and proclaimed “ruby red grapefruit, but ONLY the ruby red kind,” and the Lady Friend just said “I like this!”

Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale Boulevard Brewing, Kansas City, MO
We took a break from my California hops to taste this one that the Engineer had brought along. It’s called a farmhouse ale, and was very wheaty-Belgian that poured cloudy. “Look at the haze!” was the comment from the Engineer.

Nose: Whoa. Took a big whiff… bigger than needed for this one. Very aromatic. Wheat. Banana clove. Bubblegum. Phew.
The Engineer: “Funk. Whole bunch of funk.”

Taste: WHOA. “That’s got some balls,” was my exact quote, though the Irish Lad suggested “Robust.” Took a bigger sip than necessary. Has some body to it, and a strength in there. Not a fan of this style, but it has a punch behind it that carries it along. The Tank 7 was really well done.
The Irish Lad noted that “the alcohol (8%) really makes it a nice drink,” while the Engineer proclaimed that there was “a whole bunch of cheese” in there.

Sockeye Red IPA Midnight Sun Brewing, Anchorage, AK
You know what you can get in California? Beers from places like New Zealand and Alaska. I bought this out of novelty.
This poured darker than I initially expected, until I realize it was a RED IPA.

Nose: Sweet up top, but a savory undercurrent that was puzzling the Engineer. Cheese and sausage. Savory meaty. Strange, but not unpleasant, just unexpected.

Taste: A little flat. Lower carbonation. Sharp bitter start, eases into a metallic copper taste, but not too much. A nice blend. This was the Lady Friend’s least favorite so far, due to the sharper bitter hop, rather than citrus sweet.

Double Daddy dIPA Speakeasy Brewing, San Francisco, CA
So, on our Cali trip, Ke$hia Ho was trying to decide if having Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA on tap was a good choice for her bar. I tried to order it at several places, but they either didn’t have it, or they were out. The Lady Friend and I finally did get a taste at Ke$hia’s bar, and liked it, but determined that it had a rather peanutty flavor to it. Having set the baseline, we could now find out if the double version was better.

It should also be noted that at this point in the evening, we broke out the cards and started playing “Asshole.” So, the notes may fall off a bit from here.

Nose: Staleness. Mustiness. Earthy, definately earthy, with a malty nuttiness.

Taste: Malty. There IS a peanutty flavor, as in the Big Daddy single IPA, but it’s much smoother and rounded out in the double.

Maiden the Shade specialty ale
Ninkasi Brewing, Eugene, OR

This was recommended to me by Stephanie again. Plus, it had a nice label and a pun name.

Nose: It… just smells like an ale. Nobody in the group could come up with a better description. Malty grain.

Taste: Touch of bitter, but slight. Malty, cereal sweet. Tasty, but unremarkable.

Dogma Brew Dog, Fraserburgh, Scotland
On the label, it’s described as an “ale brewed with honey, kola nut, poppy seeds and guarana.” This launched a whole debate between the Engineer and the Irish Lad about brewing “weird beer for the sake of being weird.” The Engineer said plainly “Brew Dog bugs me,” while the Irish Lad admitted that they make “innovative tastes but not always successful beers.”

Nose: Sweetness. Malt, but sweetness under the malt. Honey. Lots of honey.

Taste: The Irish Lad found this one “very gin-y.” It starts bitter, with a lot of honey sweet that starts in the middle, and grows to the finish. I thought both their Punk and Hardcore IPAs were interesting, and grabbed Dogma on a lark. It was certainly different, and I’m glad I tried it, but not something I’d have on a regular basis. I don’t really like honey all that much, and it seems to be the primary sweetener in this one. As the Irish Lad summed up, “I’m not saying it’s a good beer, but I’m happy I tasted those flavors.”

After eight different brews, we called it quits, and the unruly mob was forcefully expunged from my lair. The Lady Friend and I kicked back with a Lagunitas IPA to close with, since the Irish Lad had brought one over. I’ve puzzled before why he doesn’t like it, as I find it piney bitter, but generally tasty. Apparently he catches some sort of plastic quality in the brew, and the Engineer wasn’t terrible keen on it either. Regardless, the Lady Friend and I sipped it peaceably before retiring. Sunday brought a Widmer Brothers Drifter Pale Ale to sip on with some crispy bacon around the noonish hour. Delightfully and deliciously citrusy and tasty, with some lovely salty bacon. Then I busied myself with getting very little actually accomplished by not leaving SFHQ at all until finally crashing into bed to start another lovely work week.

Das Oktoberfestenmunchenpretzeldrinkenbieren, jah!

Octoberfest season!

The ol’ SquirrelFartsMail inbox started lighting up a couple weeks ago with notices of various autumnal October/Oktober festival drinking opportunities (I subscribe to quite a few drink-related newsletters). I generally avoid the larger gatherings, preferring smaller venues with easier (quicker) access to the beer. I don’t like crowds; I don’t like lines. Several of the festivals were listing ticket prices in the $40+ range, which I think is a bit steep, since that generally doesn’t include food or beer. What am I paying for? The privilege of coming to your festival and spending more money? Blow me.

One of the emails caught my eye: Harpoon Brewery. Yes, I’ve been there many times and written about them here before, but since I’m a Friend of Harpoon (sign up… it’s free) they send me various emails about deals and events that usually include a discount for Friends. The one that caught my eye was an Oktoberfest Kickoff night at Jacob Wirth, a German beer hall-style restaurant in Boston that’s been there since 1868. The deal was that the first 50 Friends of Harpoon would get “a genuine Harpoon Octoberfest mug (1 Liter!) and 2 passes to Harpoon Octoberfest.” Well, kinda, but more on that soon. It sounded like a good excuse to drink some nice German beers in the city on a Tuesday night, and I managed to talk the Lady Friend into it.

We met up at South Station (I had a couple Harpoon IPAs at Clark’s and flipped through the latest BeerAdvocate mag while waiting for her to get out of work) and headed over to Jacob’s (in a very roundabout path… I was using my beer compass). It’s over in the theatre district, and has been there for about 6,000 years. It’s definitely a place worth checking out, though I have a few tips: go on an off night (the bar area is extremely narrow and crowded), order good German beers (for the love, don’t order a Bud Light), and be aware that the food is overpriced for what is essentially trumped-up pub grub, unless you want some of the crazy German food. The biggest widespread gripe with Jacob’s has always been the quality of service; they certainly don’t have the varsity squad of Boston’s waitstaff here. There was a big kerfuffle last year where the owner apparently saw the negative reviews they were getting on Yelp, and called the waitstaff losers, telling them to shape up or ship out. Maybe that was an overreaction, but I’ve never been really satisfied by the service there, and apparently I’m not alone.

Now, it seemed busy for a Tuesday, and I’m assuming the Harpoon event was responsible for most of that draw. It was about a 10-minute wait for a table, which was fine, but once we sat down it took about another 10 minutes for any server to even acknowledge us. What? At least give me a nod or a quick “sorry, I’ll be with you in a minute” so I know that you know that we’re sitting here. Strike one. So, we ordered appropriately German beers (a Hofbräu Dunkel for me and a Fransiskaner Dunkel Weiss for she) and got our food order in while the waiter was nearby. I ordered a grilled chicken BLT, no tomato, no mayo. What I got was grilled chicken with lettuce and mayo. Really? Why is there mayo on here, and where is my bacon? Strike two. However, I was hungry, and hate sending food back, especially in a place where it’ll take another 20 minutes for a sandwich. I managed to snag a good place in the Harpoon line that was forming, and got my “genuine 1 litre mug,” which was ACTUALLY a 20 oz glass, nowhere near a litre, which is 33.8 oz. Don’t lie to me like that, Harpoon. Grabbed the free passes, and headed back to the table to finish dinner. We each had a second beer (me: Lammsbrau Dunkel, she: Spaaten Optimator) and then got the hell out of there.

The conclusion: go to Jacob’s for some excellent, proper German beers, but don’t order food. It’s overpriced, takes forever to get to the table, and probably won’t be what you ordered.

Hop in the time machine and fast-forward to Saturday.
Octoberfest Day!

The madness begins

Saturday afternoon, we pregamed with a Brewdog Hardcore IPA before setting out for the Harpoon craziness. I’ve been to their festivals before, notably the Irish Fest, but never the Octoberfest. I had an idea of what to expect: long lines, drink tickets, and chaos around the beer taps. Octoberfest lived up to all the expectations, with probably over a thousand people there. On the other hand, we went into the much shorter Friends of Harpoon VIP line. Score. Then we saw the small print on the back of the free passes saying they were for Friday night only, not Saturday afternoon. Unscore. Wtf Harpoon? That’s a cheap move. No one thought to mention that anywhere in the emails or promotions. Thanks. So we had to pay the admission like a couple of average schnooks, and in we went, through the brewery to the parking lot on the other side where the festivities were in full swing. Keg bowlers bowling, German girls’ booben a-boobing, cake eaters eating, German oom-pah bands, um, oom-pah-ing, and everyone drinking. These things consist of two main activities… standing around talking or waiting in line. There’s the beer ticket line ($5/ticket/beer. Not outrageous) before the actual beer line (and the bathroom line). They had their IPA, Munich Dark, UFO White, and, of course, Octoberfest beers all on tap. Pick a beer, pick a line. I started with the Octoberfest, then went IPA and Munich Dark. All Harpoon, all tasty.

Who ARE all of these people?

There weren’t too many people over the age of about 30, and the ones that were really stood out, like “who brought their dad?” Of course, there were the hippie-dippies who always think it’s awesome to bring their baby to the brewery, and a lot of girls who were actively on the prowl. Not always nice looking girls, but those bloated late-twenty-somethings who stagger along clutching their purse and their beer realizing that all their friends are getting married, and they’d better do something quick, so why not go to the beer festival and find a boy-man to pounce on? Great people-watching fodder, which is what the Lady Friend and I mostly did while consuming our delectable drinkables.

Too many people in between me and beer.

Just as we were getting ready to leave, a couple raindrops fell and sent the crowd into a noticeable level of apprehension; there were several large tents set up for the bands and beer, but the majority of the patrons milled around outside. No way they would all fit under shelter should the skies open up. The rain held off, however, and we left, heading over to Drink, despite the Lady Friend’s determined efforts to ruin my surprise plans. After a short wait (there’s ALWAYS a wait, though the overdressed cougars in line ahead of us kept bitching about their dinner reservations and left, despite the fact that we only waited about 10 mins or so) we sat right at the bar and started the magic. The Lady had a Mojito, and claims it was the best one she ever had, while I went with a variation on the whiskey sour called a Tennessee, which uses maraschino liqueur in place of simple syrup. A bit drier than a normal sour, but excellent.

LF needed food, so we pretty much called it a night at that point, though I could have stayed at Drink for hours, playing with different recipes. Back to SFHQ for the night. Gute nacht, eichhörnchen furzt!

Avery DuganA

This rainy Monday night was just begging for a big beer bomber to bubble in my belly.

Despite the fact that I hadn’t made my usual stop to the liquor store recently, I still had a stash of some notable craft bombers. I had made up my mind some time in the afternoon that the evening would call forth Avery Brewing’s DuganA, a double/Imperial IPA (depending on who you ask).

I first heard about this brew on a podcast, where they tend to ramble off onto tangents of Big Beers. They’ll start talking about gin in the 1800s and wind up in a barleywine discussion. Not that it’s a bad thing. So, among other notable names, there was a passing reference to Avery DuganA. I’ve become an occasional fan of Avery’s Maharaja double/Imperial/triple IPA, which is a malt bomb damn near a barleywine. It’s also incredibly hoppy, and quite an experience. The Lady Friend and I shared one I had stashed in the back of the fridge last weekend, and it’s a powerhouse.

DuganA was described in the podcast as a halfway point between Avery’s IPA (an extremely delicious tipple) and the Maharaja. The IPA is described as American style, and to me, it has a lot of the sweetness of the West Coast fashion. The Maharaja is just otherworldly. So, there was no other choice: time to crack the bomber and give it a taste.

After a pour into a pint glass, I had some trouble getting much aroma out of it. It’s not that it wasn’t there… it’s just that maybe I expected a lot more out of an ImpIPA. What I did get was some sweet, tree fruit, like nectarine and/or grapefruit. There’s a maltiness reminiscent of the Maharaja. The final thought? Fresh pencil erasers wrapped in a Fruit Roll-Up.

As for the taste… wow. The first thing that hit my tongue was hay. No, seriously, hay. A dried grassiness, with some wood, stick, or sawdust. A very strange start. The hop quickly followed, more bitter than expected from the nose, and it bit on the back sides of the tongue. A malt syrup sweetness oozed in to finish, and slowly sluffed down the throat leaving the hop bitter to linger a bit and take it’s time loitering around.

Very… interesting. Not at all what I had expected. It’s a bit maltier than I thought, and I certainly see the parallels with the Maharaja. On the other hand, there’s a distinct hop bitter with a lovely (if subdued) aroma that makes the standard IPA presence known. Avery seems to be doing what more and more car manufacturers have adopted: an entry level product, a top-of-the-line showcase, and now, one designed to be exactly between the two. If the IPA is a Porsche Boxster, and the Maharaja is the 911 Turbo, then DuganA is the Cayman S… it could be more powerful, but it’s engineered to be a mid-level product, and not steal the limelight of the flagship.

However, like the Cayman, it’s an amazing product. So much more than the entry-level, but with a little tweaking, could take on the big boys. Put this one on your wishlist.

The Monday Hangover: Sept 24-25

The Monday Hangover:
Other drink adventures of note from the weekend.

Let’s see if this works. Basically a section to sum up the other tasty imbibables consumed during the weekend that didn’t get their own post.

The trouble started Friday evening, when I stopped by Curtis Liquors with beer on the brain. I shouldn’t be allowed in there unsupervised.

Going to the liquor store on payday is dangerous.

However, Friday night is cocktail night, so the beer wonders would have to wait. This week’s new cocktail was the Nautilus.

On Saturday the Lady Friend and I lunched at the Union Brewhouse, further making our way down their 99 bottle list. Apparently, there is an updated list (it says Series #3 in the corner) and our waitress generously offered to transfer our progress onto a new card, since several breweries have been added or dropped from the list.
I started with a Jack’s Abbey Hoponius Union India Pale Lager (yes, India Pale LAGER) on tap, on a recommendation from the Irish Lad. Strangely, I got a heavy aroma and taste of mint in this brew. Lady Friend went with the Bear Republic Mach 10 Imperial IPA, which went on draught at the Brewhouse earlier in the week (and was the main reason for going there.) I went with the Mach 10 for my second bev (very good, more malty than hoppy), and she chose a Tuckerman Brewing Pale Ale.

From the Brewhouse, we popped over to Blue Hills Brewery in Canton. I’d already done a writeup on them before, so this was a social visit for a tasting, and to purchase a couple beers. We went through the sampling of their Watermelon Wheat (I passed on that one), Wampatuck Wheat (discounted bombers available currently at the brewery), Pub Draft IPA, Antimatter, Oktobrau, Black Hops and Imperial Red IPA. That actually sounds like a lot more beer than we had. It was all tasty as usual, and we chatted with a couple on their own beer tour from Norfolk, VA (they had stopped at Trinity Brewhouse in Providence earlier that day.) We purchased two Imperial Red IPA bombers (one for Irish Lad) and an Oktobrau and were on our way.

Since plans with Wifey and the Irish Lad fell through, we shrugged and went back to the Brewhouse. We even sat at the same table, but in different seats so it’s totally cool. I opened with a Cape Ann Brewing (Gloucester) Fisherman’s Brew, followed by a tasty Green Flash West Coast IPA, and finally a Goose Island Honkers Ale. The Lady Friend had a Tröegs HopBack Amber Ale, something from Stoudt Brewing, and a third I can’t remember. I can barely keep track of my own beers, never mind hers. (UPDATE: Apparently it was Peak Brewing’s Fall Summit Ale.)

Finally, it was back to SquirrelFarts HQ to continue the beer mayhem. We decided to crack a few bombers, and dove in with the Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA. Lady Friend LOVED it. I think she really enjoyed the roast bitterness of the toasted malt, but with some hop behind it. I will admit that it was quite tasty, but now I know the Lady Friend might enjoy some other black IPAs (a bit of a misnomer as it’s somewhat of an oxymoron to have a BLACK PALE ale. The craft beer world is still sorting that one out.) For dessert, it was time for a knockout punch, and we went with a big boy I had stashed in the back of the fridge: Avery’s Maharaja Imperial IPA (10.3% abv). There’s a bit of discussion attached with this one as well, since it’s such a killer malt bomb, that it borders on barleywine territory, yet still classifies as an IPA. The beer geeks are clamoring for a TRIPLE IPA category, as this one is on the far reaches of double/Imperial IPA land.

I had a shoot on Sunday, and Lady Friend went to visit her parents, so that did it for the weekend.

…unless you count the Redhook ESB I snagged in the afternoon.
…and the Anderson Valley Hop Ottin’ IPA after the shoot. Whoops.

Postcard from the Floor

Thursday. Still another day to go this week.

Relief was necessary; liquid relief. A bomber. Initial thoughts were for the Brewdog Hardcore IPA, an “explicit imperial ale” at 9.2% abv. Discovered in a Stop n’ Shop up in Stratham, where I also discovered the magical “mix-your-own” six pack. Lovely. But Brewdog? Not tonight. Something else.

Ah. One of the Syracuse discoveries. Purchased at Wegmans, though I have seen it here since: Breckenridge Brewery 417 Small Batch IPA. Another imperial. Another 9.2%. Screened on label, like Stone Brewing; will make a lovely drinking glass, if I ever get around to it. The trick is to used painted/screened labels, as paper labels would wash off. Pop the Breckenridge cap, lots of carbonation. Worried the top might explode, as a homebrew bottle once did. It was a jalepeño lager. Left to their own devices, they constantly ferment, and can become shrapnel bombs. The top literally exploded off of the bottle as I cracked the seal, releasing a geyser of peppery beer foam. Fortunately, the cap and glass ring flew the opposite direction. Treat the rest as explosive material, and dispose of carefully. The Breckenridge didn’t explode, it just had lots of carbonation. Still, the concern was there.

Breckenridge pours clear, and amber orange. No cloudiness. Good head, though evaporates quickly. Stinging bubbles, lots of carbonic bite. Large pour, putting the newly-acquired Throwback 21.5oz pub glass to work for only the second time in its life. It’s a big glass kind of night. The brew noses apple tart, with a bit of fruit sweetness. Still, tartness is predominant – there’s a greenness in there. Somewhere in between the English bitter and the West Coast sweet. It has a snap, but not too harsh. Apple, apple, apple, and a little malt finish if you try hard and wait for it.

To taste: heft the glass, tip to the mouth, inhaling all the way. Bang… carbonation, then quickly to hop bitter tart. A touch of malt swooshes in from the left flank and, in a swallow, all is gone. The hop stays around for a minute to erase all traces of sweetness until it too evaporates. Almost a hotness to it… that would be the alcohol. It is easily lost in the flavor pool, but here it is, sneaking up uninvited, but not unwanted. The glass doesn’t hold the entire bomber, so a top-up is called for after some time spent with the couch, watching School Ties and wondering what the big deal is. He’s Jewish, the big secret got out, Matt Damon is a douche, and Ben Affleck, as usual, lurks in the background adding nothing.

Standing with the intent to refill reveals wobbly legs. Not bad, just unexpected. A BeerAdvocate search reveals the reason, and brings the 9.2% abv fact to light. The bottle said nothing of “imperial” status, or other such buzz words hinting at the octane of its contents. “Double hopped” rings the “IPA” stamp, the only clue to the powerful nectar within.

Still, a good beer to finally put this day down. Not the best, but it put up a good fight.

Breckenridge Brewery 471 Small Batch [Imperial] IPA. Go grab one.

This one is mine. You can’t have it.

The Results

I noticed some unexpected traffic on the site earlier, and tracked it to the CBS website. It seems that the results of the Most Valuable Blogger Awards have been posted. Well gosh golly gee, look at that:

I can’t get that Karate Kid song out of my head.

While I don’t want a Dewey Defeats Truman scene on my hands, I think it’s safe to call it.
CBS Boston’s Most Valuable Blogger 2011 in the Category of Dining and Entertainment:


However, this was for the Editor’s Choice, which means I didn’t win the popular vote.

Which means you people didn’t vote enough.

So thanks for nothing.

I’m kidding.

Seriously, thanks to everyone who voted and checked out my drunken ramblings. Lots more to come, especially now that my ego is out of control and I’ll be referring to myself as award-winning blogger SquirrelFarts McAwesome. I can hear Lady Friend groaning from here.

I was going to celebrate with some champagne tonight, but happen to be in a bit of a sparkling wine deficit, thanks to Friday night’s adventures. So, a lovely beer will have to do. I’ve been saving this one for several weeks: Anderson Valley’s 20th Anniversary Imperial India Pale Ale.

Cheers, Boston.

There’s a Brewery in Them Thar Blue Hills

Ok. So I’ll admit that the cocktail end of these ramblings have turned mostly beer-centric with many brewery/ brewpub tours n’ tastings.

But I’m running this show, and beer is tasty, so here’s another brewery tour.

Another glittering brewery frontage.

Blue Hills Brewery is located in Canton, MA near the Blue Hills, which is 7,000 acres of conservation and recreation land, including the Great Blue Hill, which the Native Americans called “Massachusett.” Very handy. Anyway, when you’re going to the brewery, heads up: it’s in a small industrial strip, and we drove right past it, despite the use of a GPS. Apparently, they HAD a sign that they put out on tasting days, but the town wanted to charge them a fee each time it was displayed. Nice.

This is the current sign. Enlarged to show texture.

Once we found the brewery in the illustrious “Canton Tech Centre,” we went in for a tasting, which is held 2-6p on Saturdays. The average crowd is typically anywhere from 25 to 100 visitors, and when the Lady Friend and I arrived there were several people finishing up. We hung back a few minutes before settling into their newly-vacated seats at the small bar. The owner/brewer, Andris Veidis, was pouring from bombers, so we started right in.

Shhhh little ones…. I’m not going to hurt you.
I’m just going to DRINK you.

Wampatuck Wheat
Nose: Wheat, with a slight lemony tinge.
Taste: Clean, refreshing taste with a touch of banana wheat. Nice, but not my fav.

Watermelon Wheat
Nose: Candy. Sweet bubble gum.
Taste: Fruity, overly sweet. Not syrupy, but “watermelon flavor” fake taste. Bitter, slightly stale finish. Ew. Andris didn’t seem too thrilled about this one either. I don’t think it was his idea.

Antimatter (Experimental “Smash” beer)
The Antimatter recipe changes, based on the whims of the brewer, and is considered their experimental beer. I remember trying the first batch and not thinking much of it. This second batch uses a single malt, Vienna, and a single hop, Calypso. I remarked that I had never heard of Calypso hops, and Andris replied “Me either.” Apparently it’s about 2-3 years old, a somewhat new hybrid including Nugget, with a fruity citrus flavoring, and a 12-13% alpha acid. His hop hookup had a surplus, so Andris decided to give it a try for a “smash” beer, which in the brewing world means “Single MAlt, Single Hop.”
Nose: Fruity, fresh aroma
Taste: Slight hop bitter undertone. Mouthwatering and refreshing. Very nice, a good session drink. I wasn’t impressed with the original Antimatter, but this new batch is great.

Black Hops black IPA
A black hoppy ale in the style of a swarzbier, but not a lager. The bittering comes from the roasted malt, not the hops.
Nose: Malty sweet with a slight roast
Taste: Starts malty, slides to a roast, bitter finish. Very tasty, and very nice.

Imperial Red IPA (9% abv)
Ok, this is where we get silly. Andris took the malt bill from his red ale, normally brewed around St. Patty’s, and his regular Pub Draft IPA, and mashed them together. Then he threw in a whole bunch of Summits Golding and Liberty hops (30lbs of hops per 15 barrel batch) and left them unsupervised, like junior high school kids playing Seven Minutes in Heaven. Like hormone-intoxicated teenagers, they fumbled awkwardly for awhile, but came out all smiles with a great story.
This nosed with a sweet, tree fruit aroma.
Taste: Well, my notes just say “Wow.” Fruity tree fruit, like peach and apple. Mouthwatering fruit, as a Citra hop, with no red ale copper/metallic bite. Does NOT taste like a 9% brew. VERY GOOD.

I was blown away by the Imperial Red IPA. It was not at all what I was expecting, and was fantastic. I snagged a bomber for $7 at the brewery store (retail $9+) and Andris hooked me up with a pint glass as well. The only beer currently brewed that we didn’t try was the Pub Draft IPA, easily found around the South Shore, which I’ve had several times. It’s a nicely hopped easy-going IPA, that clocks in around $4 for a 22oz bomber. Apparently there are six-packs of the IPA and the Antimatter available, but the rest are sold only in bombers or kegs.

I had been chatting with Andris throughout the tasting, and apparently asked the right questions, since he was very forthcoming with answers. They typically brew certain beers on certain days to keep the schedule going, for example wheat on Monday, IPA on Tuesday and the black ale every other week. The Antimatter experiments sneak in whenever there’s time and space on the production line, though Blue Hills just added two fermenters just to keep up with current demand. Coastal Extreme Brewing Company of Newport, RI contacted Blue Hills looking to contract some brewing space, but there’s no space to be had.

I asked if I could poke around in the back where the actual brewing equipment was set up, and it was no problem. Andris started brewing back in the early ’90s, and worked for a time at Harpoon Brewery before going out to San Diego for some further brewer education. His background includes a lot of construction and fabrication of brewing equipment, so he was able to set up most of Blue Hills’ paraphernalia himself, which is quite a task. Their production was 1400 barrels in 2010, and now with seven tanks (four fermenters and three conditioners) they’re looking at 2500bbls for their 2011 target.

Blue Hills is self-distributed, and operate under the farmer-brewer license. At the time of my visit, there was a big kerfuffle in the brewing industry about the requirements of the farmer-brewer license, and small operations like Blue Hills would be forced out of business if rulings didn’t swing their way. I asked about this, and Andris said it had been on the books for hundreds of years, but only became relevent in the past 35 years or so (when craft brewing became legalized). He wasn’t sure if it was the state, or the distributors pushing the enforcement of rules that would close most local breweries. The distributors have a hand in this because the farmer-brewer license allows for self-distribution, transporting product from brewer to point of sale, skipping the distributing company in the three-tier system. When asked what would happen to Blue Hills if the regulations were strictly enforced, Andris shrugged and said he’d “party for a couple months until they shut us down.”

Blue Hills was great. A local, craft brewery with plenty of experience behind them, as well as a solid product. They’re very reasonably priced in stores, and easy to find, at least in the South Shore. If you see a bomber of the Imperial Red IPA, snag it… it was the winner of the bunch, in my opinion. Very drinkable, lots of flavor, and you’d never realize it was a 9%. It’s most popular in November. They do rotate seasonal beers, and their Oktoberfest lager started brewing in July. It’ll ferment for a couple of weeks, start to be filtered and bottled around Aug 21st, and be in stores at the end of that week.

Go get some.

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