Hoppy Boston is a site dedicated to craft beer with a focus on New England breweries, Boston area beer bars, and home-brewing. It is a Boston based blog for all things craft beer, including reviews of beers and beer bars.
In many industries a company that’s ten years old is still relatively early into their lifespan and just establishing themselves in the minds of their competition. Craft beer is a very different beast, a 10 year old brewery is a grizzled industry veteran that was around before the current explosion of new breweries. It will be really interesting to see how many of the breweries that opened in the last few years make it to their tenth anniversary. I bring this up because Mayflower Brewing Company recently celebrated their 10 year anniversary, a huge milestone for a brewery in the current market. To celebrate ten years Mayflower brewed a big and boozy imperial stout simply named X. It seems like breweries tend to make high alcohol beers for big anniversaries, maybe because these styles tend to age well and it’s fun to cellar some and re-visit the anniversary beer in subsequent years. Mayflower X is a one-off beer, available for a limited time on draft and in 16 oz tallboy cans.
Mayflower X pours pitch black with a mild tan head. The aroma is rich roasted malt, chocolate and dark fruit. The flavor is malt forward, notes of cocoa, coffee, dates and brown sugar along with some warming booze. There is minimal hop flavor, as you would expect from a boozy stout. Mayflower X is a full bodied sipper and packs some serious punch at 11% ABV. The finish is rich with some lingering malt flavor and booziness. This is a really nice imperial stout, happy 10 years to Mayflower! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Every three months I do a summary of the best beers I reviewed over the last quarter. The last few “best beer” articles have been very IPA-heavy so I was determined to focus my winter reviews on some more diverse and malt-forward styles. Mission accomplished, my favorite beers of winter are all bold and boozy, and only one is an IPA. As always, all of these beers take up permanent residence on my Favorite Beers list and the links provided below lead to the full reviews. If you have any suggestions for beers I might have missed feel free to pass them along. Cheers!
Foundation Forge: A stellar imperial stout. Robust roasted malt flavor, smooth and almost no boozy burn despite the big ABV. Foundation is known for their IPAs but this is a top-notch dark ale.
Ommegang Three Philosophers: A classic beer for a reason. Huge flavors from the malts and the expressive Abbey-style yeast strain, big and boozy but still smooth and drinkable. One of my favorite quads.
Allagash Interlude: While they make stellar beers up and down the lineup, Allagash Brewing’s barrel aged and wild ales show a true mastery of the craft. Interlude is a mixture of a traditional saison, Brettanomyces fermented ale and an ale aged in red wine barrels. Complex and delicious.
Night Shift The 87: Night Shift decided to rework the recipe of their flagship DIPA and the results are phenomenal. Huge hop flavor and aroma and incredibly easy to drink for a bigger beer. Everything you want in a New England Style DIPA.
Mystic Brewery has announced that they are building a new brewery in Malden, which will allow for expanded production and overcoming some of the issues with their current location in Chelsea. Mystic is doing some amazing things, balancing their expertise in Belgian styles with creative and delicious hop-forward beers.
The Massachusetts Brewers Guild is working on a number of pieces of legislation that will help local breweries. There have been some issues getting these bills moving, especially the bills to reform franchise laws. All Massachusetts beer fans should take a few minutes to read up on these bills and then contact your state reps to express support for your local breweries.
Lamplighter has expanded their taproom, opening up a second area with seating. I’ve usually stopped by on weekday afternoons to grab beer to go (I work nearby), but I’ve heard the place gets packed early on evenings and weekends, so this should help.
The good news is that Dann and Martha Paquette, the founders or Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, are opening a new brewery. The bad news is that the new brewery is in Sheffield, England. Pretty Things was one of my favorite breweries, I wish they were re-opening something locally but I’m glad they are making beer again and I hope some of it makes the trip across the pond.
After over 200 columns Dave Patterson, author of the stellar Beer Muse column in the Portland Press Herald is signing off to publish a novel. His articles have always provided an informative look at the Maine beer scene. Fortunately they hired another great beer writer to take over the column, Carla Jean Lautner. Her first column profiles Industrial Way, where you can get a variety of amazing beers from a number of different breweries all in one place.
The Full Pint has a rundown of the reasons that some brewers and drinkers hate the NEIPA craze. I think it is mostly a backlash against something that is new, different and extremely popular (along with some jealousy at the buzz these beers have created).
Trillium named their new beer Storrowed after the phenomenon of trucks getting stuck under the low bridges on Storrow Drive. One of my favorite recent beer names.
Andy Crouch writes an ode to session beer, and at the same time bemoans the lack of quality session beers in the US market. In Massachusetts we are a little spoiled in this regard due to breweries like Notch that focus on quality, low ABV offerings.
The uncertainty on the future of Smuttynose also effected Night Shift, who was using the New Hampshire brewery for some of their overflow production. Fortunately Night Shift now has an agreement to produce beer at the Isle Brewers Guild in Pawtucket, so we won’t see shortages of Santilli and Morph any time soon.
Good Beer Hunting has an article on breweries skirting trademark laws by releasing one-off beers that are clearly a violation but are gone before legal action can be taken. As much as I love seeing beers named with cool pop-culture references, this practice is pretty shady.
Bon Appetite has an overview on the 10 types of IPA, with a good explanation of the different sub-styles and terminology. You know that beer is fully into the national consciousness when publications like Bon Appetite are writing beer articles.
That is it for this month, as always feel free to pass along anything that you feel should be included in the article. Cheers!
One of the most interesting developments in the early part of the year has been mid-sized and larger breweries jumping on the New England IPA bandwagon. Breweries like Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium have introduced hazy and low bitterness hop-forward ales and began distribution across the country. This is a big change for the style, most of the breweries that spearheaded the popularity of NEIPAs are small and sell the majority of their beer directly to consumers from their breweries. It will be interesting to see how the beers do in wide distribution, the style is notorious for it’s short shelf life. One brewery who has been brewing and distributing a NEIPA for a while is Two Roads Brewery. Two Roads has managed to launch their double NEIPA Two Juicy across a number of states and they do a good job keeping fresh beer on the shelves and draft accounts. Two Roads Two Juicy is brewed with Hallertauer Blanc, Citra and Mandarina Bavaria hops and is available year round on draft and in 16 oz cans.
Two Roads Two Juicy pours hazy light yellow with a solid white head. The scent is a solid burst of hops, lots of tropical fruit. The flavor is hop forward, notes of pineapple, mango and stone fruit along with a crisp bitter bite. There is just enough malt for balance, hints of bread dough and cereal. Two Juicy is medium bodied with a solidly rich mouthfeel and packs a little punch at 8.2% ABV. The finish is crisp with plenty of hop flavor. This is a really nice NEIPA, plenty of hop flavor and super easy to drink for a bigger beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
I am currently working on a big article highlighting my favorite New England Style IPAs from every state in New England. I am overflowing with ideas for Massachusetts and Maine, the two states where I spend the most time, but I have various levels of work to do in every other state. The one that has come together surprisingly easily is Rhode Island, despite the fact that I have spent a limited amount of time visiting breweries in the smallest state in the US. The major reason for my ability to sample a range of Rhode Island IPAs is my friends Tim and Amanda, they live in Providence and are always happy to share the best beers the state has to offer when we get together. On a recent visit my friends brought a number of beers from Proclamation Brewing Company in Warwick. While Proclamation does distribute into Massachusetts it is rare to see it in bottle shops, a limited amount makes it north and it tends to fly off the shelves. One of the beers Tim and Amanda brought this trip was Ethereous, one of the many IPAs Proclamation brews. Proclamation Ethereous is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz cans.
Proclamation Ethereous pours hazy deep yellow with a small white head. The scent is all hops, citrus and tropical fruit heavy. These fruity hops also lead the flavor, notes of pineapple, tangerine and mango along with just a little bitter bite. This is balanced by a little malt, hints of whole grains and bread dough. Ethereous is pretty light bodied and easy to drink, and not overly boozy at 6.6% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering hop flavor. This is another really solid IPA from Proclamation, they make a wide variety of hoppy beers and this one has a nice mixture of easy drinkability and big hop flavor. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
At the beginning of the year Springdale Brewing, the ale-focused offshoot of Jack’s Abby Brewing Company, announced that they would start distributing some of their beers. I like that Springdale took their time heading into distribution, they have made a crazy number of different beers in the last year and the slow rollout let them experiment and perfect their recipes. I have really enjoyed the beers from Springdale, and I hope this distribution leads to more people trying their beer. I am also a fan of the date coding on the hoppy beers, Springdale adds very clear canned on and consume by dates and a directive to store the beer cold. Springdale started distribution with a partial lineup of brands, including Brigadeiro, their breakfast stout which is brewed with coffee, cacao, oats and lactose. On my last visit to the brewery I picked up a few bottles of Maple Barrel Aged Brigadeiro, a blend of batches of the base stout aged in maple syrup and bourbon barrels. Maple Barrel Aged Brigadeiro is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 500 mL bottles.
Springdale Maple Barrel Aged Brigadeiro pours pitch black with a small tan head. The aroma is rich, coffee, bourbon and roasted malts. The flavor is complex between the malts, adjuncts and barrel aging, but everything works well together. The malts add notes of dark chocolate, caramel and mocha. The adjuncts add substantial coffee flavor and just a little sweetness. The bourbon and maple are both on the mild side, they add complexity, a little booze and sugary flavor without overwhelming the underlying beer. There is minimal hops flavor, as you would expect from the style. Maple Barrel Aged Brigadeiro is full bodied but drinks very easy and isn’t overdone at 8.5% ABV. The finish is smooth and rich with some lingering coffee and roasted malt flavors. I really like this beer, too many barrel aged stouts have aggressive whiskey flavors and booziness that overwhelm the rich malt character of the stout. Maple Barrel Aged Brigadeiro manages to meld a huge number of different flavors in a way where each contributes without overwhelming. Nicely done. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
I’ve thought a lot about what my brand would look like if I ever started my own brewery, there is zero chance I ever would take that leap but it’s fun to imagine. Idea number one would involve my day job as a chemist, maybe naming each beer after a different element. The second idea would probably involve naming beers after obscure lyrics from early 90’s rock songs, not sure how I would make it into a brand but it would be fun finding the right lyrics for each beer and seeing how quickly customers caught on to the theme. In that vein, you see many breweries pay tribute to their favorite pieces of popular culture when they name new beers. One great example is the new scotch ale from Exhibit A in Framingham named We’re Going To Need You To Come In On Saturday. The can also features artwork that immediately recalls boss-from-hell Bill Lumbergh, who infamously delivered the line in the classic Mike Judge comedy Office Space. I am a huge fan of that movie, anyone who has spent time working in corporate America can easily relate to the issues the characters deal with, so I needed to try the beer when I saw the can. Exhibit A We’re Going To Need You To Come In On Saturday Scotch Ale is available now on draft and in 16 oz cans.
Exhibit A We’re Going To Need You To Come In On Saturday Scotch Ale pours deep brown with a solid off-white head. The aroma is mild, just a touch of rich malt. The beer is malt forward, notes of toffee, roasted nuts, raisin and a hint of peat. There is minimal hop character, just a little earthiness and enough bitterness to keep the malt flavors in check. We’re Going To Need You To Come In On Saturday is full bodied but drinks pretty smooth for a beer with 8.4% ABV. The finish is full with some lingering rich malt flavor. This beer doesn’t just have an awesome name and artwork, it’s a delicious beer too. I don’t drink a ton of scotch ales, but I would see this our again. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
When you bring up beer styles that are perfect for cold winter weather the most obvious styles people will point to are rich, dark and malty beers like porter and stout. There are a number of other heavy and boozy beers like barleywine, tripel and quadruple that many also use to keep warm in the coldest part of the year. An underappreciated winter style is dopplebock, a dark and higher alcohol German style lager. I love a good dopplebock, the rich malt flavor and clean lager finish combine for a delicious and easy to drink beer when it’s well executed. Unfortunately very few local breweries make dopplebocks, it’s a niche style and requires longer fermentation times at lower temperatures, so it can be a tough sell for breweries operating on thin margins. I was excited to see cans of Fort Hill Dopplebock hit the shelves this fall. Fort Hill has quickly established themselves as a popular option in the local market, making a variety of flavorful beers at a reasonable price point. While their hoppy beers have attracted the bulk of the attention (no surprise there, IPAs pay the bills), Fort Hill makes a wide variety of ales and lagers. Fort Hill Dopplebock is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 12 oz cans.
Fort Hill Dopplebock pours clear deep red with a solid white head. The aroma is mild, just a hint of roasted malt. The beer is malt forward, notes of caramel, bread dough and brown sugar along with a little residual sweetness. There is a touch of hop character that adds earthiness and some balance. Fort Hill Dopplebock is on the light side of medium bodied and at 7.5% ABV is on point for the style. It features a clean lager finish with just a little lingering malt flavor and sweetness. This is a solid dopplebock, I would have liked a little more body and roasted flavor, but there is a lot to like here and it’s great to see another local version of the style. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Breweries can find themselves in a tough position when they brew a “flagship” beer for a while and then decide to change the recipe. The need to change the recipe can happen for a number of reasons, a new brewer who wants to make a mark, changing tastes of a customer base, issues with availability of ingredients, or a recipe that starts to feel stale after many batches. When this change is made inevitably some customers love the current recipe and end up disappointed. One option is to just brew an entirely new beer and phase out the old one, but breweries can form attachments to a beer name or artwork and not want to abandon it. An interesting recent example was The 87, the flagship DIPA from Night Shift Brewing which is named the after their address in Everett. Night Shift recently revamped the recipe of The 87 allowing them to take advantage of some newer hop varieties and positioning the beer as a true version of the low bitterness and fruity New England style IPA. The newest iteration of Night Shift The 87 is available year round on draft and in 16 oz. cans.
Night Shift The 87 pours a hazy light orange with a small white head. The aroma features a huge burst of citrus and tropical fruit from the hops. The hops also lead the flavor, notes of grapefruit, tangerine and papaya with minimal bitterness, very much a NEDIPA. This is balanced by a solid malt backbone, hints of crackers and bread dough. The 87 is medium bodied and drinks very easy for a DIPA with 8.0% ABV. The finish is crisp with some lingering fruity hops. This beer is stellar, I thought the original version of the 87 was pretty good but this beer is a big improvement over what I remember. There are so many stellar local DIPAs and this needs to be in the conversation when you talk about the best. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.