Berkshire Brewing Co.
South Deerfield, MA
6.2% ABV / 36 IBU
Holy hell, it has been too long. I am back, I swear it. It’s not that I haven’t been drinking – I have! A lot! As much as I can. Inspiration struck the other night, and a bomber of this stuff in the fridge was just calling to me. “Open me,” it said. “Drink me, and enjoy. But share it with the world. With all your countless fans.”
“I will, talking beer,” I said. “I will.”
This beer lets in no light, save for what trickles in from the top as the honey-colored head subsides. All but black, the muddy brown curtain obscures any view of the gentle carbonation.
A few of these and you’ll need to be carried.
The nose has caramel, milk chocolate, and the cold smell of a concrete floor – like a garage or basement that has been cleaned but is perpetually damp. Some minor vegetal aromas appear, but are overpowered by the cool sweetness.
The first sip starts smoothly, with very little carbonation. There is a softness, but no coating of the mouth or acrid bitterness from the toasted grains. The sides of the tongue get touched with some sparkling but evanescent green hop bitterness, but everything gets ironed out to the back of the palate with chocolate milk, sourdough, and a touch of mocha.
I may have served the first pour a bit too cold, but it’s an easy drinker and a smooth 6.2 percent, which lacks any of the roasted char and sticky alcohol apparent in so many bulkier US porters.
Boston Beer Co.
Latitude 48 IPA
The name of this beer comes from the northern hemispheres 48th parallel, which is called, in the brewniverse, The Hop Belt. Hops seem to thrive here, and Sam Adams has taken samples from Germany, England, and the US.
The pour is energetic, breathing life into nearly an inch of yellowed head. The color is a reddish dun, with amber gold highlights peeking through the impeccable clarity.
Sam Adams Latitude 48
The nose features a surprising softness of malt, though hops soon take over as tobacco and mint arrive in the forefront. Some peppery spice also emerges, perhaps from those Nobles.
The mouthfeel is quite good, with the fine effervescence spreading widely across the tongue. Malt makes a brief appearance, only to duck quickly, like a whack-a-mole, as the hop hammer prepares to drop. It is not subtle, and starts out sharp and metallic. Bark and grass emerge, along with tobacco. Slowly, a mint leaf presence hits the back of the swallow accompanied by some sweet cream, hinting that maybe the malt mole might return. However, all that’s left is mild alcohol warmth joined by parsley green hops.
It’s nothing earth-shattering, but the brief cameos by an English hop ball-peen and a German hop mallet save this from being just another Pac NW hop sledgehammer.
Buzzards Bay Brewing Co.
This Pale Ale was a special edition brew that was specifically for BoTMC. It’s important to note that it is a true pale, not an IPA.
The color is hazy and coppery – orange and amber with more rustiness than ruddiness. A yellowish foam rapidly disappears, though an obligatory layer of film gets fed by slow and steady carbonation. Clarity is decent, but there is a bit of fog throughout.
The nose has a sweetness about it – gingerbread and a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar. Breathe a bit deeper and some oily, piney hop aromas emerge with a hint of tobacco and raisin bread.
A soft yet sparkling texture helps the hops emerge from behind the bready malt base. A subtle crispness hits the palate first – light pastry with just a touch of buttery sweetness and a bit of orange rind – followed by a nearly perfectly balanced tartness that rides on the coattails of the initial citrus flavors. The finish is not quite pristine, hoppy with less earthiness than the nose and more Goldings tang.
This is definitely an ale but a well-balanced one that is as close to an English pub ale as most any in the US and from a bottle. It’s not going to blow your mind, but it’s a good example of the style and a session ale with enough going on to keep you interested.
Boston Beer Co.
Tomorrow, your friendly neighborhood Brew Yorker is traveling to London for the first time since starting the Brew York City beer blog. With many beautiful beers to try in Merry Olde, I’ll try to report as much as possible, but expect dimly lit pub photos.
In the meantime, here’s an Oktoberfest to get in the fall spirit.
What a lovely copper beer! Amber, dark honey and dark orange preserve shimmer through the untouched clarity and lively carbonation. A solid half inch of head slows down at a quarter inch and is as smooth and slightly off-white as new snow under a forest canopy. The surface teems with the life of the effervescence from below.
The nose has a lot of malt – sugary cereal initially emerges but soon the hops take over with a crisp grassiness and some mildly earthy cooked vegetables.
The mouthfeel is a beautiful thing, creamy as the snowy head hits, then full and tingly as the carbonation dances in second. Initially smooth malts like cream of wheat come about, followed by a metallic and tangy zest of orange peel. There is an amazing interplay between that tanginess and an overall smoothness from the malt. There is alcohol present, but there’s no unseemly heat from it.
I could sit outside on a cool fall day and drink an alarming amount of these. This beer is smoother than Billy Dee Williams, yet is as sharp as his style.
Boston, MA/Windsor, VT
It all started on a snowy Boston night in 1995, a friend and I walked back to my college house from the liquor store; in my arms, a case of Lionshead (at $9.19 out the door, the steal of my college days) in his, a six-pack of Harpoon IPA, also about $9.19. Add a label with flowers on it, and I figured I had him dead to rights. I asked him what the deal was with his girly flower beer. He didn’t say anything, he simply handed me a bottle. That night I became a hop head.
There are so many IPAs now it is hard to keep your head around them all, many are good, however few really stand out. Sierra Nevada set the gold standard of the great American IPA and gets the majority of the praise, but Harpoon offers us another main stream delight, that is in the same league as our good friends in Chico.
Of the many great things about Harpoon, the color is the first noticeable attribute; deeply copper in hue, its frothy head sits atop like a thick cumulus cloud.
The aroma, as the label suggests, is quite floral, almost like an English garden with many varieties in it.
The “mouthfeel” as my eloquent brother calls it, is full and easily the most perfectly hoppy grog ever. Even with its huge hop-a-long, there is a wonderful caramel overtone that keeps everything in check, balancing all the fruit, flower and almond flavors like a symphony. The finish is mega-smooth but with equal hop strength throughout. Too many IPAs try to dazzle either right at tongue impact or conversely in the throat. Harpoon IPA offers so many different flavors simultaneously but keeps it even throughout.
It’s been a long time since college, it’s been about five minutes since my last Harpoon.
Posted in Beer Review, Guest Review, IPA, Massachusetts, Max, Vermont
Tagged Beer Review, Guest Review, IPA, Massachusetts, Max, Vermont
Boston Beer Co.
Samuel Adams Black Lager
Part of Sam’s Brewmaster’s Collection of specialty beers, specifically “classic” styles according to the site, the Black Lager is an example of a German-style lager that combines lager (bottom-fermenting) yeast and roasted malts. Usually these have a lighter body than your typical roasted malt beer like porter or stout, but have a nice addition of toasted flavors. Anyway, I think that Sam is a good brewery and I like what they’ve been doing with their BC.
Sam Adams Black Lager
The color is a surprisingly opaque espresso black with faint chestnut brown accents around the edges. A khaki head caps the brew nicely, settling down in this stout little glass with a frothy oculus around the inside of the rim.
Taking a deep breath, there is an instantly recognizable roasted char aroma. It is pleasant and not acrid, sitting beneath dank and resinous pine odors as well as a bit of damp tobacco leaves and a little bit of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.
The mouthfeel is wonderfully complex, combining some fine effervescence with a smooth and slightly creamy texture that coaxes out the soft milk chocolate character of the malt. A brief murmur of peppery hops comes around right at the very end of the swallow just to make sure you know you are drinking a lager.
This is an eminently drinkable brew and a fine addition to the landscape of American beer. This would be awesome with a really nice char-grilled burger and some sweet potato fries.
Farmington River Brewing Co.
Another of Mercury’s vast number of brews, this is labeled as an ESB. This basically means it’s an English-style pale ale.
Deep copper like dark maple syrup or molasses spread thin, the beer puffs up to a thick pillow of yellowed head. Even after pouring, photographing, and writing up til here, the beer maintains an inch of foam.
My apartment smells of rich mahogany
The nose is more floral than I would have thought – piney, resinous hops with touches of tobacco, charcoal, and even a faint whiff of cannabis. However, the malt comes through with wafting odors of baked pretzel, graham crackers, and dried stone fruit.
The mouthfeel is excellent – full, but without any coating. The beer is nice and dry. The head, with its popover lightness stays put and adds to the sip. The flavors are subtly bready, but are not without graceful brushstrokes of hops. Wet cereal, walnuts, and some very light citrus and apricot all show up, the citrus showing up in the form of orange or tangerine close to the end.
Though it won’t satiate any hopheadery, hop fans and bitter lovers will appreciate this brew. It’s a nice round ale that would accompany shepherd’s pie just fine.