By Dan Kochakian
This year’s Beer Advocate Extreme Fest takes place at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center on Feb. 2-3 and promises to be another extravaganza with local favorites as well as special guests, including Funky Buddha, Port Brewing, Dogfish Head and Cigar City. In the Seaport neighborhood is Row 34, that superb seafood restaurant with a wide array of beers. Beer Director Suzanne Hayes is hosting special events for the BA Fest. February 1 is a Springdale release party to kick off its Boston launch. February 2 is a ticketed event for a fest after-party starting at 9PM with hard-to-find beers from Kent Falls, Allagash, The Rare Barrel, TRVE and Blackberry Farm. And February 3 is the premier of the Row 34 collaboration beer with Upland Brewing, time and name of beer TBD.
Lamplighter Brewing Co. in Cambridge is maintaining its run of IPAs with three new ones for February. Feb. 7 is the debut of Bunnies, a 6.5%/70-IBU double dry-hopped IPA with Azacca and Nelson Sauvin hops with notes of melon and peach. The 20th will bring Birds of a Feather, a bit bigger at 6.8%/65-IBU, in the New England style with Mosaic, Citra and Columbus hops. And at the end of the month, we’ll enjoy Lawyers, Guns & Honey IPA brewed with 240 pounds of raw honey with Amarillo and El Dorado hops (7%). That should hold you hopheads for a while!
After a year of testing at its nano-brewery in Jamaica Plain, Sam Adams has introduced a new beer called Sam ’76, described as a “flavorful union of lager and ale.” Using a base lager and base ale with two fermentations and yeast strains, the Sam Adams folks added dry-hopping (Cascade, Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe) during late-stage fermentation to create a 4.7% easy-drinking beer with a juicy citrus flavor and crisp finish.
Mystic Brewing in Chelsea has continued its impressive streak of big juicy New England IPAs with Illegal Dance Moves, a 9% dank, bitter and pineapple brew loaded with Citra and Mandarina Bavaria hops. Slightly less in-your-face is Voltage IPA at 7% with orange and guava aromas and flavors.
Jeff Rowe, brewer at Winter Hill Brewing on Broadway in Somerville, is releasing Darlin’s IPA (6.5%) and Russian Ending Imperial Stout (9%) in 4-packs of 16-oz cans for local distribution in February, and will have a special release at the brewpub of Little Oblivion, a 10% imperial stout fermented with raspberries, probably in time for Valentine’s Day.
Somerville Brewing has opened its new gastrobrewery called American Fresh Brewhouse at Assembly Row. A big line-up of Slumbrew drafts as well as steaks, seafood and pretzels are available to enjoy in the bright airy pub. Watch for the return of Heaven Scent Passionfruit Sour, as well as a nitro stout and several new IPAs.
On the Malden/Saugus line on Rte. 1, manager Rich Kelter is hosting his 7th Annual Hyper Local Tasting at Kappy’s on March 24 from 1-4PM.
Further north on Route 1-South in Saugus, a new homebrew shop called Brew Zone opened recently. Besides brewing your own, you may sponsor private brew events or parties.
Gentile Brewing in Beverly has some interesting departures from its usual line-up of beers this February and March, including Belgian Dubbel, Bourbon Barrel Sour Stout, Double IPA (7%/100-IBU, dry-hopped with Four Star Farms Cascade and Centennial hops), Irish Red and Cask O’ Stout. The stout is a special noontime release on St. Patrick’s Day and will be a real ale on gravity pour. March 1-3 is the brewpub’s 2-year anniversary, so watch for the Double IPA release on Thursday, the first day of the celebration.
Springdale, the barrel room brewery of Jack’s Abby in Framingham, celebrated its first anniversary on Jan. 26. The ‘vintage vault’ was cracked to provide special pours and previews of beers to come. Limited edition bottles were available on a first-come first-serve basis. Colbi Colada, Springdale’s New England IPA with pineapple and toasted coconut, was also available.
Exhibit A Brewing Co. in Framingham, in the original Jack’s Abby space, has an excellent IPA pouring through the Boston suburbs. Cat’s Meow is a 6.5% brew hopped with Mosaic, Citra and El Dorado with wheat and Golden Naked Oats for a juicy full feel.
Jackie and Scott Cullen, owners of River Styx Brewing in Fitchburg, will host a Valentine By Candlelight dinner on Feb. 14. A multi-course meal will be paired with River Styx beers, including Cronus Lord of Time Russian Imperial Stout (8.25% with cinnamon, coffee, maple syrup and vanilla bean) and Hades Helm of Darkness Oatmeal Stout (7.7% with coffee, aged on chili peppers), a saison, a couple of IPAs, and a surprise as-yet-unreleased beer will be specialties of the evening. There are also 12 taps in the tasting room. Check Untappd for the latest drafts and canned beers.
7th Wave Brewing in Medfield released Mad Turtle IPA, Route 237 Pale Ale, Wandering Willy’s Around Town Brown, and Clamshell ESB in bottles, and on draft at the brewery. Planned for the new year are a New England IPA, a Stout, and a Black Saison to accompany experimental brews and a coffee beer.
Craft Roots Brewing in Milford opened its doors last March 11 and is set for a big celebration for its first anniversary. CRB brewed 31 beers in 2017 and has three new releases flowing now. Fireside Ale is the winter seasonal with notes of orange, vanilla and spice. Lemon Hop Drop uses Lemondrop hops and is light in color, but loaded with citrus and haze. Blood Orange IPA returns in late January.
Russell Carpenter, former head brewer at True West Brewing Co. in Acton, has moved on to Rocket Frog Brewing in Virginia, and local veteran brewer, Scott Houghton, has taken over. Scott has brewed steadily for a month to replenish the house brands (Ruckus IPA, Brown Bess, Isaac Pale Ale) and to work on his own recipes, including a line of lagers with Czech Pils, Munich Helles and Maibock for spring. The 100th batch will be Centennial IPA with a load of dry-hopping. British and Belgian yeasts will be utilized for a Scotch Wee Heavy and some new Belgian styles.
On the way to Cape Cod is the town of Marshfield where Stellwagen Beer Co. will be established this spring. Founder Mike Snowdale and brewer Brian Flach will be working with a 10-bbl brewhouse and a spacious taproom. The guys will specialize in easy-drinking aromatic hop-forward beers as well as a wide range of other styles.
Just a few miles south is Mayflower Brewing in Plymouth who is having a huge 10-year anniversary celebration at the brewery on January 20 with food, bands, and 17 beers on tap, including special releases.
A new brewery, Harper Lane, is now brewing at IndieFerm in Plymouth off Rte. 3 at Exit 5. Three new fermenters arrived to accommodate HL’s new beers. Stay tuned for the debut party.
At the three Flynn’s Irish Pubs around southeastern Massachusetts and Father’s Kitchen & Taphouse in Sandwich, enjoy a full Irish breakfast every Sunday accompanied by 6A Brewing’s beers (6A is located in Father’s).
Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis had another very successful year with 12 new cask beers, 11 pilot brews, 7 specialty beers and 16 returning favorites. The CCB crew was also involved in more than 300 charitable events and had time to install new bars and a draft system in the taproom and upgraded to 60-bbl. fermenters for increased storage capacity. A 1200-sq.-ft tent is a bonus for three-season imbibing. Nox Atra was released on Jan. 26. This 8.5%/64-IBU imperial stout is part of the Black Ale Project that raises money and awareness for veterans. Proceeds from Nox Atra will go to the Nicholas Xiarhos Memorial Fund, which assists wounded vets and local military families, in tribute to Xiarhos who died in Afghanistan in July, 2009.
Shoveltown Brewing in North Easton always has eight beers on tap. Recently, we were treated to Uniondale Farmhouse Saison, Twine Cutter Pale Ale, and Shovel Shop Double IPA. Now up are Flyaway IPA (7.2%/70-IBU) with its Citra-heavy hoppiness, Ginger Haus Winter Warmer, 5.8% with ginger, cinnamon and sweet orange peel, and Oakes Amber Red Ale, 6.7% with full-bodied maltiness and a Cascade hop finish. On deck is Washington Street Chocolate Porter, 5.5% with chocolate malt and cacao nibs from Hilliard’s Chocolates. In early spring, watch for Lemon Blonde Ale.
Greasy Luck Brewing in New Bedford produces 80 half-bbl. kegs per month with such styles as Banana Bread Wheat, Purchase Street Pale Ale, Whaler Spout Coffee Stout and Widow’s Walk Double IPA.
Some readers may have heard rumors that The Alchemist’s top-seller, Heady Topper, is headed for Boston distribution. We also heard this from whom we believed to be a reputable source. However, in checking with Jen and John Kimmich, owners of The Alchemist in Stowe, we now understand that this was definitely a rumor. The Alchemist had registered Heady for one event, a fundraiser at Brookline’s Publick House last year. The Alchemist is regularly distributing with 30 miles of its Vermont brewery and has a wait list in that territory of about 100 retailers who would love to carry Heady Topper and its brethren. While the Kimmichs may slowly obtain accounts in their local area before distributing outside of the state, they attempt to accommodate special events and fundraisers whenever possible (i.e., whenever there’s enough beer!).
Zero Gravity on Pine Street in Burlington now has three beers in cans (Green State Lager, Conehead IPA and Little Wolf Pale Ale). Paul Saylor and his brewers are also releasing monthly specialty cans. December saw Extra Stout (5.9% with 8 malts and EKG hops), and January’s is the boldly-hopped Madonna Double IPA (8%/90-IBU with Citra and Motueka). The new Grand Royal Double IPA is a small batch beer being brewed on a regular scale for February canning. Three new 120-bbl fermenters were added in January, so we’ll be seeing ZG beers through more of New England with this added capacity.
Backacre Beermakers in Weston is now selling Batch #10 of their fabulous bottle-conditioned Golden Sour Ale. With blends averaging 18 months, this oak-aged beer hovers at 7.5% and is always crisp and refreshing. Batch #11 is due this spring and vintage bottles may be released as well.
Brocklebank Craft Brewing in Tunbridge has a new 5.5% porter called Black Mariah, rich and smooth with semi-sweet chocolate flavors from English and German malts. Stack O’Lee, a pilsner with Chinook, Cascade and Simcoe hops (and dry-hopped with the same) has just rolled out in cans. This beer is a tribute to the brewery’s dog (a Golden Retriever mix) whose picture is on the can.
The fifth annual Portsmouth Beer Week is being held from Feb. 24 to March 5 throughout the area at various breweries, brewpubs and beer bars. Hosted by 2BeerGuys, PBW has some exciting events lined up: 2/25: Brewfest at the Gaslight Company coordinating with the draft release of Portsmouth Brewing’s Royal Impy Stout at 5PM; 2/26: Smuttynose is hosting a Hotter Than Hell Brunch at the Blue Mermaid; 2/27: Rare Beer Night at The Thirsty Moose with 20 scarce beers; 2/28: IPA Night at The Blue Mermaid, and 3/1: New England Cask Night at the Coat of Arms. These are just a few highlights. Checked the fest website for the full roster of events.
Henniker Brewing enjoyed great success in 2017 and has big plans in the new year. Two more 3-bbl fermenters have been delivered, raising production to over 6000 barrels. A new Kolsch is now available. With Pilsner and Cologne malt, German Magnum hops and European Saaz hops, Kolsch is on tap and in 6-packs. A collaboration with Hobbs Tavern & Brewing Co. has produced Donker, a dark saison with rye spiciness and dark fruit characters. Henniker’s Off The Grid Series, which was previously 22-oz. bottles, will be changed to 4-pack 12-oz cans. The first in the series, a Belgian-Style Quad named Company used toasted cherry wood staves from Flag Hill Distillery & Winery in Lee.
Rik Marley at the Flying Goose Brew Pub in New London has eased off the slopes to brew up a blizzard of winter beers. A couple of big beers will debut later in January. Cailleach Bheur Scottish Wee Heavy at 8.7% and Smoked Whiskey Barrel-Aged CBS Wee Heavy at 9% are in bottles and draft. These came from one batch, half regular and half aged on oak. For more warming maltiness, try the perennial Isle of Pines Barleywine, now in bottles. Rik collaborated with German lager expert, Horst Dornbusch on a classic Bamberg Rauchbier that came out lightly smoked at 5.2%. Watch for this in late January. At the same time, an American Porter (5.8% with flaked barley) should be ready, and for hop fans, an unnamed 8.5% Double IPA with Motueka, Wakatu, Ella and Galaxy hits the taps in early-to-mid February.
Redhook Brewing of Portsmouth has a new winter offering: My Oh My Caramel Macchiato Milk Stout, an espresso-driven dark brew with caramel sweetness. Lactose milk sugar combines with coffee and four malts and two hops for a rich 5.5% cold weather indulgence. Available only in draft in the Boston/Portsmouth area.
On Feb. 10, drop by Pipe Dream Brewing in Londonderry for its All Summer Long event that features local bands and a full array of PD’s beers. St. Pat’s Day is the Beer & Eggs event with eggs, bacon and toast for $7.
Not far from downtown Portsmouth, Loaded Question Brewery is preparing to open soon. Watch this space or check Facebook.