Jim Conroy, head brewer, with Jen Kimmich, co-owner of The Alchemist Brewery in Stowe at the first annual Oktoberfest at the brewery on Sept. 30.
by Dan Kochakian
Now that early winter has settled in to bring us cold weather and upcoming frigid temperatures, all the more reason to nestle by the fire with our favorite warming brews. But first off, hearty congratulations to the following Massachusetts brewers who won medals at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver: Castle Island, Brewery Silvaticus, Cambridge Brewing, Jack’s Abby and Wormtown!
We know that you hopheads have already sold your prized possessions for tickets to Beer Advocate’s IPA Fest to be held at the Flynn Cruiseport in Boston on Dec. 15. More than 150 hoppy beers from 40 breweries from around the country will keep your taste buds tingling all day.
Some of you (502 to be exact) may have been lucky enough to get the new very limited edition Red Seat IPA (with southern hemisphere hops and notes of toffee) by Sam Adams, named for Ted Williams’ 502-foot homerun and the red seat that it hit. Sam also has a few others as we move into winter: Spruce Tip Lager (5.9% with real spruce tips, four malts and Saaz and ‘682’ hops), Red Lager (5.9% also with Saaz and ‘682’), Pumpkin Ale (5.7% with EKG and Fuggles hops), Black Lager (4.9% with Weyermann dehusked Carafa and two German hops), Coffee Pale Ale (5.5% with Golden Naked Oats and EKG), and of course, Octoberfest (big and malty at 5.3% with Tettnang and Hallertau hops).
Ex-Red Sox star Kevin Youkalis owns Loma Brewing in Los Gatos, CA, and has maintained his friendship with the folks of Harpoon Brewing since he left Boston. Now Harpoon is contract-brewing two of Youk’s beers, Greek God of Hops Double IPA (9%) and Appeasement IPA (7%), for sale in MA and RI in 4-packs of 16-oz. cans.
Harpoon has also released a collaboration beer with Dunkin’ Donuts called Harpoon Dunkin’ Coffee Porter, a robust 6% blend with espresso and flavors of roasty dark chocolate.
Clown Shoes Brewing, now associated with Harpoon, has five seasonals that will appeal to everyone. A 7% Double IPA that was double dry-hopped with Galaxy, Columbus, Citra and Mosaic is the lowest abv beer. A 9th anniversary beer, a NE IPA called YeeeHaaw!, will be released on Nov. 30 and only available at the Harpoon breweries in Boston and Windsor, VT, for one week before shipping to distributors on Dec 3. La Pinguina en Fuego is a 10.5% Mexican chocolate stout brewed with ancho chili and chipotle powder and aged in bourbon barrels (very limited in bombers). Clown Shoes has taken over brewing Harpoon’s Leviathan Triple IPA in the Imperial Series. It’s big and bold at 11% with earthy, fruity and floral hop flavors. And perfect for winter quaffing is Snow On The Maple Tree, a huge 12% imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels with maple syrup.
Night Shift Brewing of Everett enjoyed great success with its two beer gardens on the Charles River this summer. The new brewery/taproom for Lovejoy Wharf, just down the lane from TD Garden in North Station, will open early next year.
Big news in the central part of the Commonwealth is that Flying Dreams Brewing of Worcester plans to open a new tasting room in Marlborough later this year. Originally occupied by the ill-fated Walden Woods Brewing, the new taproom will feature full pours of brewmaster Dave Richardson’s array of beers. A 2-bbl system will be utilized for special limited edition releases.
Worcester will also be the home of Redemption Rock Brewing which should be open in late ’18 at 333 Shrewsbury Street, not far from Wormtown Brewing. RRB’s Dan Carlson said that the 10-bbl brewery with its 100-seat taproom will showcase American and European styles, from hefeweizen and Irish stout to flavorful IPAs. Brewer Greg Carlson is from Jack’s Abby, so you know we can expect quality beers.
Speaking of Jack, for those of you who visit breweries and brewpubs and don’t order beer, check out the new Not Stirred Series at Springdale Barrel Room (the sister brewery of Jack’s Abby) in Framingham. Using a golden sour base, the cocktail-inspired brewers aged the beer in bourbon barrels and added crushed mint to obtain a floral aroma with a mint finish to make their beer version of a Mint Julep. Their second effort is Dark & Stormy using a dark beer base with rum-soaked oak. Fresh ginger tea was added to draw out a sweet rum flavor with spicy warming balance.
Purgatory Brewing of Whitinsville (just south of Worcester) celebrates its first anniversary in early November. Winter seasonal releases include a Brown Ale (5%) with Graham Crackers in the kettle, and a new variation of Fiero Coconut Rum Porter (7%). Mumford River RyePA returns with a smooth blend of spices and Citra hops (6.5%).
Drunken Rabbit Brewing in South Hadley is a year old and serves a wide range of beers in its taproom. Among them are Breakfast Club Session IPA (4.8%/55-IBU), Rabbit De Niro Espresso Milk Stout, Fuzzy Wuzzy NE IPA, Boysen Da Hood (6% sour with boysenberry puree and sea salt), and Chateau De Hare IPA (7%/35-IBU) fermented with white grape must and dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin.
In Sheffield in western MA, the now totally-solar Big Elm Brewing is releasing brewery-only beers on the second Saturday of every month. Nov. 10’s release is a new 5% NEIPA called Loompa, crisp, juicy and hazy. Dec. 8 is the return of Dead of Winter, a 10% imperial stout with huge doses of chocolate, coffee and toffee. Every few months, Big Elm hosts a Beer & Hymns Series with local congregations for socials at the brewery. A pot-luck dinner, a couple of beers (transformed from water) and some singing supports a local cause and bonds the town. Check social media for dates.
Since the demise of the Tod Mott-helmed Quincy Ships brewpub in that town, there has been a paucity of good beer places in this south-shore ‘burb until now. Rewild Plant Food & Drink opened in early October on Hancock Street and has vegan versions of casual food classics with a beer hall open on weekends featuring local beers among its 17 taps.
Stellwagen Brewing, one of the new breweries on the south shore, is located in Marshfield and has been packed lately because of its fine array of quality brews. While Stellwagen is already known for its hazy and juicy IPAs (check out Citra dry-hopped Invisible Airwaves and the Modulation series), the brewery’s first Pilsner is coming in mid-November accompanied by an Imperial Stout. In December, Stellwagen is hosting a holiday pop-up with local vendors.
Near the Cape is Black Hat Brewing in Bridgewater which just hosted the large South Shore Farmer Brew Fest on 10/7. Co-founder/head brewer Paul Mulcahy announced that BHB is turning three this year and will celebrate with a party on Nov. 23. Three special beer releases will be featured: Imperial Coffee Stout, Anniversary Double IPA and the annual return of Xmas Ambah Ale with bourbon-soaked cherries and vanilla beans.
Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis will debut this year’s Cranberry Harvest Ale (5%) on Nov. 5. Juice from hundreds of pounds of fresh cranberries were infused into CCB’s altbier, Harvest Ale, and then blended with six malts and a touch of noble hops for a perfect tart/sweet balance. Old Man Winter is an annual favorite with its 7.9%/65-IBU fruity richness from 2000 pounds of malted barley and Northern Brewer hops.
There’s a brew dinner at Moby Dick Brewing in New Bedford on Nov. 13. Five food courses will be paired with five of head brewer Scott Brunelle’s beers.
In Falmouth, Aquatic Brewing is in the buildout stage and should be open by spring.
On Nov. 9 & 10, Drink Craft Beer presents the Boston Beer & BBQ Fest at the Cyclorama. 25 area craft breweries and cideries will be pouring to complement BBQ from seven local purveyors.
Bantam Cider is holding its fifth annual Big Cheese & Charcuterie Party at its home in Somerville on Nov. 9 at 7pm. Cured meats, a variety of cheeses and ciders, hand-carved prosciutto, and all the tiny pickles you can eat await!
You still may have time to relax at Notch’s Traveling Biergarten on Nov. 3-4 at Castle Hill at the Crane Estate in Ipswich.
As many of you beer fans know, the Route 100/Waterbury area is loaded with fantastic breweries and beer bars. Recently accompanying The Blackback Pub, The Prohibition Pig Brewery & Restaurant, and the Craft Beer Cellar store downtown is Big Tree Brewing, a 1-bbl nano located at The Reservoir Restaurant. The Res always featured excellent beers on tap, but now will supply limited edition beers for their location only. Check out Lasky IPA (5.5%), Black IPA (7.4%), Boomer Imperial IPA (7.5%), and Spike Nolan Stout (6.1%). Any day now, we’ll all be storming the gorgeous new Lawson’s Finest Liquids brewery/restaurant/taproom down the road in Waitsfield.
Worthy Burger, the excellent beer bar (with fabulous food) in South Royalton has opened a new restaurant/pub in Waitsfield. Local produce with 10 tap lines of local beers (think Hill Farmstead, Lawson’s, et al) will add another go-to location to the Rte. 100 corridor. Upper Pass Brewing of Tunbridge has just opened a tasting room and coffee shop, featuring small-batch beers and coffee roasted in-house, in South Royalton.
Zero Gravity’s year-round offerings, Conehead IPA, Little Wolf Pale Ale and Green State Lager, are perennial solid sellers, but specialty cans have also been hitting the shelves lately. The smooth Madonna DIPA and Keller Dry-Hopped Lager will be available more regularly. A brand new canned beer is Bing Bing IPA that includes Sabro, a new hop varietal. This 6.8%/52-IBU limited-edition hopster offers citrus, coconut, cedar, mint and cream notes!
Idletyme Brewing, down the road from The Alchemist in Stowe, recently celebrated its 500th brew! Additionally, new batches of Oatmeal Stout and Vanilla Porter are on the rotating draft menu. Cherry O is an experimental 4.5% ale fermented with tart cherry and dry-hopped with Calypso. With cold and snow in Vermont, upcoming brews will be this year’s versions of German-style lagers, including Helles, Dunkel, Octoberfest-Marzen and possibly a Bock.
Rock Art Brewing in Morrisville has brought back its Twin Tip Double IPA at 7.5%/75-IBU with Chinook and Amarillo hops. When you curl up by the fire, enjoy Vermonster, Rock Art’s 10%/100-IBU barleywine brewed with 110 pounds of malt per barrel.
Scott Salmonsen, owner/brewer at Saint J Brewery in St. Johnsbury, recently purchased Hermit Thrush’s canning line and will be sending out cans of Raspberry Wheat, Brown Chaga and Smokin’ J IPA in the coming months. This year’s winter seasonal is actually last year’s Gingerbread Porter that has been aging and mellowing out. Scott also did a version aged with Captain Morgan Spiced Rum.
14th Star Brewing in St. Albans has Maple Brown Ale and Single Hop Veteran Brew in the taproom for November. Cans/bottles include Raised 14 (red wine barrel-aged raspberry weiss), Russian Imperial Sap Stout and barrel-aged Maple Breakfast Stout. The Adult Prom (dress up in your prom best and enjoy beer and cocktails) on Nov. 10 is one of several upcoming fun events. Holiday Sip & Shop on Dec. 8 will cover you for gift-buying from local vendors while you sip a couple of brews, and movie nights with full dinners from Grazers are set for Nov. 29 and Dec 20.
Switchback Brewing in South Burlington has launched a Smoked Beer Series to promote this style with special releases and events.
With the assistance of Kevin Hanson of Hogback Mountain Brewing and Erin and Sanderson Wheeler of the Bobcat Brewery, both of Bristol, Ian Huizenga is hard at work at Hired Hand Brewing in Vergennes. Ian uses locally-sourced ingredients in both his brewing and food offerings at the brewpub. Beers have included the 5.6%/52-IBU Wet Hopped IPA in the 1st Cut Series. It’s loaded with Mosaic, Citra, Simcoe and Cascade hops and then wet-hopped with Vermont-grown buds. Addi Roots IPA is a bigger 6.4% with Centennial and Cascades, and the taps round out with Tractor Pils, Spruce Tip Maple Amber and Nitro Espresso Milk Stout.
Cisco Brewing of Nantucket has been brewing some of its beers at the Redhook facility in Portsmouth since 2015. The Cataqua Public House pub at the brewery was branded the Cisco Brewers Portsmouth Pub as of June when the island business took over the restaurant/pub.
Granite Roots Brewing in Troy is set to release Maple Brown Ale, and the 5% hazy session IPA, #14 in the Rootlet Experimental Series, with Vic Secret, Cascade, Lemon Drop, Chinook and Mosaic hops. Also pouring during the holiday season will be Pumpelly Porter (9.5%) and Monadnock IPA brewed with Azacca, Mosaic, Hallertau Blanc and Citra hops. Also watch for Witty Blues (5.1% with blueberries and black currants), Paradise Valley (5% honey citrus kölsch), 3-Point Brown (6%, with chocolate malt and fresh raspberries), Alt-Berg (5.5%) and West Hill Warmer (9.5% with maple and spices). Experimental small batches are released every month.
Jon Young of Pipe Dream Brewing in Londonderry has slated an abundance of wintertime brews for his taps. His new ambitious recipes include Pumpkin French Toast Ale (with a 16-oz can release), Blueberry Cobbler Sour Stout, Chocolate Raspberry Sour Stout, Papa Chubby Imperial Pumpkin Stout, White Chocolate Stout, Madagascar Vanilla Bean Stout, Coffee Espresso Porter and Coffee Coconut Porter. Challenge your taste buds in Pipe Dream’s cozy taproom.
1776 Brewing in Plymouth should have its new taproom open now with 10 drafts and a full kitchen. Check out brewer Craig Yergeau’s new milk stout.
Branch & Blade in Keene has Cognitive Misfires (9% sour double IPA dry hopped with Azacca and aged on black and red currants), Simplicity (4.5% pale ale dry hopped with lemony, minty notes of Tahoma), Answers In The Galaxy (8.7% NE IPA dry hopped with Galaxy), Puppy Love (9.2% imperial peanut butter stout), and Like Totally Alone (6.6% pumpkin spice latte frappe IPA with cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger) on draft. And if these aren’t enough, try Cataclysm (7% NE IPA with 7 lbs of El Dorado and Ekuanot hops per barrel) and Equinox (4.2% sour IPA with Pekko dry-hopping and an addition of vanilla beans and Mosaic hops).
Mark and Bill of Oddball Brewing in Suncook have four beers for your enjoyment this winter. Albino Moose IPA (in cans this month) is 6.7% and contains Belgian yeast, New Zealand hops and a lot of rye malt. Ephemeral is a Belgian Tripel aged in whiskey barrels for six months with 20 pounds of cherries added for the last month. This is Oddball’s special anniversary beer and will be released Nov. 18. Ghuni Porter is a 3-bbl test batch that has flavors of a fine cigar, and Sandman Stout is 5.7% with an oatmeal/rye blend that lightens the body, but retains the big mouthfeel of a heavy stout.
Polyculture Brewing in Croydon (just past New London, near Grantham) has a wide range of beers at this family-owned brewery. Hoppy Fingers is a fresh hop ale with local Cascade and Centennial hops; Dandy is a mixed-culture farmhouse ale with dandelions; Autumn Sweater is a 6.1% amber ale with a hint of rye; Rough Cut is a rye pale ale; Boat Shoes is a dry-hopped sour wheat with Hallertau Blanc, and Great Grey Grissette is floral and spicy.
Sad news for beer fans in Portsmouth and good news for spirits fans: Earth Eagle Brewing’s co-founder Butch Heilshom is leaving to open Talisman Spirits. We’re anxiously awaiting Butch’s creative talents to blossom with infusions, herbs and macerations.
Congratulations to Hobbs Tavern & Brewing Co. in West Ossipee for its silver medal for One Arm Farmhouse Ale in the Classic Saison category of the GABF.