Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Brooklyn, Brooklyn Take Me In

A few weeks back I stumbled upon an intriguing ten minute or so clip of a Simply Beer interview with Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver. Today beernews.org posted the entire unedited clip, which comes in at a whopping 45+ minutes, but is worth every one of those minutes. For those who have never heard Garrett speak, he is one of the most well-spoken and enthusiastic members of the craft beer community.

Some of the topics covered here are collaborations, the Brooklyn Brewmaster's Reserve Series, beer and food pairings, beer versus wine and more.

Check it out:

Garrett Oliver Unedited and Uncut from Simply Beer on Vimeo.

beer, Hopback, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn Brewmaster's Reserve Series, Collaboration, Simply Beer, beernews.org

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Beer Works Gets Bottled

Brewpubs bottling their beers and extending their brand to retail outlets is nothing new to Massachusetts. Offshore, Opa-Opa, The People's Pint and The Tap / Haverill Brewing Company have all thrown their hats into this particular ring over the years, so it's not a huge surprise that the Beer Works mini-chain of brewpubs has followed suit.

For those who've never visited a Beer Works location, they started out in 1992 with a strategically placed location in Kenmore Square in Boston that is essentially across the street from Fenway Park. They added a second location in historic Salem, MA in 1996, another Boston location a stone's throw from the TD Garden in 2001 and their most recent addtion to the family is their Lowell, MA location, opening in 2008. The Lowell location also houses a bottling line, which means that this is of course the location from which all bottled Beer Works offerings originate.

Initial offerings from the company have just hit the shelves and include:

Fenway Pale Ale: This one comes in at 5.8% ABV and is "an an 'extra' pale ale, with lots of hops and more malt" than the regular Beer Works pale ale.

Bunker Hill Bluebeery Ale: Coming in at 4.8% ABV, Beer Works dubs this one "New England’s premier 'bluebeery beer' since 1992."

Boston Red Ale: 5.5% ABV. Beer Works calls this "a malty, Amber Ale that was our very first brew. 'High Dry' German roasted malt gives this ale its signature red color and malty flavor."

Having lived in Boston for about six years, I've certainly tried each of these on more than one occasion and while it's been a couple of years since my last sampling, I can't say that I recall anything memorable about them, good, bad or otherwise. Still, it'll be interesting to see how they translate to a bottled product and more importantly if they're successful, what other Beer Works beers would drop into the bottling pipeline. Call me when the Buckeye Oatmeal Stout or Peanut Butter Porter are available!

And finally, just to balance out the unfortunate amount of Red Sox related content in this post (minimal at best with the Fenway references, but too much nonetheless), I'd like to congratulate the New York Yankees on their 27th World Championship this past season...let's get 28 in 2010!

beer, Hopback, Beer Works, Boston, Salem, Lowell, Massachusetts, brewpub, Boston Red, Fenway Pale Ale, Bunker Hill, Bluebeery Ale

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Changing a beer's recipe each year is an awful idea. Changing a beer's recipe each year is a great idea. Huh? Let me explain. There are a handful of breweries out there who like to take a seasonal offering and tweak it slightly, or in some cases more than slightly each year. One of those breweries is Stoudt's Brewing Company out of Adamston, PA. They use their Stoudts Winter Ale to throw you a curve ball every holiday season. Some years the changes seem subtle...sometimes it's a completely different style altogether.

The good? A new beer hits the market each season so the brewers get to experiment more and give drinkers something new to try. The bad? Year to year changes often mean a once-and-done life span for certain beers. For instance, the Stoudts Winter Ale from back in the 2006-07 range (I can't remember the exact year) was an incredible Porter-esque ale, with rugged malty notes, lots of chocolate/cocoa and a nutty vibe to it. I enjoyed the hell out of it, but of course when the next release was rolled out the beer had changed. Was this next release better than the previous year's? Well, that's kind of subjective. I could have personally loved the previous year's and hated the release from the current year, and someone else could have been the exact opposite. And therein lies the problem with the constant change. You'll never be able to please everyone. Granted, you'll never be able to please everyone anyway, but at least when you stick to the same beer/recipe, it is what it is. You either like it or you don't and you move forward from there. Changing things up intentionally just begs for criticism and complaints...yet it has to be admired at the same time as the brewery has certain recipes that are constantly evolving into something else. And so it goes...

So, on we move to the 2009-10 version of the Stoudts Winter Ale. This year they've given us what seems to be a slightly spiced Amber/Red/Winter Warmer type hybrid, and while I can't say that it was bad in any way, shape or form, my problem with it was twofold. First, it's not the beer I fell in love with a few years ago. Undeserving criticism for sure, but those are the pitfalls as discussed above. Second, it's just too run of the mill, which is surprising from Stoudt's. I sort of sometimes see them as an East Coast counterpart to Sierra Nevada. They don't take huge risks (most of the time..although that seems to be changing recently for Sierra), yet consistently produce solid, flavorful beers that are usually very much to style but very quaffable. This time around we've got a caramel, buttery, fairly sweet aroma and flavor to match that hits the mark for the style, but doesn't grab a hold of you. The dry, bread-like finish was nice indeed and what appears to be a subtle mix of spice in each sip gives this one a bit of an edge, but still, I just couldn't get into it. The thin mouth feel doesn't help as I'd prefer a heartier body for the winter months. This beer is just sort of there. You don't mind it, but it doesn't set itself apart from the rest of the options thrown at you each winter season.

Oh, well. I certainly won't try to sway you from this beer as again, there's nothing glaring that's wrong here, and many others may very much enjoy this one. It just wasn't for me.

Hopback, Beer, Stoudts, Winter Ale, Pennsylvania