Bruery Tasting @ Bauer and BA’s Extreme Beer Fest Pre-Party @ People’s Republik: 2/19

Just a couple of quick Boston event plugs for this evening for those of you who aren’t lucky enough to have tickets for the Extreme Beer Fest this weekend or for those that do and would like to prime the pump this evening.

At Bauer Wines on Newbury St. from 5-7pm Patrick Rue the brewer/owner of California based The Bruery will be pouring some of his offerings which have just started distributing to liquor stores in Massachusetts. I was lucky enough to sample a few of their brews at the Belgian Beer Fest last September and recommend giving them a try, especially the Saison Rue and Black Orchard.

Then from 7-10pm BeerAdvocate is having an Extreme Beer Fest pre-party at People’s Republik in Cambridge. Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head and The Alström Brothers will be in attendance and some great beers are set to be tapped from DFH as well as Nøgne Ø from Norway and Quebec’s Dieu du Ciel!:
– Dieu du Ciel! Rosée d’Hibiscus
– Dieu du Ciel! Péché Mortel
– Nøgne Ø Batch #100
– Dogfish Head 60 Min IPA
– Dogfish Head Chicory Stout
– Dogfish Head Palo Santo
– Dogfish Head Red and White
Should be killer.

An additional Extreme Beer Fest note, I’ll be volunteering the Friday night session and the Saturday evening session so if any readers out there are going and you see somebody in a STAFF shirt wearing a scally cap it’s probably me. Say Hi and ask for some recommendations.

Prosit!
-John

That's me in the green pouring at EBF '08.

That's me in the green pouring at EBF '08.

It’s What Should Be For Breakfast: Peak Organic Espresso Amber Ale

Peak Organic Espresso Amber Ale (?ABV draft)- American Amber- Peak Organic Brewing Co., ME
Grade: A BREW OF THE BLOG!

My friend & co-worker Jeremy stumbled upon this tasty brew at lunch and it took all of 10 seconds for him to convince me to head down to The Kinsale after work to give it a try.

As he had warned me the first few sips take a bit of getting used to. The coffee flavor is front and center, but the amber ale that it’s hitching a ride with isn’t a shrinking violet so there’s a bit of a tug of war as to what exactly your tongue is telling the brain it’s tasting at first. Things settle down quickly and find a balance and prove this to be an exceedingly drinkable ale. The up front espresso finishes with the expected roasted bitterness leading into mild hop bitterness at the edges. Definite maltiness going on so there is a touch of sweetness but not overly so. A nice medium body is perfect support for the taste and even though there’s a good amount of malt there’s no slick-sweet build up even after a couple of pints.

In the end I think what makes this a great beer is that it doesn’t taste gimmicky. It doesn’t taste like the coffee was an after thought nor is the coffee an attempt to mask an inferior amber. Peak’s got a great example of balance right here. Absolutely check this beer out if you are a coffee fiend or if you are looking for something different. Also for those beer fanatics who like coffee, but are not fans of the stouts and porters that usually play host to it Peak’s may be the beer to satisfy that craving. And if you are a conscientious consumer not only are the ingredients of the beer certified organic, the coffee used is Fair Trade Certified™. So stand a pint or buy a sixer and help make the world and your belly a better place.

Highly recommended; this is the breakfast beer you’ve been looking for.

Prosit! -John

$6.75 for 20oz. pour @ The Kinsale

The Lobby Of What, Now?

     Don’t be fooled by the name, The Lobby is neither attached to a hotel nor in the lobby of a building. I’m not sure what the story is behind that. What I do know is that it is a slick little bar down in the financial district on Broad St.

     The clientèle is late-twenties to late-thirties professional guys and gals looking for a place that’s a little different and isn’t packed after work to standing room only like The Times, J.A. Stats, or Mr. Dooley’s all within a stones throw of The Lobby. Prices for food and drinks aren’t cheap, but they aren’t bank-breaking either. Given the neighborhood the prices are about what you would expect; across the board from apps to booze the prices are maybe a buck or two above their competition.

     How could a bar in that area not be a sardine can on a weeknight, you ask? A smart interior layout is the answer.

     Across the front are floor to ceiling windows that open onto the street with three or four two-seat tables situated in front of them. Along the right wall is a long cushioned bench seat that stretches back to the bar with a few more tables and chairs in front of it. On the left side is a sitting area with a few low chairs, ottomans, and low tables situated so that it could be a large open social arena or broken into two smaller areas. Across the back wall was the bar which had six, maybe eight, high stools.

     The space between the bar and the fireplace sitting area really only allowed enough standing room behind the bar stools to be one person deep. I suppose you could get two deep, but you better be well acquainted with the person you’re squeezed in with to do it. Beyond that small space at the bar there is no standing room. The rest of the open space is simply the path from the bar past the tables to the door. The waitresses and waiters had no problem making it known that people were not to be standing in that path. So even though the night my friends and I were there The Lobby was at capacity it was still an enjoyable experience with plenty of breathing room.


My god, man! What about the beer?

     Bottles only and the selection of 10 or so brews wasn’t great, but did have a few gems. (The website beer list is thankfully wrong.) I started with a Julius Echter Hefe-Weissbier Hell which at $9 was the most expensive beer on the menu (it’s also the biggest at 16-oz.). All the others were $6 for 12-oz. I’ve noticed the Julius Echter popping up at more and more places around town and am glad to see it. Don‘t be scared, “hell” is just German for light in reference to the beer’s color because they make a “dunkel” or dark hefe as well. Julius Echter may not be the best hefe out there, but it’s up there and I’m glad to get my hands on it when I can.

     Next up was Big Daddy IPA from Speak Easy Ales & Lagers in San Francisco; a brewery I wasn’t familiar with. I’m not a big fan of IPAs, however, I never know when I’ll find the one that will bring me over to the hop side and am always game for something new. Big Daddy had lots of grapefruit hoppiness, but it was still balanced and very drinkable. It didn’t exactly make me a convert, still I recommend it if you like IPAs and want something with more depth than Harpoon.

     I can’t clearly recall what other beers they had as I didn‘t take notes, though I’m pretty sure I saw Corona, Stella Artois, and Sam Adams in the fridges behind the bar. I do remember the barkeep saying they had run out of Cisco Brewers’ Sankaty Light which was a drag since I had been wanting to try it.

Verdict?
     The Lobby is a pretty cool place. It’s a bit on the spendy side so I couldn’t imagine going here all the time unless I get that promotion at work, but it’s definitely now in my rotation of post work watering holes that aren‘t packed wall-to-wall with Kate Spades and their Blue Shirt Boys. Their beer list didn’t exactly knock my socks off, but I have to give them props for having the few surprises they did. Yes, $6 (or worse $9) bottles suck; unfortunately this is the financial district so get used to it. Foodwise the appetizers my group had were tasty, though I can’t speak to the entrees. I say give The Lobby a shot with a very small group or maybe even an after work date if you are looking for something a little nicer than the norm.

Cheers! -John

 

The Kinsale- Funny, It Doesn’t Feel Irish.

The Kinsale
2 Center Plaza (on Cambridge Street across from Government Center/City Hall)
Boston MA 02108

     The Kinsale is a faux Irish pub located on the ground level of the Center Plaza at Government Center. It just happenes to be the same building I work in so I used to frequent it a lot when I first started my job 9 years ago. It was before I became the beer geek that I now am, but I quickly realized this place had little more to offer than the standards: Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light, Harpoon IPA, UFO, Sam Adams, Guinness, Bass, Harp, Blue Moon, and if you were lucky Hoegaarden. Granted it helped foster my love of hefes/wheats/wits with UFO, Blue Moon, Hoegaarden, but otherwise it got boring real quick. After a couple of years myself and my friends slowly drifted away from what had by the end become jokingly referred to as “The Irish Conference Room” because it was just another suit and tie bar and there were better places to go.

     Fast forward to about 9 months ago when late on a week night my fiancé and I dropped into The Kinsale out of desperation for food. It was the usual decent if slightly spendy pub grub it always was, but I was shocked and giddy to see the beer menu had gone into a whole new league. The list is now craft heavy and chocked full of top notch New England brews as well as tasty domestics and imports. Because of that the Kinsale has come to the forefront of my rotation of places to grab a pint downtown especially when I’m looking for a broad selection and to try something new. You would think that in a town like Boston it would be easy to find a good beer bar and unfortunately you would be wrong.

     Over the past several months and visits myself and my friends have enjoyed such beers as Abita Purple Haze, Smuttynose Baltic Porter, Ommegang’s Hennepin Saison, Erdinger Hefeweizen, Founders Dirty Bastard, Allagash White, Victory Pils, Oskar Blues Old Chub, and Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady to name a few. More impressive than just having these outstanding beers they actually have proper glassware and know what beers go in which glass, a feat more difficult than you would expect around here. The table wait staff isn’t always keyed in to the beers they’ve got, but usually if you are sitting at the bar the bartenders are relatively well versed and can give you a hand in deciding.

     The most recent trek was a Friday night (4/11). It was packed, but we muscled to the bar and staked out a corner. There were a handful of us and the beers we ordered were pretty varied: Wolaver’s Organic Brown Ale, Bellhaven, Cambridge Brewing Company Charles River Porter. But truly the most popular amongst our group was the Smuttynose Imperial Stout. This is a bloody amazing beer. Deep dark and complex. I would call it one of the top three imperial stouts I’ve had thanks to it’s balance of malt sweetness, rich dark fruit notes, and just the right touch of dry bitterness at the finish. Put it on tap, served in a proper snifter, and I was in love. The downside is it’s technically a winter brew so they were working off their last keg. The upside is I’m sure it will be replaced with a fantastic spring/summer brew.

     While it may not be the hippest bar in town the Kinsale is the best beer bar you are going to find in the heart of downtown Boston. Yes, there’s Bukowski’s Tavern near Hynes Convention Center, but to be honest their pours are getting smaller while the prices are going higher and the pointlessly loud music makes normal conversation almost impossible. So while Kinsale isn’t as punk rock and lacks an 800-bottle deep selection your wallet and ears won’t take as much of a beating and you will have no problem finding a great brew. You could argue The Elephant & Castle down in the financial district is a beer bar given its extensive beer list, but the reality is my experiences there show it to have a lot of great beers on paper, but few in their coolers and on their taps. The game of continually sending a waiter/waitress away with three beers you would want and having them come back to say they don’t have any of them is as annoying for you as it is for them. 

     If you’re a local looking for some place new or a tourist who has already grown tired of the Sam Adams/Harpoon stranglehold on the taps of Boston and need some more esoteric relief give the Kinsale a shot.

Boston Beer Works [Canal Street] 4/1/08

     Found myself down at Boston Beer Works‘ Canal Street locale last night catching up with some friends and a former co-worker who’d come in from out of town. It’s been awhile since I’d been down there and as always I was prepared for the Jekyll/Hyde split personality of Beer Works brews. For the most part it was a good night where of the 3 beers I had 1 was very enjoyable and the other 2 weren’t bad, just OK. I’ll take that as a win.

In order of consumption:

Double Vision (7.3% ABV)- Dubbel
Grade: C

     It’s odd because it seems like there’s a lot going on in a glass of Double Vision, but it’s all very indistinct. Lots of fruitiness, but you can’t zero in on a specific taste or scent as they’re so muddied. Very malty sweet and thick/slick mouthfeel. It’s way heavier than a good dubbel should be. If they thinned it out just a bit this could be a much better brew. All in all one glass is enjoyable enough, but that’s about it. That said I’d probably order it again if it was on tap and nothing else was really catching my interest.

Blonde Faith Abbey Ale (? ABV)-Belgian Pale Ale
Grade: C-

     Crystal clear and golden. Generally crisp taste and just right mouthfeel: the body’s not too thin or too thick. The problem is, again, a lack of distinct character. Blonde Faith’s not bad, but it is forgettable. I think if they blended the Blonde Faith with the Double Vision they’d be on to something.

Muddy River Porter (5.5% ABV draft)- American Porter
Grade: B

     It seems that I had unintentionally left the best for last. At the bartender’s suggestion I sampled some of the Muddy River Porter side by side with the Buck Eye Oatmeal Stout before making the decision to go with the pint of Muddy as he had suggested. The Buck Eye was bitter and thin. It actually had a touch of smoke in it that while not bad it was not what you expect or want from an oatmeal stout. The Muddy on the other hand had a good body that was rich and smooth. Coffee was the prominant flavor with a slight sweet finish. A little bitterness helped balance it out and make this a solid offering. I definitely recommend this if you are going to the Canal Street locale any time soon because this is a good batch of porter.

Cheers,
John

Hazy Holidays To You!

     Over the Christmas/New Year period there were a number of beers that passed my lips and I thought I should at least mention some of them here. These aren’t in-depth reviews since I didn’t take any notes and my memory is blurring around the edges. These are more sweeping impressions than anything. There were a few beers that I would like to slap the Beer of the Blog moniker on, but honestly given the haste in which this entry was compiled, lack of review intentions upon consumption, and maybe a touch of over consumption I need to revisit a chosen few when I can get a hold of them for more proper exploration.

 After the beer reviews are a few quick blurbs on some of the places I went and thought y’all should know about.

Cheers,
-John

On to the beers…

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen (5.4% ABV bottle) -Rauchbier- Brauerei Heller-Trum, Germany
Grade: A
     Not just a mouthful to say… I got this at Porter’s Pub on a semi-dare from my friend Dicky-Mo who had asked if I’d ever had a “real” rauchbier [smoked beer]. I thought I had, but oh was I wrong. The initial pour hit me in the face with a heavy smoked meat aroma. Not a nice little waft of campfire, but a heady beef-jerky smell that had me a little scared. The first mouthful was disturbing. So much smoke I couldn’t distinguish anything else. After a few more sips it came into a nice balance of the smoke, mild bitterness, and some nut and coffee hints. As I worked through the complexities it became a very pleasant experience that helped to enhance the richness of the cheese plate I’d ordered. Definitely a beer made for rich, hearty food pairing. I can’t imagine just grabbing one of these and drinking it off, but it’s still an excellent beer.

Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.2% ABV bottle) -American Strong Ale- Stone Brewing Company, CA
Grade: A+

     I know I’m on kind of a Stone Brewing kick lately. What can I do? They make tasty beer and Beachmont Liquors keeps hooking me up with fresh supplies. Hadn’t had Arrogant Bastard in a while so when I saw it on the shelf I figured it would ease the pain of Beachmont not having any more Vertical Epic 06.06.06 for me to stockpile. If “Arrogant Bastard” isn’t enough of a tip off this is a robust and in-your-face kind of beer. Lots of malt and lots of hops with a piney tang, but it’s all balanced out so that nothing out weighs anything else. Voluptuous is very fitting description for the Bastard even if it may be questionable in gender agreement. This is big, round, and smooth in all the right places with plenty of spice; like a pin-up girl in a bottle. Woof!

Lancaster Brewing Company Milk Stout (5.3% ABV bottle) -Milk/Sweet Stout- Lancaster Brewing Company, PA
Grade: B-
     I bought this because my girl, Jules, was making chili for the fam’ and the recipe called for a bottle of stout so I grabbed a sixer of this. I’d never had anything from Lancaster Brewing and this isn’t a bad intro. A bit on the thin side but it has a decent mix of bitterness, a touch of sweetness, and undertones of chocolate and coffee. I could see myself reaching for this again.

Lindemans Framboise (4% ABV bottle) -Lambic/Fruit- Brouwerij Lindemans, Belgium
Grade: B+

     As a rule I’m not a lambic drinker, but I hadn’t had one in years when I saw this on the menu at Ocean and thought it’d be a nice change of pace before the food started arriving. It was sweet not cloying, very fizzy, with a surprisingly dry finish. Granted it looks a bit girlie with its fruit punch color, but it was refreshing and absolutely perfect at that moment. I love the art nouveau look of their labels to boot.

Vertical Epic 06.06.06 (8.66% ABV bottle) -Belgian Strong Dark Ale- Stone Brewing Company, CA
Grade: A-
     This was a great beer; the problem is the specifics are blurry. I cracked this open for the Pats-Giants game figuring that a special game called for a special beer and all I had was the Vertical Epic or Stone’s 11th Anniversary. The Epic seemed fitting. Unfortunately, because it was so good I drank half of the 22oz bottle by the time the first quarter ended and decided I should save the rest for the coming victory. So I needed something to drink in the mean time which left the bottle of the 11th Anniversary. Fast forward to the fourth quarter and the Anniversary was gone so I went back to the Epic. These are both high octane beers; mix that with the excitement of the game and the subtleties of the Epic got lost. What I do recall was that this was a full bodied beer as one expects from Stone. There was some alcohol slickness, but not too much as this went done smooth. My first sips made me think “herbal”, but not in a medicinal way. Unfortunately, I’ve only got one bottle of the 06.06.06 left which I want to keep to age and Beachmont has sold out of their stock since last I was there. Alas, this Epic taunts me like memories of a drunken one night stand.

Weyerbacher Old Heathen Imperial Stout (8% ABV bottle) -Russian Imperial Stout- Weyerbacher Brewing Company, PA
Grade: A
     I will be honest, by the time I got this at Which Brew it was pretty late in the evening, but I do recall it being tasty. [Actually this and the eggnog martini (bad choice of the night) are the only drinks I remember at Which Brew.] It poured into the glass thick and dark like an imperial should. There were groans from my friends at the table, cowering at the sight of its blackness. It was heavy and yummy with some sweetness and thick on the tongue.

Yuengling Traditional Lager (4.9% ABV bottle & tap) -American Amber/Red Lager- Yuengling Brewery, PA
Grade: B+
     Yuengling Traditional Lager holds a nostalgic place in my heart which is probably why I rate it higher than it might actually merit. When I’m back visiting family and the local bars of PA & NJ Yuengling Lager is my go-to beer.

Yuengling Black & Tan (? ABV bottle) -Black & Tan- Yuengling Brewery, PA
Grade: C+
     I can’t quite stick my neck out for Yuengling’s Black & Tan like I do the Trad Lager. Probably has something to do with the fact that when I’m drinking a dark beer (of which there was much during this holiday season) I expect a certain amount of mystery and/or a different flavor than something run of the mill because most of the dark beers I drink are pretty heavy duty. This stuff tastes a lot like plain old Yuengling, but with a slightly metallic bitterness. I think I’ll stick with the original.

Where’d You Go?

Ocean– Easton PA
     Ocean is a surprisingly up-scale tapas joint downtown that has become a regular stop when I’m back in the area. The decor is very modern and very slick. It looks more Manhattan than Easton, but the atmosphere isn’t as stuffy as one would expect. Great food and great drink selection including a number of very tasty beers. Try the crab cakes.

Porter’s Pub– Easton PA
     Porter’s has been around forever and was really the area’s first beer bar way before it was hip to be one. They’ve got a big selection of beers (60?) given the size of the place. Most is in bottle with 8 or 10 taps. I’ve read reviews from people getting down on Porter’s because of their limited tap selection and that their choices tend to be well established craft brews that aren’t experimental enough. Those people are obviously not locals. The fact that Porter’s has survived for this long with what were until maybe 10 years ago very niche brews is amazing. I’m grateful it made it long enough for me to appreciate what they have which honestly is nothing to sneeze at. This is a great little place as long as you can get a seat. I love the atmosphere and decor -old school English pub- but when this place is crowded forget about it. Jules and I got on board with their mug program finally after all these years.

Shruty’s Pub– Easton PA
     This isn’t a beer bar or chic eatery, but I figured I’d give it a plug since my cousin Amy is one of the owners and Shruty’s always a destination when I’m in the area. The food is pretty good as far as pub grub goes (the wings & the soups are always top notch) and you can never go wrong with Yuengling on draft. It’s a good local that I’d probably end up at even if I didn’t have the family connection.

Which Brew– Easton PA
     Two blocks down the street from Porter’s Which Brew is a great compliment to the traditional feel of Porter’s. Plus, if they don’t have a beer at Porter’s there’s a good chance it’s at Which Brew. There’s a big selection here, but it rotates through pretty quickly so what was there one week might be gone the next. Creatures of habit will be dismayed while experimenters will revel. Atmosphere is cavern/crypt like with lots of nooks, exposed brick, and ghoulish knick-knacks that caters to a younger crowd that wants a quasi dive/rock bar look and surly service, but with good beer and no risk of being knifed in the bathroom. Staff is very knowledgeable and even put up with our group’s Laurel & Hardy act thanks to a misprint on their holiday Mad Elf special.