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.



I’m sorry, did you say gruit?

Winterfest/Winterworks (? ABV tap)- Gruit- Boston Beer Works (Canal Street location), MA
Grade: D
     Down at the Canal Street Beer Works with some co-workers last Friday ( 1/4/08 ) for lunch and ran into something I’d never had before: Gruit. Their branding is “Winterfest.” Actually at the Canal local it was called “Winterworks” on the sign behind the bar and wasn’t even on their beer menu, but on their site they call it Winterfest.
     Gruit is an old, old style beer brewed without hops that instead uses various herbs to flavor and preserve the beer. It’s a style that has been all but forgotten with the now standard use of hops. That’s the bare bones answer about this curious bevvy. If you are looking for more in-depth info go here and here. It really is fascinating reading not just on a beer geek level, but historically as well.
     Anyway, I’m not here to give history lessons I’m here to tell you about the beer. The Beer Works website describes the Winterfest as “deep ruby-red”. What I had in my glass was more “murky brown/orange” than anything, but that doesn’t really have the same sex appeal. There was no light getting through this stuff, so it was not visually appealing. The aroma was tempered, but tantalizingly herbal and a little spicy. While there were not huge whiffs of anything definitive, there was enough that it kept my curiosity up. The taste was “herbal” and made me think of breakfast sausage as the only herb I could really suss out was sage. Other than that the flavors were pretty indistinct with a vague bitterness behind them. The gruit had a thick consistency and yet the taste was watery around the edges, which is a problem I’ve come to notice with a lot of Beer Works product. Not sure how that is possible, but the last handful of times I’ve been to Beer Works that is what I run into except on the rare occasion when the beer is outstanding.
     Sadly, while I was excited about trying something so unique as gruit the results left me disappointed. Luckily, I can say that I will search out gruit again, however it won’t be from Beer Works and I’d recommend the same to you.


Can-can with The Sea Hag

Beer Works Imperial Stout (draft)- Russian imperial stout- Boston Beer Works, MA, USA
Grade: B+
  Woof. A bit of the heavy this is then, eh. I’m a big fan of stouts and especially brewpub imperials. Thus, I’m no stranger to Beer Works and their Imperial Stout has never left me down. It is heavy on the alcohol and has a bit of a slick taste build up on the tongue by the bottom of the glass, but it doesn’t get heavy perse`. Sweet with nice malty flavors balanced with a coffee bite, this is an amazingly rich bevvie made to be savored. It’s hardly work drinking a pint of this down. One pint, (OK, maybe two) of this black gold will do you fine.
Blue Moon (draft)- Witbeer-  Blue Moon Brewing Co, CO, USA 
Grade: B
  Well, spank my ass and call me Charlie, I had no idea Blue Moon was produced by Coors. Well, I guess if Ford can make Jaguars I shouldn’t be shocked by an American mega-brewer putting together something that tastes good enough to not shotgun it down with a grimace. Blue Moon is one of my standard “go-to” pints when I’m out on the town. It’s a witbeer, which means it’s a cloudy, unfiltered, wheat-based brew similar to a hefeweizen, but usually lighter. Notice I said “usually” because in this case Blue Moon runs a bit heavy like a hefeweizen and is far from the lightness that tends to embody classic European witbiers like Hoegaarden. Still, it’s got a good taste that  is a bit outside the norm. There’s some citrus tang going on in there and I’ve always smelt something akin to coconut, especially when out of a bottle when drinking Blue Moon. (Most people just look at me like I’m out of my tree when I mention the coconut thing.) The fact that I see this on so many taps these days regardless of geography all makes sense given the distribution power of Coors. Kind of a drag to think it’s made by a big ol’ corporation, but anything that might keep a person from drinking another Bud Light is fine by me.

Guinness (draft)- Irish dry stout- Guinness Ltd., Ireland 
Grade: A-
 [See Past Review]

Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen (draft)- American pale wheat ale/Hefeweizen- Harpoon Brewery, MA, USA 
Grade: B
  Another of my “go-to” bar pints, UFO is a good if unremarkable domestic hefeweizen. It’s got a generally strong flavor, but lacks in the robust bready body of brews like a Paulaner or Franziskaner. Still, it’s a good middle ground when you aren’t looking for anything exotic, you don’t want the lightness of a lager, and a stout would be too much. There’s enough character to UFO that you feel like you’re actually drinking a beer and not something that you were told was beer though tastes suspiciously like water.

Kingfisher (bottle)- American macro lager- United Breweries- UB Group, India (by way of New York?) 
Grade: B
  Anyone who has been to an Indian restaurant has probably paired up their dinner with Kingfisher. There’s nothing too fancy going on here. Its light, crisp finish is a nice way to cut the richness of Indian dishes and cool the curry kick. There’s a certain bite to Kingfisher that I really like and keeps it among the regular rotation in my own refrigerator.  Looking around the web it seems that even though you will find this in the import section of your liquor store it’s probably brewed somewhere in New York state. Go figure. There are better and worse Indian beers out there, so when in doubt order Kingfisher.
Magic Hat #9 (draft)- Fruit/Vegetable beer- Magic Hat Brewing Company, VT, USA 
Grade: B
 [See Past Review]

Sea Hag IPA (can)- American IPA- New England Brewing Co., CT, USA-
  The art on the can looks like a bad metal band design from 1987: black background, yellow & red lettering, and a stylized Sea Hag reaching over the logo. (Note: There actually was a bad metal band in the 80’s called The Sea Hags. Yes, I still have the cassette.) I hesitated grabbing this because I’m not a huge fan of IPA’s and once had an awful experience with canned microbrew to boot. So put the two together and it made for a tough decision to grab this. I looked at the ominous black can and figured what the hell.
  When I popped the first can it immediately foamed up out over the top and as I slurped away the excess foam and got into the heart it Sea Hag was surprisingly tasty. There was a good amount of hop bite to it but there was a slight sweetness that helped to keep it mellow. I enjoyed this more than any other IPA I’ve had except for the high octane Dogfish Head brews and wouldset it just above Sierra Nevada. For those of you in the New England area, Sea Hag beats Harpoon IPA like a rented mule so find this stuff and give it a try. I’m not a fan of IPA, but this is what I’m going to look for when I want one.