Drink Craft Beer
Belgian-Style Saison Ale
Golden in color with a fresh hoppiness and a wild and rustic Brettanomyces character, this saison of Spring is perfect for warmer weather and Easter celebrations.
Our Spring Saison will evolve over time; chelan and hoppy when fresh, and drier with earthy, wild notes when aged up to two years. Best stored and cellared about 55 degrees F in a dark place. Ideal serving temperature is 50 degrees F. Please pour carefully, leaving the yeast sediment behind in the bottle. Best served in a tulip or wine glass.
If you're thinking of joining a beer of the month club you've found the right place. Each month we review a beer of the month club shipment to give you an idea of what you really get. This is from Gourmet Monthly Clubs.
RJ Rockers Patriot Pale
Appearance: The Patriot Pale pours a rich orange color with a thick cream colored head about one finger thick. The beer is hazy, with a little bit of sediment floating around.
Smell: As soon as we poured this one we could smell some citrusy, orangey hops. Smells like a pale ale that’s going to hit on the hoppier end of the spectrum! Closer examination yields about the same as the pungent aroma of the hops overwhelms any malt that might be there. This one definitely smells dry.
Taste: Surprising! RJ Rockers is one of those companies we’ve passed over time and time again in the store, but this is a tasty brew! It has a nice bitterness that’s balanced and not overwhelming, but this is still quite the hop forward brew. Late in the boil they must have added a ton of hops, because the orange citrus smells we got are there in flavor too! At 6% abv, it’s not light weight pale ale, but it’ll still do the trick on a day you need something delicious!
Lakefront Brewing Company IPA
Appearance: Lakefront’s IPA pours a deep, hazy orange. A thick, off-white heads forms on top that is so thick it looks like the top of a vanilla milkshake!
Smell: This brew is quite hoppy smelling as well, but not as much as the Patriot Pale. Where that was orange and citrus, this one is much more pine. Again, the malt is more of a hops delivery vehicle on this one than a flavor.
Taste: Whew! That’s an IPA! The body is fairly thin, which allows the bitterness of the hops to come through. Again, the bitterness is balanced by malt, but this one definitely leans heavily towards the hoppy side of balance. The aroma hops that were in the Patriot Pale aren’t here as strongly, they’re much more front-loaded...but that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes you want an orange/citrus flavor IPA and sometimes you want some more bitterness. This is the latter.
RJ Rockers Bell Ringer
Appearance: Bell Ringer pours a super hazy, nearly opaque ruddy red and orange color with white yeast and protein particles suspended throughout. A light tan head forms on top but quickly recedes (probably due to the alcohol in this beer).
Smell: For the first time of this review session, we’re getting some pretty serious malt out of this one. At 8.5% abv that makes sense, too! There’s some hops there, too, but we’re willing to bet most of the 53 IBUs are in the bitterness to balance the booze and malt. The big surprise, though, is that the alcohol is unnoticeable...good job to RJ Rockers on that!
Taste: Oh! This is good! Again, it’s too bad we’ve passed over RJ Rockers so many times. This is a tasty beer! There is some major malt to this, but the bitterness is there to keep it at bay. The beer actually has a little more fruity flavor to it than we expected, but we’re trying to figure out if it’s from the Cascade hops or from the yeast. The alcohol doesn’t show through too prominently in the flavor, but it does effect the body of the beer and thins it a bit.
Lakefront Fuel Cafe Coffee Stout
Appearance: It’s coffee...and it’s stout...it’s black. The Fuel Cafe Coffee Stout is black. The head on it, to continue the theme, is like coffee with cream in it and a quickly receding half finger tall.
Smell: Jeff over here at DrinkCraftBeer loves coffee, and all he can say is, “Yum!” This one smells just like coffee.
Taste: Wow! Roasty, slightly bitter (just like black coffee) and dry, this is a delicious coffee stout! The roast from chocolate male and roasted barley go great with the coffee to give you a brew that is coffee strong yet still tastes like a stout. The beer is dry throughout, which fits well with the style. Again, a strong beer to finish this month’s Gourmet Monthly Club Beer of the Month Club on!
Let me start by saying that when I heard people talk about beer cocktails for the first time I dismissed the idea. At some point along the line we've all probably had a boiler maker or a sake bomb; I'm sad to say now that I allowed those drinks to cloud my judgement. Looking back it was the same type of thinking that makes people say "I don't like beer," when what they actually didn't like was the one crappy light beer they tried. While at Park for a friend's birthday party I began perusing the menu looking for a drink. I looked over the beer menu, which had no shortage of great craft beer offerings, and moved on to the cocktails section. Suddenly one drink caught my eye, the Tom Terrific. Aside from craft beer I'm a huge fan of good gin; this cocktail combined Old Tom Gin, lemon juice, cherry heering, simple and...wait what's that...IPA. All the ideas about beer cocktails not working left my head, I placed the order and since I'm writing this article I think you can guess what happened next. I loved it. The beer added an amazing bitterness to the drink while adding just a bit of fizz to brighten things up.
Fast forward a month or two and I was back at Park. I'd since become a huge fan of pretty much everything they do but, on this particular night, I was on a bit of a mission. I heard from Chris Lohring, the owner/brewer of Notch Brewing, that there was a bit of a secret beer cocktail menu. I sat at the bar with my friend Brian and asked our bartender if there were any more beer cocktails. The short but all important answer I got was simply, "Lots...what do you like?" A number of incredibly tasty cocktails later I knew we had to let more people know about this. A couple weeks later we went back before hours and met up with Chris Olds (pictured below), the bar manager at Park, who put together five amazing beer cocktails. Not only that, but he was kind enough to share the recipes with us so that we could share them with all of you. At this point we'd recommend you do three things:
- Read the rest of this article
- Go to Park if you live near Cambridge, MA and order one or many of these awesome off-menu craft beer cocktails. Be sure to order them by name.
- Make some of these at home and come up with some of you own. Embrace the awesomeness that is craft beer cocktails.
Now without further ado, on to the good stuff!
1 1/2 oz Hayman's Old Tom Gin
1/2 oz Simply Syrup
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
Slumbrew Flagraiser IPA
Shake all the ingredients excluding Slumbrew IPA with ice. Then, strain and pour over cubed ice in a highball glass. Top with beer.
As mentioned, this is the one that got it all started for us and got the craft beer cocktail program going for Park as well. Hops, gin and lemon...how could it possibly go wrong? The beer lends an awesome bitterness, especially given how little IPA is actually used. The cherry really rounds and smooths the whole thing out, as the gin and hops together might be a little sharp alone. It's not medicinal or cloying, but just a light, fruity flavor. The cherry works so well because of the carbonation from the beer; without it the drink may have been a little thick but those bubbles open it right up.
If you're not local and want make your own, just substitute any big, hoppy IPA and either an English gin or your local craft gin.
Victory at Sea
1 1/2 oz Privateer Rum
3/4 oz Lime Juice
Dash Lemon Bitters
3/4 oz Demerara (Simple syrup made with sugar in the raw)
Notch Brewing Saison
Shake all the ingredients excluding Notch Saison with ice. Then, strain and pour over cubed ice in a highball glass. Top with beer.
You'd think a drink with dark rum would be on the more warming end of the spectrum but, thanks to the citrus and saison, it's a bright and refreshing cocktail. Both the rum and beer are made in Ipswich, a coastal town on the North Shore of Massachusetts, and this is a great way to showcase some amazing local ingredients. The lemon is the first thing that hits you like a ray of sunshine in this below ground bar. While it's quite refreshing, like we mentioned above, the rum adds a wonderful smooth sweetness. This is a well rounded cocktail that will quiet any anti-beer cocktail folks.
If you're not local and want make your own, just substitute any lower alcohol saison and your local barrel aged craft rum.
1.5 oz Berkshire Distilling Ethereal Gin
3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Aperol
1/2 oz St. Germain
High & Mighty Beer of the Gods
Shake all the ingredients excluding High & Mighty Beer of the Gods with ice. Then, strain and pour into a champagne glass. Top with beer.
This cocktail is a little sweet upfront but there's a good balancing bitterness in the finish. The acidity from the grapefruit juice is toned down by the gin and beer, but provides a very important bright note to the drink. There's a bit of fruit and flower up front, which makes this drink especially refreshing. This is one we kept coming back to again and again.
If you're not local and want make your own, just substitute any hoppy blond ale and your local craft gin...although Berkshire Distilling Ethereal Gin is a bit of a creative take on gin, so let us know how yours turns out.
1.5 oz A.H. Hirsch Small Batch Reserve Bourbon Whiskey
3/4 oz King's Ginger Liquor
Dash Jerry Thomas Bitters
Jack's Abby Smoke & Dagger
Shake all the ingredients excluding Jack's Abby Smoke & Dagger with ice. Then, strain and pour into a champagne saucer. Top with beer.
First off, if you like bourbon then you'll like this drink...and we love bourbon! The beer adds a great smokiness and a little roast. This concoction is a cocktail first by far, not just a beer drink! Between the beer and spirit, it's a little sweet but far from unbalanced. At the end, the ginger comes through and makes the drink complete. Up until now, these drinks were bright but this is a drink to smooth out the evening and warm yourself in cold or hot weather.
If you're not local and want make your own, just substitute a smoky, dark lager (or clean ale) and some great bourbon.
1 oz Liqueur Cassis
Portico Brewing Fuzzy Logic
Pour the Cassis into a champagne flute, then top with beer.
As Chris put it, "it's tough when every cocktail is, like, 75 ingredients." And sometimes simple is good! Start with a delicious base beer and add just a little bit of fruitiness from the Liqueur Cassis and you've got yourself a drink. The light Belgian esters of the Fuzzy Logic work great with the fruitiness, reduced by the addition of beer. If the Dabney Coleman is a cocktail first, the Tarantino is a beer drink first and that's just fine by us. Something like this shows us just how diverse this area can be!
If you're not local and want make your own, just find a local kölsch...you'll need this liqueur, but hopefully you can find it. That said, Portico uses a Belgian yeast strain in their kölsch, so yours will be a little different. But we're sure it'll still be tasty!
Now, let us know your favorite craft beer cocktails! Use the comments section below to tell us what concoctions you've enjoyed.
If you've been reading Drink Craft Beer for the last few months, there's no doubt you know Chris Lohring's brand, Notch Brewing. A long time veteran on the New England craft beer scene, Chris founded the now defunct Tremont Brewing Company. After taking a hiatus from the industry for a while, Chris came back for a very interesting reason: he couldn't find any of the lower alcohol beers he wanted to drink. Rather than just homebrew them he figured that, if he wanted them, others must want session beers! And so Notch Brewing, a company devoted to making delicious session beer, was formed. We caught up with Chris recently to pick his brain a bit about Notch, the brewing industry and more. Check it out!
Drink Craft Beer: How did you get into craft beer?
Chris Lohring: I’ve always had an affinity for trying new food and drink, and beer was no different. In college I tended bar at the old Rat in Kenmore Sq at a time when Bud ruled the day, even among the hipster set (until Pabst made it easy to differentiate one’s poor taste in beer and social tribe). Every now and then I drank Heineken Dark while tending bar because it looked like Coke in the glass. Sure, it was not craft beer, but it was a gateway to different flavors and color in a beer. This was the late 80’s and it was desperate times for beer.
DCB: What was the turning point (a beer or moment) that made you love craft beer?
CL: I was an entrepreneurship major in college and my senior year project was to consult for a start-up business. I was blessed with the assignment of finding a site for a brewer seeking to locate in Boston. I was already drinking craft beer (Catamount was a my go-to), but this experience had me hooked and led to my questionable career path. Three years later I was apprenticing as a brewer and would start Tremont with Alex Reveliotty shortly thereafter.
DCB: You walk into a magical beer shop with every beer currently available. You can put together one six-pack. What do you walk out with? Only one beer can be from your brewery.
CL: My magical beer shop has beers brewed within 100 miles of Boston, and nothing else, and my six pack is a constantly rotating selection of these beers. When people say, “I can’t find local beers as good,” I challenge them: let’s start the blind taste test right now.
DCB: You have one night in your favorite beer city. What city are you in and where do you go (it doesn’t all have to be beer)?
CL: Prague. Because you can’t experience Czech beer culture properly unless you are in the moment. That, and the beer doesn’t travel well, so you need to go to the source.
My night, which starts at 3PM:
- U Zlateho Tygra (For Pilsner and beer cheese)
- U sv Tomase Beerhall (For Cerne Pivo and a dinner of pork knuckle)
- U Hrocha (For Svetle Vyceopni Pivo with the locals, until I’m kicked out at closing)
DCB: What do you drink when you’re not drinking craft beer (or beer at all)?
CL: Bourbon or Rye, Neat. It’s not all session beer all the time!
DCB: Where do you see the craft beer industry going in the next year? And, in that vein, can we get a sneak peak at what new to expect from you in the coming year?
CL: It is getting interesting, and it’s starting to look like the late 90’s all over again in terms of craft beer brand growth in the US. For Boston, I’m thrilled to see so much activity locally. For too long the local scene has been a doormat to beers from other places, and much of that was simply do to the lack of local options, which has absolutely changed for the better. Also, the last production brewery to open in Boston was 1994, and that should change soon too.
I am also interested in seeing what develops at the upper price point of the market, as we have a number of new entries on the shelf. For a 22 ounce bottles that is contract brewed, the cost of entry into the market is fairly low, so we have seen quite a few new ones recently. But how much shelf space will the retailer continue to provide (unless we replace out of town beer), and how many brands will the consumer support? And at $7 a bottle, how long will the consumer be happy buying the equivalent of a $23 six pack in a down economy?
It comes down to this – will consumers shift their from spending to local brewed beer? Will they take a chance on a new local entity as well as continuing to support existing local beers that have earned their place on the shelf? Or, will the Boston consumer continue to pay some guy’s mortgage on the west coast at the detriment to the local scene? In my mind, beer needs the correct mix of four things to be successful – price, quality, differentiation, relevance. Local beer can be more relevant, but only if those first three things are equal or better than that guy’s beer from San Diego.
For Notch next year? You’ll see us release a number of limited release session beers, more beers in the cask only series, saison in six packs, and maybe a collaboration or two.
DCB: You can brew any beer you like, no matter the cost and consumer demand, what would you make and what dream ingredients would you use?
CL: I’m brewing the beers I want to right now. But, if cost or consumer demand was not part of the equation, then where’s the fun? That’s the challenge! That’s why we are in business. But as brewers, we are fortunate to have an incredible array of great ingredients to choose from, unless you want the latest, greatest new hop variety in any volume. But I don’t play in the IPA sandbox, so that’s not an issue for me.
Anyone who knows my brewing style knows I don’t like pretentious beers. I make worker’s beer. So for me it’s not about dream ingredients as much as brewing process. My dream is to recreate the original Pilsner, so bring in the decoction brewhouse, open wooden barrel fermentation vessels like Plzeňský Prazdroj pre-1990, and dig me some caves for lagering. And throw in some mass spec and liquid chromatography equipment while you’re at it.
DCB: Thanks so much for your time, Chris! Best of luck with Notch in 2012!
Back in 2009 the Craft Brewers Conference (the national industy event for the craft brewing industry in the U.S.) was in Boston. Cambridge Brewing Company (CBC) was chosen to brew the official Symposium Beer for the event, which would be distributed to all of the attendees. They now distribute this brew, called Audacity of Hops. At the time, though, they didn't have a bottling line, so they partnered with Mayflower Brewing Company for the production. Tons of Massachusetts brewers came out to join in on the act and we all had a great day. While I was over at Mayflower, though, I met an assistant brewer from CBC named Ben Howe. Ben still works at CBC as a bartender but, since then, he's gone on to recently found Enlightenment Ales, a nano-brewery focused on the Biere de Champagne style as well as other farmhouse styles.
As a frequenter of CBC, I've kept in touch with Ben over the years and, when I mentioned to Will Meyers (Brewmaster at CBC) that we were launching Drink Craft Beer Summerfest: A Celebration of Farmhouse Ale, he said I had to talk to Ben. Well, I'm not going to question a man like Will, so I called up Ben and asked what he had that would work. Ben was playing with a test batch of Farmhouse Ale at the time and thought that it would be perfect...so we signed him up without having any idea what he would bring, but knowing the beers he had brewed under Will had been great. What he poured at Summerfest was a delicious blend of spicy saison yeast and delicious hops. Not too bitter, but tons of flavor. Now, a few months later, he's bottled it and it's available all over Eastern Massachusetts. I picked up a bottle at Craft Beer Cellar, so let's check it out.
Just like the first experimental batch of this I had at Drink Craft Beer Summerfest: A Celebration of Farmhouse Ale, Illumination is a super hazy, almost milky looking straw beer. But don't let that put you off! The apparent thickness? That's flavor, and it's from the yeast. The head is huge and serves to let the whole room know that you're drinking a beer that smells like hops, saison and deliciousness.
It's tough to tell off the bat who's winning this one, the hops or the yeast. The farmhouse yeast that Englightenment uses has quite a pungeant aroma of spice and a little banana. That said, there is a wonderful, fruity hop aroma that comes off this that can't be beat. In the end, I'm going to have to say that the two play together in a synergistic (yep, I used the word "synergy") way that makes both even better. The yeast has a drying, estery effect that almost seems a little chalky. The hops are fruity and full. Together, the beer has a wonderful smell that just makes me want to drink it!
This is one of those brews that is a great blend of two styles. Too often, when a brewer combines styles, one of them is dominant and the other is an after thought. In the case of Enlightenment's Illumination, though, the hops and the yeast come together to make a style I wish had always been around...and I'm sure farmhands of yore would have drank with much enthusiasm. The hops? Fruity, tropical and light on the tongue. The saison? Spicy, dry and refreshing. The high carbonation that comes with the saison style, as well as the estery, spicy yeast help to accentuate the hops and showcase them in their best light. In the way that vanilla makes chocolate a better flavor, I firmly believe that saison makes hops take on a more interesting character, done right. And this one is done right. Bring this to your next special event, as the 750 ml format is great for looking fancy, and your host will love you. Or just enjoy it by yourself on a slow night. We won’t judge.