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Night Shift Brewing's Michael Oxton and Rob Burns [5 Questions]

The latest brewer to be a part of our 5 Questions series, Night Shift Brewing, is also one of the breweries coming to Drink Craft Beer Summerfest: A Celebration of Farmhouse Ale! On July 13 & 14 we'll showcase 70+ Farmhouse Ales and summer beers from 25 New England breweries! Get your tickets now!

With so many new breweries starting up these days it's increasingly hard to stand out in the crowd. Night Shift has managed to do just that by creating some fantastically interesting beers. It's hard to live in the Boston area without hearing something about these guys, and for good reason. We'll admit we approached some of their beers with a bit of apprehension at first but were quickly converted to believers at first sip. With beers like Bee Tea (made with orange blossom honey and green tea), Viva Habanera (rye ale brewed with agave nectar and habanero peppers) and Somer Weisee (a sour with lemon grass and ginger) it's clear these guys are taking on some completely new flavors. But here's the thing, every single one of their beers is an exercise in restraint. Viva Habanera, while having some slight spice, is incredibly balanced and you could easily drink a pint or two. Somer Weise? Well that's easily one of my new favorite beers, the ginger comes out just enough, the lemongrass ads amazing citrus character and it's just sour enough to be tart but won't give you "sour beer face". Enough with the praise from me though, lets get on to the good stuff and see what Michael Oxton and Rob Burns, two of the three founders of Night Shift, have to say about their beer. When you're done reading check out the pictures from our visit to Night Shift

From Left to Right: Michael O'Mara, Michael Oxton, Rob Burns

Drink Craft Beer: How did you get into craft beer?

Rob: I brewed my first craft beer in college from a cheap little beer kit. It tasted like crappy cider. Michael Oxton and I went to Bowdoin College in Maine and were exposed to a lot of great craft beer. At first I drank a lot of "Natty Light" and "Natty Ice" - so much in fact that I wallpapered my dorm room with cases. But that started to change as I became exposed to Allagash, Geary's and Shipyard. By my senior year of college, I actually painted that Geary's Summer Ale label on my wall. 

Drink Craft Beer:  What was the turning point (a beer or moment) that made you love craft beer?

Rob: An early turning point for me was one of those Maine blueberry beers. I was shocked by the flavor it had - it constantly reminded me of blueberry pancakes. I didn't know that was possible with beer. After tasting that, I went on a quest to try as many beers as possible, really set on understanding the differences in styles and ingredients. I realized that the best way to learn more about the beer I was drinking was to start brewing. During my senior year, I brewed my first batch, but it wasn't until post-graduation that the hobby really became addictive.

Michael: A bottle of Dogfish Head World Wide Stout. I remember it cost me around $10 to buy just that single bottle, and despite being a college junior with zero spending money, I loved that fact (such a savvy consumer). I weakly followed their instructions to bury it in a hole in the ground outside (buried it in a pile of my laundry) and cracked it my senior spring with a few good friends (Rob included). We spent about half an hour sipping it and talking about all the intricate flavors - I'd never done that with a beer before. My beer vocabulary was super limited, but I knew there was a dialogue to be had. Beer that compelled discussion and analysis - as an English major, I was hooked. 

Drink Craft Beer:  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.

Rob: This is obviously a really tough question. There are so many amazing beers out today that I can never really narrow down my favorites. My ideal 6 pack would include some aged beers and some fresh ones. 

1. Cantillon Vignerrone
2. J.W. Lees 1999 Harvest Ale - this aged barleywine is one of my favorite beers of all time
3. Drie Fontaine Kriek
4. Six point Bengali Tiger IPA
5. Rochefort 10
6. Russian River Beautification 


[no particular order] 

1. Hair of the Dog Fred
2. DFH 120
3. Avery Samael's Oak Aged Ale
4. North Coast 2009 Old Stock Ale
5. St. Bernardus Abt 12
6. 1996 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot

Drink Craft Beer:  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)?

Rob: I haven't been to some of the best beer cities in the US like Portland, OR or Asheville, NC, so I can't really pick those. But I would probably pick Philadelphia, PA. I grew up just north of the city, and regularly return. I would visit some of the great local breweries like Yard's Brewing and Nodding Head Brewpub. I would then head to Eulogy for their amazing Belgian beer selection. Afterwards, I would check out my new favorite beer bar, The Farmer's Cabinet, whose selection has so many breweries I have never even heard of. They have an amazing choice of Italian, Dutch, Swiss and other European craft breweries...not to mention a ton of vintage beers. I would probably end the night in a smaller bar like Good Dog or Devil's Den, which both have a chill atmosphere and solid beer selection.

Drink Craft Beer:  What would you be doing for a career if you weren’t in beer?

Rob: I currently have two jobs. For my day shift, I write code for an internet company. I really enjoy my day job, so would be happy to continue a career in software. But the beer world is way more fun, and is challenging in a much different way. With software, I create a virtual product; with beer, my own physical labor and hands create a tangible thing. I think there's something so primal about doing manual labor that really attracts me to brewing and makes me want to leave my desk job.

Michael: Struggling novelist, vagrant world traveler, lawyer, undrafted baseball pitcher, college professor, potter, or one of the dozen other career choices I've at least once considered. In running a brewery, I think I've found the perfect career (for me) because it affords almost limitless independence, creativity, responsibility, and social interaction all at once. I went through a number of careers - Chilean English teacher, corporate software trainer, publishing production assistant, Seth MacFarlane's driver (for a week) - before committing myself to the brewery, and I'm finding it to be an ideal fit (ask me this question tomorrow night while I'm shoveling hot grain out of a mash tun and my answer will be slightly different).
Night Shift Taza Stout
Drink Craft Beer: What do you drink when you’re not drinking craft beer (or beer at all)?

Rob: Lately I have been really getting into Kombucha. I love the parallels it has to wild/sour beers. The flavors are similar but I can enjoy it at my day job and still function. 

Michael: Water (no, not Bud Light - actual water). And a lot of fruit smoothies. 

Drink Craft Beer:  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?

Rob: It's a very interesting time for craft beer. I think a lot of the bigger craft breweries have very ambitious expansion plans. At the same time, there seems to be a shift towards buying local and supporting local businesses. So, I think there's room both for local breweries to continue growing, and for new ones to pop up. It's exciting, and, as a consumer, I'm loving the variety. 

For Night Shift Brewing, we are looking to grow on a monthly basis as we expand to more accounts. However, we want to maintain an organic, grass-roots type growth. We dont want expand outside of our means too quickly. We're constantly learning so much, and there's no need to rush anything. Right now, what's super exciting for us is to see regulars returning to our brewery each week to pick up the latest bottle or beer refill for their growlers - we're developing so many awesome relationships with the community around us, so we don't feel a huge need to move outside of it anytime soon.

As for new beers, we have a lot in the pipeline that we are really excited to brew and share with people. We just need to figure out when we want to introduce new beers. Right now, the thinking is on a monthly basis, although we just released 3 beers in the last 2 weeks. Being so small gives us great flexibility to do that.

Drink Craft Beer:  What’s your “Last Supper” of food and beer? Pick up to three dishes and the beers that you think go best with them.

Fresh ceviche with our own Somer Wiesse (Berliner weisse style ale w/ lemongrass and ginger) 
Lamb chops with Cambridge Brewing Company's Brett Gossett, a saison with Brett. 
My grandmother's ginger snaps with vanilla ice cream and Brooklyn Brewery's Chocolate Stout, preferably aged for several years

Drink Craft Beer:  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?

Rob: Night Shift Brewing is only a three person company, and there is really nothing off-limits to what we'll consider brewing. I am a huge fan of fruit beers - not the fake, sweet, syrupy types, but more of the Belgian tradition, like lambics. So I hope to brew those beers styles fairly soon. I would love to brew a beer with Star Fruit or Dragon Fruit. They both have such unique flavors, but would be very costly to brew with. If money AND time aren't a factor, then we'll start talking hard-to-find barrels...

Taza Chocolate Factory Takeover 2013 - Thank You

On Saturday, February 2, 2013 Taza Chocolate let us take over their factory store for the second time to benefit The Greater Boston Food Bank. We were completely floored by the response that we got from our wonderful community; many of you waited over an hour to get inside while temperatures outside dipped into the low twenties. With nearly 700 attendees coming through the door and proceeds from Roxy's Grilled Cheese's chocolate-covered bacon grilled cheese sandwiches we raised $3,600, doubling the proceeds from 2012! That's enough money for The Greater Boston Food Bank to provide 8,496 meals to those in need. Pretty epic!

With that in mind, we want to thank each and every one of you for coming out, for braving the cold and for being a part of this great event!

Line before the doors opened
The line before the doors opened. You can't see it, but it went all the way to the
end of the block, turned the corner, then half way down the next block.

Line for Roxy's Grilled Cheese
The line for Roxy's Grilled Cheese...luckily the line to get into the event was right in front of the truck!

Of course, we couldn't have done it without our wonderful event sponsors either, all of whom donated their time and products. So we'd like to give a special thanks to:

Again, thanks to everyone involved, from the attendees to the event sponsors! We could not have done it without any of you! We look forward to seeing you all again!

First Attendees In the Door
The first attendees in the door finally get some beer and chocolate. They got here an hour before the event!

Inside the Taza Chocolate Factory Store
The end of the line: inside the Taza Chocolate Factory Store after trying all four pairings.

Saison De Lente by The Bruery - Coming Soon

ImageBelgian-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.

750ml bottle
6.5% abv

Woodstock Inn Brewery Thru Hiker Rye Pale Ale [Beer Review]

Outside of Boston, I’m probably in the White Mountains up in New Hampshire more than anywhere else. I’m not going to claim to be Mr. Outdoorsy but, that said, I definitely enjoy a bit of hiking, skiing, camping, etc...and the White Mountains have plenty of that. You know what else outdoorsy places often have, though? Beer! The same people who like to do all those things I just listed also like to drink a good beer after they’re done, so inevitably places spring up to serve that need. There’s plenty of them up in the White Mountains but I always find myself near, and so frequent, the Woodstock Inn Brewery in Woodstock, NH. With hearty grub in the restaurant, great beer, a cask usually tapped and a ton of outdoor space in the warmer months, it’s easy to keep coming back.

Woodstock Inn Brewery Thru Hiker Rye Pale Ale

Situated up in the White Mountains, Woodstock puts out beers that will satisfy the outdoors crowd after a day of hiking/skiing/snowshoeing/what have you...and with the deep caramel-copper color of Thru Hiker, you know this one will satiate you as you hike through! A big, cappuccino head needs just a minute to settle down into a super-thick, creamy topper to the beer.

You can smell some piney hops from this one the second you start pouring, and those don’t go away. Not many people think of Woodstock as putting out big, hoppy beers...and this one still isn’t huge...but they’ve definitely shown they know how to utilize the hops between this and 4000'er IPA. Behind the hops you’ll find some spicy rye notes that go great with the pine and a neutral-ish, if not slightly earthy, English yeast signature.

Taking my first sip I think, “Yep, I’d be more than happy to hike through this place and get this beer!” And I’d know! As a regular to the White Mountains and the area around where Woodstock is located, I’ve settled down for a pint or two after a day of being outside more times than I can remember. It’s got a creamy, full mouthfeel that doesn’t leave you thinking you’ve got yourself a weak beer. This has some sustenance to it! The hops are strong and bitter, but in balance with a significant bit of sweet, doughy malt. The rye kicks a bit of spice into the mid-palate, again complementing the piney hop flavors well!

All in all this is a great beer to sit and drink, either at the bar inside or out on their fantastic patio when the weather allows!

Beer of the Month Club Review - January 2011 - Gourmet Monthly Clubs

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.

Join this beer of the month club or compare other beer of the month clubs.

RJ Rockers Patriot Pale AleRJ 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 IPALakefront 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 RingerRJ 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 StoutLakefront 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!