Drink Craft Beer
When I think of Mystic Brewery one word comes to mind, saison. Mystic has built a cult following over the last year or so based on their exceptional line of saisons. As a brewery they actually challenged my idea of what a saison was, and really opened my eyes to the unlimited possibilities out there. While perusing the shelves on my local beer store I saw a new bottle on the shelf. On first glance you might actually miss the fact that it's from Mystic. As it turns out this series was spurred by one of Mystic's original employees, Alastair Hewitt, who is originally from the UK. Let me just say right now that I'm really glad they hired him.
I really like the way they've branded this series. If you try this beer expecting traditional Mystic funk then you'll be disappointed. If, however, you go into this beer looking for an amazing English inspired Oatmeal stout then you'll be in heaven. This is one of the best oatmeal stouts I've had in recent memory, perhaps ever. The aroma is laced with a subtle sweetness with hints of roasted malt. The first sip just pulled me in, though, in reality I can't call it a sip so much as a gulp, it was just so good as soon as I tasted it that I had to have more (cue Will Ferrell jokes). Seriously though, it's incredibly smooth, the oatmeal provides a fantastically good round mouth feel that just begs you to keep drinking more of it. The roasted malt is fairly subtle and the balance between malt bitterness and sweetness is sublime. I don't normally gush over beers like this but it's that good. One of the things that makes me happiest is a single line of text on the bottle "traditional ale series." That one line means there's more to come, and if the rest are anything like this then we're in for some seriously good beer.
This is one of those spur of the moment stories. This summer Notch Brewing has launched the Notch Patio Liter Mug Tour, a great series of events that are exactly what they sound like: people drinking session beer from Notch branded liter mugs on bar patios all around the city. Last night (Thursday, July 24, 2014), the Notch crew was to take over Firebrand Saints in Cambridge, MA...until a called from the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC), saying that liter mugs violated the Happy Hour Regulations, ABCC would be monitoring the event, and that the use of liter mugs would not be allowed. It seems that the glasses violated the rules around only serving a patron two drinks at a time.
In typical Notch fashion, they found a way to have a successful event anyway and, today, much venting online began, including this story on the episode by The Boston Herald. But the story is closed, no liter mugs allowed, too bad. Right? Well, it seems not so...
This morning (Friday, July 25, 2014), I decided to shoot an email to the ABCC to get some clarification on, 1) what constitutes a single serving; 2) why are 32 oz half yards allowed, but not ~34 oz liter mugs; and 3) why would 16 oz servings of high alcohol beer be allowed, but not ~34 oz servings of lower alcohol beer when the former has more alcohol in it?
Within a couple of hours I got a phone call (shortly after Gary Strack, owner of Firebrand Saints received a similar one) from Ralph Sacramone, Executive Director of MA ABCC, about this. He said that the call to Firebrand Saints the night before was a hoax, and that his office made no such call. He went on to say that the event at Firebrand Saints' was within Happy Hour Regulations and that they have no problem with liter mugs.
To be fair, there are some who are saying that this may just be the ABCC back pedaling on the issue after having their hand exposed more than usual on a regulatory interpretation. Who knows, but I don't find that too likely. It was a few beer and drinks industry folks unhappy about a ruling. If the ABCC back pedaled every time that happened, we'd have very different alcohol rules in Massachusetts. What do they care about a few of us being unhappy with a ruling? So, until someone shows me any evidence to prove otherwise, I'm sticking with my story: The call to Firebrand Saints was a hoax, and liter mugs are allowed in Massachusetts.
Now, let's all go down a liter of Notch Brewing Pils to celebrate!
A pilsner brewed by Oskar Blues, this is their first canned lager. We were able to try this on-tap at Sunset Bar & Grill in Allston, MA and it's quite good. This will be a great beer to take camping or boating in the summer! A delicious beer to session, it's just hoppy enough without being overbearingly so. This will definitely make it into the regular rotation!
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?
Drink Craft Beer: What was the turning point (a beer or moment) that made you love craft beer?
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
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?
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.
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.
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...
I love Spring, not just because the snow is thawing, the days are getting longer and the salt and grime washes away with each passing rainstorm (though I do love it for all of those reasons) but, rather, because Spring seasonals comprise some of my favorite beers. Big stouts get lots of love in Winter and the pumpkin beer craze gets bigger every year in Autumn. Spring on the other hand is open to a lot of interpretation; in general though I see a theme of something fresh, something new and something exciting.
Mayflower Spring Hop is one of those beers that signals the start of Spring to me. OK, sure, hops are not a seasonal ingredient in the strictest sense. But Spring is when our dormant hop plants begin sprouting, hinting at a new crop to come, and for that reason this is a perfect Spring beer. Normally I prefer beers that are late hopped, which tends to lead to stronger citrus or spice notes, but this beer has a serious in-your-face bitterness. Mayflower calls this a red ale, and it does have an awesome deep copper hue to it and a killer malt backbone, but as the name might hint at the real star is the hops. Citrusy, floral and definitely bitter this beer packs a serious punch, though at only 5.3% ABV you can have a few. In fact, I think I'm going to go open another right now.
I'd encourage you to go out an pick some up, but you can also try it at Drink Craft Beer Springfest: A Celebration of Hops this April.