Drink Craft Beer
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.
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!
A few years ago, in 2012, Drink Craft Beer highlighted several Saisons in a piece called "For the Love of Saison." Back then, American craft brewers making Saison was a somewhat new phenomenon. Today there are breweries throughout America that are trying their hands at brewing a Saison, each with a unique take on the classic Belgian style. I took the time to collect and sample some Saisons from across New England, and I am happy to report that the style is still going strong. (Editor's Note: Everything seen here is available in Massachusetts, and several of them are available throughought New England.)
The first Saison I sampled is also one of the latest entries into the style. Allagash Brewing out of Portland, Maine recently released its own Saison as their first new year-round beer in seven years. It pours a nice straw color, with a fruity aroma that is immediately noticeable. The yeast and spice profile in this one really stand out, resulting in a flavorful beer that is very drinkable at 6.1%. It's a great Saison in many ways!
Two Roads Worker's Comp Saison
The next brew I tasted is also fairly new, at least when it comes to the Massachusetts craft beer scene. Two Roads Brewing Company of Stratford, Connecticut just recently expanded its distribution to Massachusetts, and I am certainly glad they did. Their Saison is crisp and refreshing with a farmhouse flavor that is nicely complemented by notes of wheat and rye. At only 4.8%, this one is also easy to drink. My tastebuds certainly feel compensated!
It's arguable that our menacingly delicious HopDevil has always been "wild." Though the India Pale Ale style that he represents was born in Great Britain, we approached the style with German malts and whole flower American hops, making a unique ale of him, indeed. But what has made him truly wild is a change of yeast. Brettanomyces yeast has given many a Belgian ale its soulful character of sharp tang and deep funk. Fermented completely with brettanomyces, WildDevil features the greatest flavors of Europe and America combined. Floral, aromatic hops still leap from this amber ale, but a whole host of new flavors are intertwined with the citrus and pine flavors of these hops, making WildDevil a sensation that is wild, worldly and wonderful!
We had a chance to try this beer last summer at the American Craft Beer Fest in Boston and WOW! The 100% brettanomyces fermentation does not give it that traditional brett character! It's citrusy and clean and bright! The yeast definitely works great with the hops and the two meld to form some great flavors. If this is the same thing they had on tap there, then this is one delicious beer that we can't wait for!
Way back in the blustery days of February I had the pleasure of meeting up with two-thirds of Downeast Cider House: Ross Brockman, Co-Founder/Admiral of the Market/Carpenter, and Tyler Mosher, Co-Founder/Chief of Selling/Electrician (unfortunately Ben Manter, Co-Founder/Master of Fermentation/Plumber wasn’t able to join us). When they aren’t creating & fulfilling their crazy titles, these three are more than busy growing their unfiltered craft cider house which launched in early 2012, producing their juicy flagship offering, Downeast Original Blend with a second addition to the lineup due later this summer. Here’s what Tyler and Ross shared with Drink Craft Beer.
Drink Craft Beer: So guys, how did Downeast Cider come to be?
Tyler Mosher: My dad knew Ben [Manter, co-founder] grew up on an apple orchard and that the three of us didn’t know exactly what we wanted to do after school except NOT a desk job & he casually said, "Oh why don’t you guys start a hard cider company?" We probably took it far more seriously than he intended, ha ha. Basically a few weeks after that we started homebrewing ciders.
Ross Brockman: Tyler had to write a senior thesis soon after his dad’s comment and decided to write his senior thesis on hard cider basically. We formed the company in April (2011) and moved up to Waterville, Maine full time in August (2011) to work on it.
Downeast Founders from right to left: Tyler Mosher, Ben Manter & Ross Brockman
(Image used with permission of Downeast Cider House)
DCB: What was your experience with hard ciders before that?
Ross: We actually started to experience cider more abroad. Ben and I were down at the World Cup in South Africa and we would go out to the bars and there was always lots of hard cider being drank. With that we learned what we enjoyed and [what we] didn’t and what we were looking to make. One way some big companies do it is to use apple concentrate and add water and we wanted our cider to be kind of in the ballpark of what it’s like to drink fresh cider at the Manter’s orchard. We all know the difference between drinking Mott’s Apple Juice and fresh cider from a farm stand. Our goal was to make our cider the real apple flavor, not the “Motts” of cider. The aroma is distinctly like the apple fruit, not like green apple Jolly Rancher “apple” flavor. That was our goal, and we use real, fresh ingredients and not the shortcut.
DCB: Speak of your flagship offering, tell us more about your Original Blend.
Tyler: Our Original Blend is straight down the middle, not too dry, not too sweet, a decent body – it’s unfiltered. Just a true apple taste, the yeast is a lot of flavor too. We use an ale yeast to brew with.
Ross: Typically lots of hard ciders are made with champagne yeast which makes it a lot drier, more like champagne. But using the ale yeast was part of our goal of making this be more of an alternative to beer and the way it drinks than drinking a champagne with that dryness. One of the reasons I love Allegash White is that it has that yeast flavor that I look for, really drinkable.
Tyler: We use a combination of Cortland, MacIntosh, Red Delicious and Gala.
DCB: Having starting just this year how has it gone so far?
Ross: We wouldn’t say smooth sailing but nothing too crazy. I mean if it was easy to start a company everyone would be starting up companies. How much everything cost was a shock. We’ve come to the conclusion that everything costs double what you expect it to cost.
Tyler Mosher with the multiple test batches that led to Original Blend.
(Image used with permission of Downeast Cider House)
DCB: It’s got to be exciting the first time you see your cider out at a bar or restaurant.
Tyler: First time we saw a tap handle at a bar [with our cider] we had gone to the local bar because we were being interviewed by a local paper and they were documenting it - pretty exciting and nerve - wracking. It’s been received well, which is great.
Ross: Pretty funny story. We started pouring that first day and the paper was interviewing these few regulars who spend all day at the bar since they were the only other people [there] at that time. So we come to find out that after that first day, these guys have switched over from drinking Bud all day to drinking our cider. We go through sooo much cider at this place because these four guys drink it all day long; one guy was telling us he feels cleaner & better drinking it. That is the local bar, we lived down the street - it’s definitely fun to see.
DCB: We always love to hear different food & drink suggestions, what have you discovered with Downeast Cider?
Tyler: For food, cider is great in marinades and sauces as a starting point. It’s also a great gluten-free alternative for anything you might use beer in for cooking or baking.
Ross: There is a big population with gluten-free needs due to illness or even personal diet preference; we’re happy to offer them a great option. Cider goes with everything! Apple is a great base and so it is hard to find something that DOESN’T go with cider. [For drinks] Fireball whiskey is a big one with cider, really good. Honey, wine – all are great twist to it.
[Writer’s note: Downeast has a whole page dedicated to different cider beverages check it out or create & submit one of your own.]
DCB: Thanks for sharing with us Ross & Tyler, can’t wait to see what Downeast brings in the future. Cheers!
[Since the Interview: Exciting news for Downeast Cider (and us Massachusetts residents), as of May 1st their cider is available in Massachusetts and they're finalizing paperwork for New Hampshire. As we hear where to find their delicious cider, we will be sure to pass that on to all of you via our Twitter and our Facebook page, or follow Downeast Cider on Twitter and Facebook to get their latest updates as well.
Also, Downeast Cider will now be at Drink Craft Beer Summerfest: A Celebration of Farmhouse Ale! They're making a special cider fermented with Saison yeast just for the event, so you're definitely not going to want to miss this! Get tickets here.]
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!