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Drink Craft Beer & Jack's Abby Brewing Springfest Beer

It's early. Really early. I don't mean sunrise early but, rather, it's hours before sunrise in the middle of a freezing cold Boston winter early. The road is pitch black, my car headlights are the only illumination aside from the rare vehicle traveling in the opposite direction on the Mass Pike and the radio is still allowed to play some good tunes because nobody is listening at this godforsaken hour. Longtime Drink Craft Beer readers are probably getting familiar to this story, though, and know what it means...we're making beer!

There's something fulfilling about being the first person to drive through an industrial zone for the day. You cruise past desolate, dark buildings, past chain link fence and pull into the parking spot, climb out of the warm cocoon of your car and into the bracing winter freeze, careful not to slip on the frozen puddle you've parked on. Within moments, a car pulls up and...wait...is it? Yes! It's the guy with the key to the building which means I won't be waiting out here for long. Meet Jack Hendler, founder and brewer for the eponymously-named Jack's Abby, which he runs with his brothers Sam and Eric. "Abby" isn't misspelled, it's the name of Jack's wife.

Jack's Abby The ABCs Brew Day

It's 5:30 in the morning and it's almost time to mash in for the first of two 20 barrel batches that will be brewed today. Spring means hops. Many people will tell you that Autumn is the hoppiest time of the year, with fresh hop beers abounding but, in reality, Spring is when the hops start to poke their heads out of the ground. A perennial that requires a winter, without Spring, there wouldn't be any hops. And that's why both batches today will be The ABCs, a Double India Pale Lager that Jack's Abby is brewing as the official beer of our upcoming beer festival, Drink Craft Beer Springfest: A Celebration of Hops. In total, four batches will be made for a total of 80 barrels of beer. If that didn't wake you up, how about this: each batch uses over 50 lbs of hops - Apollo, Bravo, Calypso and Simcoe (hence "The ABCs"). That's a lot of hops, folks!

So check out this video about the making of The ABCs for Drink Craft Beer Springfest: A Celebration of Hops below, then make sure to get you tickets at the event website. If you want to see more behind the scenes photos of the brew day at Jack's Abby, check out this album on our Facebook page.

Victory Summer Love Ale [Beer Review]

You know when you just want a beer but you don’t want to think about it? Rather you want to be able to be outside playing baggo or wiffleball? Or maybe you want to socialize with friends and family? Whatever the activity, if it’s a situation where beer is a second thought to what’s at hand, don’t reach for some mass market lager because I’ve found your what you want! I first had Victory Summer Love at a big family gathering, and downed quite a few straight from the bottle while keeping busy in the yard with my cousins. But don’t take my word for it, here’s the details.

Victory Brewing Summer Love Ale

Crystal clear, light and a wispy head that quickly fades? If you didn’t know better you’d think I was describing something that was much less appealing. Having had this quite a few times, though, I’ll tell you to ignore any worry as this is a great beer for socializing and playing wiffle ball!

I hate to say this, because we all know that beer is a super diverse drink, but this smells like beer. There’s a bit of malt in it, very little hops and the well known mark of yeast having caused fermentation. You can tell it’s an ale as there’s a bit of fruitiness to the nose but, other than that, it’s a fairly neutral beer.

So I told you this was a great beer that you didn’t have to think about. The carbonation is smooth and not overwhelming. The hops provide a bit of flavor, but there’s nothing challenging about them. The malt is a bit sweet, balancing the hops, and has a great biscuity flavor. Over all, this is one of those beers that’s a delicious social lubricant. Don’t worry too much about it, just enjoy it! Cheers!

Smuttynose Launches 2009 Big Beer Series Subscription

For the very first time, New Hampshire's Smuttynose Brewing Company will be offering a subscription to get a case of each Big Beer they put out in 2009. The lineup is:

Image - Gravitation Belgian Quad (New Release) - early January, 2009
 - Imperial Stout - mid February
 - Maibock - late March
 - Baltic Porter - Early May
 - Farmhouse Ale - late June
 - Big A IPA - early August
 - Wheat Wine - mid September
 - Barley Wine - early November
 - S'Muttonator Double Bock - early December, 2009

ImageThis is one of the finest brewers on the East Coast, and each edition of their Big Beer Series is limited and often hard to get if you don't act right away... Their Big A has been known to sell out of stores within a week of release (and some stores sell out in a day). This subscription will ensure you get some of each one.

The downside? You have to buy a case of each and you have to pick it up at the Brewery. But, they will be having beer socials for the release of each brew. For all the details, check out the website here.

Interview with Dave Lambert, owner of Sherwood Forest Brewery

It's no secret that we're big fans of local beer. So, when we found out Sherwood Forest was launching a new beer, Sheriff's IPA, we wanted to get theSherwood Forest Archers Ale inside scoop. Sherwood Forest was one of the very first breweries to start canning craft beer with their Archer's Ale (pictured in bottle form on the right). We spoke with Dave Lambert, the owner of Sherwood Forest, about the launch of the new product. It turns out that the launch of Sheriff's IPA is just one of a few new products coming out. Read the full interview bellow:

First of all we noticed you're expanding your offerings. What made you decide to launch Sheriff's IPA and can you give us any details on this new offering?
Dave Lambert: We decided to come out with this due to a lot of feedback from our loyal fans and distributors. We have had only one style since we started back in1997, at that time we focused on getting the archer ale right and making a quality consistent English Ale. Once we felt we had been able to do that successfully we then decided to branch out to another style. With the IPA there is much more acceptance of this style and more and more are discovering that a well balanced hoppy IPA is a wonderful experience. Sheriff's uses Centennial, Cascade and Nugget with domestic 2 row pale malt and English Caramalt the result is an ABV of 6.0% and produces an American India Pale Ale, a bitterness, flavor and aroma dominated by these hops yet balanced with premium English specialty malts. A deep golden copper, clear and precise is the result and one that fits into our theme with the Sheriff!

DCB: Who/what inspired you to own a brewery? For Jon (Sherwood Forest's Brewer) or you, who/what inspired you to start brewing?
Dave Lambert: We just loved beer and both of us home brewed before we got into the business. We knew nothing about distribution or selling or anything else that goes into building a successful brewery. We just knew that we enjoyed beer and the process of making it!

DCB: Do you or have you homebrewed? If so, what was your most recent batch?
Dave Lambert: Yes we both have homebrewed; I have not done it now in over 3 years as Jon is in charge now of all of the test batch brews. I still have my homebrew system but have been to busy lately with building the business!

DCB: One trend that seems to be growing right now is the double/imperialization of almost every style. What's your take on this trend? Is this just a brewing fad or something you think will stick around?
Dave Lambert: I think that you stick with the basics when it comes to brewing; we have been probably too conservative in what we do; but we know what our customers look for from us. I think that this is more of a luxury to those that do doubles etc...we try to run a tight ship and we watch everything that we do and this does not fit into who we are.

DCB: Back in April 2006 you spoke with the Boston Globe about cannedbeer. At the time it was a tough sell for some accounts. Is that still the case, or have you seen a change in the market now that more breweries are moving to cans?
Dave Lambert: We were the 2nd company to do the canning in all of the U.S.; there was us and Dale's and that was it. When I spoke back then many did not understand why you would take a craft brewed ale and put it into a can! Fast forward to today there are now many small craft breweries canning and it is becoming much more accepted here in the U.S. as a unique way to package great craft brewed ales and lagers. We just loved the idea of drinking our product from a can while still realizing that the taste profile and flavor are not affected by the can at all. We have many customers who drink only the can which is great to see! So when I mentioned that it was a tough sell this was because we were the only ones out here on the East Coast out there all alone. Now we have many more who have come to see this as a great craft package!

DCB: Do you see yourself expanding your market? If so, where to?
Dave Lambert: Yes; currently we are in MA,CT,RI and NH so this is a lot to handle as is, but we have gotten many request to expand this distribution footprint but are just not in a position right now to produce enough product, this may change in the next year or two but right now we are pretty busy with what we have.

DCB: Coming back to your new beer offerings, how do you decide on which beer to bring to market? Is it driven by a desire to bring out a certain style? How many tests do you go through before the right beer is made?
Dave Lambert: This is a decision that our board makes! Jon and I!!! We both love IPA's and always wanted to bring our own to the market. Many of our loyal fans asked us for another style and we wanted to have one that even if it did not do well we could have a hefty supply for our own consumption!!

DCB: Adding a new brand is always a big move, but is there anything else other than the IPA in the near horizon?
Dave Lambert: Yes, Friar's Belgian White and Maiden's Blueberry

DCB: Anything else we should know about?
Dave Lambert: We are just a couple of guys getting up every day and loving what we do while trying to make sure we keep the Sheriff at Bay!!!

So there you have it! We've tried the Archer's Ale, in fact we drank a couple over the 4th of July and it's quite tasty, so give it a shot next time you see it. We haven't tried the IPA yet as it wasn't yet out at the time of this interview, but keep a look out for it at your favorite store. 


Beer of the Month Review - Amazing Clubs March

Hey all you craft beer drinkers! It's that time again! What time? New Beer of the Month from Amazing Clubs time! Yeah... we know, it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. But the beer... The beer tastes good. So let's get to it!

This month, we've got beer from High Country Brewing Company and Farmington River Brewing Company, made by Mercury Brewing Company. High Country sends their Blowing Rock Ale and Blowing Rock Bock, while Farmington River has their Blonde Ale and Brown Ale. With that in mind, let's get to the beer!

And, like always, if you want to join this club go here: Click to Join.

High Country Blowing Rock Ale

Appearance: Light golden

Smell Biscuity light honey notes

Taste: This tatses more like a lager than an ale to us, but it's really nice. Light and hoppy with a light honey like finish. Really tasty beer.