We all know the story of Johnny Appleseed. He was a pioneer that was born in Massachusetts and traveled west, planting apple trees wherever he went. Most of the apples that came from those trees weren't edible, so many settlers decided to use them to make hard cider. A lot has changed for cider since the days of the frontier. Craft cideries have sprung up across the country, and they're using much more than just apples in their cider.
One such cidery is Bantam Cider in Somerville, Massachusetts. Dana Masterpolo and Michelle da Silva founded Bantam back in 2012 with a mission of crafting unique and memorable ciders using the best ingredients they could find. A few months ago they opened a new tap room in their Somerville space. In order to explore the world of craft cider, I traveled out to the Bantam tap room to speak with one of the founders and sample some of Bantam's ciders.
Michelle da Silva (left) and Dana Masterpolo (right) standing in the barrel room of the Bantam cidery.
(All photos courtesy of David Salafia)
When I arrived at the tap room I decided to take a look around. The industrial space was simple yet elegant. Of course, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful wooden bar and the eight taps featuring Bantam's ciders in the middle of the room. I soon realized that I could see everything that was going on at the cidery, from the tanks where the cider's fermentation takes place to the bright tank where cider is carbonated and stored after it has fermented. I even saw the barrels that some of the cider, such as one called La Grande, is aged in.
Dana Masterpolo came soon after I arrived to greet me. I had plenty of questions for her, but my first was on what prompted them to open up a tap room of their own. "When we first started, we didn't really have a way to connect with the people that were drinking our products," Masterpolo says. "That was really important to us. We wanted to get feedback. We wanted people to get to know us. We wanted people to see our process." She told me about how they are now able to engage in more trial and error with their products. "Sometimes we'll only have a really short run of something we only have for a couple of weeks. Maybe that's all it deserves. But sometimes it's the surprising thing where we put something on and people respond very positively."
Drinking craft beer is a unique experience for everyone. All of our palates are different, and they continue to grow and change over time. We may choose to have a craft beer at a bar, a restaurant, or in the comfort of our own homes. How we experience drinking craft beer can be based on who we're with and what we're drinking as well as when, where, and why we are doing so. As we experience more, we learn more about the craft beer we enjoy, including how it's made.
Brewing is both an art and a science. There is a good amount of chemistry and engineering involved in making craft beer along with a great deal of creativity and imagination. Many people first try their hands at homebrewing to make beer for themselves as well as their family and friends. Yet, many people don't get to experience brewing due to the time, money, and space it requires. That's where Hopsters comes in.
The front entrance to Hopsters, located at 292 Centre Street in Newton, Massachusetts.
Hopsters opened in September of 2013 as a place for people to come and brew their own craft beer. Using one of Hopsters' 10 kettles, aspiring brewers are able to choose from over 30 recipes, gather a variety of local ingredients, and begin brewing their beer while being guided by Hopsters' brewmasters. Once the brewing process is complete, they can either return to bottle the beer and add their own custom labels or have the folks at Hopsters do it for them and have it delivered. Of course, the most satisfying part is when they are able to drink the craft beer that they hand-crafted themselves.
Since its opening, Hopsters has become much more than simply a place to brew craft beer. It now has a full bar offering a wide and rotating selection of craft beers from the area on tap. It also offers both lunch and dinner options in the form of soups, salads, sandwiches, flatbreads, as well as boards featuring charcuterie meats and artisanal cheeses. Most recently, Hopsters received its commercial brewing license, making it the first commercial brewery to be located in Newton since the 1600s! This has allowed Hopsters to begin offering its own hand-crafted beers on tap and to have a distributor send their beers to select restaurants, bars, and stores.
After hearing this exciting news, I had to get a better idea of what the Hopsters experience was like. So, I traveled out to Newton to meet with the owner of Hopsters, Lee Cooper. After taking a look around, I sat down with him to talk about the past, present, and future of Hopsters.
Summer is officially here, as we rung in the new season this week with some truly hot weather! And what better way to celebrate than by sampling over 80 summery beers and farmhouse ales at Drink Craft Beer Summerfest: A Celebration of Farmhouse Ale?! And this year we've got a way to win your way in, as well as something new and special for you!
B. Good Shandy Station
This year we're introducing the all-new B. Good Shandy Station for Drink Craft Beer Summerfest! We've long been proponents of the shandy, a mixture of craft beer and lemonade, and this year we're putting our money where our mouth is.
Longtime friend of Drink Craft Beer, B. Good, will be supplying both plain lemonade as well as rosemary lemonade for your mixing pleasure. (B. Good's lemonade is made with the same craftmanship that craft beer is, using only fruit juice, water, pure can sugar and fresh herbs in the rosemary lemonade's case.) Take any beer at Drink Craft Beer Summerfest and turn it into a shandy! Or, as we like to say, #GetShandied!
To help you get in the mood for 160+ possible shandy combos (80+ beers/siders and two types of lemonade), we're giving away a pair of tickets to one lucky person. That person will be able to attend a session of their choice where they'll have the chance to sample over 80 beers and ciders from 25 New England Brewers, as well as turn anything they want into a shandy.
How to Enter Contest is Over Entering is easy, just send a tweet on Twitter! There are two ways: OR Just tweet the following: "I want 2 tix to #GetShandied w/ @B_Good_ & 80 New England beers/ciders: http://ctt.ec/cfO9D+ Tix at: http://ctt.ec/9dad0+ #DCBSummerfest" Even if you don't win, you can always get tickets to Drink Craft Beer Summerfest. It's a great chance to beat the summer heat, relax with friends and enjoy some of the best craft beer New England has to offer.
The Fine Print:
- Contest closes at 8pm EDT Thursday, June 19th
- You must be 21+ to enter.
- Winner will be chosen at random.
- Winner will choose from one of three sessions on July 18th or 19th
- If you have already bought tickets and win, you'll be credited the price of two tickets on your original order.
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Buying craft beer isn't nearly as difficult as it used to be. There are plenty of stores out there that sell craft beer, but how many are dedicated to it? There's only a few, and one of the more well known chains is Craft Beer Cellar. The Brewers Association defines craft brewers as small, independent, and traditional. It is their beers that Kate Baker and Suzanne Schalow, the co-founders of the original Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont, stock in their stores and promote with a passion. I had a chance to chat with Suzanne about how Craft Beer Cellar was founded, the people that work there, and the customer experience.
The Craft Beer Cellar location in Newton, Massachusetts, opened October 30, 2013.
Suzanne just finished taking the rigorous two-day exam to become a Master Cicerone® in Chicago. She's still waiting for her results, but she told me that she is better for having done it. She's had many supporters that have helped her prepare for the exam, including those from Cambridge Brewing Company and Valley Malt. When I spoke with her, she and Kate had traveled to Missouri to help with the opening of the most recent Craft Beer Cellar location in Clayton.
Suzanne believes location isn't the only thing that is important when establishing a Craft Beer Cellar. "More than anything else, we're picking people." The owners of Craft Beer Cellar Clayton are an example of the kind of people they're looking for. Brandon and Ryan Nickelson are brothers with a love for all things craft beer. They traveled to Boston to meet with Kate and Suzanne, who showed them around the stores. Now they're more than excited to bring the one-of-a-kind Craft Beer Cellar to the St. Louis area.
Kate and Suzanne founded the original Craft Beer Cellar (also known as The Mothership) in Belmont, Massachusetts back in 2010 with a focus on quality brews from across the country and a special place in their hearts for those brewed locally. The name Craft Beer Cellar (a play on the word "seller") was chosen to conjure up images of the age-old practice of cellaring beer and to emphasize their mission to put craft beer first. Since then it's become a franchise, with locations throughout New England as well as Florida and Missouri. Suzanne said that a store in Nashua, New Hampshire is in the works and that there are many more to come.
The chalkboard at Craft Beer Cellar Newton, featuring a schedule of upcoming tastings.
To get a better look at the Craft Beer Cellar business model in action, I traveled out to the store in Newton, Massachusetts to do a bit of shopping. Before even walking in the door there is a sign with information on beer classes and other products (such as wine, sake, mead, and kombucha) that the store stocks. Though craft beer is their focus, that's definitely not all they sell. There are brownies and cheeses available to purchase for pairing with your beer. On top of that, brewers from all over New England and beyond come to Craft Beer Cellar to host tastings on a regular basis.
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!