Sometimes you find yourself in need of a hops fix, but you want to drink a few of them...like, a bunch of a few. The problem? You don't want to be falling down drunk. Let's say your at an all day cookout with friends, and those friends are pretty serious cornhole players (not that I'm talking from personal experience or anything). How do you keep sipping all day without letting your buzz get the best of you?
In the past, IPAs were a serious beer. If you found one around 6% abv, that was a weaksauce IPA. But oh how times have changed! Over the past couple years, a new, more gentle side of IPA has surfaced: the session IPA. Made with all the hop goodness of an IPA, but the alcohol content of a beer you can drink a few of without stumbling, it's the best of both worlds. And, come summer of 2014, this style has blown up in a way that many never dreamed. It seems like every brewery is putting one out, and who can blame them? There's been a bit of a recoil from the "bigger is better" days of craft beer led by the "extreme beer" movement and 10% double IPAs. We gathered up our favorites, so let's check out the lighter side of IPA.
New England Local
Notch Left of the Dial IPA (4.3%)
If you follow our Instagram, Twitter or Facebook then you’ll know that this beer is a staple at our cookouts and other summer events. If you buy the beer, you’ll find out why. As you bring it to your mouth, you get orange and citrus fruit smells. As you sip you get a clean, but present, malt and a deep hop flavor that coats the tongue gently and then is gone. It’s not resiny, it doesn’t linger. You enjoy it and then you’re done. The point of session beer is to be able to have a bunch and not have the beer be the focus. Left of the Dial does that. Like I said, there’s a reason this shows up at our cookouts.
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.