Over the last few years, we've seen tons of new breweries open. While this has been going on, though, I sometimes like to take a moment to remember that some of the companies have been running for nearly twenty years! The new stuff is great, and it's very exciting to see the growth. But it's also important to look back on those who helped get this craft beer thing started...especially when they're still kicking ass and going strong! Over the years, Smuttynose Brewing Co. has grown into a Portsmouth, NH-based powerhouse and will soon be moving to Hampton, NH to continue it's growth...they're also the makers of one of my favorite IPAs in the entire world! Founder Peter Egelston is one of the main men in New England craft beer, having had a hand in founding Smuttynose Brewing Co., Northampton Brewery (with his sister, who now owns it) and Portsmouth Brewery. They've grown leaps and bounds over their twenty year life and have kept up with, and set the bar on many occasions for, innovations in the craft beer world with their Big Beer Series and Short Batch Series, the latter of which they've begun to release in limited 750ml bottles. I wanted to talk to the guy who makes all this delicious beer possible, Smuttynose's Director of Brewing Operations, Dave Yarrington.
Drink Craft Beer: How did you get into craft beer?
Dave Yarrington: I got into craft beer in college. It was the late '80's and there were some small brewers starting to appear on the scene. I went to school at Colby College in Maine and we were getting beer from Geary's by that point. My degree is in chemistry and I had a professor that encouraged me to homebrew, which turned out to be great advice.
DCB: What was the turning point (a beer or moment) that made you love craft beer?
DY: After my junior year my friend Todd and I spent the summer traveling out west visiting friends and partying way too much (oh Vegas, you evil place...) We stopped by small breweries along the way and really started to get a feel for what was happening in "microbrewed" beer. This was 1990 and supply was limited so anywhere we could find a small brewery we were stoked. The real turning point for me was a long afternoon spent at the Anchor Brewery in SF. We proceeded to be wonderfully hosted (read over served) and were absolutely blown away by just how fresh and beautifully presented all of the beer was. One of the brewers was pouring us beer and he mentioned that a degree in chemistry was probably a good entry point into a brewing career. I then went back to school with renewed focus and 20 years later I'm still at it.
DCB: 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.
DY: Since it's a magical beer shop I'm going to choose beers that may not be still available but I really wish were:
Watneys Red Barrel
De Dolle Stille Nacht Special Reserve from 2000
Ballantine Burton Ale
DCB: What would you be doing for a career if you weren’t in beer?
DY: I don't know about career but I'd probably be a trout bum somewhere out west. I imagine I'd have moved on from my post college life in Jackson, WY complaining about the cost and the overcrowded fishing and made my way ever further north and west. I'd probably be somewhere in Alaska laughing at all the suckers lined up shoulder to shoulder on the Yellowstone River while I'm executing a perfect double haul to take a 30 lb King on a streamer. Wait a minute...why am I not a trout bum?
DCB: 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?
DY: I think it's going to be full steam ahead in the next few years in the craft beer world. Lots of new beer hitting the market and most of it is of great quality. Consumers are going to be loving all the new offerings. Existing breweries are going to need to be vigilant about staying relevant and keeping pace creatively. For Smuttynose that's a big part of why we're building our new facility in Hampton, NH. The 13 acre Towle Farm property will house our LEED certified brewery with state of the art equipment ready to make plenty of great beer.
DCB: Great, thanks so much for your time, Dave! And we're really looking forward to checking out the new brewery and whatever else new you guys have coming down the pipeline...also, I always look forward to knocking back a few Smutty IPAs!
A few weeks after Mystic Brewery (makers of one of our Top 11 Craft Beers of 2011) confirmed that they would be at Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest 2012, they posted on their blog that they'd just come back from getting 200 lbs of local Massachusetts cranberries. They said they'd try to bring this finicky yeasted creature to the fest and, lucky us, it turns out that the fermentation gods were on our side. Besides running around and making sure everything is perfect for both brewers and attendees during our fests, one of the perks is that we get to try a ton of great beer over the weekend, and this was one of them for me. After I had my two ounce sample, I knew that wouldn't be enough. So I grabbed a bottle over at South Boston's new Social Wines. So let's see how it is and if my memory served me well!
As I pour, a big, fluffy, large bubbled white head forms and quickly recedes down to a white film atop the beer. While I expected a reddish hued brew, this one pours a creamy orange color with a good bit of haze. Honestly, if you told me this was a cranberry beer, I woudln't believe you based on sight.
Three Cranes has a mild, berry-ish smell but not sharp and acidic as I'd expected. It's got almost a creamy nose to it and a nice, smooth citrus aroma. The Mystic Brewery house saison yeast definitely shows through a bit and complements the fruit perfectly. Behind that is a little clean grain. There's virtually no hop presence to this one, which is perfect for what they're looking to do.
Ooh, it's got a little sharp tartness up front, most likely from the acidic cranberries! The grain, while mild in the aroma, is a serious player when it comes to taste: dry, almost a little chalky and just like malted barley out of the bag. It's a great taste that really showcases the agriculture that goes into a beer like this. The signature Mystic yeast is subdued a bit compared to the fruit, which is nicely balanced as I'd expect from this brewery. I would call this an invigorating beer for autumn and winter...it's not fortifying, as 7% abv isn't quite strong enough for that...but invigorating definitely! I don't normally like fruit beer, but this is something different altogether. Well done to the Mystic folks on Three Cranes, as I can't keep from going back for another sip. Definitely check this one out, even if you normally pass over fruit beer.
For Fall to Winter Fest we've teamed up with Peak Organic Brewing Company to create something very special. We knew that, following Summerfest: A Celebration of Farmhouse Ale, we had to step it up a notch and we think we did just that. With Fall to Winter Fest focused on seasonal ingredients, we knew that Jon and Rob from Peak Organic were the perfect partners for our project to create a beer just for this fest. They are very supportive of local, seasonal ingredients and work very closely with farms throughout New England to get a lot of their ingredients. They take it one step farther, even, and keep it all organic. Plus, they are absolute wizards at sourcing hard to find ingredients. When they were enthusiastic about the project right off the bat, we knew we'd found the right team!
One night, over a couple of beers, we threw around concepts and missions for the beer and all went off to think. Over the next couple weeks we went back and forth, trying to come up with something that we thought really told the story of the fest while also showcasing great local and seasonal ingredients. We wanted to show that fall is more than pumpkin...we wanted to use ingredients that were locally sourced...we wanted to do something that would make you think both "fall" and "winter"...and all the flavors had to fit together just right! The final product, now known as "Nut Your Average Ginger," is made of:
- Organic barley malted at Valley Malt in Hadley, MA.
- Organic Cascade hops from Blue Heron Farm in Lincoln, MA, actually picked in part by Rob from Peak Organic.
- Honey from Chef Will Gilson's farm in Groton, MA. Chef Gilson is opening Puritan & Co. in Inman Sq.
- Freshly picked organic Massachusetts-grown ginger from Old Friends Farm in Amherst, MA.
- Pureed chestnuts*
*(Chestnuts were historically grown in New England but a blight killed nearly the entire population in the first half of the last century. Despite this, we searched all over for a local chestnut supplier and found one. Unfortunately, the one grower we found had lost his entire crop this year due to bad weather last year. So, we ended up getting them from Baldor, the only distributor of non-sweetened chestnut puree.)
With a test recipe in hand, we set off for suburban Massachusetts to brew a 5 gallon homebrew batch (none of use had ever brewed with ginger or chestnut puree before). Once the recipe was vetted (and it's delicious, we've got to say) it was time to trek up to Maine to brew the batch that you'll all drink at Fall to Winter Fest this weekend (November 30 and December 1, 2012). Or, you can check it out at our fest pre-party on Thursday, November 29 from 6-9pm at Stoddard's Pub! If you can't make the fest, rumor has it that many of the kegs we don't use at the fest will be heading to Puritan & Co. when it opens.
This is the story of the brew day:
We'd like to thanks Brooks for having us into his brewery. Rob and Jon of Peak Organic Brewing Company for working with us on this beer and for sourcing all the wacky ingredients. Josh from Puritan & Co. and his girlfriend Stevie for coming up to Maine and helping us brew this beer...especially big thanks to Josh for shredding four lbs of freezing cold ginger with us!
New beers from Night Shift Brewing are always and exciting thing for me. I don't think I've ever had one I didn't like, but at the same time I never fully know what I'm going to get until I take that first sip. Such was the case with one of their newest releases Fallen Apple. The label describes the beer as "A golden ale, warmed with holiday spices, caught the fall of autumn’s last apples. We poured it into oak barrels of rum and brandy, and aged it as the leaves turned. Frosty weather now upon us, Fallen Apple kindles the tongue with flavors of caramel, baked apple, and spicy oak." Very descriptive and while accurate just doesn't do the beer justice.
The nose of the beer has nice hints of apple, almost like cider, not surprising as MA apple cider is one of the ingredients. There's hints of spice as well but they are subtle. The rum and brandy barrels warm the aroma and beg you to take a sip. The bottle recommends you drink this at 50 degrees and I'd echo that as mine was a bit too cold at first and some of the flavors felt sharp. After some patient waiting though I took a second sip...whoa...I didn't really know how to describe it at first, but I knew I liked it. The rum and brandy barrels add so much smoothness to this beer, but because it's only 6.3% abv there's no harshness at all. While there's sweetness it never feels overdone and the subtle notes of spice are just as subtle as they where in the aroma. The use of apple in this beer feels so unique, it's not a hard cider, but it feels like something just slightly different than beer. I won't worry about the semantics of that though as it tastes good and that's what I really care about. This is a beer to be sipped for sure and one to be shared at that. While the abv is low I don't know that I'd always want a full 750 to myself.
I do recommend you pick up a bottle while you can, or grab a ticket to Fall to Winter Fest this weekend where the beer will be featured.