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Wormtown Brewery's Ben Roesch [5 Questions]

Author // Jeff Wharton

So I heard you like to drink local craft beer? Well maybe it's time you meet a man who helps bring you those local beers that you love so...and he's been brewing with local ingredients since before it was cool (although Ben not being a hipster and all, he probably wouldn't put it that way). You've see his beer throughout Massachusetts (his brewery, Wormtown Brewery, will even be at the 2013 Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest in November!), including Be Hoppy IPA, MassHole Hefeweizen and so many more delicious options. But why is his beer so delicious? Maybe it's the use of local ingredients in every beer, as mentioned above. Or maybe it's the fact that he trained under Will Meyers, Brewmaster at the acclaimed Cambridge Brewing Company. Perhaps he's just gifted? Or could it be a blend of all of that and more? Luckily, I was able to get some of Ben's time and so, without further ado, I'll quit my conjecture and go straight to the man himself for these answers.

And remember, if Ben seems like a cool guy who you'd like nothing more than to meet, you can! Just grab your tickets to Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest in November and he'll be behind the Wormtown booth pouring brew.

Drink Craft Beer: How did you get into craft beer?

Ben Roesch: I started drinking craft beer in college at UMass Amherst [with] Berkshire Brewing and Paper City being on tap at local bars. From their it grew to trying different styles and, eventually, getting into homebrewing to try my hand at it.

Wormtown Brewery's Ben Roesch

DCB: What was the turning point (a beer or moment) that made you love craft beer?

BR: My own first recipe and homebrewing. I went out to a farm and got sap and syrup and then brewed a maple lager in my roommate's closet. It showed me that with attention to detail and inspiration I could make craft beer happen. That was also the first spark of using local ingredients that I have carried with me throughout my career. 

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.

BR: Cambridge Brewing Heather Ale, Harpoon Saison Various, The Lost Abbey Red Poppy, Jack's Abby Fire in the Ham, Wormtown Buddha's Juice, and [North Coast] Old Rasputin XII

DCB: You have one night in your favorite beer city. What city are you in and where do you go (it doesn’t all have to be beer)?

BR: Portland, Oregon staying at McMenamin's Kennedy School, visiting Powell's Books, hitting numerous brewpubs and food trucks.

DCB: What would you be doing for a career if you weren’t in beer?

BR: Forestry- that was what my degree is in from UMass. I would not regret a day spent on the Quabbin Reservoir where I was just a few days away from accepting a job before I decided to accept my first head brewer job. 

DCB: What do you drink when you’re not drinking craft beer (or beer at all)?

BR: Lots of coffee and water, occasionally kombucha, hard cider, bourbon, and whiskey.

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?

BR: More breweries opening, more consumer confusion about who and where the beer is actually being brewed, breweries that can't  consistently make quality beer will eventually have to close. Wormtown will be canning beer in early 2014, working on an expansion and possible new location. And I'll be out sourcing more local and unique ingredients. 

DCB: You can brew any beer you like, no matter the cost and consumer demand, what would you make and what dream ingredients would you use?

BR: Imperial stout brewed with all maple sap no water. Barrel aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels.

DCB: Thanks so much for your time, Ben! Looking forward to seeing Wormtown at Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest in November!

Craft Beer Summer Six Pack 2013

Author // Jeff Wharton

A few weeks ago our friends over at Thrillist Boston contacted us for our top two beer recommendations for summer. It was a hard choice and made me realize just how many awesome options there are for the hot weather! Many people decry summer as a time of mediocre golden ales, but we’re here to tell you that this ain’t so! From easy drinking cream ales to crazy, tart German-styled brews we’ve got you covered for any cookout, camping/beach trip, stoop drinking (for you city folks like me) or what have you.

Craft Beer Summer Six Pack

So come join us in drinking these delicious summer libations! And, if you’re not in the New England area, we’re trying to help by providing a style to look for and we’d love to hear your suggestions! Finally, if you're in Boston for July 12 & 13, come down to Drink Craft Beer Summerfest (at Space 57 in Downtown Boston) to sample 80+ summery beers from 25 of New England's best brewers! Get the info here.

Grey Sail Flagship Ale - The All Day Drinker

Grey Sail Flagship Ale

When you think of a lower alcohol all-day drinker, this is it. A cream ale is similar to lager in taste, clean and crisp, and this one fits the bill. It’s got a mild aroma with a grainy character that says, “this is just a beer.” It’s going to go great with a burger or bbq chicken…plus, it’s low alcohol enough that it won’t mess up your ability to play yard games!

Can’t get this one? Try a few different cream ales. What do you suggest?

Mayflower Summer Rye - The All Day Drinker, But More Interesting

Mayflower Brewing Summer Rye

If you’ve been reading Drink Craft Beer for any length of time, you know of our love for this beer! We were going to select it for our Thrillist recommendations, but the wise Suzanne from Craft Beer Cellar beat us to it. This was the surprise hit at a buddy’s wedding a couple years ago, with craft beer lovers and grandparents who drink nothing but lager all going back for more! Slight Belgian-influenced, it’s got fruity/citrusy notes, a wheaty, minerally dry body and carbonation that keeps you asking for more. And, again, low alcohol makes it great for the heat!

Can’t get this one? Try some Belgian Wits. It’s not identical, but they’re close. Or do you have other ideas? What do you suggest?

Mystic Brewery Table Beer - The Fancy Beer

Mystic Brewery Table Beer

So you need to fancy up that cookout? Everybody is going to sit around a table together, all formal-style? Well then grab a couple of these corked and caged beauties from Mystic Brewery and you’re good to go! You can tell your friends this is basically what Belgian farmhands drank after a hard day in the fields…very similar to a leisurely day at your place, right? Crisp and complex, this one derives everything from the yeast isolated by the fermentation geniuses over at Mystic (seriously, founder Bryan Greenhagen has a PhD in fermentation). It’s a little spicy, just a touch of apples and a hint of banana…but it’s all so restrained that it’ll go great with whatever you’re serving.

Can’t get this one? Try a few different saisons! Almost every region has at least one brewer making one now. What do you suggest?

Mystic will be at Drink Craft Beer Summerfest in downtown Boston on July 12 & 13. Get your tickets and come on by to try more than 80 beers by them and 24 other New England brewers!

Wormtown MassWhole Hefeweizen - Traditional, Yet Different From Your Normal

Wormtown Brewing MassWhole Hefeweizen

Someone once said, “there aren’t enough Hefeweizens in craft beer!” OK, that someone was me. But it’s true. Check this one out and then tell me it’s not. Banana and clove are in your nose as you bring the glass to your mouth. It’s effervescent, minerally  and dry from the wheat. It’s full on your tongue, yet doesn’t coat it nor is it overwhelming. This may be the perfect hot weather beer! Interesting, yet it doesn't get in the way. And this particular version is chock full of local ingredients, including wheat from Valley Malt, in Hadley, MA which we love! The local grain gives an especially neat distinctive component to the flavor.

Can’t get this one? Try a few different hefeweizens! Almost every region has at least one brewer making one now. What do you suggest?

Wormtown will be at Drink Craft Beer Summerfest in downtown Boston on July 12 & 13. Get your tickets and come on by to try more than 80 beers by them and 24 other New England brewers!

Founders Brewing All Day IPA - The All Day Drinker, Plus Hops

Founders Brewing All Day IPA

OK, OK! We hear you, you want hops! Well if you like citrusy, juicy, flavorful hops without an overwhelming bitterness, then this is your cookout beer of choice my friend. It smells like a bucket of those delicious flowers that give beer its bitterness and flavor, yet, it’s not 1000+ IBUs. Honestly, I just want to go get another one now because it’s so good. Tropical fruit flavors will cascade down your tongue as you drink this elixir. “But,” you say, “there’s tons of great IPAs…why this one?” Well, because it’s only 4.5% abv. Which makes it great for hot weather and outdoor drinking over long periods of time. Am I right?

Can’t get this one? Try a few different pale ales! It’s a fairly ubiquitous style...just watch the alcohol as it can rise quickly! What do you suggest?

The Tap Intergalactic Acid - And Now for Something Completely Different

Tap Brewing Company Intergalactic Acid

2013 is a year that will go down in history here at Drink Craft Beer…it’s the year that The Tap Brewing Company in Haverhill, MA started bottling their amazing berliner weisse. This is a beer that Devon and I usually go to the brewpub every summer to drink by the pitcher (it’s only 3% abv, so we each get one), then we bring several growlers home. This beer means summer here at Drink Craft Beer! And now you can drink it at home. It’s mildly tart and refreshing, perfect for a hot summer day. We’ve heard of this style being sold as “Belgian Lemonade” at some brewpubs in other areas and, with the acid, slight citrus notes and tartness it makes sense. Traditionally you can put raspberry of woodruff syrup into the beer to temper the tartness, but we say try it plain!

Can’t get this one? You might be out of luck...this style is rarely made. Have you had a good local version? What do you suggest?

The Tap will be at Drink Craft Beer Summerfest in downtown Boston on July 12 & 13. Get your tickets and come on by to try more than 80 beers by them and 24 other New England brewers!

Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale - Bonus Beer!

Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale Stovepipe Can

Yes, we know this is the seventh beer in a six-pack article. Consider it a baker’s six-pack? Or a bonus beer. Basically, we know we don’t need to tell you have great Dale’s Pale Ale is. It’s bitter, it’s grapefruity hoppy, it’s delicious! If you like IPAs then this beer is for you. We’re not here to tell you how good it is…we’re here to point out that they have a new stovepipe can! Almost 20oz of this brew, all for you. Yeah, sometimes you just want a big can of hops to the face while you’re walking around the yard on a 90° day. And, when that happens, this is the one you should check out.

Let’s be honest...almost everyone can get Dales Pale Ale. If not, there are several other local IPAs in cans throughout the country. But you may be hard pressed to find it in a stovepipe can.

So what are your summer suggestions? Live in New England, well then what did we miss? Live somewhere else? Let us know some alternatives, what’s in style for our recommendations? Cheers, and enjoy the heat! And, if you're in Boston for July 12 & 13, come down to Drink Craft Beer Summerfest (at Space 57 in Downtown Boston) to sample 80+ summery beers from 25 of New England's best brewers! Get the info here.

Blue Mountain Barrel House Mandolin [Beer Review]

Author // John Roche

Three hours southwest of Washington, D.C. is rural Nelson County, Virginia. With a population of about 15,000 people, this region at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains isn't exactly where I would expect to find three craft breweries and a whiskey distillery.  But I have found that Nelson County is the home of the Blue Mountain Barrel House, a spin-off of the Blue Mountain Brewery, and they consistently deliver amazing beers. Their take on a Belgian Tripel called Mandolin is not exception. The first time I saw it on a shelf I immediately grabbed a bottle. The second time I saw it, I grabbed another. I’ve only recently been able to resist the impulse. The quality is great, though that isn't a huge surprise, as the Barrel House spin-off was purposefully built around a series of high quality, special and big beers.

Blue Mountain Barrel House Mandolin Ale

So what does Mandolin taste like? Well, that is hard to answer. Every time I try this beer I notice a different nuance of flavor. It pours nicely into a glass with a deep golden hue and a moderate head – and immediately gives off a bouquet of spicy Belgian yeast, and wet grass/hay. The carbonation is spot on, with the bubbles providing just the right amount of effervescence to enliven and enhance the numerous flavors, but not so much that the beer feels too thin or fizzy. Actually, on my second taste I thought it was perhaps a bit too sweet or syrupy – but I’ll attribute that to batch variation, as each subsequent try provides a lush, mouth-coating but even-keeled sensation. It feels like I’m drinking something a little upscale, maybe a fancy import from Belgium, and I want to sip it while sitting in a deep, plush leather armchair.

As I work my way though a glass there are flavors of raisins, melon, green apple, honey, coriander and white pepper that commingle on my tongue, and end with a slight note of bitter orange rind. It’s really quite interesting how the flavors come in and out over the course of the bottle.  

I hope you get a chance to try this beer, but be forewarned – if I have been to your favorite craft beer store recently, I may have bought out the stock.

Port City Brewing Optimal Wit [Beer Review]

Author // John Roche

For those of you who are married, or are in the process, you know that there are a lot of decisions to be made.  Despite the fact that many of these decisions end up having little consequence on the outcome of the day – each and every one carries your mark, and they often have a deep meaning to you or your spouse.  Among the decisions I needed to make for my wedding last spring was what to serve at the reception. Many caterers had a limited set of offerings in packages that ranged from expensive and boring to outrageously expensive and still boring. Fortunately, our caterer allowed me to select and purchase whatever I desired.

Port City Brewing Optimal Wit

I decided to embrace my new home and provide a selection of local craft beers to our guests. With three carefully selected choices, one each from D.C., Maryland and Virginia I had to find something that would offer great flavor, pair well with the warm spring weather, and please a diverse group of people.

Optimal Wit – a Belgian style white ale brewed by Port City Brewing Company was the hands down winner to represent Virginia and is still a household favorite when the spring and summer months roll around.  Take a deep breath before your first taste and you’ll find that notes of coriander and ginger dominate. In your mouth those spices hit first, followed closely by a mellow sweetness, orange zest and grains of paradise all juxtaposed against a backdrop of a mildly spicy Belgian yeast and raw wheat. When the temperatures get warm “spiced” beers can start to turn my stomach, but Optimal Wit exhibits a balance, both in the use of spices and in the degree of carbonation that keeps things crisp, flavorful and refreshing.  

I can’t help but notice the similarities to the popular Sam Adams Summer Ale, and if you are a fan of that beer you’ll find that there is a little bit more body and depth of flavor to Optimal Wit and, of course, the Belgian yeast adds a fun element as well. Most importantly, you can bring this to the picnic table at a crab feast and not be heckled for bringing a Massachusetts beer to a Mid-Atlantic tradition.  Over the course of a hot summer afternoon cool beers and conversation flows as crabs are picked for their sweet meat. The coriander, ginger and grains of paradise in particular compliment, not overshadow, the delicate sweetness of crab, while the beer cuts through the Old Bay seasoning and cleanses your palette for the next bite.