The holidays are officially over (whew!). Your favorite TV shows are coming back on, the Spring semester is beginning, and your New Year’s resolutions are still fresh (at least for the next month). Now that we’re back to our regularly scheduled activities, obviously you need some new brews, courtesy of…well…us! We’ve got an exciting year planned for the blog, and we hope you’ll be there to help us drink our way through it. Pub crawls, tastings, and other fun events will be diversifying our regular drinking calendar this year, and we’re incredibly excited to get it all started! But first things first, we have some new ratings for you to help you turn your mid-winter blues into a brewer’s paradise.
by Clown Shoes
Belgian Style Tripel IPA – 10% ABV – Ipswich, MA
Paul: For those of you unfamiliar with the lingo of Belgian beer, a “tripel” was created by a man named Witkap Pater in 1932. Since then, the style has become overwhelmingly popular throughout the world, and you can often find several tripels at some of our favorite bars in Boston, like Lord Hobo or The Publick House. Tripels tend to be golden in color, have a high malt content, and don’t skimp on alcohol. As far as these three characteristics are concerned the Muffin Top covers all the bases, but it is here that the similarities end. While the backbone of candied fruit and brown sugar mark this beers’ traditional roots, the massive infusion of American hops transforms the drinking experience into an explosion of flowers, orange peel, and resin. I don’t know what brilliant person decided it was a good idea to combine the American and Belgian styles, but they are destined for greatness. This beer turns out to be harmoniously balanced between the malty and yeasty depth of a Tripel, and the fresh vitality of an IPA. Beautiful stuff.
Amy: This is the weirdest name for a beer (I’m referring to “Belgian Style Tripel IPA”, not “Muffin Top”), and I fully expected not to like it based on how many styles were thrown together here. However, the beer is a beautiful golden amber and has a fresh, flowery scent of hops. There’s a slight fermented, brandy-type flavor, like leather and dried fruit, which I find complex and appealing. While it has the hoppiness of an IPA, it has the rich, sweet maltiness of a Belgian. I actually love the balance as I find traditional IPAs very one-sided in their floral bitterness. This has good body to back up the hops and keep it real.
Paul’s Rating: 5 out of 5
Amy’s rating: 4.5 out of 5
Once Upon A Time
East India Porter, 1855 – 6% ABV – Westport, MA
Paul: My first real beer may have been a porter. In the small town where I went to college, a small Irish pub on the main drag had an excellent selection of draft beers from Ireland and England. While I had no idea at the time what craft-brewing was, I knew that Fuller’s London Porter, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, and Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout tasted really, really, good. This meant I never got the craze for Colt 45, Bud, and Coors that populates the typical college dorm. As a result, I have a special place in my heart for porter, and I love that Pretty Things is making an American craft beer that brings on the nostalgia. Their ‘Once Upon A Time’ project has involved researching specific brew days from English history, reconstructing the recipes, and producing wonderful, drinkable samples of a world gone by. With this in mind, the 1855 Porter was a revelation. Hopped aggressively to withstand long journeys, this black-as-night porter started with aromas of coffee/espresso, dark chocolate, and a touch of vanilla, which led to a mouthful of black coffee-like flavors, chocolate liqueur, and bourbon vanilla on the back. The bitterness of this beer took me by surprise at first, but on a second and third sip it proved to enhance the body and richness of the brew. While I might be biased, I do love this beer, and you should try to nab it (or any of the Once Upon A Time beers) while they last.
Amy: “This is our completely uncreative line,” announced Martha, one half of the husband and wife team who brew up Pretty Things beers. I don’t know about that, since the entire concept of brewing up historical beers seems pretty creative to me. But I guess for a pair who like experimentation I can see why they do small batches of these strictly followed beer recipes from the past. Martha also explained to us at a tasting that this East India Porter is the beer that was truly consumed by the British troops in India. IPAs were the drink of officers, not common soldiers, but became popular and well known because the troops, “they were aspirational.” While I’m impressed by the Once Upon a Time project, I’m not a huge fan of this particular blast from the past. There’s a refinement missing from this beer: It’s not as rich as a porter and not as creamy as a stout. It’s very bitter and dark (a huge amount of hops was necessary to keep the keep in the heat and over the long journey), but it has a watery quality in the mouthfeel. I think it’s a little one dimensional, although if I got it as part of my daily rations I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t complain.
Paul’s rating: 4.5 out of 5
Amy’s rating: 3 out of 5
by Samuel Adams
Bock beer with cacao and natural flavors – 5.8% ABV – Boston, MA
Paul: “Bock” beers tend to be full-bodied beers originally prevalent in Germany and Austria. Samuel Adams, a company that pridesitself on the use of German products (especially hops) have taken the original concept of the “bock” beer and aged it on cacao nibs to increase the final sweetness and malt of the end-product. Every so often, we here at the blog do like to try a Sam Adams to see what their seasonal brews are looking like, and give you the requisite rating. The problem with this beer is that it was virtually undrinkable. Whereas in the past we’ve found Sam Adams to be guilty of punching us in the face with spices (see our post on their Summer Beer), this beer was somehow sour and unbearably sweet at the same time. To be totally fair, you can Sam Adams’ side of the story, but the fruitiness and oddly artificial flavor of the chocolate mixed to create an unbearable maelstrom of sweetness. Something tastes really incorrect here, to the point that I wondered (and still do wonder) if my beer was skunked. Usually, I find the old standby of New England beer to be pretty inoffensive, if not terribly hip or creative, but this was a meltdown. Give this to your enemy, maybe?
Amy: Paul is on his way to being a professor of the dramatic arts, so I tend to take his overblown feelings on restaurants and beers with a grain of salt. However, this beer was shockingly bad right from the beginning. It smells a bit like burnt caramel when you pour it, so maybe it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise that it was overwhelmingly sweet. My tasting notes (mostly in astonished caps) say things like, “WHY IS IT SO SWEET??!?” and “Rotten cotton candy?” It truly was saccharine with no depth of flavor. I’m beyond amazement that someone brewed this up, tasted it, and thought, “yeah, let’s sell this bad boy!” It was actually punishment to drink and I found myself bracing for each sip until I gave in and poured the last third of it down the drain. If you like this beer, or even just don’t hate it, I beg you to comment and tell us what redeeming qualities we’re missing.