Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kiuchi Brewery - Hitachino Nest Beer: Three Days

On March 11th, 2011, the Tohoku Earthquake erupted from the oceanic floor due to the subduction of the Pacific Plate. The Tohoku Earthquake's magnitude was 9.0, the greatest magnitude recorded in Japanese history. Subsequently, the earthquake unleashed devastating tsunamis upon the Japanese coastline leading to the much documented nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Power Plant. Four hours south of Fukushima, the Kiuchi Brewery, located in the Naka, Japan felt these devastating forces causing sections of the their brewery to be unusable. One section that needed refurbishing was the fermentation area that contained the brewing tanks. The tanks were angled (imagine the Leaning Tower of Pisa) and needed to be straightened. Brewmasters were forced to extend their mashing period three days causing natural fermentation to begin with the mixing a lactic acid culture leading to a very unique product.
Designated as a Witbier on BeerAdvocate, Three Days' appearance is in stark contrast to BCJP guidelines for Belgian Wits. Instead of being golden or straw colored, Three Days is reddish-brown rust with a very dense, foamy head. The head leaves little lacings along the sides of the glass. The body of this ale is hazy allowing very little light penetration.
The aroma was predominantly vinegar acidity leading me to develop an image of salt-and-vinegar potato chips. This acidity gives way to a sweet malt character and a floral component.
The taste is very interesting. An acidic, vinegar quality was the first part of the taste profile that I detected. This acidity was followed by a malt character and brown sugar. To complete the taste, Three Days contained the traditional orange peel character of Witbiers along with a distinct raisin quality.
Three Days, at 8.0% ABV, is a very smooth ale with a light mouthfeel. There is a small amount of carbonation that helps assert the tartness on the palate.
Overall, this beer is truly distinct. To me, it combines multiple styles (Witbier, Berliner Weiss, Red Ale), but each complements other with methodical precision. It is very refreshing and quite easy to drink. A remarkable story of brewing ingenuity in the face of tragedy. If you see this beer on the shelf or on tap, definitely give it a try, its uniqueness is quite memorable.



Monday, February 20, 2012

Favorite Massachusetts Brewed Beer

Whenever compiling a list of “bests”, the challenge proves extremely difficult to narrow one’s choices objectively, therefore, I have opted for a list of favorites. In the realm of craft beer with its many styles and cultural and geographic interpretations of these styles, the challenge of developing a list of favorite beers was just to daunting. To alleviate this stress and tunicate the amount of beer to choose from, I decided to compile a list of my favorite beers brewed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. To do so, I went through tasting notes, re-visited memories from local beer bars and breweries, and went through old beer fest catalogues. Upon completion of this “research”, here are my five favorite Massachusetts brewed beers (with a couple of honorable mentions).

5. Hoponius Union India Pale Lager – Jack’s Abby Brewing Company. 
American has an obsession with hops, easily observed with the increased production of Double/Imperial IPA’s and in some cases, the somewhat elusive Triple IPA. These IPA’s are geographically identifiable, the dank, hop forward West Coast IPA or the malt and hop balanced East Coast IPA. The brewers at Jack's Abby have taken this obsession in an innovative and interesting path, the India Pale Lager or IPL. The Hoponius Union, an IPL, is an exquisitely crafted beer with the clean, bright, crispness expected from lagering. The malt profile is full of caramel notes and this caramelization works very well with the hop forwardness that resonates from the aroma through the taste profile. A great beer from an up and coming brewery; Seek it out and I believe you wont be disappointed.

4. Be Hoppy – Wormtown Brewery, INC. 
On their website, Wormtown Brewery speaks of “creating something unique to add to the mix of the city” (Worcester, MA) and Be Hoppy brings this motto to reality. Turning geographically and cultural brewing tendencies on its “head”, Wormtown has produced a dank, dry, resinous hop forward ale that conjures up images of the Gas Lamp District of San Diego, California, not the industrial and hard working roots of Worcester, MA.  The aroma of this IPA is palate destroying even before the first sip. Citrus notes of grapefruit waft almost exclusively, but lemon and orange manage to appear to round out the aroma. The taste profile is everything I want in an IPA: citrus and hop forward without the piney-temperate forest quality that can somewhat overpowering for my palate. Also somewhat new to the beer in Massachusetts, Wormtown Brewery is creating a niche in the ever-expanding Massachusetts beer culture with their outstanding beer portfolio.

3. Cerise Cassee American Sour Ale – Cambridge Brewing Company 
Surrounded by MIT and prominent bio-tech laboratories, Cambridge Brewing Company is nestled in a refurbished mill producing celebrated beer and scrumptious food.  Of these celebrated beers, the Cerise Cassee is in a class by itself. The production of Cerise Cassee is a labor-intensive process that begins with 300 pounds of sour cherries followed by a Solera-style fermenting process that blends one year to eight year old vintages with the inoculation of three microbes: Lactobacillus, Brettanomyces, and Pediococcus. The resulting wild ale is a deep-rich mahogany that contains very little in the way of head retention and lacing. The aroma and taste are absolutely stunning with a sourness intensified by the high level of carbonation, hints of “funk”, most likely provided by the “Brett”, and subtle nuances of oak and vanilla from the barrel-aging process. A truly remarkable sour ale that is must try for all who love sour beer.

2. Ipswich Oatmeal Stout – Mercury Brewing Company (Ipswich Ale Brewery) 
The North Shore of Massachusetts is known globally as a purveyor of high quality seafood, however, unbeknownst to the seafood eating public, Ipswich Massachusetts has a brewery that is a purveyor of high quality ales and deserves the same recognition, the Mercury Brewing Company. The ale that is paving the way for this recognition is the Ipswich Oatmeal Stout. This stout provides everything you want in a stout in every single sip: a medium bodied mouthfeel that is silky smooth, chocolate that covers the entire palate with just enough coffee bitterness to round out the taste. I enjoy this stout so much that it became the vision for my latest homebrew project (more on that in the future). Brewed year round and at four dollars for a 22 oz. bottle, the Ipswich Oatmeal Stout will always have a home in my fridge.

1. Beerstand Berlinerweiss – Haverhill Brewery and The Tap 
 Situated on the Merrimack River, The Haverhill Brewery is housed in a building that in 1897 was home to J.M. Hickey’s Shoe and Leather Exchange. To pay homage to this shoe manufacturing history, the brewpub has adopted old shoe templates to act as tap handles. The beer that flows through these tap handles is award winning, but the preeminent star is the, Beerstand Berlinerweiss. As a fledgling homebrewer, I was shocked to hear from Brewmaster, Jon Curtis that the initial recipe for the Beerstand Berlinerweiss was developed and brewed in his home. I hope to one-day reach this level of brewing excellence. This Berliner Weiss “Bier” is the perfect balance of lemon zest sourness, pale malt and wheat backbone, and yeasty character. At 3.00% ABV with the perfect combination of taste and carbonation, Beerstand Berlinerweiss is my favorite beer brewed in the state of Massachusetts and a must try for any beer geek that visits the minuteman state.

I hope you enjoyed this best-of list,


Honorable Mentions: Hey Diddle Diddle - Jack's Abby
                                  Slumbrew Porter - Somerville Brewing Company
                                  Red God - Cambridge Brewing Company
                                  East India Porter - Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Williams Brothers Brewing Company - Alba: Scots Pine Ale

Recently, I have tried to make an attempt to try English/Scottish beers that I continuously notice at Craft Beer Cellar, but have yet to sample. Due to the generosity of a friend, I was able to try Dr. Fritz Briem Gurt Bier and its wonderful carbonation and medicinal qualities were excellent. Gruit was an herbal concoction brewed in English and Scottish cultures before the introduction and utilization of hops. With this tasting still fresh in my mind, I decided to try a different style of Gruit: Alba Scots Pine Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company, a beer that I had passed up multiple times, but I decided to indulge.
This ancient style of beer pours a very unexpected deep-copper orange. When held up to the light, there is very little light penetration due to its significant haziness. The head is very thick and creamy leaving a thin film of carbonation across the entire diameter of the glass.
The aroma is full of wonderful caramel and butterscotch notes very indicative of its Scottish roots. There was a strong presence of malt sweetness and "hot" component that was welcomed and somewhat soothing.  When I purchased this ale, I imagined the smells of pine and spruces trees from a temperate boreal forest to waft from the glass, but there is very little in the way of a pine or spruce that is detectable in the nose.
The taste profile of this pint was very interesting. The caramel and butterscotch that dominates the aroma is very apparent in the front of the taste as well. At the back of the taste the pine peaks through with a hint of herbal grassiness. As the beer warmed, this herbal grassiness became more prominent, but never overpowered the sweet malt presence.
The mouthfeel is very creamy and had little carbonation. Since I conceptualized this stye of beer as an ancient IPA, I expected there would be more carbonation, however the low level of carbonation works very well with its creamy texture.
At 7.5%ABV, The Scots Pine Ale contained much more alcohol than I anticipated, but the viscous mouthfeel hid the ABV very well. With pine in the name, I had conjured up imagine of brewmaster, Bruce Williams, placing multiple boughs or numerous needle of Pine and Spruce trees into the boil, but these notes were not as present as I had hoped. All-in-all, this modern interpretation of an ancient style of ale was very enjoyable and I look forward to trying other ancient styled ales especially the Fraoch Heather Ale, Ebulum, and March of the Penguins.