Backlash Chaos

Today I’m talking a little break from my streak of saisons and reviewing a double IPA. Backlash Brewing company has made a name for themselves with bold beers and big attitude, along with one of the most bad-ass logos in local craft beer. In addition to their arsenal of year-round releases, they brew runs of one-off beers that follow specific themes. They recently finished a set of beers named after the four horsemen of the apocalypse, using four different styles to represent the different horsemen. Backlash has also relased the Uprising! series, a sequence of double IPAs brewed with different recipes that showcase blends of American hops. Uprising was initially going to have three beers, but after brewing Catalyst, Outbreak and Riot to rave reviews Backlash decided on one more beer. The fourth Uprising beer is a double IPA brewed with Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo, Mosaic and Galaxy hops and named Chaos. Backlash Chaos is a limited release in 22 oz bottles and on draft.

Backlash ChaosBacklash Chaos pours a clear amber tinted gold with a mild white head that leaves nice lacing on the glass. The smell is a huge burst of pungent American hops, strong scents of citrus and resin with a little tropical fruit mixed in. The taste also starts with the hops, bold notes of grapefruit, lemon, pine, peach and guava. The hop flavor is balanced by a solid malt backbone that contributes touches of grain and caramel to the flavor. The beer is pretty easy to drink for a double IPA, there is some bitterness but it’s not overly strong. That being said, this isn’t a light beer at 8.5% ABV. The finish is quite clean with a little lingering hop bite on the tongue. Overall this is a flavorful and drinkable DIPA showcasing the great qualities of American hops. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Backlash Reviews:

Backlash Redux

Victory Swing Saison

While saisons tend to be light bodied and easy to drink, many can be deceptively high in alcohol. Many times a saison will go down easily (and a little too quickly), and I will look up the ABV and be shocked to find it’s 7-9%. I’m not one to complain about alcohol, it’s fine as long as it isn’t overdone, but some occasions call for lower alcohol beers. Many craft breweries are now complementing their lineups with session beers that are lower in alcohol but still full in flavor. One example is Swing, the session saison from Victory Brewing Company. Swing is brewed with German barley malt along with rye, oats and wheat, balanced by German and American hops. They also add peppercorns, orange peel and lemon zest to the brew, adjuncts that are usually found in Belgian witbiers. Swing is a Spring seasonal sold in 12 oz bottles.

Victory SwingVictory Swing Saison pours a pale golden yellow, crystal clear with a very mild white head. The fruit and spice from the Belgian yeast and adjunct ingredients dominate the smell. These ingredients are strong in the flavor too. The yeast adds pear and coriander, while the adjuncts contribute notes of pepper and orange. The hops are pretty mild, contributing some earthy and woodsy taste. The malt provides a nice backbone for the beer, and the addition of wheat and rye adds a mild flavor that nicely complements the yeast and spices. Victory Swing is light bodied and easy to drink, very sessionable at 4.5% ABV. The finish is very dry with a mild tang on the tongue. This is a solid beer for a warm spring BBQ, easy to drink and it also pairs well with food. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Previous Victory Reviews:

Victory Hop Ranch

Boulevard Tank 7 Saison

Each year new statistics are released that outline the rise in popularity and market share of craft beer. Many big brewers who initially dismissed craft beer as a “fad” are now taking notice as the growth of the craft beer industry cuts into their bottom line. This market shift has led to the implementation of a couple of strategies used by big beer to gain a toehold in the growing craft market. The majority of the big beer brewers now aggressively promote “crafty” beers, quaffable versions of the easier to drink and less intimidating craft styles. The other strategy has been to buyout popular craft breweries. This is a common practice in many industires, and it will be interesting to see its effect on craft beer. Many craft beer enthusiasts were distressed when the popular Boulevard Brewing Company was bought out by European powerhouse Duvel Moortgat. Boulevard insisted that the quality of their offerings wouldn’t waver, and the buyout would allow for increased distribution and expanded offerings of some previously hard-to-find beers. Other American breweries have undergone similar buyouts, including Ommegang (Duvel as well), Blue Point and Goose Island (both InBev). It will be interesting to see how this trend effects the quality of the product, and the bottom line for both the acquired craft brewer and the corporate conglomerate.

One of Boulevard Brewing’s signature beers is Tank 7, a year-round saison. Tank 7 is named after a difficult and notorious piece of equipment at Boulevard’s brewery, which happened to be the tank where the first batch of this saison was brewed. Brewed with pale barley malt, malted wheat and corn along with Magnum, Bravo and Amarillo hops, this is an aggressive version of a traditional farmhouse ale. Tank 7 is widely distributed on draft and in 12 oz and 750 mL bottles.

Boulevard Tank 7Boulevard Tank 7 pours a deep yellow, mostly clear with a huge white head. The smell is pretty mild, you get some fruity esters and spiciness from the Belgian yeast and a little citrus from the hops. The yeast gives a stronger impression in the flavor, significant notes of pepper and green apple. The hops also add substantial character, with touches of lemon, orange and flowers. The beer is rounded out by a solid malt backbone contributing hints of wheat bread and grain. Tank 7 is light and drinkable with a noticeable hop bite. It’s kind of shocking that it weighs in at 8.5% ABV, beers this easy to drink with that much alcohol can be slightly dangerous. Boulevard Tank 7 finishes dry with a little lingering bitterness on the tongue. I can see why this beer became one of Boulevard’s most popular offerings, it is a very well done version of a saison. Regardless of the current brewery ownership good beer is good beer, and I will keep drinking beers like this. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Boulevard Reviews:

Boulevard Dark Truth Stout

Ommegang Glimmerglass

Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY has recently gained publicity due to their series of beers inspired by the hit HBO series Game of Thrones. Before this popular collaboration Ommegang was know predominantly for their wide range of year-round and seasonal Belgian style ales. Since I am spending the Spring focusing the blog on a Belgian style of beer, it is critical to include a selection from Ommegang. While they make a popular and delicious flagship saison called Hennepin, I chose to try Ommegang’s Spring seasonal saison, Glimmerglass. James Fenimore Cooper nicknamed a lake in Cooperstown Glimmerglass due to the amazing reflections of the surrounding hills, and Ommegang decided it was a fitting name for their Spring seasonal. The beer is distributed through most of the country in 12 oz bottles and on draft.

Ommegang GlimmerglassOmmegang Glimmerglass pours straw gold, slightly cloudy with a large but quickly dissipating white head. The smell is all Belgian yeast, fruity esters and spice along with a little citrus and must. The taste starts with the yeast too, green apple, pepper, pear and a touch of orange. The malts are present, contributing flavors of grain, biscuits and crackers. The hops are pretty mild, adding some floral and woodsy notes and just a hint of bitterness. The beer has a light mouthfeel and is very easy to drink. At 5.4% ABV it is on the light side compared to many saisons, good for drinking on the porch on a warm afternoon. The finish is pretty clean with a little malt sweetness and spice lingering on the tongue. This is a solid and drinkable saison, perfect for the warm weather to come. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Mystic Mary of the Gael

To start the Hoppy Boston Spring of saisons I decided to review one of my favorites, Mystic Mary of the Gael. It is fitting to begin a run of saison reviews with Mystic, since their brewery specializes in the style. Mystic’s beers showcase the versatility of the saison style. Each of their flagship and seasonal beers is a saison, but they have drastically different flavor profiles. Mary of the Gael is Mystic’s Spring saison, brewed in honor of St. Brigid’s Day in Ireland. It is brewed with pilsner and a little honey malt along with Belgian-style saison yeast. The ale is then dry hopped with a copious amount of aromatic hops, adding a significant hoppy character to the final product. While traditional Belgian saisons aren’t aggressively hopped, the fruity ester tastes imparted by the Belgian yeast can be a nice fit with the floral, citrus and tropical fruit impressions from many hop varieties. Mary of the Gael is available on draft and in 750 mL bottles during the Spring season.

Mystic Mary of the GaelMystic Mary of the Gael pours a deep copper, slightly cloudy with a massive off-white head. The smell starts with Belgian yeast, scents of spice and fruity esters with a little funk. This is nicely balanced by hoppy aromas that contribute earth, pine and floral fragrances. The yeast is also the first flavor to come through when you taste the beer, along with notes of pepper, pear, green apple and spice. These fruity and spicy esters form a nice synergy with the touches of lemon, resin and cut grass from the hops. The malts are evident but not strong. They form a nice base to the beer and provide balance. While the beer has strong hop aroma and some distinct hoppy flavor, the bitterness is mild at 21 IBUs. Mystic Mary of the Gael is medium to light bodied, easy to drink but solid at 6.5% ABV. The finish is a little dry with a dash of lingering spiciness and bitterness. This beer is delicious, a perfectly composed combination of flavors from the yeast, hops and malt. I have tasted and enjoyed a number of beers from Mystic and this is my favorite (so far)! Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.

Previous Mystic Reviews:

Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer

The Perfect Beer for Spring

One of the great things about craft beer is the wide variety of flavor profiles you can find. This is especially advantageous in places like New England, where different styles of beer enhance the changing of the seasons. Summer has light, drinkable beers like kolsch and wheat ales. The cooler fall temperatures lead to malt-forward marzen lagers and brown ales, along with the ubiquitous pumpkin beers. Nothing goes better with a cold winter night then some warm hearty food and a dark stout, porter or winter warmer. Spring is a little more tricky. It seems like many local brewers have well established beers for the other seasons, but are still trying to find the perfect spring style. I thought of a number of possibilities for a perfect spring beer, which I’ll outline here, before coming to my final conclusion (subject to change I suppose). In my opinion a spring beer needs to be light enough to complement a warm afternoon and an early season BBQ, but complex and substantial enough to hold up on a chilly evening. Here are a few styles that were considered for Hoppy Boston’s beer style of the spring:

IPA: IPAs go with all seasons. I will continue to drink and review IPAs year-round, so there is no reason to single out an IPA season. The same holds true for IPA off-shoots (Belgian IPA, Black IPA, Rye IPA etc.)

Pilsner: More of a summer beer for me. A lot of craft brewers are making delicious and complex versions of the pilsner style so I plan on drinking many as the weather gets warmer.

Altbier: The alt style has a nice balance between drinkability and complexity. The issue is the limited number of alts on the market. I’d be happy to take recommendations and check out some of the available altbiers this spring.

Witbier: Another great warm weather beer that is more of a summer beer for me. A few brewers have released witbiers as spring seasonals this year. I actually brewed a tasty one myself, perfect to drink on the porch as the days the get longer and less cold.

Pale Ale: My runner up, in a close call. Well done pale ales celebrate vibrant hops and balance. The style has good variety between hoppier American versions and maltier versions native to Britian. I might focus on Pale Ales next spring for the sake of comparison.

Hoppy Boston’s Ultimate Choice for Spring, Saison: The saison style has been among my favorites for a while. Originally brewed in farmhouses for field workers in Belgium and France, the style has pretty loose requirements. This allows craft brewers a lot of creative leeway – you can find very different malt and hop profiles. The one thing most saisons have are expressive strains of Belgian-style yeast that contribute significant flavor and aroma. Over the next couple of months I’ll taste and review a number of saisons (along with some other beers of course), and try to find some of the best available in the area. Feel free to pass along any suggestions in the comments or on twitter or facebook!

A few saisons I’ve already reviewed include: Notch Saison, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer, Harpoon Saison Various.

(Relatively minor) Stock-up Run, CBC Newton April 2014

CBC Newton April 2014

I was running some Saturday errands in Newton Centre this morning, and of course that meant a stop into Craft Beer Cellar. My lovely wife reminded me that we still have a lot of beer in the fridge and I said I just needed to grab the new Trillium bottles…and maybe one or two other things. I did a good job with restraint this time, usually I fill my basket to the point that I need both hands to hold it and my muscles start to cramp up. As always, the guys at CBC were extremely helpful. One thing I asked about were some recommendations for introductory sour beers. I don’t have much experience with sours, and I am looking to expand my palate a little. I grabbed a couple to try, I’ll definitely post some thoughts once I sample them. If any readers have other suggestions, let me know through the comments or on twitter @HoppyBoston.