The growing popularity of craft beer has led to an increased interest in the ingredients that make beer. Craft beer enthusiasts often dabble in homebrewing, and even those who don’t at least try to learn about the varieties of malt, yeast and hops used in their favorite styles. The craft beer movement has also led to the development of many new varieties of hops, each species engineered to provide a particular flavor profile in the final beer. This renewed interest and understanding of particular ingredients has led craft breweries to develop beers that highlight a single ingredient. One of the most common ways to do this is through single-hop beers, where a single variety of hops is in focus. A great recent example of this is Citra Mantra, a hoppy lager (or IPL) from Otter Creek Brewing Company of Middlebury, VT. Citra Mantra is a pale lager that has been generously hopped with Citra hops. Citra hops have become one of the standout American hop varieties due to the bright and bold grapefruit, orange and lemon flavors it imparts into the beer (might be where they came up with the name). As a homebrewer who loves citrus-focused American hops, Citra has emerged as one of my favorite hops for flavor and aroma.
Otter Creek Citra Mantra pours straw gold, slightly cloudy with a strong and sustained white head. The smell is what you would expect from a beer brewed with tons of Citra hops, pungent aromas of citrus and tropical fruit. The taste is also a potent mix of hop flavors with notes of lemon, grapefruit, guava, pine and cut grass. There is a touch of light malt in the backbone, but this is a very hop-forward beer. Citra Mantra has the clean drinkability of a lager with a solid, but not overwhelming hop bitterness. At 5.75% ABV this is a beer that is not overdone but not a light either. The finish is clean with a touch of lingering hop bitterness. The hoppy lager style is a great way to showcase a single hop variety. Citra Mantra makes one of my personal favorite hops sing. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Otter Creek reviews:
Kind Ryed IPA
With the ever increasing number of craft breweries competeing for attention from customers, as well as shelf and tap space, it is important for any new brewery to have a calling card. One of the most effective calling cards is a beer that creates buzz. Typically this beer will be a seasonal/limited release, and it should either be a unique flavor profile or a very well done version of a popular style. Having this “calling card” beer gets people excited about the brewery and encourages consumers to sample other brewery releases. Rising Tide Brewing of Portland, ME has their “calling card” beer in Calcutta Cutter. Named after a single masted sailing vessel, Calcutta Cutter is a double IPA. Rising Tide refers to the beer as their homage to hops, with additions early, late, very late and dry. I had heard some positive reviews and buzz around Calcutta Cutter, and needed to sample it for myself.
Rising Tide Calcutta Cutter pours an amber gold with a mild white head. As you sip it a full lacing tracks down the sides of the glass. The smell is pungent hops, citrus and tropical fruit mixed with some floral notes. The first taste gives you a huge burst of hop flavor, grapefruit, orange, guava, mango and some pine. While the beer is very malt forward there is a solid malt backbone, with touches of grain and caramel. The beer is nicely balanced. The solid hop bitterness you expect from an IPA is slightly mellowed and complemented by the full malt flavor. At 8.7% ABV Rising Tide Calcutta Cutter is definitely not a session beer, but it drinks pretty easy for a full bodied double IPA. The finish leaves a pleasant tartness on the tongue and keeps you coming back for more. I had high expectations for Calcutta Cutter and it completely lived up to them. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Rising Tide reviews:
Ursa Minor Weizen Stout
Hoppy Boston is officially six months old! Thank you for following the blog, and feel free to follow on Twitter (@HoppyBoston) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/hoppyboston) for frequent updates and notices. This post gives a quick recap of some of my favorite beers reviewed on the blog this winter (December-February). Click on the titles for the full reviews!
Wormtown Be Hoppy IPA: Everything that is great about the American IPA style. The hops really sing here, tons of citrus fruit and solid bitterness. Just enough malt to balance out the beer.
Maine Beer Company Another One IPA: I know that Lunch is Maine Beer Company’s signature beer, there is a good reason that it is so popular, but Another One is at least as good. Big, bright hop flavors and tons of aroma, one smell and you’re hooked. I bought a few bottles fresh at the brewery and wish I had picked up some more.
Pretty Things Barbapapa Russian Imperial Stout: Heavy and complex, full of all the great flavors that define dark and roasted malts. This is a big and boozy beer, perfect for sipping on a cold winter night.
Enlightenment Ales Illumination Belgian IPA: When done correctly, the combination of citrus and tropical fruit in many American hop varieties can pair perfectly with the fruity esters of Belgian yeast strains. It is done almost flawlessly here, with fresh and bright flavors that are all in balance.
Founders Imperial Stout: Big, dark and malty, tons of chocolate and coffee flavor. Despite the aggressive flavors, thick mouthfeel, and high ABV, this beer is pretty easy to drink and goes down smooth.
Foolproof Brewing Company in Pawtucket, RI was originally founded as High Jinx Brewing, but changed their name to prevent a potential trademark dispute. Foolproof was founded on the principle of experience based brewing where each beer was brewed to be perfect for a particular drinking experience. For example, their flagship “Backyahd” IPA was brewed as an ideal BBQ beer. Foolproof distributes their beer to RI, MA and now CT. Their year-round beers are sold on draft and in 12 oz cans, while their special releases are sold in 22 oz bottles. One of Foolproof Brewing’s popular brews is Raincloud, a Robust Porter designed for enjoyment on a rainy day. Brewed with dark malts and a blend of European hops, Raincloud is a beer to drink when the weather keeps you inside.
Foolproof Raincloud Robust Porter pours coal black with a large and well sustained tan head. There is very nice lacing on the glass as you drink. The smell is pretty neutral, some dark malts and coffee come through. The dark malts dominate the taste, strong flavors of dark chocolate and coffee with a little molasses. There is a nice hop bitterness balancing out the malt flavor, providing a solid equilibrium between the malt and the hops. Foolproof Raincloud Robust Porter has a full mouthfeel, but goes down pretty easy for a dark beer. At 6.5% ABV it is moderately alcoholic without putting you under the table like some bigger stouts and porters. The aftertaste is a mixture of mocha flavor with a little hop bitterness on the tongue. This is a very well done and drinkable porter that makes me want to check out more of Foolproof’s offerings. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
I think it is really important for breweries to continuously experiment with new beers. The best way to do that is one-off seasonal brews. The brewer can play with a recipe then brew a batch and listen to the feedback from customers. Many times these beers undergo a few iterations and later become brewery staples. One brewery that continues to experiment with new ideas is The Somerville Brewing Company, aka Slumbrew. Their one-off beer this winter was Snow Angel, a double IPA brewed with a mixture of American hop varieties.
Slumbrew Snow Angel pours a cloudy amber/orange with a mild off-white head. The smell is a pungent blend of everything you love about American hops, tons of citrus fruit with some pine and floral notes mixed in. The hops start the flavor profile too, with touches of grapefruit, lemon, orange and tropical fruit. This is followed by significant malt flavors, led by caramel and brown sugar. There is a bit of residual sweetness in the beer, not really what you’d expect from a double IPA. There is also some bitterness and a little bit of fruity ester flavor from the yeast. The body is medium towards full, with a thick mouthfeel. It’s a pretty big beer at 9.0% ABV, and a little of the alcohol comes through in the flavor. The beer finishes with some malt sweetness and a little residual bitterness on the tongue. This is a solid beer. I think with a couple of minor tweaks it could be spectacular. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Slumbrew reviews:
Sittin on Hop of the World
The older I get the more I appreciate a well done session beer. I love double IPAs and imperial stouts, but if I’m out with friends and having more than a beer or two it is nice to have a craft beer that is full on flavor and lower in alcohol. Banner Beer Company is a contract brewery based in Grafton, MA that focuses entirely on session beers that combine full flavor with low alcohol. Banner is headed by Todd Charbonneau, previously the long time head brewer of Harpoon. Banner makes a series of year-round and seasonal beers with the hope of developing a diverse and delicious profile of flavors from lighter beers. Banner Beer’s new winter seasonal is called All Nighter, a British style ESB (Extra Special Bitter). It combines a full malt character with traditional British hops.
Banner Beer All Nighter pours a clear deep copper with a mild off-white head. The smell is mild, with some aromas of baked bread and earthy hops. The taste starts with the medium malts, caramel and grain with touches of butter and roasted nuts. The hops provide nice balance, some pine and earthy notes and solid bitterness. The beer has a nice light mouthfeel, it’s very easy to drink but still full in flavor. At 4.5% ABV Banner Beer All Nighter is sessionable, low enough in alcohol so you can have more than a couple. The finish is a little malt flavor balanced by some bitterness that lingers on the tongue. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
When I heard that Clown Shoes Brewing Company was in legal trouble due to the name of one of their beers I wasn’t too shocked. This is a brewery that is infamous for giving its brews names like Muffin Top and Tramp Stamp, so I assumed the PC police took offense. It was surprising that the issue was with Vampire Slayer, their highly regarded imperial stout. This was a trademark issue, apparently another beverage company feels they are the only ones who can use “vampire” in their beer titles. You can read the whole story here. So Vampire Slayer became Undead Party Crasher, with the same recipe just a new name and label (including a special shout-out to trademark attorneys). With the explosion of craft breweries, I believe this is going to become a major issue. It is hard to create clever and unique beer names without stepping on someone else’s toes. It will be interesting to see if these lawsuits become commonplace. Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher is an imperial stout brewed with dark malts, holy water (yes, holy water) and malt smoked locally with hickory and ash.
Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher pours ink black with a mild light brown head. The smell is all dark malt, lots of chocolate with a little coffee and brown sugar. There is a touch of smoke, but it is pretty muted. The taste is pretty complex. The dark malts come in strong with flavors of black coffee, dark chocolate, and dark fruits like plum and dates. There isn’t much hop flavor, but just the right amount of bitterness to balance the malt sweetness. The alcohol and smokiness are both present in the flavor, but neither is overwhelming. The mouthfeel is medium to full, and the beer finishes with some malt sugar and a pleasant alcoholic burn. At 11% ABV this beer is a slow sipper, finishing a 22 oz bottle takes a little time (fortunately it is now sold in 12 oz bottles too). Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher is very complex but drinkable, definitely one of the better beers I’ve tried from this brewery. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Other Clown Shoes reviews:
Swagger Hoppy Red Lager