Dan Kochakian, Ale Street News
February 20, 2010

OK, gang, don't forget the next NERAX (New England Real Ale Exhibition) festival to be held in Somerville from March 24-27.

Massachusetts

Sure to be loaded with excellent high-quality ales from the U.K. and the U.S., NERAX will be bringing in about 85 beers, from fresh golden ales to roasty stouts. Check out www.nerax.org for more details.

The Massachusetts Brewers Guild has been very active of late. On Nov. 17, the Guild sponsored a meet-and-greet event on Beacon Hill for legislators to learn about the economic impact that Bay State brewers bring to the area. February 27 is the second annual Guild Brewers Dinner and on Aug. 28, there will be a huge festival on the waterfront in Boston. More information to follow.

After the well-deserved success of its three barrel-aged beers (Kriek, Red and Tripel), Sam Adams has released its latest innovative beer, Noble Pils. This complex hoppy beer was voted number one in the Beer Lover's Choice contest and will replace the White Ale as the spring seasonal. With all five of the Noble hops from Germany and the Czech Republic, Noble Pils is balanced by the slight sweetness of Bohemian Pilsner malt. Don't expect the same hop kick as Sam's Imperial Pilsner, but sit back and enjoy this session pilsner.

Area beer bars are really impressing us with the latest arrays of incredible brews. On Dec. 30, Redbones sponsored a Dogfish Head Keg Party with 15 taps, including Johnny Cask and the rare Life and Limb! Up next are keg parties with Victory and Brooklyn and a NERAX kick-off event. All will feature cask ales and limited edition beers.

The Armsby Abbey had a mind-boggling 21 special Christmas Ales pouring on Dec. 16. Everything from Delirium Noel to the only keg of Berkshire's Holidale Nitro barleywine were consumed in record time. Kate and Suzanne at Cambridge Common gifted us with 29 amazing IPAs on New Year's Eve. There was a special Stone Double Dry-Hopped on cask as well as Pizza Port Wipeout, Southern Tier Unearthly and Bear Republic's bold 9% Racer X!

Following his well-received GestAlt, brewer Jon Curtis at The Tap/Haverhill Brewery, released his new Snowbound on Jan. 12. This yearly English-style old ale has a dark fruit flavor from a London yeast strain and English malts combined with East Kent Goldings.

Over the bridge, Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis is beginning a One Barrel Series of very limited edition brews. First up is an Amarillo dry-hopped IPA aged on American Oak; this is available at the brewery only, if it's not gone already! And watch for the winter seasonal, Old Man Winter, at local Cape pubs. With over 1,000 pounds of malted barley, this 7% beer has 65 IBUs and three varieties of English malts. CCB, which plans to hit 6,300 barrels this year (more than a 50 percent increase from '09), will have Cherry Porter ready for Valentine's Day. The porter is only available in champagne bottles and at the most, 200 bottles will be produced. James Moriarty, ex-Pennichuck brewer, is now working at Cape Cod Beer.

In 2009, Harpoon introduced four Leviathan beers, four 100-Barrel Series beers and two new UFO beers. The pattern will continue in 2010 as the Harpoon crew brings us a new all-season beer, Belgian Pale Ale — it's spicy and sweet, but has a touch of bitterness from Apollo hops. But the big news for us is the 30th entry in the 100 Barrel Series: Island Creek Oyster Stout (5.5%), out now. With a blending of roasted barley and chocolate rye malts mixed with the briny flavors of Island Creek oysters from Duxbury, this is a perfect pairing with a dozen bivalves! Leviathan Imperial Red is also available now. Intense hop flavors are balanced with a complex malt character in this 9.2% 75 IBU deep amber ale. Don't forget Harpoon's St. Patrick's Day Festival featuring U2 cover band Joshua Tree on March 5 and 6.

On Dec. 17, Wachusett Brewing celebrated its 15th anniversary with a big bash at the mountain. Over 1,000 fans attended and owners Ned LaFortune, Peter Quinn and Kevin Buckler thanked the crowd with a grand toast. BTW, Wachusett is Massachusetts' second largest production brewery! Ryde sixpacks are now on sale.

There's a new beer available in the area now. Check out Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet Black IPA, a kickin' 7% brew formulated by Dan Lipke at Mercury Brewing for Greg Berman of Berman's Wine and Spirits in Lexington. With a grapefruit and piney nose from Columbus and Amarillo hops, this well-balanced roasty IPA is pouring at Tryst and TW Foods and is available in bottles in area liquor stores. Greg plans Brown Angel, a smooth floral ale for February, and Clementine White with white pepper and delicate clementines.

In other Mercury news, the brewery released its latest 375th Anniversary (for the town of Ipswich, not the brewery!) limited edition brew, Whipple House Old Ale, on Dec. 31. Only 800 1.5-liter wax-dipped magnums of this strong ale aged in Macallan Single Malt barrels were produced. 2009 saw production increase from 14,000 barrels to 15,000 and Mercury purchased a building for a new brewery to open this year.

January was Belgian Month at the Salem Beer Works, so you may get lucky and find Saisons and Quads still flowing. Head brewer Nate Heck brewed a special one-off called Atomic Bock that was made with roasted Guatemalan coffee beans. Although there is no bitter roastiness, this 6% beer boasts coffee in the nose.

February is Stout Month, so grab your fill of Espresso and Milk Chocolate stouts. Nate also has a 9% Weizenbock with a full body and lots of phenols, that distinct medicinal/clove flavor that many beer drinkers enjoy. Nate is holding down the fort now because assistant brewer Mike Roy has moved to Franklin's Brewery, a brewpub in Hyattsville, MD. He promises to send casks to NERAX, so we've not seen the last of Big Mike!

Scott Brunelle at Rock Bottom in downtown Boston, brings back his winter warming beers, Czar's Nightmare Imperial Stout (7.5%) and Liquid Happiness, an 8% strong ale. Accompanying Hagerty's Scotch Ale, a wee heavy at 8%, and Fire Chief Ale (5%) is a roasty Coffee Stout.

Dann and Martha Paquette of Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project are keeping very busy lately. With the introduction of their beer into Philly and New York City, Dann is keeping up with demand in Westport where he is brewing. The Baba-Ya-Ga Stout (with Belgian and English yeasts) was a big hit, but next on the horizon is an 11.2% Mild Ale in the new Once Upon A Time series. Based on a recipe from historic London in 1832, this beer will feature 4.5 pounds of hops per barrel. Get ready, hopheads!

Nashoba Valley Brewery in Bolton has stopped distributing its bottled beers, but the brewery is still in business. Bottles may be purchased only at the brewery shop. Into the spring, brewer Tom Knight will have his Imperial Stout and Belgian-Style Double. The 8.5% stout strays from a Russian Imperial style because Tom added oats to provide a smoother flavor profile. However, there is still the chocolate, coffee and nice warming from the alcohol. The Double is made with five malts and Mt. Ranier hops that yield a Hallertau-like floral aroma. When you visit, be sure to get your growlers filled right from the taps.

Dave Richardson of The Gardner Ale House is introducing two big beers for February: Dave's Double, a 9% smooth and malty bock, and his first-ever Imperial Stout, a potent 8.5% 92 IBU roasty smoky beauty. Rocker Red will be coming out in March in time for St. Patrick's Day and Naked Stout will be back on tap as well. And stay tuned in late March for the award-winning Vienna Lager, Dave's spring seasonal.

Jason Taggart, head brewer at John Harvard's Brew House in Cambridge, saw his cold weather brews, Pilgrims' Porter and Twelfth Night Wassail, quickly leave the pub. Replacing them are XO Stout, a 6.5% oatmeal stout, aged on raspberries, and Demon D.P.A., a double pale ale with a west coast Cascade hop flavor and aroma. And Frostbite Lager, a schwarzbier, will have a big malty character without the heavy roastiness of some in this style.

Michael Beaton, formerly of Cape Ann Brewing, is back on the beer scene with his Frosty Knuckle Brewing Sticke Alt. This full-bodied, well-hopped brew has a nice balance between bitterness and malty nutty sweetness, coming in at about 5.5%. While this beer is only now available on draft, we're hoping that Michael will be bottling new beer styles very soon.

Best of luck to Matt Steinberg, head brewer at Mayflower Brewing in Plymouth, who has left the brewery to become a stay-at-home dad. We hope that Matt continues his fine tradition of brewing quality beers in the very near future. In the meantime, brewer Ryan Gwozdz is excited about Mayflower's new barleywine which has been aging in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels that once held Sam Adams' Utopias! We tried a sample from the barrel and it's gorgeous. The barleywine will be available in 22 oz bombers.

On The Vineyard, Neil Atkins at Offshore Ale is preparing for two big events at the brewpub. In late February, there will be a special beer and cheese tasting with wonderful fromages from Fiddle Head Farm, and on March 8, there will be 18 to 20 beers on tap, instead of the usual 11. Included in this invasion of beer will be two cask ales and exceptional food items.

In western Massachusetts, the new Element Brewing, the brainchild of Ben Anhalt and Dan Kramer in Millers Falls just off Route 2, has brewed all three of its regular beers for current release: Extra Special Oak, Red Giant and Dark Matter. Bottle-conditioned (750 ml corked) versions should be available now. Growlers may also be filled at the brewery, but call ahead.

At Opa Opa Steakhouse and Brewery in Southampton, where Mr. Kramer is head brewer, the brewing team has released Double Red Rock, the latest in the Alpha Omega Series. This big malty brew comes in at 10% and gets its huge body from German Vienna and English crystal malts. Besides growlers and six-packs, Opa is now producing 12-packs. Mark your calendar for the Feb. 28 beer dinner.

Pioneer Brewing in Sturbridge has made such a name for itself in its immediate neighborhood that owners Todd Sullivan and Tim Daley are on the way to selling 3,000 barrels this year. A new one-off series called The Sessionals started in January with a Belgian Wit that accompanies the regular seasonal beers to help fill the 10 taps in the tasting pub. Also try Industrial Pale Ale, a 7% 50 IBU double-hopped beer, and the current seasonal Dark Harvest Imperial Porter, a big strong 10% dark brew. Head brewer Tim Daley is also brewing root beers.

Will Shelton's High and Mighty Brewing has released the new St. Hubbins Dubbel, a 6.5% Belgian-style brown ale with chocolate, vanilla and licorice. Fermented with Trappist ale yeast, this Dubbel is unfiltered and unpasteurized for a nice warming flavorful finish. Will's other beers include Hoppy Blonde, India Pale and Chocolate Stout.

Bill Heaton and Christine Bump at the Pittsfield Brew Works just welcomed their new son Tobias William to the brewing family. Congratulations! Christine is back in her brewer boots though and has come up with the 5.4% Hazelnut Brown and Rye Knot, a 6.2% golden rye.

The brewers at Berkshire Brewing in South Deerfield have this year's Raspberry Barley Wine-Style Ale ready to warm you up. Loaded with a half pound of fresh raspberries per gallon, this beer is the former Raspberry Strong Ale with a name change due to federal labeling requirements. Luscious malts and a slight hop bitterness make this 9% brew deceptively drinkable with the rich sweet, yet tart, character of the fruit. A new beer, Stuck Mash Ale (6%), is brewed with 100 percent wheat and contains Amarillo hoppiness in a 10-barrel limited release. And keep an eye out for the spring seasonal German Maibock, sweet and spicy with Noble hops for balance.

Ben Roesch, former brewer at Honest Town in Southbridge, has partnered with Tom Oliveri of Peppercorns Restaurant in Worcester to open Wormtown Brewing next door on Park Avenue. Ben is now brewing on a 10-barrel system and the first batch will be ready for late February. See you at the grand opening party!

And speaking of parties, mark your calendar for the Beer Advocate Extreme Fest at The Cyclorama in Boston on Feb. 19 and 20. There will certainly be some incredible beers to sample!

New Hampshire

The latest in Redhook's Brewers Series is Haulin' Oats Oatmeal Stout, a creamy 5.5% stout with a chocolate nose and body. Brewed with a cool, slow fermentation, the 5.6% Copperhook is a clean, refreshing ale with liberal amounts of Saaz hops. The one-night only release of the GABF silver award-winning Treblehook in December was a huge success. Head brewer Doug McNair and brewer Jim Sipp kept this barleywine flowing with the addition of a barrel of the '07 version which proved to be even smoother and richer. Four logs of the '09 version are being stored for release this autumn; 19 were consumed that night and all 1200 cases in stores are gone!

Bill Dunn, head brewer at Elm City Brewing in Keene, is gathering area brewers for the annual beer tasting on Feb. 16. Local brewers will introduce their beers that will be matched with various food items. Bill will have a Coffee Double Porter with toasted coconut at the tasting. A second dark beer coming is Chocolate Milk Stout; Bill swears that it's exactly like chocolate milk! Bill's Irish Potato Ale, which has a slightly gritty texture from 50 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes in the brew, will be on for St. Patrick's Day. Enjoy other Elm City brews, including Nor'Easter Scottish Wee Heavy and Rudolph's Red at the March 30 beer dinner.

Readers may have heard many rumors regarding the status of Pennichuck Brewing in Milford and we are now sad to report that the brewery is indeed out of business. Owner Phil Jewett closed the doors very recently, but may start again in the near future. In the meantime, grab as many Pennichuck brews as you can find on the shelves as that's the end! We look forward to seeing another version of the award-winning Pozharnik Russian Imperial Stout.

Paul Davis, who hopes to open his Prodigal Brewing in Effingham soon, has been assisting Will Gilson at Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery in North Conway. Paul's Red Ale was introduced in mid-January and was a big hit with visitors to the pub. Will has brewed a special export lager, deep golden in color, a different version with a slightly higher alcohol level than his Cathedral Ledge Lager because of the decoction process.

Greg Ouellette and his merry gang at Martha's Exchange in Nashua have tapped Abbot's Habit Tripel (9%) and Vow of Silence Belgian Stout (7.7%), the latter of which was fermented with a blend of Trappist and American ale yeasts. In February, the first of a series of single hop brews will appear. A hearty amber lager hopped entirely with Mt. Raniers is a nice 53 IBU 6.5%. Other single hops brews, including one formulated by assistant brewer Mark Harrington, will debut through the year. If you still require more hops, sample Dr. Hoppenstein's Double IPA which hits 9% and is jam-packed with Centennial, Columbus and Glacier hops. This year's edition of Flandersish Sour Ale, tart and refreshing at 5.5%, has been aging for a year and is ready to roll out. Also, catch Weathertop Doppelbock (8.3%) and Will's Fault Wicked Good Beah, an English mild style at 4.5%.

Ron Gamble at Milly's Tavern in Manchester, who gave up the corporate world to be a brewer, is awash in dark beers this winter. Milly's Oatmeal Stout is a dark and full-bodied ale made with eight malts that is served with nitrogen for that big creamy head. John Stark Dark Porter has five malts with flavors of coffee and chocolate. In addition, Ron has Foreign Extra Stout and Cherry Porter on tap.

Upcoming beers include Hoplicious, an unfiltered pale ale with several Northwest hops that give the beer a citrus flavor, and Bo's Scotch Ale, a traditional strong ale with caramel and malt sweetness. For those seeking a lighter beer, Ron has complied with your wishes and is serving Milly's British Mild with a hint of fruitiness and low alcohol.

Vermont

Allen Van Anda, former cellarman at Pickwick's Ale House, has brewed his first batch at the new Trapp Family Lodge Brewery in Stowe. This first beer is a traditional Helles style lager to be followed by a Vienna style lager. Depending on lagering time, the beers should be pouring by late February. Allen will start distributing in kegs to area pubs and restaurants and hopes to release one-liter bottles in the summer and special seasonals soon. Beer will also be on draft at the lodge's deli and bakery located across from scenic mountain views. Enjoy cross country skiing now or mountain biking soon and relax with a fresh lager.

Speaking of lagers, Magic Hat has introduced its new spring seasonal called Vinyl Lager, an amber-colored beer with a sweet and smooth malty flavor. Also for spring is the American Wheat pale ale as the new Odd Notion beer in the Spring Fever Variety Pak. It's a strong 6% with Apollo and Simcoe hops. Try some during the Magic Hat Mardi Gras weekend at the end of February and maybe win a trip to New Orleans.

After visiting in-laws and touring breweries in Germany, brewer Mark Magiera is back at work at The Bobcat brewpub in Bristol. Besides the 12 regular beers on tap, Mark is excited about his Saison de Cassis that was brewed in November and has been conditioning on black currants since then. Sticking with the fruit theme, Mark is also working on a Raspberry Wheat with real berry puree, and will also brew a Marzen for March.

Otter Creek in Middlebury has released a new year-round ale called Solstice, a nice session beer at a refreshing 4%. Otter Creek also has a special Spring Ale Kolsch, bright golden with malted wheat and a crisp dry finish. Wolaver's, OC's organic division, brings out Pat Leavy's All-American Ale made with all-organic Fuggles, Goldings and Magnum hops. Overshadowing all of this beer news is the fact that Long Trail Brewing in Bridgewater Corners purchased Otter Creek effective Jan. 11. Reps from Long Trail assure us that the beers from Otter Creek and Wolaver's will not be changed and that it's business as usual.

With distribution now in New York, Ray McNeill is very busy in the brewhouse. For the first time in three years, McNeill's Brewery is re-releasing Exterminator Doppelbock, Old Ringworm and McNeill's Tartan Ale, all at about 8.5%. A limited amount of bourbon barrel-aged Old Ringworm will be pouring at McNeill's Pub in Brattleboro. Two launch parties in The Big Apple are scheduled for Barcade and The Blind Tiger; check their web sites for details.

Jim Conroy, head brewer at The Shed in Stowe, is on a Belgian run with a Tripel coming in at 9.5%. Wyeast's Trappist strain shines through with a slight maltiness from Pale, Crystal and Munich. Jim's collaboration beer with Awake Coffee will produce a 6.5% espresso stout on a nitro pour. On tap at all times are West Branch Gold, Amber, IPA (7.2% loaded with Simcoe and Centennial hops), Mountain Ale and a revolving stout.

Rock Art Brewery in Morrisville was voted as one of the Trend Setting Breweries of 2009 by Beer Nation for its winning fight regarding labeling against Monster Energy Drinks. You may still be able to find some of the silky smooth and flavorful Mountain Holidays In Vermont, Rock Art's creamy bock lager. Another reason to have beer for breakfast: Suprenant's Berry Farm in Mooers, NY, has made a series of beer jellies using Rock Art and Otter Creek beers.

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