It’s not secret that we are longtime fans of Sean Larkin and the beers he produces. We had him write the intro to our book, because in our opinion, he’s one of the driving forces behind the RI craft beer scene. And he’s just awesome. He’s the type guy who brings kegs to a first birthday party. For real. From Trinity to Narragansett he’s won 14 awards at the Great International Beer Festival and a bronze at the GABF. This week I got to try the Double Black IPA, one of Revival’s offerings.
It was the Fourth of July Weekend and I was hiking in NH up at Arethusa Falls and Frankenstein Cliffs when someone in the parking lot shouted, “Hey, you’re the beer writer!” I had been recognized by Frank, a writer for Yankee Brew News, not only for my writing prowess, but for my Revival “Night Swim’ah” tank top. Everyone knows Revival. Even if you haven’t had a Revival Beer, you’ve probably had something by Sean Larkin, the mastermind behind Revival Brewing (and the foreword to our book, and a ton of other Rhode Island beers such as Trinity, Narragansett, and Brutopia).
Recently I was at Wequassett for Foolproof Brewing and I was placed right in between a Cape Cod Great White Rum, and a series of unmarked, brown bottles that reminded me of homebrew. Now, I don’t drink hard alcohol so I was a little disheartened to be at the rum cocktail table, however when I found out the mysterious brown bottles contained alcoholic ginger beer, I was in for a night of next level dark and stormys.
But what was this alcoholic ginger beer only available on my part of Cape Cod? How had I never heard of it? Enter Farmer Willie’s, the new libation in town. Based out of a Cape Cod kitchen way out in Truro by the wrist of the Cape, farmer Willie Fenichel began home-brewing alcoholic ginger beer, which he shared at local beaches and soon became a cult sensation. Co-founders Nico and Max got ready to share his ginger beer with the masses, and Farmer Willie’s began.
The water in Truro is good for lots of things, sharks, erosion, surfing, but unfortunately not for brewing. So Farmer Willie’s is brewed in collaboration with Downeast Cider in Charlestown, MA. After raising over $20,000 on Kickstarter to get off the ground and purchase cold storage and a delivery van so they can roll out 30,000 cans for summer, the beer is available at locations all over the Mid-Lower Cape from farmers markets to liquor stores. My choice location would be Cranberry Liquors in Harwichport, because if you’re the type person who is chasing down craft ginger beer, you probably also like to chase down craft beer, and they have the best selection in this part of the Cape.
And now onto the beer itself:
Made with ginger, lemons, and something secret, this beer pours a very pale straw color, it sort of looks like a cloudy ginger ale. The smell of ginger is the first thing you notice, it;s a very sweet and earthy smell.
It tastes like a solid ginger beer, not to fizzy, not to sweet, only the kicker with this one is that it has alcohol in it. Aside from a slight warming sensation, the alcohol doesn’t impede the taste at all which would make this a great addition to dark and stormys, or, if you’re like me, to drink a cold glass of this with a sprig of mint, while chilling on a hammock.
Homebrewers Mike Segerson and Matt Belson are opening up Devil’s Purse Brewing Co. in South Dennis this Memorial Day weekend. Inside the brewery bags of malts- Vienna, Crystal, Pilsen, Simpons are stacked high to produce their malt-forward European influenced beers.
Matt and Mike both started out as homebrewers, were successful at it, which lead to the formation of Devil’s Purse. Mike had worked at a winery, taken classes at B.U. for wine tasting, and worked at Truro Vineyards, where he began to get into beer. Matt, a former journalist for the Cape Codder, had gotten a homebrew kit for a wedding project that sat dormant for years, the two were introduced through their wives, and “no exaggeration, once we started homebrewing together it was all we did,” said Matt. They researched, brewed, and bottled, with the support of their friends and families.
Their next step? Opening a brewery. “Every day is a challenge, every day is rewarding, and we are exceptionally lucky to have people support us and cheer us on since day one,” said Matt. Their name, Devil’s Purse, comes from the skate egg pouches found on many a Cape beach. “I used to collect them on north beach, it’s one of my earlier memories,” says Mike, “I found out what they are called, and thought, that’s awesome.” They tossed around the idea of the name at a 2am brew session and it stuck. Their logo combines a devils purse with a surfmans check badge, which are given to highly skilled mates in the coastguard. These used to be given to the lifesavers at Monomony, and Race Point, to name a few.
Their beers and philosophies pay homage to the past and history of the cape. The beers themselves have nautical names as well- Handline Kolsch, Skatemouth Pale Ale, Surfmans Check ESB, and their Light Vessel IPA series named after notorious rips in the area- like Pollock and Cross.
They hope to see the Cape become a craft beer destination, and the town of Dennis was excited to welcome the 7-barrel brewhouse to town, and their new location sits in a spacious industrial bay on Great Western Road. It features a tasting room that does growler fills, and better yet, crowler fills. Not only is it fun to hold a 32oz. giant can of beer, it’s also much better for the beach and boat life.
I’m pretty excited to see another brewery grace the shores of Cape Cod where things seem to move at a painfully slower pace than the rest of the state. Let’s keep the ball rolling, who is going to be next?
Memorial Day Weekend Opening Hours at the brewery
Friday, May 22 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Sat. May 23 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
***CLOSED Sun. May 24 & Mon. May 25***
Their beer has also begun distribution at local bars and restaurants.
Address and Contact info
Devil’s Purse Brewing Company
120 Great Western Rd.
South Dennis, MA 02660
For more information visit: www.devilspurse.com
What better way to showcase our first summer beer than in a heavily-filtered mason jar?
Baxter Brewing really impressed me with their last beer, Window Seat, a coconut almond porter. So when their summer seasonal was one of the first summer brews to make its way into my shop, I didn’t hesitate. Brewed with lemon and lime peel, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass, it sounds like a zesty sauvignon blanc of a beer.
Baxter Brewing – a Lewiston Maine-based brewing company, was one of the first in New England to can their beer.
Commercial Description: “Our first unfiltered offering, Summer Swelter Ale is the perfect warm weather beer! Summer Swelter Ale is light and refreshing while still keeping your taste buds interested. The malt base features a hefty dose of wheat for a big, fluffy head and a soft, round body, yet keeps the beer drinkable even during the dog days. The light malt character is more than balanced by a blend of citrusy American hops, giving Swelter a crisp bitterness without being overpowering. The hoppy citrus aroma complements the ingredients that make this beer so unique: lemon and lime peel, Kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass provide a subtle touch yet unmistakable floral nose and just a touch of bracing tartness, taking the refreshment of Swelter to the next level.”
It pours a hazy and golden yellow with lots of sediment particles floating around. The carbonation is visible and keeps a frothy layer of foam on the top.
The nose is more subdued than I expected; light lemongrass, grassy hops, zesty and wheaty. As it opened up a bit more, the limes really began to step forefront, almost to the point where it smelled like I just juiced a lime into my beer.
This is herbal, grassy, with some pithy citrus rind and a touch of acidity. I’m glad that Baxter went out on a limb with their summer seasonal and I would take this over most crummy blonde ales, but the bitterness slightly overpowers the creamy wheat base and a lot of the refreshing acidity that I expected.
The carbonation is bubbly and active, keeping that grassy bitterness with you for a while after its dry and bready finish. It’s drinkable and definitely a unique approach, but just not my cup of tea.
I think this is my first post in ten months, but now that the book is in the hands of God, AKA the publisher, and I’m done wedding planning, I am back with a review of Slumbrews 2014 Yankee Swap. It was a cold January day when I wandered into the bottle shop and this victual popped out to me…nay, it was calling to me:
This 2014 imperial stout is the SECOND EDITION in our Yankee Swap series. It’s aged in Turkey Shore Distilleries run barrels to create a unique flavor profile that continues to develop with time. A perfect accompaniment to holiday doldrums, in-laws or all bouts of holiday boredom. If you collect bottles, we suggest you cellar a second bottle or two of this ale to serve with next year’s edition of our Yankee Swap.
Doldrums? Check. In-laws? Yes, one in particular, check. Boredom? Check.
Commercial Description: A well-balanced, medium-bodied ale brewed to sustain you over the long New England winter. Its rich malt profile is reminiscent of an English Pale Ale, while the spicy and fruity hop finish, from German Tettnang hops, gives it a warming and welcoming feeling to bring you back in from the cold. Copper-amber in color, this offering is available all winter long.
I left this beer sitting for a while and when I returned to it, the head was still there, leaving ample lacing on the glass; creamy, off-white and well-formed. It poured an amber/brown with copper highlights. Overall, just a very fresh, nice-looking beer with great clarity.
The nose is full of that rich and flowery Tettnang hop presence, followed by some soft, bready malts with a light toffee sweetness. On first sip, before even really noticing any of the flavors, the first thing I reacted too was how nice this beer is on the palate; very creamy and soft, but still has a bit of weight to it.
The taste matches the aroma in almost every way – toasted bread, light caramel, as well as a touch of fruit and spice, almost like a cinnamon quality. The earthy hop flavor is apparent and is in nice contrast to the soft and bready maltiness. At 6.3%, there is no discernable alcohol presence. Cabin Fever finishes slightly dry, with flavors that linger.
I wish this was a bad-idea of a beer; one where you lose interest immediately because the flavors are confused and counterproductive, only so I could relate it to the movie Cabin Fever. Eli Roth, grumble grumble. But I can’t. It’s a well put together, very drinkable beer, but for me, lacks the qualities that would make it a stand-out winter warmer. If anything, I see this being a go-to year round beer, rather than a seasonal. Though if you’re looking for a winter beer that’s not an overly-spiced, imperial malt bomb, then this might be the beer for you.
Let’s talk a bit about what exactly a Gose is since I think the style still has a bit of mystery surrounding it, and has only just made it into the BJCP guidelines last year.
A gose, pronounced like it rhymes with “rose”, with an “uh” at the end, is a sour and salty wheat ale brewed with coriander and, back in its heyday, salted water. The beer’s 1,000 year-old history takes it back to the German city of Leipzig, the capital city of Saxony in what became the former East Germany. The name Gose comes from the river Gose, which flows through the town of Goslar, part of Lower Saxony and a former brewing center. It’s assumed that the original source of a Gose’s saltiness came from the naturally saline water from the mineral-rich aquifers around Goslar that fed the Goslar brewhouses.
To make it brief – Goslar declined, brewing moved to Leipzig where it flourished, World War II, Berlin Wall, bread-making > beer-making, wall came down, Gose came back.
Originally, gose got it’s sour quality from spontaneous fermentation from bacteria like Lactobacillus, or with the later addition of lactic acid. Today’s American brewers use a multitude of souring methods, from wild yeasts, to sour mashes, and sometimes with the addition of lemon juice or other types of citrus.
Moving along, I only just visited Everett’s Night Shift Brewing for the first time this past fall with a big group of drunk girls (~*BACHELORETTE PARTY*~). It reminded me a lot of the Brooklyn Brewery experience, which I love. Unassuming industrial building, exposed beams, large family style tables, with a huge variety of sample beers pouring and available bottles; just one big party.
This is the beer that stood out the most to me that day – Harborside, a 5.1% gose-style ale brewed with Island Creek oysters and coriander. The brewery teamed up with Duxbury’s renowned Island Creek Oysters, adding hundreds of fresh oysters to the boiling wort, to create this tart, salty, citrusy celebration of the ocean side.
A huge head billows up upon pouring, but then immediately settles down to a wisp of nothing. In the glass, Harborside shines a bright and golden-yellow with noticeable carbonation and a bit of haze.
The nose is reminiscent of those candied fruit rinds that my friends make fun of me for enjoying, calling it old person candy. A tart citrus aroma weaves itself amongst, well, I don’t know how else to say it, but a meaty, wharf-like smell; full of umami and not unpleasant in the slightest. It smells complex and delicious. This beer has such a tart, lemon citrus flavor; it’s like sucking on some Warheads that have been soaking in Limoncello. It’s crisp and cutting, but rounded out with a sweet/savory oyster finish. It has an almost buttery quality, like an oaked Chardonnay, with a high minerality and a light funk. These flavors are very jarring on their own, but in this beer, everything ties together really nice.
The carbonation is bright and spritzy and even with the tartness, it’s overall very thirst-quenching – such a fun beer!
It’s crazy to see how far Rhode Island has come over the past few years in terms of local breweries and the support that these new start-ups are receiving. Pawtucket’s Crooked Current, in their first few months open, were voted Best Brewery in Rhode Island in an online poll over at Bottles & Cans. Maybe it’s because that it wasn’t long ago when Rhode Island was the home of one production brewery and a smattering of brewpubs. You’ve come a long way, baby.
With that said, you’ve really got to give the crew at Newport Storm some credit. Before the start of this voracious locavore movement, they were pushing out innovative beers, not because the market was crying out for Belgian pale ales or Double IPA’s, because it wasn’t; those beers were virtually unheard of in New England. They were doing it because they loved brewing, loved the experimentation it included (these are a bunch of science geeks, mind you), and they enjoyed giving their small group of supporters a treat every now and then. Not saying that every offering from them has been a success – there have been a lot of hits and misses over the years, but they took that chance. Take a look at their Cyclone Series for example (retired) – 6-packs of limited release, unique offerings – an Autocrat milk stout before Narragansett, bocks, Belgians, scotch ales and sours, all while most people were still suckling on the BMC teat.
With some of Storm’s latest offerings, it looks like they’re going back to those days of brewing for fun, just to experiment and learn – it just so happens that styles like Belgian Pale Ales are increasingly popular now. Their innovation has finally caught up with market trends. The Cyclone Series is gone, but in its place is a new batch of limited-release brews and in this case, Newport Storm’s first 4-pack.
The brewing team at Newport Storm are a bunch of movie geeks. If you haven’t noticed this already, check the bottom of any Newport Storm bottle cap and you’ll usually find a movie quote with the word “beer” swapped in so Wham! Bam! Van Damme comes at no surprise. This is an 8% Belgian Pale Ale in praise of all things scissor kicks.
WBVD pours a radiant golden, with a thin white head that fades quickly; huge stonefruit aroma, with lots of apricot and caramelized sugars. Dry-hopped for two weeks with a blend of American, Australian and German hops, I was envisioning either the hops getting lost in the prominent Belgian yeast, or the opposite, the bitterness overpowering the spice. I was very wrong. The big yeast spiciness, specifically lots of black pepper notes, match up beautifully with the intense hop profile. The bitterness plays a big part of this beer, but is never overpowering, and is in perfect balance with the light caramel malts, vanilla-soaked fruit flavors and big citrus quality. Every flavor mingles very nicely, amidst a crisp, medium body with great carbonation.
Brewmaster Jack, Holyoke, MA
Hop Essence Series
White India Pale Ale
7.5%, 58 IBUs
Ashleigh and I lived our formative years out in Western Massachusetts, attending UMass Amherst. People tell me stories of their college experience, the antics and idealism, and I can’t help but stare with detachment, because none of them have anything on student life in the Happy Valley. It was a bubble – five universities cut off from any main city, surrounded by sprawling farmland and mountains. It was essentially a giant playground for 18 – 24 year olds.
So when we both took a trip to Amherst a couple weeks ago, it felt very strange seeing new generations of students living that same lifestyle. Everyone looks so young and stupid, and I didn’t even get carded at the liquor store where I used to buy my 40 oz’s. I picked up cider donuts from the local farm stand, we hiked the tallest mountain in the valley and ate barbeque from our favorite spot with the sign on the highway telling people they’re only 5 miles away from Bub’s. I also grabbed a bunch of Massachusetts beers that I can’t get back in Rhode Island – one of them from Brewmaster Jack.
About: Hop Essence is a single hop series. “Rather than keeping the same malt bill and just rotating in different hops, each beer in the Hop Essence Series is crafted to complement the specific hop variety used.” HBC 342 is an experimental hop from Select Botanicals and Hop Breeding Company in Washington and rumored to be the parent hop of Mosaic. The HBC 342 White India Pale Ale uses four orange varieties and South African Rooibos, as well as coriander seed.
HBC 132 looked like a wheat beer as I was pouring it, with a huge and fluffy marshmallow-like head that stuck around for a while, like a layer of fluff atop of my beer. Good stuff. The color is a bright yellow/orange. As of yet, nothing is screaming IPA. It pours like a hefeweizen and has the coloring of a pilsner.
The aroma adds even more intrigue to this beer – tons of unique fruits right up front like kiwi and papaya; very interesting and complex.
The taste is the IPA I was waiting for. Huge grassy and herbal notes brush right past the citrus burst that I was expecting, accentuated by hints of pine. That big grassy bitterness is nicely matched by a light citrus/grapefruit character, but none of those exotic fruits that came from the aroma. I’m not getting much of the watermelon that was said to be pouring from the experimental hop, but I do get plenty of bright peppery notes from either the yeast or coriander. Big bready biscuit flavors are the forefront here, even before the citrus; it’s wheaty quality that I’ve never really seen much of in the world of IPAs.
This beer sticks with you for a while, leaving citrus rind and resin all over your tongue – like an 8th grade make-out session with that stoner kid in the drug rug. A light to medium body, though it does feel much bigger due to the carbonation and huge flavors at work – quite effervescent too.
I love the idea of constructing a beer around the hop rather than just making a standard pale or IPA and then throwing the hop in. So many breweries are playing around with IPA’s and making it a standard to have one of each IPA style (double, white, black, etc.) – but this right here is something different. This is Brewmaster Jack’s commitment to brewing good beer and not just appeasing hop heads, and should get the recognition it deserves.
Rhode Island has an interesting take on beer. Sometimes I get the feeling that people think no good beer can come from the state; a sort of self-loathing. In my line of work, I see self-proclaimed craft connisseurs go for beers from Dogfish Head and Founders 10x more than they purchase something from their hometown brewery.
I started thinking about this because I picked up this bottle of Smuttynose from Wakefield Liquors a couple weeks back. Smutty hasn’t really taken off in Rhode Island, which is just a trip for me since I recently moved from New Hampshire where Smuttynose was THE brewery of seemingly the whole state. New Hampshire beer drinkers are a unified front when it comes to drinking local and bolstering their beer economy. Rhode Island is still skeptical. It has only started to see a beer resurgence within the past few years, and even so, you can still almost liken it to the craft beer boom of the early 90’s, where everyone was starting a brewery and time had to cull the herd a bit to see who would stick around.
I would love to see more brewery tasting rooms that are akin to bars so consumers can meet the people brewing their beer and create social gathering spaces (damn you three-tier system) And while it’s nice to have plenty of choices in bars, I would like to see a better balance between local options and the Belgian imports that a lot of the better beer bars place their money on. But no matter what, there’s still no denying that it’s an exciting time for beer in the state.
Onto the review! This is the Winter Ale from Smuttynose which has been aged in red wine barrels. It pours a very deep brown with reddish copper highlights – looks like a very concentrated cranberry juice. The head billowed up and then settled back down into a creamy thick film on top. The carbonation seems pretty decent.
Tart aroma; very winey and akin to cooking sherry but with a touch of oak. My first flavor impression was of milk chocolate with a touch of caramel, which really threw me off a bit. There is a light berry sweetness that begins to fade into a big oak character. I think the original Smutty winter was there interpretation of a dubbel – I remember tons of dried cherries and a big caramel malt character, very bready and spicy. With the addition of the wine barrel-aging, I feel like something was lost. I am enjoying the vinous qualities, but they’re not blending as smoothly with the underlying beer.
You still get the nice bready quality, complimented by a light cocoa, raisins and big vinous fruits. The tartness is medium with the acidity lingering in to the finish. The body is a little on the lighter side, but it still feels rich and smooth. It’s not bad by any means, just interesting. This was the first beer in Smuttynose’s Smuttlabs Series. I like seeing breweries being able to expand and play around with styles a bit so keep at it, Smutty.
Another Night Shift post? Yep. Because their distro range is so limited, I tend to stock up when I am at a store that sells their beer. It’s hard not to, I’ve never had a bad beer from them, and their clean fonts combined with the simple and rustic hop owl printed on textured papers win me over. In my opinion they have the most aesthetically pleasing and easily identifiable packaging in craft beer.
JoJo is an American Style pink IPA, infused with hibiscus flowers, brewed with American yeast, and is hopped and dry hopped. I like this because it’s a new IPA focussed on being a sensory experience with attention to flavor, instead of EXTREME HOPPAGE. The promise of pink beer was intriguing enough to draw some of my friends over for a craft beer and homemade wings night, and when we poured this beer into tulip glasses we saw that it was indeed pink:
It poured a deeper hazy pink, and was peach in the light. The head was a light blush too! Barbies dream house apropos. A nice change up from my normal khaki/off white/ecrus/how many synonyms for beige are there…
Between the color and the grapefruit scents from the hops in the aroma, it reminded me of Ruby Red juice. I could really smell the yeast with this beer, and while I didn’t distinctly notice any hibiscus, there was some faint floral aromas.
It’s a light feeling beer, which makes sense. A heavy, pink, fluffy beer would just be weird. The sip starts out sweet, I’m guessing this is the hibiscus, and the hops kick in for a bitter mid sip. It finishes sweeter though, almost like an herbal tea/beer hybrid.
I wasn’t sure what to expect initially, but Night Shift has a knack for mixing together flavors in a way where it’s never overpowering each subtle nuance comes across in either taste or aroma, and this beer did exactly that.
The other night I was laying in bed with my fiance and he said I should help him out with restoring his Monte Tahoe* because I have no “projects” going on in my life. I decided he was right, I didn’t have any projects, and I went to bed. Then about a half hour later I woke up yelling how, hey! I do have projects! You know, like starting my garden, planning a wedding, oh yeah and writing a book.
*Monte Tahoe: A monstrosity consisting of a 70s Monte Carlo mounted on a Tahoe chassis. We always have the best car at the boat ramp… if we were on the set of Joe Dirt.
Starting the garden is key to this post. When I’m working outside, I like cans. Be it gardening, boating, sitting on a beach towel…serious manual labor. Well, Night Shift had a meeting after hearing about this, and I imagine it went something like this: “Hey, Ashleigh likes beer in cans during her outdoor leisure time, so we better start canning our beer.”
To get a grasp of the color, and all the other beer review facets, I had to pour some of it into a glass which meant missing out on the full can experience, wah.
Marblehead (4.5% ABV) is an amber session ale with sea salt from the local Marblehead, Salt Co., and vanilla bean. The beer is dark amber and clear, with a creamy head that quickly dissipated, leaving some lacing.
It has a musty/fruity smell with hints of caramel and vanilla, but the malts are the most noticeable with their toasty aroma. The salt and hops are faintly noticeable.
The beer is a blend of sweet and salty, you can taste caramelized malts and the hints of vanilla bean, and the aftertaste is faintly reminiscent of sea air because that’s when I noticed the salt. None of the ingredients are overpowering, they’re all very subtle.
Definitely made our summer boat beer list (requirements: good taste, must be in a can)