Gift Series Part II: Experience It

This is Part II of our 4 Part Gift series

Have a craft beer lover in your life and don’t know what to get them or want to do something other than the random beer trinket? These gift ideas are ways for you to get out there and immerse yourself craft beer. Ways to meet other people, try new breweries, and make the experience memorable.

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Upcoming Events 

September is shaping up to be a busy month, so here’s a rundown of upcoming events. Are we missing something? Hosting an event? Have some info you want us to add? E-mail us for info on how to get it promoted-

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161. Night Shift Harborside

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!

139. CBC Great Pumpkin Festival 2013

Pumpkin monks

Pumpkin monks

This past weekend was the sixth annual Great Pumpkin Festival at Cambridge Brewing Company – a place where autumnphiles can come together and have a pumpkin beer without the ubiquitous cinnamon-sugar rim nor the sneers from the general craft beer public. This was our third year in attendance, and in our opinion, the most successful event yet. In the past, the festival operated on a one-in/one-out policy, resulting in a line, usually on the first cold day of October, that left you cursing yourself for wearing a dress and cursing all those terrible terrible people who agreed to hold their friend’s place in line while they went into Tommy Doyles to stay warm doing pumpkin bomb shots. There is a special circle of Hell for line-cutters, I’m sure of it.

Our costumes - Daria & Jane

You’re standing on my neck – Daria and Jane are skeptical of waiting in line to drink beer

This year, the event was divided into three four-hour sessions throughout the day, which got rid of the wait time and made things much more comfortable and accessible inside the restaurant. We chose the last session so we could witness the event we’ve missed years past, a monk-led procession leading to the tapping of a giant pumpkin filled with CBC’s Great Pumpkin Ale.

All Hail the Great Pumpkin

All Hail the Great Pumpkin

This is a great place to experience interpretations of pumpkin beer you’ve never imagined. But truth be told, at least for me, it’s about pretzel rolls with beer mustard and pumpkin ale braised sauerkraut and hanging out with robots. Oh, and commemorative glassware.


Here’s some of my evening’s most memorable beers:

CBC Stout at the Devil – 666# of pale malt, 6.66 oz. of Devil’s Claw herb, a 6.66% ABV – how can you not love this devilish beer? Plus add to the fact that this is their 2011 version that has been aging on Brettanomyces barrels. “It’s all for you, CBC!” ~*Jumps off balcony*~

Jack’s Abby Pumpkin Crop Lager – A perfect blend of autumnal spices mixed with locally sourced pumpkins makes for a crisp lager with a well-done pumpkin profile without any of the sugary sweetness.

Iron Hill Pumpkin Berliner Weisse – Tons of candied pumpkin and sugar cookies with some tart lemon characteristics. Very interesting and enjoyable.

Avery Rumpkin – Ahhh the venerable Rumpkin; aged in fresh rum barrels and clocking in at a monstrous 18%. Yes, it’s totally overwhelming and like taking a shot of pumpkin pie rum, but it’s still complex, sweet, and good to try once.

133. Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin Stout

Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin

Come fall, it seems like a lot of people start going on these anti-pumpkin beer rants. Yes, I understand it’s a way for some breweries to turn a quick profit on a seasonal trend, and yes pumpkin beers do tend to saturate the shelves which in turn, makes less room for more traditional styles like märzens.

I’m still going to stand up and say that I like pumpkin beers. A lot. Just as much as I like pumpkin-spiced coffees and buying cheap apple cider and pumpkin-scented Wal-Mart candles so I can feel like I’m turning my shitty apartment into a rustic autumnal homestead when instead probably making it smell like someone dumped a bunch of compost onto a Bath & Body Works factory fire. Pumpkin beers are a flavorful fall treat – the harbingers of my favorite season. So lay off me, pumpkin naysayers; they’ll be gone in a month anyways and you can start complaining about how your winter warmer has too much spice in it.
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123: WGBH Craft Beer Festival 2013 – A Recap

wgbhcraftbeershield4color200x200 Last Saturday, July 13, Ashleigh and I attended the 1st Annual WGBH Craft Beer Festival, held on the grounds of the WGBH studio in Brighton, MA.

Right off the bat, I could tell that this was less an event to make money off of the craft beer movement, and more to actually showcase the New England beer scene and provide just a well-rounded beer experience.

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114. Slumbrew My Better Half

My Better Half is a limited seasonal release from one of my favorite Massachusetts breweries, Slumbrew. Don’t let my silly video fool you; the crew at Slumbrew are working their asses off to provide us with great beers and hopefully soon, they’ll be able to open up a permanent brewing space in Somerville.

Visit them at

112. Samuel Adams Norse Legend

Sam Adams Norse Legend

With references dating it as far back as 1366, and found prominently throughout the Viking and Medieval periods, the sahti is a beer that is sure to make all you mead-swilling, Renaissance Festival-attending, Odin-worshipping, Game of Thrones nerds quiver with a joy you haven’t felt since you won your Dungeons and Dragons fantasy jousting league.

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93. Samuel Adams Cinder Bock

Sam Adams Cinder Bock2

Our second stop on our tour through the Samuel Adams Limited Release Series, first being Merry Mischief Gingerbread Stout, is Cinder Bock; a combination of two German styles, the smoky rauchbier and the malty doppelbock.

I know a lot of people who just aren’t into these “bacon beers”. But give me a rauchbier paired with some smoked salmon or a strong cheese and I am in heaven. Plus, they remind me of my childhood, growing up in Franconia in the 1500’s, when I had to dry my malts over an open flame.

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88. Samuel Adams Merry Mischief Gingerbread Stout

Photo courtesy of Samuel Adams

Photo courtesy of Samuel Adams

Sam Adams Limited Release Series has definitely been one of the beer highlights of 2012 for me. It’s great seeing such a large brewery willing to take a step off the beaten path and experiment with styles like gose, sahti, and rauchbiers.

Part of the collection is their Merry Mischief Gingerbread Stout, a 9% ABV milk stout, pouring black with a creamy 2-finger mocha head, with thick, sticky lacing. I wish I could find my picture of this beer because its appearance makes you want to take it home and curl up with it next to a fire.  I don’t have a fireplace so the yule log channel will have to do.

Commercial-free hot yule log action

Commercial-free hot yule log action

The aroma is more subdued than what you would expect though; toffee, toasted malts, and very light gingerbread.

I guess I wanted a creamy, spicy stout bomb. What I got was, well, it was comparable to taking a pumpkin beer, an English ale, and a milk stout and shaking them around in a beer snowglobe. This beer actually helped inspire me, homebrew-wise. I was going to brew just one gingerbread beer this season, a recipe for an English-style ale with candied ginger and cinnamon sticks from a Brooklyn Brew Shop recipe. Now I’m making two. The second being a milk stout with fresh ginger and vanilla beans.

Merry Mischief is very heavily spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger; almost like a pumpkin pie spicing. Roasted malts, a mild and earthy hop bitterness, caramel, and a hint of lactose round out the flavor. It’s well-carbonated, the body medium-light, but lacking some of that smooth and full-bodied creaminess that I look for in a milk stout.

73. samuel adams fat jack double pumpkin

I’m still here, trudging through the pumpkins. Pace is starting to slow down a bit…getting slightly weary, palate is beginning to reject anything with cinnamon, but I carry on! For you. Pour vous…

You will find us giving pumpkins their final send-off back to the hells from whence they came this Saturday at Cambridge Brewing Company’s Great Pumpkin Festival. Over 40 pumpkin beers from breweries all over the country, pumpkin-inspired food, and a ceremonial tapping of a giant pumpkin full of CBC’s Great Pumpkin Ale. I’ll be the one wearing the luchadore mask, scarfing bratwurst.

Here’s another pumpkin beer from Boston’s Sam Adams. This is an imperial version, using 28 pounds of pumpkin per barrel, as compared to the 17 pounds in their Harvest Ale. Fat Jack pours a rich garnet with a thin tan head that quickly collapses into a light surface layer. It doesn’t look like your typical pumpkin beer. And I like that. The aroma is full of pumpkin meat, cinnamon, and vanilla. It has as very strong fall spicing smell, but not overly sweet like the Harvest.

I was expecting that imperial bite in the taste but was instead hit with a luscious malt base. On the palate it’s bready, toasted malts, a slight smokiness, and a great squash character; plus that same holiday spicing as the nose, very cider-like. There’s a light booziness and just enough bitterness to give a nice kick. Incredibly smooth and drinkable for an imperial pumpkin, Fat Jack is a great representation of the dark pumpkin style and it’ll definitely be a beer that I pick up again next year.

65. samuel adams harvest pumpkin ale

I begin my arduous trek into the realm of pumpkin beers with a Massachusetts local; Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale; a 5.7% ale brewed with 17 pounds of pumpkin per barrel, as well as roasted and smoked malts. It pours a deep garnet and produces an incredibly sweet aroma. I felt like I was walking through a harvest festival eating a candied apple.

Though you do get a bit of caramel malt, it seems like there are very little beer flavors going on. There is so much pumpkin pie spice that the malts have to fight for a presence. The body  is slightly thin, but to its advantage, I will say that it is crisp and smooth with some alcohol esters kicking in, in the spicy/sticky finish.

When I started drinking craft beers, pumpkin beers entranced me. I’m a big Halloween buff so I totally adored the overly sweet and over-the-top cinnamon sugar spice of even the lowliest pumpkin beer. I would have really enjoy Sam Adam’s Pumpkin a few years back, but my tastes have changed over the years, and now, even around All Hallows’ Eve, I need more beer than spice, and this beer is definitely lacking that.

57. Samuel Adams New World Tripel

I get all caught up in drinking local beers from whatever place I’m visiting, but for some reason, I never get around to drinking beers from my own city, Boston. It wasn’t until Ashleigh and I were in California earlier this year, did I realize I couldn’t get a Sam Adams on tap. My heart began to swell at the thought of a crisp Sam Adams Lager, as I experienced the whole you-don’t-know-what-you-got-til-it’s gone sort of thing.

Well, not really. But I did come home from that trip looking forward to drink this New World Tripel that I picked up at the Sam Adams Brewery. Definitely a recommended activity if you visit Boston, and don’t forget to hop on the free party trolley to Doyle’s afterwards!

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50. Harpoon Celtic Ale

I’m still here. WE’RE still here. Summer is upon us and I’m partial to falling asleep on the beach with a book rather than holed up in my room writing beer reviews. SORRY.

Also, if anybody out there, anyone..anyone at all.. knows of a possible job opening in the beer sector of our workforce, please, send me an e-mail. I will move to Vietnam to be a forklift operator, promote *insert small town name here*’s latest seasonal offering, give tours, clean kegs, balance checkbooks, ANYTHING to be around beer. Thank you for your time.

Celtic Ale is Harpoon’s spring seasonal beer, usually available between January and March; a Boston salute to Saint Patrick. Typical.

This Irish-style red ale pours an amber/copper with a creamy head and lacing that settles throughout the entire beer. Great retention. The aroms is light toffee and caramel, with a slight fruitiness.

A mild hop bitterness lets the malty sweetness come through. Floral yeasts and a light touch of alcohol (5.4% ABV) leave it very clean and simple tasting, but nice.

Mouthfeel is creamy and smooth, with a dry and toasty grain that lingers on in the finish. Well-balanced and easy to drink, Harpoon’s Celtic Ale gets a B.