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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Gift Series Part I: The Botanicals Edition

This is Part I of our 4 Part Gift Installment

This year I’ve broken down our gift picks into categories because you really can’t lump every beer fan under the same umbrella. First up is the “Botanicals Edition” which is for the person who likes floral flavors, herbal cocktails, and gin cocktails.

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Review: Revival Double Black IPA

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.

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158. Brewmaster Jack HBC 342

Brewmaster Jack HBC342

Brewmaster Jack, Holyoke, MA
Hop Essence Series
HBC 342
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.

156. Night Shift JoJo

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I swear it’s pink, my house is just a big, dark, monolithic entity.

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:

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Seriously…my house is where proper lighting goes to die.

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. 


152. Do Can Imperial Destroyer

Imperial Destroyer

Imperial Destroyer (excuse the photo, I was reviewing during a game of poker at a friends and didn’t want to be “that person” staging food photo lighting…even though I am always “that person.”)

It’s hard to keep track of all of the breweries popping up all over Massachusetts lately, and Do Can Brewery in Lowell is another one that went unheard of by us until my fiance saw their Star Wars themed bottle of Imperial Destroyer at CBC Westford and added it to our basket(s) of beer without even reading the label.

I went all Nancy Drew on Do Can after we got home. Everything is all very ambiguous on their site, all I could garner is the types beer they brew, they’re available at about 5 stores in the Lowell area, and were founded in Lowell to “provide great beer and an even better beer drinking experience” but aside from that they don’t do tours and I couldn’t find any other story about how they started or names of founders and brewers. A mystery beer.

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Hmm.

Fast forward to a week later and we get invited to a poker game, and so we grabbed this beer to bring over. Midway through the game we poured it into small glasses and shared it with everyone without giving them a heads up…this is a very mean thing to do with a beer that has an IBU of 318 and a tagline of “Does it destroy the palate? Or is it something totally different?”

Once everyone started sputtering, myself included, I decided to read the label. Ahh yes, IBU 318. Whoops. Sorry guys, it’s a trap!

With it’s thick, lacy head, this beer poured a cloudy, deep orange, and pine and citrus aromas permeated the kitchen.

It starts out sweet for a split second, but I mean it has an IBU of 318 so I am pretty sure you can all guess what I am going to write about for the flavor, and the reviewers on Beer Advocate commenting on the earthy flavors, toasted bread, and toffee are really baffling me because in a room of 7-8 craft beer drinkers, none of us perceived any of these flavors. Perhaps our palates aren’t as refined for the caliber reviews seen over at BA, but I’m leanings towards having a better BS filter, so let’s call a spade and spade and say that this INSANELY BITTER IPA was just that: bitter.

I would say it’s brewed to shock you, not for flavor, and it does just that.

131: A Packed Post: Planks & Pints, Riverwalk IPA, and Cooking with Beer

Last week I: chugged a beer through a straw while working out, visited one of my favorite breweries, and got to utilize the grill. Happy Kristie happy happy Kristie.

Let’s start at the beginning and with one of the reasons Amber Jansen of 2beerguys is an awesome craft beer lady. Together with Newburyport’s Riverwalk Brewing and Engage Your Core Pilates, she organized an engaging event combining two very different life paths, in order to raise money for the Jimmy Fund. I have a lot of admiration for someone who is able to take their passion for beer and promote it through their own unique platform (i.e. fitness), all the while, thinking of ways to help others.

Lisa Hamel Happ of Engage Your Core

Lisa Hamel Happ of Engage Your Core

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120. Smuttynose Durty

Smuttynose Durty

I suppose I should talk about the American IPA bubble and how the guild over at BJCP must be wringing their claw-like hands over parameter stretching and constant re-definitions and yadda yadda yadda. But really, meh. Give it another decade and we’ll have that conversation. For now, let’s have some fun. Hell, I’ve even created my own IPA. It’s called a CAT-IPA, or CIPA. Continue reading

92. Maine Beer Company Lunch IPA

Maine Beer Company Lunch

This is the type of beer that you have to be on a sign-up list at your local liquor store to get. People hunched over computers, waiting on the latest Tweet from Maine Brewing Company on when the next batch will be released. Hoop-jumping, near misses, store stalking like a bunch of rabid weasels. I never understood nor participated in the foaming at the mouth fanaticism that some people have for certain craft beers.

After moving to New Hampshire, I started seeing Maine Brewing Company beers in every store. I was familiar with the selection, so when I saw Lunch on the shelf at Leary’s Fine Wines in Newburyport, MA, all that went through my head was, “Oh, I haven’t seen this one around,” not yet knowing about its following, or the Pandora’s Box of Beer I was about to open.

Maine Brewing Company is a small brewery in Portland, Maine run by two brothers. They describe Lunch as an east-coast version of a west-coast IPA. It has a 7% ABV and has been aggressively dry-hopped, not for bitterness, but for aromatic purposes.

Named after a female fin whale that has been spotted off the coast of Maine since 1982, Lunch pours a hazy golden orange with a creamy and billowing white head that lasts throughout the entirety of the beer. The aroma will hit you right away. It’s like squeezing a fresh grapefruit. You get more of that grapefruit in your first sip as well as other tropical fruits and an herbal hoppiness. Then you think, “OK IPA, time to overpower me with hops, so much so that I have to rinse my mouth when I’m done .” But it never happens. The grainy malts come in to help tame the bitterness, and the hops don’t even come close to taking over this beer. Instead, they provide an integrating piney/citrusy freshness. The toasted malts are amazing, adding great balance and a smooth finish.

Any brewery can make a hop bomb, but it takes true craft to make a balanced and simply fantastic IPA.

It’s all rather bittersweet. I didn’t know that I had such an amazing rarity in my hands. I feel like a parent with empty-nest syndrome or a spurned lover. If I had known you weren’t going to be around forever, would I have cherished you more, truly savored our time together? Maybe I had to let you go and if you return, I’ll know we were meant to be.

Ok I’ll stop. But now I know why people do the depraved, Black Friday-esqe things that they do for a rare beer. Lunch is my new favorite IPA and I cannot wait to get my depraved hands on another bottle.

49. Mayflower Brewing Company IPA

Mayflower Brewing Company IPA

I’ve been getting all ultra-local lately, what with having 18 chickens laying the eggs I eat and hitting up the farmers market. Actually maybe “local” is interchangeable with “frugal” here, because since quitting my job I’ve definitely been changing up how I do things. So this weekend I decided to keep my beers local, and I was given a mixed six-pack of Mayflower beer, a relatively new microbrewery in Plymouth who opened up in 2007, and decided to give their IPA a try. The Mayflower Brewing Company IPA (7% alc/vol) was also a good choice because “Chronicle” was doing a special on Plymouth…yeah I love that show.

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35. Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye

I am kind of undecided about IPAs and I don’t like rye bread. But when my friend offered me a bottle of Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye (6.6% abv.), I had to try it because the bottle reminds me of some “old tyme” soda or something, plus I had never heard of a rye beer. Are they common and I just haven’t delved into that world yet?

It’s a copper color with a head that’s about 1 finger, but it dissipates leaving a thin foam cap with some lacing.

You can really smell the rye, that combined with the yeast makes it seem like liquid rye-bread at first, but the hops quickly balance out any bread/malt tones and make you realize that this beer is indeed an IPA. It’s got a nice, bitter, aftertaste where you can really taste the rye with the hops.

I dug it.