Sunday, November 14, 2010

Beerfest! Twenty Five Beer Samples in Less Than Four Hours

Twenty Five Beer Samples in Less Than Four Hours!
Sounds easy right? There’s a couple of things that turn out to make it not so easy.
  • The beer is good. Craft and small batch beers with lots of character and higher alcohol content.
  • Evaluating each beer while enjoying them does take time.
  • Meeting other beer geeks really gets the conversation stories going!
My friend Richard and I attended the New Hampshire Brewers Festival in Manchester yesterday. Quite a few local and regional breweries were on hand pouring an incredible lineup of beers. Each attendee was given 12 beer tickets which taken literally meant you could try 12 beers. Richard and I took a more tactical approach and combined our tickets, splitting each sample allowing us to be able to try up to 24 beers. There were enough choices that this was a very good plan.

I’m not going to bore with tasting notes on the all the beers I ended up trying but I will list their brand and style so that folks can lookup them up if they like. I will provide notes and food pairing considerations on several of the highlights. Where noted the breweries are based in New Hampshire.
  1. White Birch Belgian Style Pale Ale (NH)
  2. Portsmouth Brewing Black Cat Stout (NH)
  3. Long Trail Blackberry Wheat
  4. Woodstock Brewery Wassail
  5. Sam Adams Holiday Porter
  6. Moat Mountain Cask Drawn Imperial Stout (NH)
  7. Milly’s Infamous Pumpkin Ale (NH)
  8. Gritty Christmas Ale (NH)
  9. White Birch Indulgence (NH)
  10. Long Trail Pale Ale
  11. Smuttynose IPA (NH)
  12. Sebago Local Harvest Ale
  13. Brooklyn Local 1
  14. Brooklyn Imperial Chocolate Stout
  15. Brooklyn Local 2
  16. Brooklyn Brown Ale
  17. Brooklyn EIPA
  18. White Birch Elysium (NH)
  19. Flying Goose IPA (NH)
  20. Milly’s Oatmeal Stout (NH)
  21. Shipyard Prelude
  22. Sebago Frye’s Leap IPA
  23. Peak Organic Espresso Amber Ale
  24. Narragansett Lager
  25. Run of the Mill XPA
Best Beer of the Day – Brooklyn Local 1

Local 1 is a Belgian Pale Ale in the strong category due to the 9% alcohol content. This beer is bottle conditioned which means a bottle fermentation that introduces additional flavors and textures while carbonating the bottle. The aromas and flavors of this beer are distinctive against a lineup of typical American beers, but when cast in the shadow of its Belgian relatives is not unique. The flavors are of yeast, bread and malt with a nice fruity/hoppy finish and a bitter cleansing hit at the end. Some alcohols is noticeable.

This beer was used in the cheese pairing with Cabot Pepper Jack. It definitely worked quite well, but was not the best beer and cheese pairing we tried. I believe this is a very food friendly beer and would be the beverage end of many great pairings.

Best Stout – White Birch Indulgence / Elysium

Indulgence is a jet black stout (although not according to the WBB web site) with the best aroma of a stout that I have ever smelled. The coffee and chocolate flavors were so amazing that Richard said “it has a shot of espresso in it.” I called it coffee on steroids.

We didn’t get confirmation of this but we believe the Elysium was a barrel aged version of Indulgence. The aromas and flavors of coconut and vanilla were present something I suspect comes from the influence of the wood.

Both of these beers are excellent but not something you would drink a lot of in one sitting. I do believe both of these beers would be excellent with dark chocolate desserts.

Best IPA – Flying Goose IPA

This beer was recommended to us by Bert from Bert’s Better Beers and his friends. These guys know beer so it is no surprise that we found their tip a hit!

The aromas from the beer made me think of what it would be like to stand in a hop patch. The color is a beautiful orange/gold. Lots of pine and citrus flavors in each sip and a clean finish.

I could see pairing this beer with salad with a citrus-infused dressing or stuffed baked squash with savory herbs, nuts and dried fruit.

Best Seasonal Beer – Milly's Infamous Pumpkin Ale

This was another beer that was recommended to us. We got to talking about seasonal and flavored beers with a couple guys we were sharing a table with. Shipyard Pumpkinhead was bandied about as the best of the pumpkin beers but due to high demand they wouldn’t be serving this day. Milly’s Tavern was serving their pumpkin beer and with a sugar and spice rimmed glass it didn’t disappoint. It has a slightly sweet and malty aftertaste with plenty of pumpkin flavors, more so than I had recalled in any pumpkin beer I had ever had. The sugar and spice rimmed glass was a nice touch.

This to me is a steller drinker on its own, but paired with some squash pie and whipped cream might take both to another level.

( The line at White Birch began early and was ever present. )

Best Brewery – White Birch Brewing

I can never say enough the beers from White Birch. I started buying them in 2009 at Jasper’s Homebrew in Nashua and I have yet to have a bottle that I didn’t think was some of the best beer I had ever had. White Birch beers have big aromas and flavors and require attention to take them in. I like this in a beer, but truly understand that these types of beers are not for everyone.

Best Food Pairing – Cabot Horseradish Cheese with Sebago Local Harvest Ale

The cheese and beer pairing hosted by and Cabot Cheese was a lot of fun. With a lubricated audience the hosts had a tough time delivering their information, but they pressed on. Four pairings were offered and the best was the Cabot Horseradish cheese with Sebago Local Harvest Ale. The freshness of the well hopped beer was a great opposition to the spicy horseradish flavors in the cheese. The creamy cheese and a citrus finish from the beer created wonderful bite.

Biggest Surprise – Narragansett Lager

With a 120 year story in each can of Narragansett Lager I had no idea what to expect. I’m too young to have enjoyed any of the production prior the closure of the original incarnation of the brewery, and this event was the first time I had actually come across any from the new version of the brand. Pouring as a light golden colored lager I was unsure as to whether the same old Bud/Miller/Coors tastes were awaiting me. But not so! This beer is very bright and refreshing with flavors of grains and a nice clean finish. Very smooth and definitely drinkable. I would recommend this to folks who want to drink a little piece of New England beer history.

( Do I look like I'm having fun? )

About halfway through our adventure we checked out the BBQ and Sesame/Ginger chicken tenders from the Pattie Shack which is located on Elm. The Sesame/Ginger paired nice with the flavors in the Brooklyn Local 1. The Local 1 also helped temper the heat from the BBQ tenders. From the looks of it the Pattie Shack makes burgers, tenders and fries with flavor combinations and topping to satisfy everyone.

We also ran into Joan from The Drinkery, our new beer and wine store in Londonderry. She was on the hunt for new beers to stock. Doesn’t homework suck?

This event delivered on its advertised promises with lots of beer, decent food and entertainment. Richard and I both had a lot of fun and were exposed to quite a few new styles of locally made beer for future enjoyment. If you haven’t ever attended this type of event before and love great beer, keep an eye out in the Hippo Press for future activities.




Loren said...

Wow, looks like an awesome event! I love the chance to try something new and explore thing's I haven't tried before. Sometime I wish you could stretch it out because I find I have a hard time keeping it all clear and straight after 4 to 6 tastes in a day much less an hour. Regardless, I'd like to try. :?)

Anonymous said...

Sebago Brewing Co. opened up a brewhouse rest. 5 minutes from my mom's house this past year. One of this times I go back home we'll have to try it. Sounds like a fun event! - Jen Donnelly

Jeff from said...

Glad you checked out our Beer and Cheese pairing seminar! I'm happy to hear you liked the Sebago Local Harvest with the Cabot Horseradish Cheddar.

It was a great event and just keeps getting better each year.

I dig the write up you've done on the fest, thanks for getting the word out!


Karen said...

What a fantastic event! Sampling beer is right up there with wine tasting for me. I only wish I could find some of your winners around here!

Amy said...

OMG What fun! We are quite jealous about this event and love your tasting notes. Thanks! Chris and Amy

Lisa {Authentic Suburban Gourmet } said...

What a FUN festival! My husband would love to go one of those. We have a brewery in town called Pyramid Ale House and they do flights of beers which we always have when we go there. I bet all 25 were tasty! Thank you for sharing such a fun event!

Marisa said...

Sounds like a really fun day. So many beers and such little time! Love how you broke down all of your favorites and why.

Jason Phelps said...

I wasn't sure if a beer post was going to do well with responses, but you guys brought it!!

I think about beer and wine in the same way and enjoy sampling new ones of each with the same excitment. I check the color, aroma and flavors and always tend towards how I would pair them up. I'll be publishing my Thanksgiving Beverage ideas tomorrow and be sure there will be some beer in there, and not just for the guys!

There are so many craft beers out there and living in NH we often can't get many of them from outside the region. All the more reason to go on vacation I guess.

@Jen - thanks for the tip. I am thinking we are going to make a visit to Sebago in Portland in the winter time and try some pairings of their menu. Hopefully it is good.

@Loren - I agree, my nose shut off at about #15. Sucked!

@Jeff - thank you so much for stopping by. I am honored. The beer and cheese pairing was great and I am going to be hosting one during my holiday party with friends next month.

@Karen - that is a real problem all over the country. People really don't have choice and access.

@Lisa - Pyramid is well known in the beer circles. My brother visited their Seattle location a few years back and said the stuff was top notch.

@Amy - you guys are in Manchester, CT? I grew up in Enfield and now live in NH. We live close enough maybe we could meet up for a blog-worthy event.

@Marisa - thank you. I am trying to increase my beer (and wine) vocabulary and describe what I sample in ways that could help other people decide if it would work for them.


Anonymous said...

I was glad to see your comment on Narragansett Beer. This once proud brewer used to control over 65% of the New England market. The brewery in Cranston,RI was a 2 million barrel brewery when it closed in the 1980. Pabst continued to sell it until sales dwindled to about 1,000 barrels. Ownership changed about 5 years ago and sales will easily exceed 35,000 barrels this year. It's all I drink! Hi! Neighbor, Have a Gansett.

Kristin said...

WB Indulgence is incredible...I'm so sorry I missed this event! Next time you get your hands on a bottle of that...braise some short ribs or pot roast in it, then enjoy your meal with the rest. You won't be disappointed!