Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bravo Beantown - Boston Beer Summit

The Hub of the Universe, The Walking City, it what you like - Boston is my favorite of the cities on the East Coast. This year I am spending a few weeks kicking it here (with a stint in NY to see the folks for Turkey Day). I am grateful for the sunshine (cold, but dry), the variety of people and food, and the amazing view of the city at night as seen from the hill above my friends' Sommerville apartment. 

I lucked out on timing and rolled into town the day before the Boston Beer Summit - an amazing and engaging collection of 69 breweries, cideries, and meaderies gathered in the Park Plaza Castle. First off - beer festival in a castle? We don't get that kind of amazingness in the Pacific Northwest. If there is one thing I can say for the East Coast (Easttoast!), it feeds my inner geek for all things historic and old.

I got to sample a great number of amazing brews (alas, trying all 69 seemed ill-advised). Here are some of my favorites in no particular order.

I had to try the Brown Sugga from Lagunitas. Yes that is a California beer...perhaps I was trying to tie this event to the Westtoast region, or perhaps I was just interested in sampling the molasses-sweet flavor of this historic accidental brew.

 I followed up with the IPA offering from Baxter Brewing Co. from Lewison, ME.I found it to be a very straightforward and hoppy IPA with solid bitterness from start to finish. If you are into IPA that hits you hard and has flavor staying power, this is your beer.

After that I changed tack a bit and tried the Utopian Mead from Moonlight Meadery out of NH. This mead is aged in bourbon barrels, and it shows. It drank like a lightly sparkly sweet bourbon - very creative and fun.

I decided to go with the Crispin Cider booth next. Yes, another CA offering. I wrote a review a while back about their Honeycrisp Cider, and was interested in trying a few more flavors. I started with the Original, which I found incredibly light with low carbonation and a rounded sweetness. I moved on to sip on the Dry English, which was a great deal stronger in flavor, and still sweet for something being listed as dry. I enjoyed both ciders, though the English was better suited to my need for intense flavorings.

My next tasting was the Vanilla Java Porter from Atwater out of Detroit, MI. I thought it fitting to sample this beer considering the night before I had been to a screening of Denis Leary's BURN (an incredible film - go see it!). This beer was intensely vanilla on the nose with a hint of coffee. I found the flavor to be similar, though as it warmed in my hands the Coffee flavoring shown through. If you are a fan of PNW coffee you should totally give this beer a try.

The best name for both brewery and beer goes to Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project,whose Fluffy White Rabbits was a classically flavored light triple. Its fruity finish and crisp mouth feel was refreshing.

I hit up another cider after that (oh, how I love cider), trying the Traditional Dry from Angry Orchard of OH. I found this cider to be lip-puckeringly tart with strong green apple flavor. This is the Jolly Rancher of ciders, and I started dreaming up things to do with a Traditional Dry reduction...drizzling over vanilla ice cream being the first thought.

I decided to roll on to something a bit more local and a bit more bitter. I sampled the Winter Shredder from Cisco Brewers out of Nantucket. Hops up front and a toasty, nutty finish. This beer was true to its name - I'd love to drink it sitting by the fire in a ski lodge after a long day on the slopes.

I continued my love affair with the beers from Southern Tier (Lakewood, NY) by testing Oat, an Imperial Oatmeal Stout. This beer was thick, rich, and creamy. I liked the toasty nose and finish, and the continual flavor of molasses.

Photo credit

After spending some time chatting with Mike from Fest Pics (thanks for the photo my friend), we tried the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale from Alltech from, you guessed it, KY. Slightly oaked and strongly vanilla, this was a very light ale with a lot of lovely flavor.

I followed that with a beer from Portland - no, not OR...ME. Peak Organic's Amber Espresso. I did not expect such a strong coffee flavor from so light a beer. It was nutty and bitter and toasty and, malty. This is a coffee beer that belongs in all the Northwest brew pubs!

We closed the night by trying the Black Lager from 3 Beards (definitely runner up for best brewery name). We sipped this MA beer behind our awesome beard masks. It was delightfully nutty with a nice balance of malt and hops. It is a winter warmer for sure.

All in all the Beer Summit was a lot of fun, and there were some amazing beers, meads, and ciders there to sample - something for everyone. Keep your eyes open for it next year!


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