Belgian Beers

The beers of Belgium define a unique style. They are not your typical Sunday afternoon in front of a football beer, tho they certainly work in such circumstance.Their hearty, savory character, however, speaks of service with food. Belgians must eat very well, indeed.

One tastes the presence of hops in Belgian beerzx little if at all. Lush maltiness stars, making for mouthfilling and satisfying ales that will stand up to a very wide range of dishes.

Serve Belgian beers at cellar temperature, which is to say around 55 degrees. Over chilling merely numbs the flavors. Duvel recommends placing its ale an ice bucket. While pouring into a glass may seem like putting on airs, doing this really brings out the flavors and subtleties that these wine-like brews offer. Beyond that, many Belgian beers come in large format bottles. Belgian beers tend to carry considerable alcohol, which allows them to match so well with food. Best served in a goblet or wine glass.

Corsendonk

A large-scale, dark, malty brew with big, meaty flavors. Roasted barley malt sives dark flavors and hops add a lively, wine-like complexity. Corsendonk top-ferments, which is a warm fermentation. This process adds fruitiness to the flavors. A second fermentation, that occurs in the bottle (like Champagne), helps produce a satiny foam. Don’t be afraid to match with beef dishes, cheese, or roasts.

Leffe Blond

Just your average 860 year old abbey brewery. Distinguished by a vinous fruitiness, this ale has fresh, lively flavors and satisfying richness. Less malty than other Belgian brews, it works neatly as an aperitif, and certainly with chicken dishes, burgers and all sorts of dishes. A personal favorite.

Leffe Brun

At 6.5% alcohol, roughly the same as the Blond. Roasted barley malt supplies a darker aroma and flavor. The brewery recommends serving with apricot-glazed roast duck, and we wouldn’t disagree.

Chimay Red

Chimay is one of six breweries allowed the designation of Authentic Trappist Product. That means that the ales are brewed at the monastery by Trappist monks, and that proceeds go to the monastery and its public services. The ale within the cork-finished bottle is copper-hued, fragrant, and richly flavored. Alcohol stands at a muscular 7% to stand up to hearty food. With fruity malt flavors and a piquant touch of hops, this ale will carry the day with a spectrum of dishes.

Chimay Blue

Formerly a Christmas ale now offered year round, Chimay Blue is the ultimate expression of the Belgian beer style. Boldly flavorful with a creamy foam and a full 9% alcohol, this is a beer that can be cellared for several years. Be sure to serve in a goblet  o wine glass to capture its full complexity.

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The Dalmore Single Malt

The Dalmore is a renowned single malt from the Highlands of Scotland. In 2005, a rare bottling fetched the record (at that time) price of £32,000. That might be out of your range but this distillery offers more reasonable bottling. We would like to highlight a two of The Dalmore’s elite expressions: 15 years old and 18 years old.

Single malt whiskies uniquely articulate the distiller’s art. The nature of the water used, the nature of the pot still, the types of barrels used in the aging process, all influence the final product.

The Distillery resides in Alness, north of Inverness and claims its water from the River Alness. The river passes through peaty land, which expresses itself in the whisky. The peat supplies distinctive spicy tones to the potion. Proximity to the ocean adds a distinctive salty influence. The spirit is double distilled for superb clarity of flavor.

Perhaps the biggest influence on what pours from the bottle is the barrel aging. The Dalmore ages in two types of barrels. The spirit initioally sits in American oak barrels that had previously contained bourbon. Oak and bourbon flavors enter the spirit, as well as flavors derived from the chemical process of oxidation. The Dalmore then finishes with a shorter stay in former sherry or port casks. This second barrel type adds richness and complexity.

The Dalmore 15 years old $45.99

Aged 12 years in casks that formerly held bourbon, then a year each in three different sherry barrels, amoroso, apostoles and oloroso. Hints of these rich sherries create a delicate complexity. Golden-hued, rounded, with aromas of fruit, vanilla and spice. Exquisite.

The Dalmore 18 $94.99

Fourteen years in bourbon barrels then four in 30 year old oloroso barrels gives the whisky a lushness and yet a delicacy that will astonish you.

Single malts like The Dalmore are best served simply: straight, on the rocks, or with a splash of spring water (tap water can have off flavors that will mar your drink). While people most often serve scotch before or after a meal, but adventurous people also pour it with soups, stews, and desserts.

Ninety Plus Cellars

Ninety Plus Cellars has taken an old concept and refreshed it with a twist. In essence, Ninety Plus Cellars is a negociant, same as such prestigious Burgundy houses as Joseph Drouhin and Domaine Leflaive. Ninety Plus goes about its business somewhat differently however. Ninety Plus Cellars focuses on wineries that have earned 90+ ratings from The Wine Spectator.

Literally, the buyer for Ninety Plus Cellars goes to these elite wineries and asks for some of their production. Ninety Plus then sells the wine under its own imprimatur. Selling wine under another label is not new. Keying on wines that have scored 90+ is new.

Why would wineries make their wines available under someone else’s label? In a word, economics. There’s nothing like cash flow to keep a business happy, especially in such a capital-intensive business as wine. Of course, Ninety Plus Cellars cannot tell you the provenance of their wines, that would undercut their suppliers. The quality’s in the bottle, whatever the name of it is. Reaction to the wines has been completely positive. That’s the point, finally.

You will notice that Ninety Plus Cellars offers more than just American wines. The wine buyer seeks value wherever it can be found. The determining factors remain simple: delicious wines, value priced. For a local note, the business is based in Boston.

Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand), Lot 2 $9.99
From Marlborough, where New Zealand’s great sauvignon seemingly pour from fountains. Crisp, dry, citrusy, and a great, great price.
Riesling (Mosel) Lot 66, $9.99
The rollicking 2011 vintage produced lively wines with fine fruit and great acid balance. With grapes from the legendary Mosel River valley, this is a classic Mosel. That means crisp, refreshing, and delicious. If the situation calls for something light and fun rather than hefty, this is a top choice.
Chardonnay (Sonoma) Lot67, $13.99
Sonoma’s Russian River Valley produces classic California chardonnay. The wine is full-scale, the price is not.
Zinfandel (Sonoma) Lot 54 $12.99
Plenty of power in the ripe fruit flavors. A big rich wine that can be sipped alone or with spicy, meaty dishes.
Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) Lot 62, $15.99
Pinot Noir particularly likes the coastal climate of Sonoma Coast, where therre’s plenty of sun yet the Pacific helps keep temperatures cool in the vineyards. This allows the fruit to gain depth while retaining structure.
Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville) Lot 45, $24.99
Ninety Plus lists the source price for this wine—that is, what the supplier would sell it for—as $69.99. Is that a deal or what? And remember that our 20% case discount, which can be mixed, means a further whack at the price.

Burgundies, the 2009s

The region of Burgundy has enjoyed two successful vintages, very fine to excellent. The 2009s have shown remarkable forwardness—many are quite drinkable already—yet critics have noted that the wines have the structure to age. The 2010s proved more troublesome for growers, with frost damage, poor fruit set, and damaging hail. A perfect September with cool nights and warm (not hot) days allowed grapes to reach optimal ripeness with good acidity. The legendary vineyards cost what they cost—it has been ever thus—but they reward with all the sumptuous drama that great wines can offer. The lesser appellations present the joys of the region in more affordable form.
The region of Burgundy enjoys renown for its cuisine. The wines from Burgundy are made with that in mind. From the little appellations to the grandest of Crus, the wines are to be enjoyed at the table.
Bourgogne “Les Sétilles”, Olivier Leflaive $19.99
At the median price for California chardonnay, a wine made from grapes grown in the famed villages of Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet. Seems like that right there provides enough sell for this wine. Add that Olivier Leflaive is a scion of the renowned Domaine Leflaive, and you ought to be even more intrigued. A superior value for a classically-styled burgundy. Precisely drawn fruit with the clear voice of the terroir where the grapes were grown. Highly recommended!
Chablis-Vaillons, Simonnet-Febvre $27.99
The Chablis vineyards suffered severe frost damage in 1985. Since then, prices have been stratospheric for the Grand Crus. The Premier Cru as well, but here’s an exception. English wine critic Jancis Robinson calls this wine “distinguished”, and indeed it is If you have never tasted Chablis, the ultimate shellfish wine, this is a great place to start. The combination of lemony, buttery fruit with racy mineral flavors provides an ideal match with shellfish, and with all manner of seafood.
Bourgogne Blanc, Tollot-Beaut $39.99
A small, respected producer located in Chorey-Les Beaune, this producer makes well-scaled, predominantly red wines. This impressive chardonnay shows that they have the handle on whites, as well. Full and rounded, with a defined mineral element, this is no ordinary Bourgogne. Tollot-Beaut typically performs green harvest during the summer. After fruit set, workers carefully removed bunches to limit production and concentrate flavor.
White
Meursault, Oliver Leflaive $41.99
The commune with the most vineyard acreage in the Cote-de-Beaune, the wines of Meursault appeal with power and ripeness. According to Leflaive, the chalky, calcareous soil adds to the aging potential of the wine. Being an 09, it already shows the lush drama of the vintage. A real treat!
Chassagne-Montrachet “Vergers”, Philippe Colin $79.99
Chassagne-Montrachet “Morgeot”, Bruno Colin $79.99
It is typical of Burgundy that you will see repetitions of family names among producers. Philippe and Bruno are the sons of legendary producer Michel Colin. Michel gave parcels of his domaine to his sons. The tradition carries on in fine fettle with eye-poppingly delicious wines from two of Chassagen’s 1er Crus.
Meursault-Charmes 1er Cru, Oliver Leflaive $94.99
Fun fact: Charmes means communal land allowed to lie fallow, like a New En gland green. Fat, rich, and buttery, this is classic Burgundy from a great vintage. For the most special occasions.
Red
Cote de Brouilly, Potel-Aviron $17.99
This is a cru Beaujolais, but wait! Produced in the old style, it is a wine of Burgundian depth and distinction. The vineyards of Cote de Brouilly sit on an extinct volcano, Mt Brouilly. This wine comes from two separate parcels, one with 60 year old vines, the other with 40 year old ones. Those old vines do not produce prolifically but the resultant wines enjoy great concentration. The wines age in new and old oak for a year. Delicious now, it can cellar for 10 or more years, becoming more and more burgundian.
Bourgogne Rouge, Tollot-Beaut $39.99
Though the appellation suggests the extent of the region, Tollot-Beaut is only using fruit from a focused part of Burgundy. That is to say, the large négotiants may gather wines from all over, to produce a solid wine for daily enjoyment, small producers like Tollot-Beaut deliver from their own domaine, with the opportunity to assert local terroir. Really a great deal in red Burdundy.
Pommard, Drouhin $49.99
Ready to please you, this is Burgundy for the here and now. Not to say it lacks structure or aging potential, but this wine offers sparkling fruit and plenty of depth. Pommard is the classic Burgundy, not to stand in awe of, but to enjoy on a sumptuous table.
Chambolle-Musigny, G. Roumier $124.99
Vosne-Romanée “Les Beaux Monts”, J. Grivot $149.99
A couple of superstars of a superstar vintage. We have just a few bottles remaining. Replacement, if even possible, will be much more expensive. A gift for yourself, or others.

Octoberfest & Pumpkin Beer

Of all the seasonal beers, the ones that arrive in autumn cause the most anticipation. Note: autumn begins in early August, according to the breweries, like it or not. Of course we like having these beers, they are highly popular. Many people prefer these rich beers in cooler weather, but most breweries seem intent on getting an early start on the season. Lay in a supply now, if you want these beers for Thanksgiving.
Octoberfest
Octoberfest means celebration, as we come to autumnal equinox. Originally it marked when cool weather returned and brewing in Germany could begin again, good reason to celebrate. The brews typically show marked freshness with strong malt presence, though not as strong as the coming winter brews. German examples will arrive later, the following are the quick ones out of the blocks.
Octoberfest, Harpoon Brewing Company
Great for late season barbecues, Harpoon’s entry has mellow malt sweetness with a nice balance of hops. Full-bodied with mid-range alcohol (5.5%) it is a typically delicious entry from one of our two iconic local breweries.
Hex Ourtoberfest, Magic Hat
Five malts including rye and cherrywood smoked, this is a lively brew from a customer favorite. Hops subtly present at 20 IBUs.
Octoberfest,Samuel Adams
Five malts carry the day in this rich but food-worthy brew. Again, hops add a subtle spice behind the robust malt flavors.
Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale, Sierra Nevada
Sierra Nevada has carried the craft beer torch for some 30 years, even as more and more breweries crowd the stage. He’s a big brown ale, well-malted with just a hops of hops.
Octoberfest, Wachusett Brewery
Euro-styled with complex malt flavors given added liveliness from the hops. Fresh yet rich, and delicious.
Pumpkin Beer
In colonial days, cane sugar was at a premium. Maple syrup, sorghum, and other sources of sweetening were used instead. People discovered that the mighty pumpkin served well as a fuel for the yeast cells that merrily produce beer’s alcohol and carbonation. The pumpkin is generally roasted to begin the breaking down process, then added to the grains. Your basic pumpkin pie spices are often added: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mace, and allspice. Hops are usually not prominent.
The following represent only the first to arrive in the stores. More are pouring in (almost literally).
Pumpkinhead, Shipyard Brewing Co.
Clearly the most avidly-awaited of the pumpkin brews in our stores. Malt and hops marry with the pumpkin spices in aromatic splendor. Add a modest 4.7% alcohol and refreshing crispness for a compulsively drinkable potation as you watch the Boys of Autumn on the football fields of glory.
Harvest Pumpkin Ale, Samuel Adams
Of course this a consummately made brew, that’s a Sam Adams trademark. The pumpkin spices balnce with smoky malt aromas. Sweet, rich, and expressive of the season.
UFO Pumpkin, Harpoon, Brewery
From Harpoon’s line of unfiltered beers. It is rich, full-bodied with earthy sweet flavors from the pumpkin and subtle hops (20 IBUs), and delicious.
Pumking, Southern Tier Brewing Company
Personal favorite. Rich and intense, with a well-handled 8.6% alcohol. Big enough to stand with hearty cheeses, it shows spices melded with the malt and the pumpkin for a big, powerful glass. Bottled in 22 oz. bottles.
Note: We get deliveries throughout the week, often with new items. We probably carry what you are looking for, or can order it.

Greek Wines

Evidence of Greek winemaking goes back, oh, a mere 8500 years before Ernest and Julio were born. Greek wines have never made a major impression in this country, but Greece produces a lot of great wine. Happily, interest in wines from all over the globe has risen lately. And as with wines from everywhere else, technological advances have improved wine quality. Greek wines may just be the next thing.

Greek wines, for the most part, are made from varieties little known outside of the country. That’s not a bad thing. The ubiquitous planting of varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay threaten to produce a worldwide sameness in wines. Of course we love cabernet and chardonnay, but not at the risk of losing local traditions. Local wines, after all, were developed with local cuisine in mind.

Perhaps the two most famous Greek wines, Retsina and Mavrodaphne, give folks the wrong impression of Greek wines. Retsina, uniquely, is flavored with pine resin, a holdover from when resin was used to seal wine amphora. Mavrodaphne is a sweet, red, port-like wine unlikely to be served with the main course. Though grape varieties in Greek wines may be strange to us, the styles of the wines will be familiar enough.

Skouras is a modern-minded producer making wines with character and distinction. Skouras’ wines also give value to your dollar. At $10.99 a bottle (less than 9 bucks with our case discount), both make fine anytime bottles to open.

Skouras White

This wine is a blend of two major Greek varieties, roditis (pronounced ro-DEE-tees, if it comes up in conversation) and moscofilero (mos-co-FEE-le-ro). Both grapes have pinkish grey skins, like pinot grigio, but produce white wines, mainly, and sometimes roses. Skouras White presents crisp floral and citrus tones in its aroma. Moderate skin contact adds grip to the flavors, which again show floral and citrus notes. Certainly a perfect accompaniment to Greek salads (feta, yogurt, and olives), poultry, and fish. Pour it like a pinot grigio, which is to say, it will serve any occasion, casual or gourmet.

Skouras Red

Skouras Red claims a modest 5% cabernet sauvignon. The rest of the blend is Agiorghitiko (pronounced ah-yor-YEE-ti-ko). The name means St. George, and that is how it is usually called in English. The cabernet supplies structure upon which tasty fruit tones hang. Full-flavored but not over ripe or heavy, the wine will carry the day with lamb. It will also serve nicely in most any red wine situation.

Dogfish Head & Hofbrau Maibock

Dogfish Head began as a brewpub making modest amounts of beer using a 12-gallon tank. More and bigger tanks became necessary until the brewery outgrew the brewpub. Now the brewpub makes potions and experiments strictly for its own patron while the brewery focuses on nation-wide distribution of its formidable lineup. Dogfish Head, from the mighty state of Delaware, sells to more than half the states in the union. Happily, Massachusetts numbers among those states. That does not means we can get enough of Dogfish Head’s brews.

The brewery’s reputation hangs particularly on its IPAs. As The Thing routinely would declare when the Fantastic Four swung into action: “It’s clobberin’ time!” Dogfish Head produces several startlingly hoppy beers using an interesting approach to get as much hops flavor into the beer as possible. Pelletized hops are added continuously as the mash boils. The brewery produces three bottlings this way: 60 Minutes90 Minutes, and 120 Minutes, each named for the length of its hopping process. Dogfish Head also dry hops these brews. For stats fanciers, the numbers are impressive:

  • 60 Minute reaches 6% alcohol and a reading of 60 IBU
  • 90 Minutes reaches a hefty 9% alcohol and 90 IBU
  • 120 Minutes reaches 18% alcohol (sometimes more!) and a world record 120 IBU. 120 Minutesis a strictly allocated rarity, so leap if you see it, you hopheads.

IBU stands for International Bittering Unit. It measures the hoppiness of beers. For perspective, Sam Adams Boston Lager hits 30 IBU and Harpoon’s India Pale Ale reaches 42 IBU. Don’t let numbers tell the story. Malt can mute or mellow the impact pof hops. 60 Minute actually tastes hoppier than 90 Minutesbecause it is drier and less malty. 90 Minute’s sweet malt presence softens the effect of the hops. With the caveat that you must like hops, and that you accept over-the-top as an ideal, these are delicious brews.
Not all Dogfish Head fare requires such devotion to hops. Indian Brown Ale has hops a-plenty (50 IPU) but also a sweet malty richeness. Its deep, warm flavors bring porter to mind, but made livelier by the hops.

Raison d’Etre, made with Belgian sugar and green raisins, has a comparatively gentle 25 IBU and a splendid aroma of dates and raisins. Nothing about it says over-the-top except its downright deliciousness. It makes a luscious match with a good ole hamburger.

Palo Santo Marron is aged in wood, specifically the palo santo wood of Paraguay. A powerful and mighty brew (12% alcohol), showing deep roasted flavors with malt support.

* Special * Hofbrau Maibock

We’ve got a goodly supply of Hofbrau Maibock at the just right price of $6.99 6-pack / $25.99 case. Maibock is a traditional Munich beer in the helles style.Helles means “light”, but that refers to the beer’s color, not its strength. It is a hearty bock at more than 6% alcohol. Brewed for enjoyment during the warmer months, it carries more hops and less malt than other bocks. As such, it offers more refreshment during the hot weather than the darker dunkel style winter brews. A case or two should get you through the summer. The stacks will shrink quickly, so make your move.