Category Archives: beer

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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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.

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.

Boulevard Brewing Company (Smokestack Series)

Boulevard Brewing Company has stirred interest at the stores lately. Boulevard produces richly-flavored brews with strong character. All are bottle-conditioned. That means that the brews enjoy a second fermentation in the bottle. Bottle conditioning improves freshness and flavor.

It might surprise you to learn that Boulevard is neither new nor small. Located in Kansas City, Missouri, the brewery aims at the local market first of all. Boulevard does not attempt to serve the nation, so consider ourselves lucky that we can get Boulevard ales at all.

As a brewery with some 90 employees, Boulevard represents barely a patch on Budweiser, Miller and the other big guys. Those 90 employees look like a Woodstock audience, however, compared to the almost homebrew scale of many boutique breweries.

The questions of brewery size or age pale next to the more urgent one: how do the ales taste? We say they taste pretty good, and expect you will say so, too. Much muttering and consultation must go on among those 90 employees because the ingredient lists of Boulevard beers show evidence of much trial and error. Only a brewer can tell you how the different hops, malts, and sugars used effect the final potion. We can declare that the balance of these elements in the final product rates nothing less than superb.

It thrilled us some to see listed in the ingredients for Tank 7 something called simply corn flakes. Did the brewer derive inspiration from a Kelloggs box one morning? While that could theoretically work—brewers constantly seek that one magic ingredient—a brewer might not want the salt and vitamins routinely added to breakfast cornflakes. We’re thinking the corn flakes Boulevard uses resemble more the corn kernel, perhaps rolled like oats.

We feature here Boulevard’s Smokestack Series of ales. These ales show dramatic character and richness with alcohol commonly at 8% or more. As such, they most certainly side nicely with meals. Boulevard bottles its products in 4-packs of 12-ounce bottles, and in 750ml “single serving” bottles. Okay, just kidding about the “single serving” bit: be prepared to share these robust ales. Treat them like wine and serve in goblets or wine glasses to enjoy best the aromas and flavors. Because they are bottle-conditioned, these beers will respond well to modest aging, up to a year.

Long Strange Tripel

The term Tripel basically indicates a strong beer. If strong means a whopping powerhouse, then this is truly a Tripel. Big, sweet flavors with lots of malt and booming hops. We didn’t research what the ingredient honey naked oats is, it sounds so picturesque that it seemed as well to leave it at that

Tank 7 Pale Ale

Named for a cantankerous piece of equipment, but there is nothing cantankerous about the beer. Tank 7 delivers ripe maltiness and spicy hops, with an overall deliciousness you will want to share.

Sixth Glass Belgian Dark Strong Ale

Intense, engrossing, and wildly delicious. This beer won Gold at the Australia International Beer Awards—we understand there are some beer drinkers in Australia—and Bronze at the Great American Beer Fest. A rich and imposing beer.

Double Wide IPA

An IPA for those who can’t get enough hops. Rich and spicy the way it ought to be. Silver at the Australia International Beer Awards and Bronze at the New Zealand Beer Awards.

Dark Truth Stout

Chocolate malt, pale malt, wheat malt, malted rye, Boulevard clearly is aiming for a stoutly built stout. A stunning mélange of sweet, spicy, dark, rich flavors and aromas. Favorite Commercial Beer at the Bluebonnet Brew Off. No kidding.

$11.99 4-pack (375ml bottles) / $8.99 bottle (750ml)

Two Local Breweries

By latest count, there are roughly 3 trillion little breweries dotting the map of the United States. Being small, they can afford to ignore the common denominator and create unique, idiosyncratic beers. Cambridge Brewing Company (aka CBC) and Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project (AKA just Pretty Things) both locally produce interesting and delicious fare. And they do it in their own way. All the following brews come in 22 oz bottles.

Cambridge Brewing Company

CBC began as a brew pub, in 1989, and contunes, at 1 Kendall Sq., bldg 100. It was Boston’s first brew pub, and one of the first in the nation. That point can be corrected a bit, since in the old days, pubs and inns often created their own brews. Prohibition, that huge roadblock in the development of quality American wine and beers, ended that. So Americans have had to relearn. Enjoy the renaissance!

CBC’s focus remains on creating brews for the restaurant. The brewery can experiment with small batches, and discover what patrons want. CBC’s extensive line up of bottled beers reflects the favorites, all varied and delicious. The following are some of the highlights.

Audacity of Hops ($7.99)

Not everyone likes hops but those that do like it big time. For sure, Audacity has hops up to here, but dark and caramel malts help ease the impact. The palate is not scourged but freshened by the interplay of grass, flower, pine, and spice notes with the rounded savor of the malts. Breweries nowadays love to make statements like “A delicious fistfight of flavors” but, you know, that seems like an apt description.

Tripel Threat ($9.99)

A Belgian-style abbey beer, it is strong as get out, but we cannot leave it at that. The rich malty flavors and aroma enjoy the subtle addition of roasted coriander. Noted by the other Michael Jackson as the first Tripel brewed in this country, this outstanding dinner beer has won many awards. Serve in a wine glass to capture its full delight.

Bannatyne Scotch Ale ($6.99)

Another malty treat. CBC caramelized the wort to give this beer a sweetly dark molasses note. Hearty, warming, and satisfying, and a great après ski or snow shoveling reward.

Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project

Pretty ThingsThe team of Dann Paquette and Martha Holley-Paquette might say Pretty Things is a rags to rags story but indeed the brewery is coming along fine. They just want to make beer in their own way. That they do, and finely crafted.

Dann and Martha own no equipment but rather rent facilities, not an uncommon practice in the craft beer world. Unless you can keep tanks full all the time, you are just sitting on capital. Pretty Things wants their resources to go into making and selling their unique beers.

Prior to Pretty Things  Dann worked at Ipswich Brewing Company, Pilgrim Brewery, Mill City Brewing Company, John Harvard’s Brew House, North East Brewing Company, The Haverhill Brewery, and Daleside Brewery in Yorkshire. So he has street cred. Martha’s from England, so she didn’t need to learn about great beer.

Babayaga

A big, strong, warming ale. Beer recipes can be surprising. Here, the idea of smoking malt with rosemary sounds unique. The beer tastes full, rich, and complex. A fine cool weather beer.

Hedgerow Bitter

Dry and bitter with a complement of UK hops. This is a stylistically leaner, more quenching bitter, more English in style than most from this country. Authentic tasting, even, in the best (rather than beer snob) sense.

Baby Tree

An abbey-style beer with four malts, including chocolate and oat. The Belgian model scales large, but in a way that meets food well. A mild sweetness, more like a vinous fruitiness, makes a savory complement to meals.

Beer Note

Sam Adams has already released Alpine Spring Ale. Is this canny marketing or do they know that we’re having no winter locally this year?

Blue Moon Brewing Company

One can only describe the range of styles available to the beer lover nowadays as astonishing. Craft brewers especially have provided us with a palette of delights, with each brewery establishing its own unique style. You can certainly call Blue Moon’s line of beers unique.

Blue Moon hails from Golden, Colorado, home of another little brewery, namely Coors. Coors in fact makes Blue Moon. Don’t let that fact prejudice you: these beers are good! Blue Moon has won 6 gold and silver medals at the World Beer Championships.

Blue Moon Beer

Blue Moon focuses on Belgian-style wheat beers. For those with foodie concerns, wheat beers complement meals nicely. Their wine-like character goes well with food. Blue Moon’s make particularly nice dinner companions. From light to full-bodied, all of Blue Moon’s beers are graceful and delicious.

Blue Moon’s beers work so well with food because they keep their hops in the background. While we love hops, a strongly-hopped IPA will overwhelm many dishes. Reserve such beers for pizza, burgers, and that bombastic chili that you make. Just a suggestion, mind you.

Blue Moon’s two mainstays are Belgian White and Winter Abbey. The two make a nice complementary pairing, one light and frothy, the other dark and rich.

The Belgian White presents a light but flavorful style, with a tasty fruitiness typical of Belgian wheat beers. Spiced with a touch of orange peel and coriander, the beer carries a lovely fragrance. It’s the pinot grigio of beers. The brewery recommends Belgian White as a match for an arugula orange salad. Add an orange slice to enhance the flavorings.

Winter Abbey Ale offers a maltier experience. Roasted malts and Belgian sugar create a dark, mouthwatering caramel impression on the palate. Not substantially sweet, Winter Abbey’s roasted, caramel-tinged flavors would go well with pot roast, as the brewery suggests.

Blue Moon offers a sampler that includes these two beers plus Pale Moon and Blue Moon Spiced Amber Ale. Take it as given that the Brewmaster’s Winter Sampler, three bottles each of the four beers, would make a grand gift for the beer lovers on your gift list. The sampler includes recipes for a four course meal, with each beer matched with a dish. Trust us, nothing makes a beer lover’s heart flutter more than receiving a sampler of beers to try.

Beer Prattle

Perhaps the most interesting bit of beer news comes from the Lagunitas Brewing Company. The brewery cannot provide any of their powerhouse and popular seasonal brew Brown Shugga this year. When time came to start making Brown Shugga, the folks at Lagunitas realized they lacked the capacity. Their tanks were all full. To compensate, the brewery released Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Substitute Ale. With tongue-in-cheek verve, the label tells the whole mortifying story, with plenty of shame at this logistical failure. Lagunitas Sucks uses barley, wheat, rye and oats grains and a universe of hops to produce a potent and complex IPA. Nothing like Brown Shugga but delicious nonetheless.

* * *

Outside of stray bottles, most autumn releases have run their course. So long season of mist and mellow fruitfulness! The first winter warmers arrived around Halloween. Eventually breweries will be so far ahead, they will be right on time again.

 * * *

Anchor has released its Christmas Ale, which it has done each year since 1975. Few American breweries go back that far. The brewery’s famous Steam Beer has been made beer since 1896. Still a great beer.

 * * *

The German Beer Purity Law originally, back in the 16th century, allowed only water, barley, and hops in beer. No one understood then that fermentation requires yeast, as well. Before Louis Pasteur discover discovered the effect of yeast, fermenting beer depended on whatever wild yeasts happened into the brew. The Beer Purity Law came about to prevent brewers from using questionable ingredients, usually as preservatives. Some brewers in those days added soot and, worse yet, fly agaric. Fly agaric is a toxic mushroom of the amanita family. The Law is no longer in effect, as such. It has been superseded by more up-to-date and comprehensive laws. Brewers may now use many more ingredients than the original three.

 * * *

Fruit lambic beers make terrific holiday fare. These Belgian beers barely resemble most others. Usually made from barley malt and unmalted wheat, they depend on wild yeast strains to create the fermentation. Since unwanted bacteria can also find its way into the brew when using this open air technique, dry hops are added for their anti-bacterial advantage. The dry hops add little flavor. Plain limbic is dry and uncarbonated.  It is used as a blending component. The addition of fruit juice produces a festive and delicious beverage. Lindemann makes a Kriek (cherry), Peche (peach), and Framboise (raspberry). Each is delicious, with bright fruit flavors, modest sweetness, and a truly vinous complexity. Serve chilled in wine glass or champagne flute as a celebratory and crowd-pleasing aperitif.

Remember to check out the website: Walden Liquors.