Shane: Every year, Pete, York, and I reunite in Ocean City with a handful of friends, and every year we bring a bunch of beers along with us to sample together. I was pretty happy with last year’s batch of beers, but, I have to say, I think I outdid myself this year. A pair of Tree House beers, including one from the one-off Curiosity series, a staple from Austin Street Brewery that Pete has been begging me to get ahold of, a pair of sours, Great Rhythm’s first-ever double IPA release, and another double IPA clocking in at an astounding 12% alcohol. If that doesn’t sound like a tasty lineup of beers, I don’t know what does.
York: Lots to live up to after a strong showing at last year’s beach trip for Shane! I see he’s brought along a competitor to last year’s Seed from Bissell Brothers and another set of Tree House brews. Obviously excited for those, but my true interest lies in the Double Squeeze from Great Rhythm. I’ve been really high on everything I’ve had from them and am looking forward to their continued dominance. Plus, who can say no to checking out a 12% IPA that claims to be hoppy and fresh!?
Shane’s Thoughts: Double Squeeze is the very first double IPA release from Great Rhythm Brewing Company, and given how much both Pete and York loved the standard version of Squeeze, it was a no-brainer for me to go grab some to share. Double Squeeze is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s like Squeeze, but...more. Same full, round, orange/tangerine flavor, without much sharpness and a fairly crisp finish, but amped up just the littlest bit. It doesn’t taste like an 8% beer to me--or at least it didn’t at first. I wish I had been able to get this beer into Pete and York’s hands a little earlier, because, while I’m not usually too concerned about drop-off, this is a beer that was definitely better fresh. Don’t misunderstand me--this is still a really delicious beer. But after two weeks, the alcohol flavor definitely started to seep into the beer a little bit, making the back end taste a little bit boozier than it did on day one. I’m not complaining--sometimes it’s nice to know exactly what you’re drinking. But I think the beer better embodies what Great Rhythm was going for when it’s consumed fresh, and the added booziness throws off the balance just the tiniest bit.
York’s Thoughts: A few months back, Shane sent us Squeeze, the single IPA iteration of this brew, and I absolutely loved everything about it. To say I was excited to get my hands on the double would be an understatement. When we did the original and I gave it a 10/10 mark, the guys both put it a little more middle of the road. I think, in an unforeseen twist, that we may all switch the other way. I found the double to be a little on the harsh side with a bit of bite cutting through what is otherwise a really smooth profile. I don’t hate that in a beer, but at 8 percent, I’d like it to be a little less prevalent. This may also be a product of loving the original so much, but I feel like the balance in Squeeze was dead on and this one loses some of that cohesiveness. I now see that this sounds like a negative write up and it’s truly not - I really enjoyed this beer and Great Rhythm continues to hold a top spot for NE brews to me.
York: Real tasty and certainly fits the mold for big flavor DIPAs out of the area. The higher alcohol contents competes a bit with the body flavor but all in all a great brew. 8/10
Shane: Hi-Fi remains my favorite Great Rhythm beer, but this is a real easy-drinking DIPA. 8/10
Shane's Thoughts: As always, I have to start with the disclaimer that kettle sours have never really been my thing. They aren’t as tart as regular sours, and they usually don’t seem to have as much going on. Couple that with the fact that I had heard a few people say to be wary of this beer due to some unexpected, well, "sediment" in the bottom of the cans, and I was a little bit nervous. It turns out I had no reason to be. This beer is surprisingly tasty! Fruity, but not tart. Full-bodied, but not too heavy. The guava, strawberry, and grapefruit all come through really nicely. Overall I’m not sure there’s anything about this beer that makes me sit up and say "wow," but I’m also not sure that’s always necessary. It’s a well-executed kettle sour with IPA elements that drinks well and tastes great. I think that’s enough.
York's Thoughts: I’m not sure I agree with Shane’s kettle sour disclaimer on quite that broad of a level, but he’s right in that there does seem to be something about beers that breweries feel the need to identify specifically as kettle sours that turns us both off. To me, it’s a soft sweetness that's almost on the buttery side of the spectrum similar to a Chardonnay or other juicey wine. That makes for a sticky element that lingers with you a bit much for my liking. When I read the adjunct list on this sour, I was pretty pumped thinking it was pretty unique to include all three types of fruit profiles with fleshy, berry, and citrus. Turns out that it seems to be more of a good on paper than good on usage combo. The guava and strawberry definitely compete with each other and the bitterness from the grapefruit further competes with the souring. A really confused brew that I think tried a little too hard.
York: Love the plan here but it resulted in a really overcomplicated beer that missed the mark for me. 6/10
Shane: I actually wound up liking this more than I expected. 8/10
Shane's Thoughts: During our last tasting, I mentioned that, while Bale and Sheen are both solid representations of what Deciduous can do, I was a little disappointed that they hadn’t chosen to include a weiss in their first canning run. As far as I’m concerned, weisses are what Deciduous does head and shoulders above anyone else in the area--and raspberry weisses in particular. So when the brewery decided to can a raspberry/blackberry weiss just in time for our annual trip to Ocean City, I couldn’t have been happier. Flash is amazing. It’s everything I want from a weiss. It has the perfect amount of tartness, adding an amazing pucker right from the jump. The addition of blackberry is welcome here as well, as the slightly fleshy, slightly less tart flavor profile of that particular fruit adds a softer backdrop to Flash and prevents it from becoming too one-note.
York's Thoughts: Flash was a great follow up to the Sheen Gose that Shane included in the most recent batch, and it is now abundantly clear that Deciduous has some serious sour power. These soured berry beers seem to be a pretty common product on the New England scene and this is one of the better ones. I like sours of the adjuncted-weisse style to be especially sour since they’re typically pretty light and often come with a really sweet element as well. This one is just a little bit thin, but has perfect execution of that combo with a clear and present pucker factor that marries extremely well with the sweetness coming off the berries. Really enjoyable and a perfect end of summer brew.
York: Great balance, love the pucker factor. 8/10
Shane: Deciduous does great things with raspberry. 9/10
Shane’s Thoughts: During last year’s trip to Ocean City, I brought a few cans of Alter Ego with me. So this year, I figured what better to top it with the Alter Ego’s imperial cousin? Doppelganger is my favorite beer that Tree House brews. Yeah, sure, Tree House devotees will wax poetic about Very Hazy, Juice Machine, King Julius, and a bunch of other amazing beers. And those are great--all three cans of them you can get maybe once a year if you’re lucky. But Doppelganger has entered the regular rotation of Tree House beers, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s fruity, it’s juicy, and it has a little bit of dankness to temper it. There’s a little bit of tropical flavor, a little bit of grapefruit flavor, and little bit of peach flavor...there’s just an absolutely TON going on in this beer, and at 8.2% it is dangerously drinkable. It drinks heavy, but at that ABV I don’t mind it. It adds a little extra heft to Alter Ego’s already successful formula, and if I want a pounder, Alter Ego is what I’ll reach for. But if I want a juicy and flavorful sipper to sit back and savor, give me Doppelganger every time.
York’s Thoughts: This is one of the most objectively good beers I’ve had in awhile. It’s not even exactly what I want in a Double IPA, but damn is it good on every level. Anyone who claims to like the hoppy end of the craft beer spectrum will be high on this beer, I have no doubt. Layers on layers of flavor here with a hop profile predominantly leaning towards the tropical/fleshy fruit attributes that are enhanced really well by whatever yeast strain they used here. The 8.2 ABV is perfect here, giving a little density without bringing in too much of an alcohol bite. Well balanced between just about every element, this is a tough beer to find fault with.
York: Alter Ego was a 9/10 in my book and this certainly earns that last notch. 10/10
Shane: Doppelganger is my favorite Tree House beer. Possibly my favorite beer, period. 10/10
Shane’s Thoughts: The beers in the Curiosity series are some of Tree House’s most sought-after. The Curiosity series is an ongoing line of experimental beers, giving the brewers at Tree House the opportunity to try new things. They tend to be IPAs or double IPAs, and they also tend to be delicious. This particular beer is the 39th beer in the series (hence the name), and it hits a lot of really nice notes. The aroma is amazing (one friend who tasted it remarked that it “might be the best-smelling beer I’ve ever had”), and the body itself hits you right in the face with that juicyfruit/citrus flavor. Although this beer is hazy enough to blot out the sun, it actually drinks surprisingly light, and the finish is crisp and clean with notes of hay. There’s a lot going on with Curiosity Thirty Nine, and I felt like I discovered something new with every can I opened. Citra and Simcoe always tend to be a winning combination, and in the hands of the master brewers at Tree House, they make something really special.
York’s Thoughts: I fear I’m a bit spoiled with TreeHouse already. The last couple I’ve tried (all courtesy of Shane) have included Julius, Green, Alter Ego, Doppelganger and JJJULIUSSS which are all absolutely incredible.Curiosity 39 is good. It’s not in the same league as those others, but what an unfair comparison right? First off, and I won’t harp on this beyond this sentence - this beer is quite unappealing visually to those of us who don’t fawn over burnt orange opacity that accompanies many DIPAs from this part of the country. I do get some of the flavors that TreeHouse says to expect, but my experience was definitely heavy on the pineapple side and much lighter on the citrus. That makes for an sweetness that when combined with an already fairly dense beer creates a stickiness that I just can’t get behind.
York: A touch sticky for me but absolutely love the experimental series addition to my Tree House experience. 7/10
Shane: Incredible aroma on an intensely flavorful, layered beer. 9/10
Shane’s Thoughts: Greater Good is a brewing company that specializes in imperial beers. Well, no, that’s not true. They’re a brewing company that makes EXCLUSIVELY imperial beers. Seriously, check out their website. The lowest-ABV beer you’ll find is 8% alcohol. Greater Good has made a name for themselves with a handful of delicious beers like Pulp (which clocks in at 8%), but when I saw a double IPA sitting at a borderline-unbelievable 12% alcohol, I knew I had to have it. 12% is so boozy it almost seems like a gimmick. It can’t possibly taste good...can it? I had to find out. And the truth is...it actually kind of can! Greylock tastes strong, but I’m not sure it tastes 12% strong. I’d probably have put it down at a much more reasonable 8 or 9%. And there’s actually a decent amount of flavor asserting itself past the booziness here, which is impressive on its own. I get a little of the grapefruit and orange they mention, and it’s definitely pushing through some bitter, floral notes. I’m not sure I’d ever really crave this beer on its own, but considering how strong it is and everything that Greater Good tried (and succeeded!) in accomplishing here, it’s hard not to respect the end result.
York’s Thoughts: Man, what a great beer to be part of this exchange. No lies, I almost assuredly would not pull the trigger on a four-pack of a 12 percent IPA. That area scares me a bit since I tend not to like the Triple IPA varietal and Imperial is a bit of a crapshoot too. That aside, I love seeing stuff like this anywhere I can have one on draft or snag a single can of so this was the perfect opportunity. Greylock is a BIG beer with BIG flavor that makes for a really great experience. It’s got a neat cross-coast element with the haze-producing NE yeast combined with a hop profile much more slanted towards the left coast. It’s unmistakably a high proof beer but there’s no chance I’d have guessed nearly as high as 12%. On the bitter side in a good, intentional way, and shockingly crisp for so much booze.
York: Definitely a beer I can get myself in trouble with. 8/10
Shane: This beer doesn’t taste anywhere close to 12% ABV. Really impressive. 7/10
Shane’s Thoughts: Austin Street Brewery is one of my favorite breweries in Maine. While Patina Pale is definitely their flagship beer, they’ve made a name for themselves making funky beers all across the spectrum, including a handful of saisons that even I, a notorious saison-hater, have absolutely loved. Still, like most New England breweries, pale ales and IPAs are where they make their bones, and the Patina Pale is no slouch. The beer is basically a pineapple bomb, with a fairly dry, resiny finish to complement the citrusy body. It drinks a little heavy for a 5.3% beer, which is more or less the same problem York had with Daybreak during our last tasting, so it’s hard for me to predict what York and Pete will think of this one. I love Patina Pale, and I was thrilled when Austin Street finally got themselves a canning line and I could bring a few along to share (I wound up lugging a four-pack around with me during a bachelor party when I saw that they still had cans available). If the beer was a little easier to get my hands on, it would definitely be in my regular rotation. Luckily, four-packs are slowly starting to trickle out into area bottle shops, so consider me a happy man.
York’s Thoughts: Shane hit this one on the head. It’s a pale ale that drinks a little heavy, and I just threw some shade at “pineapple”-forward beers in another writeup above, but despite both of those qualities this brew is a really enjoyable one. Drinking is always influenced by time, place, mood, etc. so maybe this just caught me at the right time, but nonetheless I dug it. The heaviness here really is only relative to the 5.3% ABV. If this were closer to 7 than 5, I’m not sure I’d have even said anything. Citrus definitely dominates and the pineapple-y profile is there, but not overwhelming, since it's a pretty even-keeled beer. Overall a great balance and a nice summer sipper.
York: Nice straightforward beer that is more of a summer sipper than a session pale. 8/10
Shane: It’s a straightforward pale ale, but it is bursting with flavor. Austin Street nails it with this one. 8/10
Best of the Bunch
York: Doppelganger is the winner for me here. Really great end of summer pack but Doppel might be one of the most objectively well crafted hop-forward beers I’ve had.
Shane: Doppelganger is one of my top 5 beers on the planet, so that’s the real answer here. But since York already chose it, I’ll take this opportunity to throw some love at Deciduous, because Flash sits right alongside their other outstanding sours like Gleam and Shine as an incredibly tart, flavorful interpretation of the style.
York: Crisp, light, clean beers is the focus on this batch! I’ve assembled a mix of beers that are all brews that I go for on hot (that’s a relative thing to say in San Francisco, I know) days when the refreshing quality of a beer is especially appreciable. I was able to get my hands on some Cellarmaker, which is a brewery both the guys have requested more from, and have also included two hoppy brews from HenHouse, a big up-and-comer in the San Francisco area. A bright sour, a tropical blonde, and a pilsner collab from two of my favorite breweries round out this lineup of thirst quenchers!
Shane: This is an exciting batch of beers, featuring a few breweries whose beers I have never sampled before. I’m particularly excited for another crack at Cellarmaker, given that the first beer I tried from them wasn’t quite up my alley. I’ve been dying to try their Dobis and Double Dobis IPAs, so the fact that York was able to get his hands on some of the former is hugely exciting. Add in another beer from Alvarado Street Brewing and one from Local, and this batch has my mouth watering already. I’m also excited to taste Sunbather, as York has yet to send us a single sour from the West Coast that was anything less than delicious.
Pete: Here we get a little light variety from California. Usually these batches are just a slew of double IPA’s from the first area of the country to put their stamp on the style. I like that we finally get a pilsner in here and a sour is never something to turn your nose up at. I spy a bunch of pale ales too which is great for me because I will take a nice pale ale over a bunch of IPAs any day. I like sessioning beers and a good hoppy pale ale is the best session for me. You get all the hops while still enjoying a beer that doesn’t knock you on your ass. I am especially excited to try Cellarmaker and their Dobis. They are probably the most popular cool kid brewery that I have heard of and their Dobis is their take on Citra so I expect it is good. I am calling this a York summer pack because these are perfect beers to wrap up summer with. Cheers!
Brewery Name: Long Blue Cat Brewing Company
Type of Brewery: Brewpub
Location: 298 Rockingham Rd Londonderry, NH. The brewery is located near Manchester–Boston Regional Airport (MHT), as well as near Backyard Brewery & Kitchen, another recent entrant into the New Hampshire brewing scene.
Facebook: Long Blue Cat Brewing Co.
Background: Owned by Jason Knight and Shane Sorenson, two childhood friends from New Hampshire, Long Blue Cat Brewing Company opened its doors for the first time this December. The beer they brew is the result of years of homebrewing experience, and the brewery itself the culmination of the two friends’ ambition to enter the burgeoning New Hampshire beer scene. Of course, you’re probably wondering one thing right about now: what’s the deal with the name? Since Long Blue Cat doesn’t even spoil that secret on their own website, I won’t do it here. But suffice it to say that it’s an endearing story, and you can find it framed on the wall of the brewery’s taproom. You can also stop in and ask them yourself!
Growlers: Yep, growlers are currently the only way to take beer away from Long Blue Cat, as they do not appear to have can or bottling capabilities at the moment. I’m not sure if they are planning to change that, but given New Hampshire’s draconian beer laws and the fact that Long Blue Cat only recently opened, growlers are a perfectly satisfying solution to the takeaway problem.
The Beers: Long Blue Cat had a good number of beers on tap when I visited, and I took the opportunity to sample almost all of them. My flight included:
Vibe: The brewery only recently opened, and during my visit they were still enjoying a healthy “new brewery” boom. The taproom was crowded, but there were plenty of tables and lots of space at the various high-tops for people to sit or stand comfortably. The staff seems like they do a great job of managing the space, and the layout was clearly put together with free-flowing movement and accessibility in mind. Tables are spaced out enough that you’ll be able to hear each other talk without being drowned out by neighboring conversations.
The walls are decorated in classic brewpub form, with cans from various breweries both in the immediate area and beyond lining the ceiling. I saw cans from heavyweight breweries like Tree House and Trillium on display, as well as some well-deserved representation for smaller, local breweries like Henniker and Garrison City. It’s clear that Long Blue Cat has a lot of love for their New Hampshire compatriots.
Service was awesome. It’s surprising how much of a difference little modern updates can make, such as having the waitstaff carry smartphones that they can use to take and keep track of orders, as well as allow patrons to pay for their drinks right then and there. This makes a HUGE difference, especially at a time when the brewery is packed with people. Not having to wonder whether your drink order will be correct or wait for your bill to come is a little thing that makes the entire experience so much more enjoyable. I wish more breweries (and bars, for that matter) would follow Long Blue Cat’s example.
Overall, I look forward to coming back. Between the helpful staff, great layout, cool vibe, and awesome slate of different beer styles, Long Blue Cat is doing some really great things, especially for a brewery that only recently opened its doors. Really well done!
Dogs: I don’t think so. The brewery is a true brewpub, and with food prep stations clearly visible and a full food menu, it’s unlikely that dogs are welcome. That’s too bad, but it’s also completely understandable. [UPDATE 3/11/18: Recent visitors have indicated that dogs are often present in the brewery, which is great news. You may wish to proceed with caution as breweries that serve food can be wary of allowing dogs, but for now it appears that your furry friends are more than welcome!
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. Pretty standard prices for a brewpub. Stopping in for a flight or pint is not going to break the bank.
Food: Long Blue Cat has a pretty robust food menu, and although I haven’t had the chance to sample any of the offerings myself, I’ve heard good things. The menu looked to contain items like flatbreads, grilled cheese sliders, and other fun takes on traditional bar food. I wish I’d had the opportunity to linger a bit longer, because all of the food I saw looked fantastic.
Final Thoughts: I came away impressed, and I look forward to stopping by again. Given the number of different beer styles on offer already, I’m excited to see what the brewers come up with next. As the New Hampshire beer scene continues to grow, I hope more breweries are able to open as successfully as Long Blue Cat.
Shane: I've tried to choose a wide range of beer, but the fact is...I’ve been neglecting my home state of New Hampshire. I’ve included a ton of beers from Maine, a bunch from Vermont, and a lot from Massachusetts, but, with the exception of a few Garrison City beers, New Hampshire has been sadly underrepresented. Well, no more! I’ve chosen eight beers for this tasting, and all but two of them come from the Granite State. I chose a couple of interesting beers from Garrison City, a pair from one of my personal favorite breweries, Deciduous, and a couple of selections from Great Rhythm and Stoneface. To round it out, I’ve included our first beers from both New England Brewing Company and Battery Steele Brewing. Should be a good batch!
York: Easily the best-designed batch Shane has put together in a long time. Riddled with IPAs and pales, this also includes a gose, a weiss, and a stout. Of the three of us, I typically make the furthest reaches to try and preserve a wide spectrum of beers, but credit is given where credit is due here. Pumped to have some more Great Rhythm and Garrison City--both breweries that I was extremely high on in earlier batches. Shane talks quite a bit about Deciduous, too, so it’ll be great to see what they’re about. I won’t lie, the stout generates a bit of an odd look on my face being not only a “white stout,” but also what sounds like a beer that has some heat to it. Definitely a beer I wouldn’t have picked out myself, but that's the fun in this a lot of the time!
Pete: So we go all pale again but get some good style variety. I am a fan of gose and berliner weisse, so I am interested in trying those beers. A Garrison City IPA and some more Great Rhythm can’t be a bad thing, either. Deciduous has been on the radar, so I want to give them a try. Shane wasn’t able to get us the raspberry berliner he raved about, but, if this brewery is as good as he says, these offerings will do. Overall, a nice collection of New England beer, and really shows the variety of what there is to choose from.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This piece refers to Stowe Cider's previous location. In the time since our visit, the cidery has opened a new location located at 17 Town Farm Lane in Stowe. While we greatly enjoyed our visit to the old taproom, we encourage you to check out Stowe Cider's new space. Feel free to let us know how you like it! We hope to write an updated review in the near future.]
Cidery Name: Stowe Cider
Type of Cidery: Retail Cidery
Location: 1799 Mountain Rd, Stowe, VT 05672
Facebook: Stowe Cider
Background: Not only was I the first writer to review a cidery, it appears I’m going to be the second, too. I took a trip to Stowe, VT a few months ago, and Stowe Cider was one of the “must-visit” places on my list. My fiance has a gluten allergy, which, sadly, means no beer; however, it has given me the chance to get much more into cider. Stowe Cider has been one of the unexpected gems that I’ve found during that discovery process. On their own, the cans that Stowe Cider distributes represent a really cool mix of flavors and styles, and I was really excited to see what else the taproom itself had in store. Spoiler alert: I was not disappointed.
Growlers: Yes. They even offer growlers full of regular, non-alcoholic apple cider, which look absolutely delicious.
The Ciders: One of the great things about Stowe Cider is sheer magnitude of different options. I mean, just look at that list below: we’ve got a dry-hopped cider, a shandy, gin, rum, and tequila aged ciders, and even an ice cider. Take note, people who say cider is boring because it all tastes the same. None of these ciders tasted even remotely the same, and almost every single one of them introduced me to something I’ve never had in a cider before. Mega props to Stowe Cider for an incredibly unique lineup. Here are some of my favorites:
Vibe: I’m not totally sure how to describe the vibe of the Stowe Cider taproom. The cidery is located at the end of a strip of storefronts on one of Stowe’s main roads. The outside has a rustic, charming feel that is perfectly mirrored by the interior.
Inside the taproom you’ll find picnic tables, tables made from barrels, cornhole boards, barstools, decorations made from empty bottles, and a thousand other little things that remind you that you are in rural Vermont. The walls are brightly colored and the room is well lit, making the spacious taproom feel even more open than it already is.
Stowe Cider is popular, that much is for sure. The taproom wasn’t too busy when we stopped by, but it filled up soon after we sat down with our flights. There are games to be played (we opted for Trivial Pursuit), there’s artwork to admire, and, of course, cider to drink. You can also take a look inside the gigantic fridge located near the register for some cans and growlers to take home with you. As I mentioned before, Stowe Cider even sells regular, non-alcoholic cider. I really regret not taking some home with me.
The staff was friendly, the crowd was happy--and it doesn’t hurt that we visited on an absolutely beautiful and sunny day. Everyone there was in a good mood, and the whole experience left both of us feeling really upbeat. Whether that’s a testament to the vibe of the cidery or the benefit of a perfect day, we had a great time!
Dogs: Unsure. It’s a reasonably sized taproom with plenty of seating, but it definitely fills up quickly on weekends. I’m not sure whether they allow dogs in the taproom, but, even if they do, you’ll want to consider how well behaved your dog is in crowds.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. Pretty much par for the course as far as brewery/cidery prices go. Not super pricey and you definitely get your money’s worth with a wide variety of generously poured samplers.
Food: There are some limited, snacky options available. Sadly, they were sold out when we visited, so I can’t speak to the quality of the food, but it’s pretty much par for the course at a place like this.
Final Thoughts: Ever since I started diving into the world of cider, Stowe Cider has been a favorite of mine. I jumped at the chance to visit the taproom, and was greeted with creative and delicious ciders that exceeded even my lofty expectations. If you’re a fan of cider, I highly recommend stopping by--and if you’re not a fan of cider, I recommend stopping by anyway. There are so many barrel aged cider varieties here that you’re virtually certain to find something you like!
Drink With Us
Three friends. Three corners of the country. One passion for beer.
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