A Little Bit of Everything
Shane: I love New England IPAs. They're easily my favorite beer style right now. But as I looked back on my beer selection for our last few posts, I realized that I have been pretty IPA-heavy. That won’t do. There are too many great breweries in New England doing amazing things outside the IPA genre. It's true, I did bring Alter Ego and beer.I.am, both of which technically fall under the IPA umbrella, but both beers are so different and unique that I couldn’t resist bringing them with me. Also in this batch of beers is Bissell Brothers' 2016 release of Seed, a fruit beer made entirely with local ingredients, and a selection from Liars' Bench, one of my new favorite places in town. Finally, there’s Mayan Mayhem, a spicy sour that stands alone as maybe the most interesting beer I’ve ever had. I look forward to seeing what the others think!
York: Bissell and Tree House making another appearance each. I’m yet to be fully bought into the lore of these places based on what I’ve tried so far, so I can’t wait to have some of the big, highly touted brews from them. Don’t get me wrong, beers like Swish and JJJULIUSSS have really wowed me, but not nearly to the level Shane and Pete hype them. There's some clear excitement in Shane’s description of a few of the real local beers he was able to grab and I always like a good story. Of those, I’m very excited to be getting some more from Earth Eagle since they blew me away when we visited, but I must admit that I’m reaaaaal skeptical about the spicy sour profile.
Pete: Shane refused to tell me if he was stopping at Tree House before coming down to the beach. Lucky for him, he actually did. This was also a nice collection of new breweries that Shane discovered while up in New Hampshire as well as new beers from breweries we have already tried. I was excited to try a non IPA from Bissell as well as Julius’s evil twin Alter Ego. Actually, come to think of it, is Julius the good one? I feel like we all assume that Julius is the good brother, maybe it’s the evil one? Who knows? Tree House should get back to us on that.
Shane's Thoughts: I like sours, but I'm not nearly the aficionado that York is. When I saw that Bissell was releasing one, I immediately knew I would have to get my hands on it and bring it to our next get-together. Seed is a delicious beer. It drinks like fruit juice. I’m not the biggest fan of strawberry-flavored things, but when you’re using two-and-a-half tons of natural strawberries, the result can only be delicious. It’s possible that I went into this beer with the wrong expectation, though--I was expecting a straight-up sour, rather than a refreshing fruit beer. I get a little bit of tartness from the raspberry and the kettle-souring, but overall I was a little bit disappointed that it didn’t wallop me in the face with sour pucker. I think that’s on me, though, and I should probably have done a better job of knowing what to expect.
York's Thoughts: Agreed with Shane on this not being very sour, but also agreed that it’s not supposed to be. Really ultra fresh flavors that make you think much more of fruit than the syrupy flavor that often accompanies beers with any ingredient ending in “berries”. There is a tartness for sure which actually makes it a bit friendlier than a true sour. I could easily see myself drinking this a pint or two at a time based on how fresh and bright it is.
Pete's Thoughts: I loved this beer. I always hype things up in my head and usually get let down when the beer turns out to be less than satisfactory. This is awesome. Fresh berries in a slightly sour ale. Refreshing and reminds me of strawberry jam and fruit roll ups. May not be the most sophisticated description but this beer has a very nostalgic flavor profile. I actually preferred it being less sour than my counterparts wanted. I think it brought out the natural sweetness of the berries a lot more. Would absolutely seek this out every season.
York: Great execution of flavors that almost always wind up syrupy. Excellent departure from their typical hoppy brews. 8/10
Pete: This hit all the right marks for me. 9/10
Shane: Really tasty fruit beer. Didn’t have the sourness I wanted but I think that’s definitely an expectation problem on my part rather than an execution problem on Bissell’s. 8/10
Shane's Thoughts: I’m actually not totally sure what to say about this beer, because it is exactly as advertised. There is a lot of really nice tropical citrus flavor from the New Zealand hops, and the pilsner base plays off that with a nice, dry finish. It’s a really unique interpretation of an IPA, and a pretty cool blending of styles. We’ve spent so much time talking about East Coast vs West Coast beers, but this is almost Northern Hemisphere vs Southern Hemisphere. Germany meets New Zealand. Crisp and dry meets full-bodied and fruity. It’s really creative and really delicious. Unique, refreshing, and, most of all, tasty.
York's Thoughts: Never judge a beer by its label right? I’d be lying if I said I was enthused about this beer based solely on the description. That said, I’m always happy to admit I’m wrong in this sort of instance. beer.I.am really surprised me. It’s deceivingly complex and does an amazing job of taking advantage of bold hops and then cutting them off very crisply with the Pilsner malt. It’s exactly what I like in an IPA - hops on hops for the nose & drink, but abruptly cut off before wrecking your palate. This is a great beer that will definitely have me paying attention to the ‘Pilsner base’ movement.
Pete's Thoughts: I am a simple man with simple needs. Strike that, simple men don’t have incessant needs to try every new beer on the planet. But sometimes it is nice to just have a simple straight forward IPA. Clean malt bill, and a bright citrusy refreshing hop to meld together to make an enjoyable experience. I assume there is some Nelson Sauvin in this beer because I get a lot of peach and white wine from this. I drank this a little too fast but It was really that good. Pilsner malt bills are great to showcase hops but they can go down a little too smoothly sometimes. This was a great beach beer. Strike that because of the hurricane. It would have been a great beach beer if we were able to be on the beach.
York: Really enjoyed this more than I expected. Shows impressive brewing skills and sophistication. 9/10
Pete: I like simple refreshing well made beers as much as the next guy. 8/10
Shane: I liked pretty much everything I had at Aspetuck, but this stood out as the most creative and maybe the most delicious. 8/10
Shane's Thoughts: I had only tried Alter Ego once before, and it was in the middle of a massive Tree House tasting--so it didn’t leave me with a lasting impression. I’m thrilled to say that everything has changed this time around. This beer is absolutely fantastic. As I’ve said before, Julius was the first beer that made me understand why people spend hours standing in line for beer. Alter Ego is basically Julius on dry-hopped steroids. It’s pretty tough to go wrong with a Mosaic dry-hop, and when that dry-hop is layered on top of what is already an incredible beer, the result is a fruity, tropical explosion atop a rich, New England IPA foundation. I’m a huge Alter Ego fan, and I’m glad that Tree House has added it to their regular rotation (now, to get Doppelganger in there as well...).
York's Thoughts: I was a bit worried that something was wrong with me after the first few Tree House beers didn’t make nearly the impression that I expected. Then the JJJULIUSSS showed me the light. I gave that a 10/10 and think that Alter Ego is as just about as good. I get a little less fruit from this one but it’s a high bar set by the JJJULIUSSS fruit bomb. Love the dry hopping that Tree House has mastered and really like that this isn’t quite as thick as some other comparable NE IPA’s. I’d say after these last two, I’m entirely bought into the Tree House lore. Might need to add a blind tasting of Alter Ego and the JJJULIUSSS to our next get together to settle this for sure.
Pete's Thoughts: I like Tree House, I like Julius, I like Mosaic. Seems pretty straightforward. This beer is very different than its “good” counterpart (I made Alter the evil twin). The Mosaic definitely brings some added notes of pineapple and passionfruit to the tropical fruit bowl that is Julius. I think it adds a little bitterness to even some of the flavors out. I actually will say I might prefer Julius over this. Either I see something in Julius that I miss or something just isn’t hitting that next level for me. This is still a fantastic beer and wonderful representation of what Tree House does so well.
York: Love the layered hop profile. Complex and easy to drink at the same time. 9/10
Pete: Mosaic plus hazy IPA equals 9/10
Shane: A Mosaic explosion on top of the already-amazing Julius base. 9/10
Shane's Thoughts: This is one of the most unique beers I have ever had. From the moment I took my first sip, I knew it was a must-have for our next blog post. I’ve written about Earth Eagle Brewings before, and it’s easily one of my favorite breweries in New Hampshire. They specialize in gruits (beer without hops), and I first sipped Mayan Mayhem expecting another solid entry in their long line of sour gruits, a style which I have come to be particularly fond of. Instead, I was greeted by an intense pucker on the front of this beer, followed by an equally intense wave of chili spice on the back end. With the sour element lingering on the front of the tongue and the spice hitting the back of your throat, what results is a wave of opposing flavors colliding in the middle of your mouth and exploding. The sour and spice is such an unexpected (and successful!) flavor combination that it almost feels like you’re eating pop rocks. I loved this beer. York always lobbies for rewarding breweries when they accomplish exactly what they set out to do, and this beer embodies that concept for me. What a crazy idea, what a crazy beer. I definitely couldn’t drink more than a glass of it at a time, but I’m a huge fan.
York's Thoughts: I wanted to like this. I love Earth Eagle and the neat things they are doing up in New Hampshire. Also love that they found a niche in gruits and really stuck with it and made some damn impressive brews. There’s a whole lot going on here. Definitely get the sour front end, and the spicy doesn’t really come to fruition until you’re almost done with each sip. Now, let's get this clear, I am a big wuss about spicy beer. I don’t enjoy it and really don’t know that that will ever be an acquired taste that I’m on board with. I am always happy to give credit where credit is due and fully acknowledge that this was brewed with a very specific goal in mind and they absolutely crushed it. The description does it true justice and doesn’t oversell how impressive the combo is. This isn’t a beer I’ll drink again, but the goal is totally understood.
Pete's Thoughts: Shane told us all going into the weekend that he had a strange beer that he wasn’t sure we would like but it would certainly be interesting. Chilis in a sour beer? Yeah, that will do it. I really got a hot sauce sensation from this. This chilis aren’t overpowering but they really build when you drink it, and the sourness gets to you after a while. I actually thought I really liked it for a second then it kinda went south on my stomach. Definitely interesting but the nuances of the other ingredients like the cocoa nibs are lost on me. One glass of this and move on.
York: I’ve been tough on spicy beers to-date and they still fall much too far outside my preferences for me to rate well. Props for the recognizable uniqueness and complexity all day though! 6/10
Pete: I am glad I can say that I have had this. That is all. 6/10
Shane: Sour and spice. Who would have thought they could come together so successfully in a beer? 9/10
Shane's Thoughts: I had a feeling that Earth Eagle’s sour and spice combo would probably cause a whole bunch of disagreement between us, so I figured we might as well end with a beer that I know will appease everyone. I’ve written about Liars’ Bench before, and I’m a big fan of what they do. They’re right around the corner from my house, and I know I can count on them for crisp, refreshing German beer. That’s exactly what Ashpotag is. It's the perfect beer to lounge with, and eminently sessionable. A lot of the beers at Liars’ Bench finish with that classic German dryness, but this one less so. Ashpotag has the tiniest hint of fruit on the nose that elevates it in my mind. Altbiers tend to be pretty straightforward, so I’m not sure how high the ceiling is for that style, but this one is certainly delicious.
York's Thoughts: This wound up being the beer that I thought the beer.I.am from Aspetuck would be. The Altbier style is another one like the Pilsner to me that has a really low ceiling. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a good solid drinkable german style table beer, and in fact it's clearly a good move to have them available for those that are looking for that easy drinking option. This is a fine representation of what it is, just doesn’t do much for me. Shane is high on these guys and I’m always envious of the beers he talks about so I’m excited to try some more pronounced beer styles from them.
Pete's Thoughts: This is a very to-the-book beer. Simple crisp, light, refreshing, a little toasty and easy beer to drink. A great session ale. I would be able to put this down all day, and would happily do so if this was my local. If I had a criticism, it would be for this beer to have a bit more body, but otherwise I don’t have much to add.
York: Fine representation of an Alt. Drinkable but unremarkable. 7/10
Pete: Good beer, great for watching the game. 7/10
Shane: Supremely drinkable altbier perfect for a summer day. 7/10
Best of the Bunch
York: Happy to say that Tree House takes this one for me with the Alter Ego.
Pete: I am going to hold out the candle for Seed. It really was a great beer and I was happy it was only slightly sour.
Shane: Alter Ego is probably the easy pick here, but I’m going to go with Mayan Mayhem instead. I’ve just never had anything like it.
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