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!?
New Hampshire Rising
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.
Shane: It feels like some of my recent selections have been pretty Massachusetts-heavy, with Tree House in particular representing a disproportionate number of the beers that we’ve sampled. What can I say? I love Tree House. But this time, I figured the rest of New England should probably get their due. I’ve got offerings from just about every state here, including a local favorite from my hometown in New Hampshire, a pale ale from a brand new brewery up in Maine, a group of legends from rural Vermont, a popular IPA from Rhode Island, and even a special selection from just over the border in New York.
York: A huge part of the fun in exchanging beers to me is trying things from the next great brewery. We were early fans of breweries like Foam, Aslin, and Prison City, and I love seeing younger breweries like Great Rhythm and One Eye Open included in these batches. There’s something extra fun about identifying a great beer before it’s common knowledge. That said, I am nothing less than thrilled to have not one, not two, but three fresh beers from the powerhouse that is The Alchemist. Focal Banger was my first draft pick of all beer I tried in the last year, and I have no doubt that the other brews will be killer as well. Glad to see my original home state of New York making an appearance here too! Great mix of breweries and regions in this go around. Well crafted, Shane!
Pete: So this batch represents the state of beer in this world at the moment. Got hops? Yes we do. These are basically all hop bombs, and even the one stout in here has a hoppy complexion. Shane managed to grab a bunch of awesome beers that we have all been asking for. I am super excited to try Crusher, because Alchemist only recently started breaking it out again. The addition of a non-IPA from them is a bonus. I also plan on shower-beer-consuming the Focal Banger because, yes, it is one of the best IPAs out there. But is it the best shower beer? I also asked for Squeeze from Great Rhythm. Their beers just seem right up my alley and I have wanted to give them a shot for a while. I also finally get to try SingleCut, which is good news because I have a friend in Astoria who lives around the corner from them. If they live up to the hype, that might be the new go-to brewery when I visit NYC.
Shane: Dinner is a legend, with a reputation for being one of the best beers not just in New England, but in the world. Every Dinner release is an absolute spectacle. There's nothing quite like it. People line up along the highway, sometimes overnight, and often in the dead of winter, just to have a shot at grabbing a case of the beer. I love beer, but the thought of sitting on the side of the road and freezing my ass off for six hours makes me want to cry. Short of making a trade, I had just about given up on ever getting my hands on Dinner when the Maine Beer Company unveiled a new, ticket-based method of allotment. I was lucky enough to score a ticket, and, instead of waiting all night to grab a few beers, was able to walk in and out with a case of Dinner and few fresh bottles of Lunch. Since the odds are against me ever winning the ticket lottery again, I figured I'd better take the opportunity to share a couple of bottles with my dear friends.
York: Another beer on the list of unanimously top rated brews! Shane was kind enough to keep me and Pete in mind for a piece of his Dinner score, and I'm pumped to try it out. Even better than that, Shane included Lunch from Maine Beer Company as well, which is plenty highly rated in its own right. This is also right up my alley of trying related brews next to each other, much like our Russian River sour sampling. Love the story about Lunch's name, and everyone loves feeling like they’re part of something exclusive, so this set of beers is full of high expectations and tons of excitement.
Pete: I cannot give Shane enough thanks for snagging us some of this. And I have to say thank you to Maine Beer Company for being smart about their release policy on this one. To give you some perspective about how things were: a few months ago, Shane went to a Tree House release of King JJJuliusss, which is an ultra rare riff on the beer King Julius, which is an imperial version of the wildly popular beer Julius (following?). I jumped on Untappd after Shane mentioned this and almost every check in for King JJJuliusss was at the Maine Beer Company because people had already started to wait outside for the Dinner release that was scheduled to occur...the next day. To give you some perspective, Tree House can hours are from 5-8 pm on Fridays, and Dinner was being released the next day. So people were actually camping outside to just to get this beer.
That starts to blur the line of dedication and obsession to insanity. Listen: I love beer, but if you need to worry about where you are going to pee because you plan on sleeping outside all night...you would be excused if you said that was insane. The ticket lottery is just the way to go. It prevents people from camping and helps people feel more included. I have been in lines where regular people have walked away because they hear it is 4+ hours to get the beer. Everyone should get the chance to try special things like this, not just the people willing to brave the elements to camp outside. Beer is for everyone, and I am sure Maine Beer Company wants to share this beer with as many people as possible. End lecture.
Shane's Thoughts: I've had Lunch many times before, but I was happy to have the opportunity to see how it directly compares to Dinner. In truth, although they are similarly named, these are two completely different beers. Lunch has a beautiful, melon-y roundness to it that I absolutely love. The flavor is relatively mellow, and it finishes with the slight hint of earthiness that I’ve come to expect from most Maine Beer Company beers. Lunch might be the most balanced beer that the brewery makes--it has a nice mix of citrus and pine, not falling too far on either side of the line. While I think Dinner is the better of the two beers (or at least the one that falls much more clearly in my preference range), in a way Lunch stands out a little bit more. Dinner is a classic New England juice bomb, bursting with fruit flavor and bright citrus haze. Lunch is more understated, mixing in the sort of melon and pine flavor balance that requires an incredibly deft hand to brew. Comparing the two was a really nice treat.
York's Thoughts: I tried Lunch and Dinner at the same time--couldn't resist the urge to compare them side-by-side and try to pick out the differences. Lunch pours a touch darker than Dinner, but has the same-ish amount of haze to it. I get predominantly the citrus profile seconded by the pine, and I don't really get much in the way of the tropical end of the spectrum. The piney hops dominate the finish and there are citrus flavors throughout for sure, but it's most definitely earth-forward compared to most beers from the region (and in relation to Dinner). If I had to sum up the comparison of Lunch and Dinner, it would be that they remind me of their opposite namesakes. Lunch drinks heavy to me, with deeper and richer flavors that I'd love to have with a hearty meal. Dinner is more of the big, bright brew that I want a pint of at the end of the workday.
Pete's Thoughts: I really like this beer, and I think it was cool of Shane to give us each a chance to compare them. This beer always reminds me of lemon peel. The color is a nice hazy straw yellow with the characteristic New England-style soapy foam. You take a whiff and you get so much citrus and fruit character and a lovely backdrop of pine and earthy quality. The beer is light and inviting. It's really intensely citrusy, and it has a good balance of fruit to pine character. This keeps your palate from getting too fatigued. Lunch is always a good beer to pick up if you see it, I think it goes great with seafood. One of my old reliable beers when I go to the bars around here (yes, DC gets a surprising amount of Maine beer).
York: A masterfully brewed New England IPA with everything one would look for in the style. Hazy, rich, and hoppy. 8/10
Pete: I have always liked this beer, it is a surprisingly different flavor profile to Dinner. 7/10
Shane: Incredibly balanced beer bursting with flavor. 8/10
Shane's Thoughts: When a beer comes with as much hype as Dinner, there's always the fear in the back of your mind that you're in for a letdown. After all, can a beer really be good enough to justify an overnight wait in line? While I can't answer that particular question, I can say with total certainty that Dinner lives up to the hype. It's an almost perfect beer, with an incredibly deftly handled combination of hops that present you with just the right amount of fruit flavor and none of the stick that plagues some New England juice bombs. The nose on this beer is absolutely incredible: from the moment you pour it into the glass, you feel as though you have been transported to a tropical orchard. A blast of mango/tangerine hits your palate the moment you take a sip, and something as simple as having a flavor that lives up to its amazing aroma really has an impact here. I'm still not sure I'd be waiting overnight to taste this beer, but I'm incredibly glad I had the opportunity to get my hands on it.
York's Thoughts: I am always extremely tough on most of the IPAs coming out of New England. As you've seen me complain about time after time, I love the flavor forwardness but just can't get past how sticky those hazy bombs can be. I like my beer big, but I like the taste to finish when the beer finishes. Dinner is the very epitome of the best of both worlds. Massively flavorful with an incredible hop profile range, going from fruit to citrusy to earthy all in each sip. It pours hazy, but not quite as opaque as some others from the area. That haze is completely undetectable in anything but the visual as it finishes nice and crisp with no real stick. Huge hype fully delivered on here, one of the best I've had.
Pete's Thoughts: I had mixed feelings about this beer because of the stories I have heard. To me, I see it as the law of diminishing returns. The longer you suffer for something, the worse it is most likely going to be. I thought the only reason that people said nice things about this beer was because they waiting so long for it. I considered it some shallow attempt to make sitting outside all night worth it. Not the case. This beer is really that good. It's bright and tropical fruit-forward, it has some lovely Mosaic dankness on the palate, and it finishes with more fruit character. The beer is a nice hazy orange, and it bursts out of the glass with great aromas of fresh cut fruit. I hope they keep this beer release to the lottery system so that everyone has a chance to try this. This beer lives up to all the expectations I had of it.
York: One of, if not the best IPA I've had from the East. Absolutely nothing bad to say about it. 10/10
Pete: Just when you think you know what a world class IPA is supposed to be, someone rewrites the script. 10/10
Shane: I was prepared to be let down after all the hype, but Dinner lives up to it and more. 10/10
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Shane: York inspired me recently. When he put together a collection of West Coast IPAs from up and down the coast, highlighting the different available styles from several renowned regional breweries, I thought it was a very cool way to really dig deep into a specific style of beer. It also occurred to me that when I’ve been putting together beer for us to sample together, I’ve been focusing too much on what I personally enjoy. And while big, hazy, fruit-bomb New England IPAs dazzle my personal palate, I know that York in particular enjoys a different style. So, for this batch of beers, rather than grab a few of my favorite fruit-bombs and package it off, I’ve nabbed a bunch of IPAs and double IPAs from area breweries that run the gamut of styles. There’s a lot to dig into here, and I’m excited to see what both Pete and York have to say. In particular, I’m interested to see York’s impression of Space Juice, a beer that has drawn some acclaim in New England while never quite hitting my personal sweet spot, and Ricochet, a beer brewed in Boston but specifically marketed as a "West Coast IPA."
York: Now we’re talking! Bunch of double IPAs plus a myriad of other hoppy brews on top of that?! Pumped for this batch, especially the Simcoe dry-hop from Backlash and the intense delicious hop profile I’m expecting out of space juice. I've only had one brew from Liquid Riot and a handful from Lawson’s, but they were some of my favorites of our entire Beercation numero uno, so definitely looking forward to their IPA, too. I love variety in beer and it’s how I’ve gotten through most of my self-teaching on beer, but this is my favorite way to really take it to the next level. Having six or seven brews of a similar style, especially from a similar region, is assuredly going to help me pin down what I do and don’t like about the IPA’s we typically get from Shane. I’m expecting a decent gap in preference between the three of us on a few of these which always makes for good discussion so thats something to look forward to as well!
Pete: So this is a lovely collection of hoppy beers. Punctuating this batch with Green really intrigued me. I have tried some of these breweries and some I have not. I am interested to see how my ratings hold up. My first reaction to this list was...how am I going to space these out. Because if you have too many hoppy beers back to back, you can’t really taste the differences. Plus, as time goes on they start to lose the quality that the brewer intended when they created it. Overall, this is a nice group of IPAs.
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