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's Thoughts: Great Rhythm has been a New Hampshire mainstay for a while now: their Resonation Pale Ale has been a refreshing and satisfying staple in many a cooler for years. But within the last year or so they opened a brand new brewery and taproom in Portsmouth, NH, and in doing so they took their beer game to the next level. Beers like Squeeze, Hi-Fi, Sticky, and others have taken the New Hampshire beer game by storm. I’ll admit--my personal favorite of the bunch is Hi-Fi, but Squeeze has really captivated the attention of beer lovers in the region. When Pete requested it, I couldn’t turn him down. Squeeze is a blast of tangerine and peach flavor that smacks you right in the mouth. It isn’t as hazy as the classic New England juice bombs like Julius, but I would call this Great Rhythm’s answer to Julius nonetheless. It’s tasty and refreshing, and while I think there are better Great Rhythm beers, that takes absolutely nothing away from Squeeze.
Pete's Thoughts: So, this was a request I made. This beer was on the internet and I saw it and said, “hey, it’s citrus, and Julius was pretty good, so this has to be good right?” Well, if you have followed us…that’s not always the case. But this lived up to what I wanted. It’s citrus, fruit, passionfruit, and some good dankness to round it out. This beer pours that right hazy dark orange that makes you think about hops. For a single IPA, this was perfect. Double IPAs sometimes walk that line of being too boozy, and that sometimes overtakes the subtle hop character. This beer shows what a good single IPA is: bright, hoppy, and to the point. You can have a couple and enjoy your evening.
York's Thoughts: Good god this is delicious. It’s citrusy but not fruity, dank but not sticky, full but not too hazy, it’s all around what I want in a beer. Would really love to know the hop profile here because it’s absolutely dynamite. I’d venture a pilsner malt base just because of how crisp it is but even that is a shot in the dark based on how smooth the transitions are. One of the best finishes I’ve had off an IPA from Shane to-date!
Pete: Really what I want in a single IPA, walking that line of being fruity and dank without being bitter. 8/10
York: No complaints, no changes, just more of this beer. 10/10
Shane: Delicious, refreshing, and juicy. 8/10
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
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.
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: Honestly, I didn’t think I could top the last batch of beers I selected, but it seems like New England is just a never-ending fountain of incredible beer. I’ve been telling Pete and York that Khaos is my favorite Garrison City beer for quite some time, and it’s been frustrating for me to not be able to include it in a post yet. Finally, FINALLY I have managed to get my hands on some, and I’m very excited to see what these guys think. Also included are a couple of beers that represent something a little different: Rising Tide’s Maine Island Trail Ale is probably my favorite session IPA of all-time, Bissell Brothers’ Bucolia is a different take on a classic amber style, and Henniker’s Sour Flower is a sour that packs a punch of floral flavor. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the two beers here that I never thought I’d be able to get my hands on: Nothing Gold and JJJULIUSSS. Nothing Gold was a special release from Bissell Brothers in honor of their new brewery location, and it spawned the single longest line I’ve ever seen at a New England beer release (luckily I have learned to get there extremely early). JJJULIUSSS...well, I never thought I’d see the day JJJULIUSSS made it into cans. I’ll talk a little more about that when we get to it, but suffice it to say that York will finally get the introduction to Tree House that he deserves.
York: Lots of wishlist beers in this batch! Shane has been mercilessly talking up Khaos and JJJULIUSSS to us right from the get go. I’ve been even higher on the Garrison City beers than Shane so far, so I’ve got really high hopes for the DIPA from them. I also really enjoyed the Rising Tide beer we had a few batches ago and of course really dig the beers that our friends at Henniker make so a sour from them has me extra excited. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I’m typically less enthused with Bissell than the others (this is a VERY relative statement of course) so I’m glad to be getting access to a few more from them to really figure out what the disconnect amongst the three of us is. Talk about a powerhouse of summer beers - can’t wait to get started on these!
Pete: Shane and I play an interesting game every Friday. Every Friday we check twitter to see what Tree House is canning because if it’s good sometimes Shane will throw caution to the wind and drive down to get it. The last few weeks, they brewery has really been pushing their release time back to when Shane won’t want to drive to Tree House just to get something he’s already had. Then they drop a huge beer by releasing an amped up version of Julius, their much admired IPA. Guess Shane had to drive to Tree House that day. And I am glad he did. I also really like the collection of IPAs here. Nothing Gold is very intriguing because I have not seen a new Bissell beer in a while. And more Garrison City and a great collection of New England IPAs isn’t a bad thing.
Drink With Us
Three friends. Three corners of the country. One passion for beer.
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