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's Thoughts: I mentioned during our last tasting session that, while I enjoy Squeeze, Hi-Fi is where my loyalty really lies when it comes to Great Rhythm beers. There’s something about it that speaks to me. I’m not sure whether it’s the aromatic head, the smooth finish, the ABV that outpaces most of Great Rhythm’s other offerings without smashing you in the face with booze...or maybe it’s all of those things. Lychee isn’t exactly the most common flavor profile in beer--in fact, this might be the first time I’ve ever seen that particular fruit mentioned in a commercial description--but it fits here. Lychee is a fruit with an incredibly subtle flavor, and it plays well throughout a beer that brings a surprising amount of depth. Squeeze is a flavor-packed powerhouse, but my love for Hi-Fi comes from the fact that it’s a much more mellow, delicate beer.
York's Thoughts: Where to start the praise…I suppose it makes sense to start at the start right? This beer is GORGEOUS--maybe the best-looking beer Shane has chosen up to this point. Bright and mostly clear is a look that only my beers have had lately. Big, hoppy nose that has to include some element of dry-hopping as well. Whatever the hop mix, it tastes equally as good as it smells. A nice pale malt base makes this really light and crisp, and also allows the hops to flourish without creating that stick that IPAs from the region are known for. That crispness follows through right to the finish with about as perfect a blend of bitter and fruity as I have ever had. Even the ABV is perfect on this. Any lower and it would lose that slight bite that a good hoppy IPA has, and any higher would almost assuredly come with stickiness. Honestly can’t think of a single thing I’d change here. Bravo, Great Rhythm.
Pete's Thoughts: This beer has a very simple description. Sometimes breweries overdo the beer descriptions, and you expect to see things that just aren’t there. This is a robust, wonderful beer. The color is slightly hazy, and the hops just leap out of the can. But every word of the flavor rings true. Juicy and tropical--passion fruit really comes through in the beer. And on the mid-palate you get this sweet flavor that is almost hard to identify, but I am going to say it was lychee. Really bright, almost familiar fruit character, but still almost exotic note to it. I have wanted to try this brewery for a while and every beer from them keeps me wanting to get more. I can see why they are so popular.
York: One of my favorite beers since we’ve started! 10/10
Pete: Every word of the brewery description is true. Unreal passionfruit and lychee. 8/10
Shane: Probably my favorite beer that Great Rhythm makes, which is saying something. 9/10
Shane's Thoughts: I've written about a lot of Garrison City beers. That’s probably because I consider Garrison City to be the best brewery in New Hampshire. I’ve felt that way for quite some time now, and it’s important to note that they’ve only gotten better. Garrison City has reshuffled a lot, putting an end to some of their earlier experimentation and retiring many of what used to be regular offerings (in fact, I think every beer we’ve reviewed has since been retired). Daybreak is a (relatively) recent offering, but it has become more or less their flagship beer. It’s their Julius. Their Substance. It’s an outstanding IPA that is just bursting with flavor. Lots of haze, but very little stick, at least to me (though I’ll be curious to hear what York thinks). Even as a lover of Garrison City, this was a beer that made me sit up and take notice, and it was a harbinger of things to come: since Daybreak was first released, the brewery has really stepped up their single and double IPA offerings in a big way. Literally the only problem I have with this beer is that it drinks just a touch heavy for its 6.2% ABV, and I think it might be even more successful as a double IPA. That said, Garrison City already has a ton of excellent double IPAs in their rotation these days, and having a regular offering that sits in that 5-6% range is important.
York's Thoughts: Shane thinks he’s high on Garrison City, but their true number one fan is this guy. We’ve had four beers from Garrison City before this one, and I’ve been highest of the group on every single one. Needless to say, I was pumped for this beer. While it may be partially due to unreasonably high expectations, Daybreak fell short for me. Part of the reason I’ve enjoyed so many of Garrison City’s beers is because they all had a distinct end that came after a big flavor profile. Daybreak doesn’t really meet either of those criteria, and, while that may make it a bit more balanced to fans of the hazy IPA, it lessens my personal interest. There’s certainly a good amount of hops at play here, but they get overshadowed by the chewiness that takes over from the middle right through the aftertaste. Because of that, it drinks awfully heavy for a 6.2% beer and takes it out of the running for something I’d go back for a second of. Certainly not a bad beer, but much too far down the sticky haze road for me.
Pete's Thoughts: There is that classic fruit juice IPA from New England. This beer is all hops, and there is almost an acidic quality that makes this beer more like a sour. Garrison City’s yeast strain definitely brings out sweet character of hops. This was a beer Shane really wanted us to try because we had gushed over the previous Garrison offerings that were not “on the same level.” I can see why he waited for this one. Tart Mosaic and Citra, sweet but not too sweet, just a really nice refreshing IPA that almost makes you forget what bitterness is. This is just making me want to visit this place more and more.
York: GC remains one of my favorite breweries out of the area, but this specific brew doesn’t make my all star team. 6/10
Pete: We all have to get to Garrison City. Their hop game is unreal. 9/10
Shane: My go-to beer from Garrison City. 9/10
Shane's Thoughts: Box and Whisker is the first “white stout” I’ve ever tasted (or even heard of), but I’ve seen a couple of others pop up in the aftermath. A new trend, maybe? Anyway, when I first saw “white stout” on the draft list in Garrison City’s taproom, I was confused, curious, and I knew I had to have it. Even Garrison City admits that they’re sort of fudging the name--when you get right down to it, it’s a richer, heavier, roastier version of a cream ale. But then again, you could get nitpicky with a lot of styles. What differentiates a pale ale from an IPA? Is a double IPA the same as an Imperial IPA? As with all things, it depends on who you ask. As for me, I’m happy to give them the white stout label, because, you know what? It drinks like a white stout. When you see this beer in a glass, it looks like nothing so much as an IPA. But if you blindfolded me and told me to take a sip, I’d swear I was drinking a stout. So rock on, Garrison City! This particular version of Box and Whisker features chipotle peppers and cinnamon, and the peppers actually add a nice buzz of flavor on the back of the tongue. Not enough to overwhelm, just enough to be felt. Chocolate and spice go together very well everywhere, and I think it was a smart combination here. All in all I’m very happy with this beer. It might not be my favorite beer I’ve ever had, but I absolutely love trying new things, and with Box and Whisker, Garrison City has given me something I’ve never, ever seen before.
Pete's Thoughts: White Stout has become and interesting fickle beer style for me. I remember the BrewDogs doing one on their show, which looked interesting. It was the first time that I saw that style in any form. Then Stone put out a white stout that was pretty good, but didn’t really hit all the marks. The classic quote of anyone who had that beer was that “if you blindfolded yourself you would swear the beer was dark.” Which is fine, but I didn’t want to blindfold myself to get the flavors I wanted out of it. The beer just didn’t have the body I expected, and the white stout felt more like a “white lie.” Then I started to have a couple more and gradually I think brewers are starting to figure out the style. The best beer at the Savor Craft Beer and Food pairing festival was an Albino Stout. Box and Whisker is a little on the light side for me, but it has a nice golden color with good body when you sip it. Upfront notes of vanilla and coffee meld into a nice cocoa powder finish. This beer is a nice attempt at the style, but I wanted it to be a little sweeter. I am partial to thick, sweet stouts, so maybe this one was not my cup of tea.
York's Thoughts: I was a bit confused just trying to come up with my expectations for this one and pouring it only increased that confusion. This is the first beer I’ve had in the “white stout” style and I’m not sure why, but my brain expected to see more of a murky/hazy whitish beer and not the clearer golden pour. That aside, still really cool to have the roasty profile on a light colored beer. Unfortunately, my amusement didn’t go much beyond this point. There’s an odd sweetness that really needs some more body in the beer to build off of. I’m also on record many times as being completely averse to spicy elements in beer and while this one is certainly far more approachable than most in that regard, I’m honestly just unable to get past it. On the very real plus side--this is the kind of beer experience that keeps me interested in always trying new things. Fascinating brew that I’m really glad to have tried--thanks, Shane, for identifying that and sharing!
Pete: This is a good attempt but does not hit the marks that I am looking for in a white stout. 6/10
York: Particularly hard to rate since I’m not sure what this style is actually supposed to be like, but it’s well outside my personal preferences on a few levels. Huge bonus for being unlike anything I’ve ever had...by a long shot. 7/10
Shane: It isn’t my favorite beer on the merits of flavor, but it’s REALLY cool. 7/10
Shane's Thoughts: I made a mistake with this beer: I had the raspberry version (Trash Berry Culture) first. I’m not sure what it is I love so much about raspberry in weisses and goses, but whatever it is just plain does it for me. Trash Berry Culture might be the best weiss I’ve ever had, so when I saw that it was in cans I absolutely had to grab some. It was only after I arrived home that I realized that what I had purchased was actually the standard version instead. But fear not! The great news is that Weiss Trash Culture is still a fantastic representation of the style--in fact, it feels like it bridges a couple of different styles. It has that crisp, German flavor base that you expect from a weiss, although this one cranks it up to almost a pilsner level. It has some light tartness on the front, but not too much. While I tend to like my sour beers very sour, I think they made the right choice here to keep it tempered--without a fruit backbone, that sourness would have nothing to prop it up. What you get instead is a tart, wheaty beer with a delicious start and a crisp finish. What more could you ask for in a weiss?
York's Thoughts: First and foremost--love the use of Hallertau here, and I’m glad Shane is seemingly over his prejudice against them. On to the actual experience, I can’t help but feel like this beer is unfinished. The berliner weiss style is a fickle one that, to me at least, has two distinct tracts. On one side, is the more classic German style that is more of of a wheat focused profile that uses the lacto and/or secondary ferm to add some sour notes. The other is what I’d call a more American style that is often used as a vehicle to get big fruit flavors into a tart beer, resulting in a not very beery-beer. Both are enjoyable in their own right, but this one almost feels like it was supposed to be option number 2 but got stopped short. It never quite made it to the complexity level of the Americanized version, but also strayed far enough from the classic that it doesn’t have a good home. My take is that it needs more of something, anything, really, just more of if. More aggressive hopping would have made this a unique brew, some fruit or other adjunct would give it complexity, or even a more primary focus on the wheat and/or lacto would provide something a bit more notable. I’d love to try this next to the raspberry one that Shane mentioned to have the reference base, but this one falls a little short.
Pete's Thoughts: This is a single. It hits the berliner points of being slightly tart and crisp and refreshing. It is very light like almost cider yellow. But after that, I don’t find much of the beer that wows me. A beer can be simple, but I have a had some awesome berliners and this one just hits the style points while not being over the top. I like this brewery and I am looking forward to trying more from them. It’s both sad and good that just hitting the basic style points doesn’t get you top marks anymore.
York: I’m hard to please with this style, and anything at this low of an ABV for that matter. Leaves me wanting more to talk about. 6/10
Pete: I have high expectations for this style, and this is just average for me. 6/10
Shane: I feel bad because I know how good the raspberry version is. Without the fruit, it just feels like something is missing. 6/10
Shane's Thoughts: I love Deciduous. They’ve been one of the top breweries in New Hampshire for a long time, although they’ve occupied a different niche than many of New England’s most popular brew houses. Until recently, Deciduous specialized in beers on the sour end of the spectrum. Goses, weisses--you name it, Deciduous does it. And while they still brew those beers, they have also begun to branch out into brewing the juicy, hazy IPAs that have taken New England (and the country at large) by storm. Bale was the first of these IPAs that they’ve canned, and it’s a very solid representation of what Deciduous can do. Bale is (appropriately) the color of hay. Light, hazy, and golden in color. It isn’t a straight-up juice bomb--there is a ton of pineapple flavor both on the nose and on the body, but there is definitely some bitterness present here as well. This isn’t the naked bitterness of a poorly made IPA though: it’s the citrusy, rindy, lemon peel bitterness that comes from coaxing absolute maximum flavor from the hops.
Pete's Thoughts: Really nice straw-colored hazy IPA. The yeast character on the nose almost reminds me of juicyfruit gum. The flavor is light without being heavy. This beer also exemplifies the term “creamy” to me. The palate is what I like about this one. Really easy to drink while not being too heavy. The beer reminds me of Sprite soda a little: it has a nice lime peel character with some undertones of lemon. Maybe some tropical fruits. Maybe LeBron will endorse a Sprite that tastes like this. This beer is light, but packs a bunch of flavor and manages to not be the traditional New England IPA while still exhibiting some of the better characteristics of the style.
York's Thoughts: I get the name. Bale pours a muted yellow hazy color that can definitely be described as hay or straw colored. Not my favorite look on a beer, but it’s what I’ve come to expect from a lot of what Shane sends. The nose is 100 percent pineapple all the way--so much so that in a blind taste I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one or two of us guessed that this was some sort of tropical ale or at least a brew with fruit added. Drinks quite a bit lighter than it looks and follows up that fruity nose with a fairly hoppy body that brings it back to seeming like an IPA. Finish is a little chewy but the hop profile really shines there and leaves you with the perfect combo of bitterness and fruit.
Pete: Smells like juicy fruit gum and tastes like an adult sprite, how can it be bad? 8/10
York: Nice to see the New England style getting tweaked a little bit without losing it’s identity all together. Overall very balanced, but almost winds up lacking some notoriety because of that. 7/10
Shane: Reminds me a little of a lower-ABV, slightly more bitter version of Swish. 8/10
Shane's Thoughts: As I mentioned, although I really like their IPAs, sours are where Deciduous really shines. And while I think their Berliner Weisses are their top style, I can’t exactly complain about the choice to can a gose. Because make no mistake--Sheen is a perfectly executed beer. It’s hard to imagine what they could do to improve on this beer, honestly. Within the framework of the gose style, they’ve coaxed what I would consider to be the absolute maximum amount of flavor. Below, York says it better than I can: Sheen is perfectly balanced. Not too sour, not too salty/briny, a little bit of tartness, and perfect dry-hopping to add that extra little bit of aroma and flavor. Is gose my favorite style? Not really. Is this one of the best goses I’ve ever had? I’d have to say yes.
York's Thoughts: My goodness yes! Shane told me Deciduous is a rainmaker in the sours and odd beers universe, and if this is any indication that is a drastic understatement. Goses are a tricky game, and they require realllllly fine-tuned brewing to avoid coming across as either saltwater or a buttery version of a sour. Directly between those ends of the spectrum is the gose that packs all tart but almost no sour and has that distinct sharp ending that makes it different from other, more farmy counterparts. This one sits square on that perfect middle point AND...as if that wasn’t enough…is dry hopped PERFECTLY. The hops don’t interfere with the tartness at all but come through on the nose in a gloriously pronounced manner. I’m willing to look past the 4% ABV because this beer is damn near perfect.
Pete's Thoughts: So this is named Sheen. I assume (based on nothing) that this beer got its name from Charlie Sheen, therefore, it is dry hopped with cocaine. In that aspect of novelty, the beer fails. In all other categories, it is a wonderfully sour tart gose with some slight hop character on the back end. It reminds me of a tart honey crisp apple. Bright and tart with slight sweetness. Very good representation of the style with enough finesse to make it stand out.
York: Not only is this beer one of the best in this batch, but is the best gose that I’ve had. 10/10
Pete: Really a fan of this beer. It isn’t Charlie Sheen, but it’s a great beer. 9/10
Shane: Deciduous really knows how to push the limits of the gose style. 9/10
Shane's Thoughts: There might not be a brewery in New England that does a better job of flying under the radar than Stoneface. They are inarguably one of the best breweries in New Hampshire. They make both outstanding IPAs and rich and flavorful stouts, playing well at both ends of the hop/malt spectrum. And yet, it feels like they just don’t get the attention they deserve. Let’s change that. Full Clip isn’t necessarily one of the most celebrated beers to come out of Stoneface (most people go crazy for their double IPAs like Mozzocalypse or Double Clip), but I wanted to include something a little more middle of the road. Of course, it helps that Full Clip it is one of my personal favorites. One sip of this beer tells you everything you need to know: it’s packed with grapefruit and lemon peel flavor to the point that it almost tastes like juice. That’s not to say that it’s overly fruited--just the opposite. The hops really shine through. I like just about every beer Stoneface makes, but it’s wild that the only difference between this and their standard IPA is the yeast. The difference in flavor is incredible, with Full Clip packing none of the piney, resiny punch that their IPA contains. I wish I had grabbed a can or two of the IPA, because tasting them side by side would be a cool experiment.
York's Thoughts: Amazing nose on this one! Tons of hops and a really nice crispness that creates expectations of a nice bright IPA. First sip definitely met that expectation and but I didn’t get the same notes that Stoneface described. While I agree that this is full of fruit both on the nose and in the body, I’d put that much more toward the bitter or tart end of the spectrum than the fleshy fruits like peach. Grapefruit is the most obvious profile I can pick out, but there’s some rind-like bitterness that gives an orange pith or even lemony quality to the body. Still on board for all of that, different people have different palates, but I noticed as the beer got even a little bit warmer, that bright crisp flavor got more and more drowned out by the bitterness. When this is fresh out of the fridge, it's right up my alley, but as soon as it’s had some time to breath, it definitely morphs a bit. All said and done, not a beer I’d be a regular for, but I don’t have much bad to say either. Sign me up for more from Stoneface, clearly they’re not afraid to go for it!
Pete's Thoughts: Nice bright hop nose, peach and mango come forward on the beer. It pours a nice soapy head on a hazy yellow orange beer. This beer has all the parts in place as a single IPA. The flavor is really more on the west coast style. Very citrus peel with some pine and unripe mango at the end. How do I know what unripe mango tastes like? That’s an interesting question, and normally I find it pretentious for anyone to say they have tried unripe versions of fruits not indigenous to this country (let alone the Commonwealth of Virginia). However, I happened to buy unripe pre-cut mango from Trader Joe's, so unripe mango it is! Overall, it has nice fruit character without being overly sweet. The yeast character is also very pronounced. A very solid beer.
York: Really transforms with temperature, just goes the opposite direction I’d prefer. 7/10
Pete: Really good west coasty east coast IPA. Not too sweet and really flavorful. 7/10
Shane: Full Clip is probably my favorite Stoneface. Complex flavors wrapped up in a simple and straightforward beer. 9/10
Shane's Thoughts: Portland, Maine, is a beer paradise. It’s home to some of the best breweries not just in Maine, but in New England as a whole. But within Portland, there’s one street that stands out from the rest: Industrial Way. Industrial Way is where Maine Beer Company got it start. It’s where Bissell Brothers was originally located. And it’s currently home to Allagash, Foundation, Austin Street, and its most recent addition, Battery Steele. I was excited when I first heard that a new brewery was planning to open up so close to these other storied places, and even more excited when I started seeing their beer pop up in bottle shops along the seacoast. A cool new brewery with beer that’s actually available? Sign me up! I’ve had several beers from Battery Steele now, and while Flume (another DIPA) is probably my favorite, I wanted to include Avalon because, to me, it’s the most interesting. As York points out below, DIPAs featuring Amarillo can be a little bit tricky, but the addition of the Mosaic here adds a welcome balance to it. I’m not the biggest fan of Mosaic on its own (I’ll leave that to Pete), nor am I a huge fan of Amarillo. But together, they add just enough fruitiness and just enough dankness to create a well-balanced swirl of flavor. I love the finish on this beer--it ends with a crisp finality and no stick whatsoever. I hope to include more from Battery Steele in the future, and I look forward to visiting--I was recently up that way but found a “SOLD OUT OF BEER!” sign on the door. Disappointing? Sure. But also a GREAT sign for a newer brewery that’s already doing great things.
York's Thoughts: No lie, I’ve become very weary of DIPAs that feature Amarillo. They are almost always on the darker, stickier side, with those Pacific Northwest hops that accompany a lot of West Coast IPAs. To my incredibly pleasant surprise, this beer is neither dark nor sticky! Avalon is a nice bright yellow that turns slightly hazy once you finish pouring the full can. The nose meets you with a huge citrus profile and has some of the dankness of those west coast hops in your face right from the get go. Flavor profile consists primarily of high bitter hops and the orange family (tangerine, maybe, if I had to pick one?). Finish is bitter, but not overbearing by any means, and is crisp enough, despite the haze, to keep you wanting another sip each time. Really impressed by the makeup of this beer, especially the hop profile. Looking forward to more from Battery Steele!
Pete's Thoughts: So if you have read this blog at all, you know I have a very pronounced bias toward Mosaic hops. If we did some sort of hop draft and I didn’t get to pick it, I would turn over the table as it were. This beer is really reserved in its blend of hops. It is nice and dry while still being very fruit forward. Classic tropical fruit notes, restrained bitterness, and stone fruit character with classic citrus peel backbones. This has been an interesting batch of beers because these are New England IPAs but they manage to not overdo the fruit juice character. It is nice to see some brewers working complex hop notes into the pungent character of these hops. This is a really solid offering that I feel like I would be able to pick out of a lineup because it is so different from most Maine beers.
York: Still don’t like looking at all these hazy beers but this one’s flavor vastly outweighs its appearance. Really impressive beer that I’d absolutely go back to. 9/10
Pete: Another great double IPA with some fruit and some other stuff to keep you guessing. 8/10
Shane: Loving what Battery Steele is doing so far. 8/10
Best of the Bunch
York: Hi-Fi is the final answer for me. If I could design a beer that I could drink for the rest of my life, it’d come out exactly like Hi-Fi. I’ve also got to give a huge nod to Sheen from Deciduous. Sheen, without a doubt, is the best gose I’ve ever had. Probably would have been given the BoB in pretty much any other batch, but had the misfortune of being in the same group as Hi-Fi.
Pete: Daybreak. I mean it’s top notch Garrison City hops, how could this not be the top of the bunch?
Shane: Daybreak might be the answer for me, but since Pete already chose it I’ll go with Full Clip. I was higher on it than Pete and York, and something about that beer just does it for me. It’s a straightforward beer with complex flavors, and a staple in my fridge.
Drink With Us
Three friends. Three corners of the country. One passion for beer.
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