Monthly Archives: November 2015

Santa and The Beast

Here’s a quick review by request, with two brews that I picked up at Growler & Gill.

Mikkeller Santas Little Helper GlassMikkeller Santa’s Little Helper

“Belgian ale brewed with spices and aged in Grand Marnier barrels” This pours opaque cola brown with a moderate light tan head with a hint of rose. You get an aroma of rich malt from two feet away. Up close add a note of chocolate orange liqueur and lots more malt, kind of a hint of brown bread. The flavor is like a Belgian Dubbel crossed with a chocolate porter as roasty notes come in. The finish starts with that roastiness and adds a caramel sweetness and a touch of hops. The Grand Marnier shows mostly in the aroma with just a hint in the flavor. Overall, it’s quite smooth with a roasty edge. Does the “good twin” think this is suitable for aging? The “best before” date is 03/06/21! 9.1% ABV However, there’s better to be had for much less than this premium priced beer.

Avery The BeastAvery The Beast Grand Cru Ale

Hazy dark amber in the glass with a light amberish head. The nose features light liqueur barrel and apple sour notes over caramel and bready malts. The flavor is of poached dark fruits with a slight sour edge sliding more toward sour on the finish, but also more toward caramel with a little alcohol heat. No wonder! Long finish, good stuff! 17.2% ABV!

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Founders Brewing Co.


Founders KBS“A Flavored Stout” the packaging says modestly. “Highly Acclaimed KBS A Flavored Stout” it says somewhat less modestly. In limited release and hard to find, limited partly because it is “cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for an entire year.” This pours opaque brown with a brief brown head. It has a fairly mild nose of bourbon and malt, with dark chocolate emerging and a roasty note. On the palate there’s a rush of coffee and chocolate and molasses and malt, followed by a gentle wave of bourbon. It’s immensely rich and complicated! Chocolate builds sip to sip, and so does bourbon. This just gets deeper on a very long finish, gently fading but not going away. KBS: Three letters, great beer. 11.2% ABV, 70 IBU

What can follow that? Obviously more of that, but let’s switch up with:

Founders Centennial on NitroCentennial IPA on Nitro

A beautiful glass of ruby tinged amber building with big tight nitro head. Leads with a great citrus hop nose, perhaps muffled by the head. The creamy nitro mouthfeel is followed by a wave of hops, citrus & spice, with malt way underneath. The finish is nicely bitter–lemon peel bitter–with lots of ongoing flavor. More malt emerges from the hops and a toffee brittle dark sweetness brings balance on the end. This is not for the hop shy. It’s pretty intense. 7.2% ABV, 65 IBU

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Once Again, Prost!

Fest Bier – German Styles, Mostly Märzen

I’m wrapping up my Autumn German theme. Starting off this set, Growler & Gill did a tasting to show off a range of German styles OTHER than Oktoberfests.

Ayinger CelebratorAyinger Celebrator

This is a classic Dooplebock, very dark cola brown with a generous persistent tan head that fades slowly heavily lacing the glass. Toasted caramel nose with a pruny quality over massive dark malt with roasty notes and chocolate liqueur. Flavor starts raisiny with caramel and a dash of hops.It’s quite crisp for a dark beer and the chocolate and toasty malts play back and forth. All this carries into the finish with the hops building, but there’s a sense of having eaten spiked dark chocolate, lingering a long time. Very satisfactory! 6.7% ABV

Reissdorf Kölsch

The most lager-like of the ales, this Kölsch pours crystal clear gold with a brief white head. The aroma is fruity nose otherwise similar to what many would call “typical lager.” The flavor has a light sweet melon fruitiness with a hop zing. On the finish the fruit lingers and fades gradually, quite a long finish featuring slightly spicy noble hops. 4.8% ABV

WeihenHefeWeissWeihenstephaner Hefeweizen

As a Hefe, this is the classic hazy straw with a generous lingering white head, heavily lacing the glass. From the world’s oldest brewery, this provides the definition of the style with a yeasty nose of banana and orange over biscuit malt. Even fruitier in the flavor with a light caramel sweetness and full body. Hops dry out the finish. 5.4% ABV [I’m amazed that I don’t have a photo of this, so I’m cheating using their Festbier.]

Kostritzer Schwartzbier

This “Black Beer” pours opaque brown with a moderate sand colored head. It leads with a roasty malt nose with light fruit. On the palate you get a light body and smooth light caramel flavor with a touch of roastiness. Gets sweeter into the finish, very low hoppiness. This is another wakeup call for those who think a dark beer has to be heavy. 4.8% ABV

Leaving the tasting, let’s move on to some more Oktoberfests, now that Oktoberfest ended five weeks ago.

Warsteiner OktoberfestWarsteiner Oktoberfest Special Edition

Medium amber in the glass with a generous bubbly white head. The aroma is a strong blend of noble hops and bready malt with maybe a hint of sourdough. This is more strongly flavored than the Munich Oktoberfests, showing a ton of malt with lots of hop flavor. The finish continues this though not very persistently, a medium length finish. Less crisp and more flavor than the average Märzen, but more like Paulaner than Hofbräu. 5.9% ABV.

Erdinger OktoberfestErdinger Oktoberfest

This pours pale gold with a generous white head. The aroma features light malt and balanced hops with a hint of stone fruit. Light, crisp and refreshing, this time more like Hofbräu than Paulaner. The malt is quite persistent on the finish. 5.7% ABV

Dinkelacker MärzenDinkelacher Oktoberfest (Marzen)

A classic Oktoberfest, medium amber and a moderate white head. It delivers a malty mouthful with restrained caramel leading into a medium finish of malt and spicy hops similar to the Spaten. The picture shows what happens if you pour too gently into the Maßkrug. It is most un-German to fail to generate a robust head, though as a result I got about 1.2 liters! 5.6% ABV

Crossing the pond but continuing the theme, here is a pair of American Oktoberfest-style beers.

Sam OktoberfestSam Adams OctoberFest

Dark amber in the glass with a fairly brief off white head, it starts with a very light nose of biscuit malt. On the palate come lots of caramel or crystal malt making it mildly sweet. There is much more flavor than aroma. There is something vegetable in the finish I find it to be a bit too light in body, and the same in finish as the flavor fades quickly. Distinctly the weakest of this group of Oktoberfests. 5.3% ABV

Goose Island OktoberfestGoose Oktoberfest

Pours chestnut amber with a moderate cream head. Very malty nose of caramel with malt and malt (did I mention malt?) Toffee leads the flavor with a ton of malt right behind and a hint of stone fruit. This continues into the finish but is joined by a touch of drying hops. This is stronger than the German Oktoberfest Bier, but holds its own in flavor. 6.4% ABV 17 IBU

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Boston on the Night Shift

Night Shift Brewing

Like many–or most–craft breweries, the founders of Night Shift Brewing moved from home brewing on the night shift to pro brewing on the day shift, but these guys kept that heritage in their name. I’ve been waiting to try their stuff for what seems like a long time, and finally a buddy smuggled some down to me. (Thanks, James!)

Night Shift Whirlpool
Whirlpool American Pale Ale

Looks like pineapple juice, cloudy straw, with a bright white head. I get pineapple on the nose too, but partly because I was thinking of it. The aroma is more like grapefruit with intense citrusy hops. There’s cracker malt underneath, mostly masked by the hops. The flavor is complex, resolving to something simple and crisp. It starts with a citrus juiciness with good malt and peach and a spiciness, along with an herbal note almost like basil. Soon it becomes clean crisp citrus refreshment. That sounds tacky but this is really good! The finish completes a trifecta of citrus across aroma, flavor and finish. 4.5% ABV

Night Shift HarborsideHarborside

“Gose-style ale brewed with Island Creek Oysters and coriander,” this pours cloudy straw with a brief bubbly head. It delivers a strange sour aroma, not strong, a slight salty tang with a note that must be from the oysters. Sour on the palate–it’s a gose all right–salty, tangy, not overwhelming . . . in balance, even. If I didn’t know I would never suspect there were oysters. I was skeptical but this is pretty good! The finish is quiet, citrusy tart with a lingering hint of salt, especially at the very end. As it warms there’s even a tiny salty candy bar hint. 4.2% ABV Aside: some oyster beers do more to emphasize the hazard to those allergic to shellfish, though this label clearly states the presence of the oysters. At minimum it gives fair warning to vegetarians, unlike Guinness* and some other ales.)

Night Shift AwakeAwake

“Porter aged with Counter Culture Coffee,” deep brown in the glass with a medium chocolate cream head. Coffee definitely leads the nose, but restrained and with chocolate malt notes, quite nice. On the palate it has light effervescence with an iced coffee flavor, and it’s on the light bodied side so it’s equally at home in warm and cold weather. It might win over some who don’t like coffee in their beer as long as they like the typical roastiness of a good porter. 6.6% ABV

Night Shift Viva HabaneraViva Habanera

Here’s the first Night Shift beer that I ever heard about, and one I’ve been eager to try. I was not disappointed! “Rye ale with agave nectar and habanero peppers.” This pours a pretty ruby to brown with a moderate off-tan head. The aroma of peppers arrives from two feet away, but up closer there’s a lot of malt with some sweetness and a citrus note. This is followed by great pepper flavor, juicy and refreshing over layered malt. There’s pepper spiciness and flavor but not heat, though some builds in after multiple sips. The finish shows that heat but shows mostly malt and maybe a hint of hops at the end. 6.7% ABV

It was worth waiting for the Night Shift–I’ve always been a night person–but I hope that someday they will expand distribution to New Jersey or New York (perhaps despite the presence of Yankee fans.)

* [To be fair to Guinness, they have never hidden their use of isenglass as a fining agent, and it is certainly a traditional part of their process. Recently they have announced plans to move toward being vegan-friendly, replacing the use of isenglass with another agent.]

My buddy James provided the beer, but my other Boston beer buddy, Campbell, provided more Night Shift reviews, and added Slumbrew for good measure:

First up was Night Shift, which I sing the praises of frequently. I helped a friend of mine move some stuff so he treated me to a beer or two. First up I had a glass of their Mainer Weisse – a weissbeir made with blueberries and only available during the winter. It’s sweet, it’s sour, it’s delicious, and it’s available in 22oz bottles, one of which I took home. Next up I had their Oldenburg, their oktoberfest beer. It’s strictly okay but has a little bit going on. As my friend Dylan said, “it’s beer” and I’m not inclined to disagree. I took home a 32oz growler of this round of One Hop This Time, Azacca. I just had the whole growler tonight – it’s damn tasty, not too flowery, and not too fruity. I personally like fruity and juicy IPAs a lot, but this was still super enjoyable, and all 32 ounces went down very comfortably. 

Yesterday I hit up Slumbrew, another local Somerville institution. Their brewery has plenty of great food available which Night Shift does not (although Night Shift always has lunch trucks parked outside) but I thought I’d try their beer. The only things I’ve had from them before were their Happy Sol, a refreshing hefeweizen with plenty of citrusy notes and some sweetness to it, and their Flagraiser IPA, a rock solid IPA. I ordered a flight of four beers I hadn’t tried, and had a go at each:
– Slumkin Pumpkin: this is their pumpkin ale, and stands as proof that I really don’t like most pumpkin beers. My Untappd review reads simply “nein danke”
– Float: Their white beer. It’s strictly okay. It mentioned citrusy notes and I didn’t really get them. I like Allagash White more.
– Island Day: A kind of tropical IPA, with notes of pineapple and orange. I didn’t love it, but it was definitely enjoyable.
– Luma Luma: Another IPA, but one I actually really enjoyed. It was really complex and interesting, in addition to being right powerful at 7.something % abv. Definitely my favorite of the bunch,
– Chainsaw Maidens From Hell: I couldn’t NOT have some of this one! My girlfriend ordered this and had some but had me finish it. It’s a red pumpkin ale, and as a result has a pretty distinct flavor that doesn’t taste quite like anything else on the menu. While it wasn’t my favorite, the great name and interesting mix of flavors make this one worth trying.

So all in all, Slumbrew is definitely the second place here, but they still had some stuff worth trying. Night Shift is dependably interesting (even going so far as to have separate T-shirts available for each of their beers!) but it’s good to check out some of the older institutions like Slumbrew to see what they have on offer.

So many thanks to James for the beers, and to Campbell ( for the reviews.

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