Cape Ann lands in CT again

CapeAnnBeerWhen I got an email saying that Cape Ann Brewing of Gloucester, Mass., was going to distribute again in Connecticut, I thought exactly what you’re thinking: How do you pronounce the name of that city again? Then I thought: What does it taste like? (The beer, not the city.)

We Connecticut beer lovers are lucky to have so much Massachusetts beer on our shelves. Sure, we don’t have every Mass. beer… If Tree House Brewing were here, we wouldn’t get to go to Monson! But we do have Jack’s Abby, Wachusett, and Big Elm, among others.

Family-owned Cape Ann Brewing, which has been making beer since 2004 on Boston’s North Shore, distributed beer in Connecticut until 2008, then decided to focus on their local market. Now they are back in the Nutmeg state. A representative was kind enough to arrange for some cans for me to sample, and so I did. They foot the bill, but the opinions are mine.

Fisherman’s Pils (5.4% ABV) – I started off with this gem right after mowing the crispy lawn. It went down quickly, and I immediately regretted the chugging about halfway through. That’s simply no way to enjoy a beer. As anticipated, it was crisp and clean, with just enough hop bitterness to reward a slow savor. At 35 IBUs it’s no bland lager. I think I’ll pace myself next time and try this in the shower.

Fisherman’s Brew (5.5% ABV) – This amber lager had the crispness of the pils, but a slightly maltier balance. A beautiful pinkish red, this beer proved to be a hit with a non-beer lover (gasp) with whom a shared it. We paired it with peanuts, hummus, and chips and it seemed to compliment those just fine. Anything more aggressive might have overwhelmed this easy-drinking beer.

Sunrise Saison (4.5% ABV) – This Belgian beauty was, frankly, nicer to look at than drink. Packed with strawberries and rhubarb, the ale seemed to fighting itself. It was in some ways quite sweet, perhaps from the wheat in the grain bill. However, the tart and earthy components brought in by the fruit and plant complicated matters, making it more work than necessary to enjoy.

Fisherman’s IPA (5.5% ABV) – An India pale ale that doesn’t tear your taste buds from the roots, but still incorporates Sorachi Ace hops? This is the one. This English-style IPA has a pleasant bitterness and squeezes plenty of flavor from relatively low ABV. I happened to be trying this when someone passed cannoli around, and it went surprisingly well. Its malt base seemed to come to the surface.

Deadeye Double IPA (9.0% ABV) – This one was a bit of a bitter attack on the senses, with Citra hop invading the throat while delivering an aroma choke hold. Too strong for my taste, but right up others’ alleys, this beast might be the perfect partner to a spicy gumbo.

Fisherman’s Pumpkin Stout (7.0% ABV) – A seasonal treat, this stout might be the one to wash back leftover Halloween candy with. This Pumpkin is sweet, but complex, opening up with hints of dark fruits like plum as it warms up. There’s certainly cinnamon here, but the sweetness tastes more like it came from honey.

With Cape Ann on our shelves, we’re that much richer. I happened to get mine at Bottle Stop in Torrington, but I’d recommend you seek out this brewery’s offerings at your own package store.

FURTHER READING: Big Elm Gerry Dog Stout

Tasting: Hardywood Park Singel

Hardywood Park Brewing Singel
Hardywood Park Brewing Singel

I have to hand it to my super-secret source here in Connecticut who fences me Hardywood Park Brewing Co. stuff all the way from Richmond, Virginia. This bottle of Singel made my day.

It’s a crisp, estery Belgian ale with a delicateness that makes it very food-friendly. I paired mine with shrimp marinaded in sesame oil, red-wine vinegar and red-pepper flakes, along with corn on the cob and green beans with sauteed onions. The Singel (a lighter take on the dubbel and tripel) blended nicely with the shrimp and cut through the sharpness of the red pepper flakes.

I’ve been a fan of this award-winning brewery for years now, and thanks to my super-secret beer mule, I’m a lucky guy. Hardywood Park’s Gingerbread Stout, is an amazing beer, and now I read that they have cream ale in cans, which sounds like an awesome summer addition to the beer fridge.

If you can get Hardywood Park Brewing, I urge you to. And feel free to shuttle some up my way if you have room in your trunk.

Jesse Camille’s CT Craft Brew Fest: A Pleasant Mudpie

Twenty years in craft-beer years is a lot. For anything to last since 1994 in this little world means it’s got to be special. Such is the case with Jesse Camille’s Connecticut Craft Brew Fest in Naugatuck, Conn.

The “little fest that could” still does. Tucked into a grassy corner outside of Jesse Camille’s restaurant, the modest, four-tent area was plenty of room for the hundreds of beer geeks who wandered purposely in search of the perfect quench on Saturday, May 17. The annual event not only helps kick off the festival season, but raises money for the Camille B. Perugini Charitable Trust Scholarship Fund.

The Connecticut Craft Brew Fest isn’t very large, but it has enough offerings to keep the scavenger for new beers satisfied. In the muddy field, on a bright, post-shower day, I ended up drinking samples of nine beers, and gorging on a pulled-pork sandwich.

Here’s my sampling breakdown, in order:

Rogue Beard Beer (Oregon) – This quirky curiosity is known as the beard beer because Rogue created the yeast from samplings found in a brewer’s beard. Turns out that the yeast helps create a bright, citrusy blonde ale. Continue reading “Jesse Camille’s CT Craft Brew Fest: A Pleasant Mudpie”

Magic Hat dreams big

Coming out March 1: Magic Hat’s first new year round beer in nearly 10 years, according to a beautifully packaged press release. Dream Machine IPL (India pale lager) pours slightly copper, has a floral aroma, is crisp with a bitterness that accents a tangerine splash. It finishes a bit harsh, but the light body rewards resipping.

I was lucky enough to get an advance package, which included a sample glass (shown in the psychedelic video I made). I recommend having it with turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans, primarily because that’s the only food with which I’ve paired it.

RELATED POST: Drinking Vermont beers with T-Day leftovers

Sip well! Two Roads Brewing Route of All Evil

Route of All Evil

Some books take work to finish.

Take, for instance, Cryptonomicon, the 1999 novel by Neal Stephenson. In paperback, it’s 1,168 pages, and while it contains scenes that flow freely, the separation between the three main characters in two time periods calls for some serious concentration. Add to that the healthy doses of mathematics and computer programming talk and you’ve got a chunk of a story to swallow. I’m 34 percent through with the book according to Kindle, and while I have no desire to give up, I know that this satisfying read is working out my brain muscles like crazy.

Similarly, there are beers that take work to finish. This would seem like a slam on them, and sometimes it is. But really, unless you paid $150 for a 24-ounce bottle, most would simply pass a beer that takes work off onto someone else or drain-pour it instead of suffer through.

Two Roads Brewing of Stratford, Conn., makes a beer that I find work to get through, but I should stress that this is not a damnation. Route of All Evil is a “black ale,” that at 7.5 percent alcohol by volume packs a bit of woozy. It’s a dark brown, almost black, and smells a bit like plum.

Since “black ale” isn’t specific enough for me, I made peace with calling this a porter, although the harshest porter I’ve had (which I guess keeps it out of that category). The piney hops are aggressive and prickly, which kept me from chugging. But even little sips made the bitter-chocolate taste a bit of a wrestle.

As it warmed up, the malt came through a bit more. I tried it with a Hershey’s kiss, but that only made the bitterness more pronounced. My mouth got used to the beer eventually, and I felt as if I’d made it to a plateau and could enjoy the view so many were talking about.

I learned not to give up on Two Roads’ beer, but I’ll admit I couldn’t finish the 12 ounces. I may do the same with Crytonomicon, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the plot along the way.

Sip well! Big Elm Brewing Gerry Dog Stout

Big Elm Gerry Dog Stout

The first snowstorm of the season was on its way, and for those of us in the hills of northwest Connecticut, that’s not something to ignore. I tested the snowblower, filled the de-icing salt bucket, and waited for the snow. And then it came, on a frigid Saturday… wimpy, flacid flakes.

They kept coming and I kept writing, keeping my eye on the window and expecting some accumulation. By noon, it was starting to thicken, and then it almost looked like it was raining. Noon sets off a bell inside of me on a Saturday. Noon means it’s OK to have a beer.

I didn’t want to dive into the beer I’d been waiting for all day: Gerry Dog Stout by Big Elm Brewing of Sheffield, Mass. It knew that if I popped that can and settled into a pint of that warming nectar I’d be way too mellow to wrestle the elements.

The moment the snow stopped falling, I went out there and plowed. It was at about two inches, but hey: I bought the machine, I might as well use it.

Sip of the Dog

I knew that Gerry Dog was going to be wonderful because I’d already had one on tap, before Big Elm was distributing in Connecticut. Just as I’d remembered, it poured viscous and sweet, with a billowy tan head that shrunk in seconds. It was the dark brown of a loving puppy’s eyes after treat time.

This oatmeal stout had a maple sweetness and just enough American hops to nearly balance that out. There wasn’t nearly the carbonation as I remembered the draft having. And while it by no means burned, it definitely promoted a wooziness that belied its 6.5 percent ABV.

Perhaps it was the manly snow removal…

Read more about Big Elm in this related post: Growing Roots: Big Elm Brewing