Pouring it forward

Steve and Eileen Maynard, behind Tess Szamatulski, at Maltose Express in Monroe, Conn.
Steve and Eileen Maynard, behind Tess Szamatulski, at Maltose Express in Monroe, Conn.

The couple with the bag of beer bottles beamed as they bounced into the hombrew store.

Steve and Eileen Maynard were just beginning their annual tour, visiting friends to distribute their Christmas beer. They let me tag along as they handed out whimsically wrapped bottles, which they called their Jolly Good Christmas Ale. From sitting in on the brewing to witnessing the deliveries, I had a chance to see what real appreciation looks like.

They’ve just entered Maltose Express in Monroe, where the employees have walked Steve through crises small and big since he started brewing almost 10 years ago. Steve’s hobby began with an extract kit that he lobbied for as a Father’s Day gift. In five years he graduated from turning pre-fabricated syrup into beer on his stovetop to brewing with raw ingredients on a small, open-flame set-up on his deck that overlooks a wooded backyard in Cheshire. It was there in August that I had a chance to watch as Steve, Eileen and Eileen’s brother Peter poured the nascent beer into its fermentation bottle in hopes that months later it would serve as a small thank you for a year of inspiration and guidance. Continue reading “Pouring it forward”

Enough with the pumpkin beer, already!


There’s a time in every mild-mannered columnist’s life when the rage must bubble out.

I’m talking about frustration with something insidious, repellant and soul cracking. I’m talking about pumpkin beer.

Why pick on pumpkin beer? It’s the playful symbol of autumnal splendor! The nectar that introduces the casual beer drinker to exotic flavors! People are passionate about their pumpkin beers. They routinely stock up on Southern Tier Brewing Co.’s Pumking, a high-alcohol, rich and mildly spicy ale made with pureed pumpkin. Others celebrate Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale, Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead Ale and Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale.

I posit only this: we should stop buying so much pumpkin beer and encourage brewers to make better seasonal beers instead. I would rather drink a finely crafted porter that incorporates the spices we associate with pumpkin beer than the unappealing messes that most of these vegetable beers have become.

Reason 1: They either taste like a spice cabinet or not much of anything. Pumpkin meat, the gooey orange glop also known as Jack-o-Lantern brains, doesn’t really taste like anything. What we associate with pumpkin flavor is really pumpkin pie, which comes from spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. So when brewers try to translate this into beer, they use some form of pumpkin (sometimes roasted to bring out a little natural flavor) but a bunch of spices to complement the malt and hops. The result is either overly spiced or bland. Continue reading “Enough with the pumpkin beer, already!”

Northeast brewery explorer talks shop

Photos from whereandback.blogspot.com

Ben Keene, a travel writer, wants the world to know: there’s a burgeoning brewery scene in the Northeast U.S. and it’s high time you took advantage of it.

Keene will be promoting his latest book, “The Great Northeast Brewery Tour (Voyageur Press, 2014) on Friday, Jan. 24 at Relic Brewing in Plainville, Conn.

The book signing takes place from 4-7 p.m. at Relic, 95 Whiting St.

Ben Keene
Ben Keene

Keene, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., writes about hiking and camping, and he told me last week that his dabbling in outdoor sports extended into adventuring into the world of breweries.

“I did not [always] have a refined palate or appreciation of beer,” Keene said. “When I moved to New York it was 2000 and kind of the second wave of smaller breweries was just kind of beginning to surge. So bars started popping up and breweries followed. I think the East Coast since 2000 has been evening out the balance with out West.” Continue reading “Northeast brewery explorer talks shop”

Sampling: Relic Brewing

Mark Sigman of Relic Brewery in Plainville, Conn. speaks to a small tour of his nanobrewery. At right is Tony Leone pouring away.
This afternoon I quickly dropped by Relic Brewing, the nanobrewery in Plainville, Conn., that consistently makes delicious, adventuresome beer.

By brewery, I mean Mark Sigman, the brains and muscle behind the operation. He’d recruited blogger and homebrewer Tony Leone as a pourer and describer of beers during his weekly open house, which takes place on Fridays from 1-3. The brewery is a tiny place nestled into a modest industrial space at 95 Whiting Ave., just enough to fit about 10 people or so, which was just about the number of people who were there today.

At this open house I caught something that I hope happens on a regular basis. I saw Craft Brew Guy (@CraftBrewGuy on the Twitters) leading a tour of six other people. He was on his second of possibly three breweries today and his clients were having a blast. They were throwing questions at Mark, who is such a well-spoken guy and kept them informed.

Craft Brew Guy’s idea is wonderful, since it spreads the gopspel of local craft beer and boosts business around the state. He did it right, too: he hired a driver and a big old silver van. I hope to accompany him sometime (hint, hint).

I came away with a bomber of Relic’s Clockwork Session American IPA, which I thought this was an oxymoron. He squeezes so much citrus taste into 5.5 percent that I’m ready to swear off high octane IPAs for good if there are more like these available.

If you get an opportunity to stop by Relic’s open house, please do.

Feel free to read my column from March 2012 about Relic.

Until next time, sip well.

See anything you like? Chances are that during the next open house the selection will be different!




The following column was published in the Waterbury (CT) Republican-American on March 14, 2012.

We’re standing in a 350-square-foot concrete cell and it’s cold, but at least we’re sipping beer. It would seem, looking around the industrial park pod in Plainville, that we are giants (and if you’ve seen me in person, you know that’s a rarity). There are mini-fermenters, a mini-mash tun, and a small stack of bottles.

I’m with Mark Sigman — owner, distribution chief, head brewer and bottle washer — at Relic Brewery, a new member of the growing Connecticut family of breweries. Continue reading “Nanobrewerific”