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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Great New England Excursion of 2013: Day 2 - Amassing some Drafts around Boston, Mass!

Day Two of the excursion led us to eastern Massachusetts. After a lengthy first day, we were surprisingly fresh and ready to imbibe in Cambridge, just across the Charles River from Boston. I had visited Cambridge Brewing Company once before during a trip to New Hampshire for Kate the Great Day. Its Blunderbus Barleywine had been on my mind since then, and has remained in my Top 5 list of barleywine-style ales. Unfortunately, it was not on tap when we arrived at Cambridge around lunch time. However, there was plenty of interesting offerings available during our visit.
Pleeps chronicles our first stop of the day!
I figured it would be a good idea to start light, as I knew we had a long day ahead of us. The first beer to catch my eye was Le Saisonniere, a low ABV farmhouse-style ale known as Grisette. This proved to be a perfect starting point and a refreshing choice on such a hot, humid day. I followed this up with The Cure, an Imperial IPA brewed with an experimental hop blend for a charitable cause called Ales for ALS. I knew about this program because Tröegs is in the process of brewing a Scratch Beer to benefit this organization. The hop blend was developed by Loftus Ranches, a hop grower in the Yakima Valley area of Washington state, with the assistance of Vinny from Russian River and Larry from Bell's. The idea is that Loftus Ranches provides the breweries with the special hop blend at no charge, and the brewery in turn brews a special beer and donates a portion of proceeds to the charity, in this case ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease) research. Pretty cool concept, eh? At any rate, the beer was quite juicy and elicited a variety of tropical fruits in both the aroma and flavor.
Enjoying my first beer of the day at Cambridge Brewing Co.!

Meanwhile, Brewslut was working on a pair of darker beers, Collier Stout and Charles River Porter. After lunch, we decided to try the interesting sounding Banryu Ichi, a 14% ABV beer and saké hybrid. While we both enjoyed it quite a bit, we each had very different takes on the flavor. I thought it was quite fruity with a penchant for fleshy melon such as cantaloupe or honeydew. Brewslut, on the other hand, found it to be quite grassy and herbal. Nonetheless, it was quite a complex concoction that both of us were glad to have had sampled.

Pleeps bogarts the Banryu Ichi.
Since Boston boasts a plethora of great beer bars, we decided to switch gears for the remainder of the day and hit some of the best ones in our vicinity. First up on the agenda was a place Jason, Tröegs' MA Sales Rep, recommended - Mead Hall. After taking a while to find this place due to my poor GPS navigational skills while in "walking mode," we entered the establishment, and I was surprised to see the abundance of tap handles behind the bar. This place has a great open floor plan with a huge wrap-around bar and a comfortable upstairs lounge-style area. The tap selection was pretty awesome, and featured a wide variety of local favorites mingling with a vast selection from all corners of the United States. It was nice to see four Tröegs tap handles in the mix!

This is only half of the taps at Mead Hall!
We bellied up to the bar, and our bartender was extremely friendly and talkative right from the get-go. He offered us a variety of samples as we made our decisions. I started with a recommendation of his, the local favorite Be Hoppy from Wormtown Brewery. Wormtown was indeed on our master list, but unfortunately its hours did not sync with our schedule. This was a very fresh, well-balanced IPA with a moderate hop bite. Good stuff for sure! Brewslut started with Dean's Beans Coffeehouse Stout from Berkshire Brewing, which she enjoyed.

Nice coasters here!
We also tried some samples of various local brews from three breweries with which we were not familiar. First was Somerville's Slumbrew Happy Sol, a pretty good German-style Hefe. Next was Portico's Fuzzy Logic (great name!), a Belgian-style Pale. Lastly, we sampled Groundswell from Backlash Beer Co., another Belgian-style Pale. Both were fine, although I prefer American-style Pale Ales much more. Perhaps it has to do with the Belgian yeast. After these samples, Brewslut and I shared the delicious Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale from Lexington Brewing Co. in Kentucky. I typically like to drink local when traveling, but I couldn't resist trying this marriage of an Irish Red and English Pale aged for 6-weeks in freshly decanted bourbon barrels from Kentucky. This beer reminded me of liquefied vanilla bean ice cream! I really liked Mead Hall, so I decided to have one final beer, Mayflower's Summer Rye Ale, which was light and easy compared to the last few beers I had.

Our next stop was Deep Ellum, the first of two beer bars in Boston I'd been to previously. Since I had quite a bit at Mead Hall, I decided to go "one and done" here and let Brewslut imbibe a bit with two selections. I opted for Smoked Maple Lager, a Jack's Abby/Lawson's Finest Liquids collaboration. This one showed up on a number of tap lists throughout the entire trip... and for good reason, because it was quite tasty! Brewslut was ecstatic to see a Berliner Weiss on tap called Intergalactic Acid by The Tap Brewing Co. I'd never heard of this brewery before, but I quickly learned that this was in fact the new name for Haverhill Brewing, a place we'd visited on our Kate the Great trek. She wasn't blown away by this particular beer, but it was tasty nevertheless. She followed up with Clementine by Clown Shoes, a Belgian-style Witbier brewed with - you guessed it - clementines!

Extreme close-up of Blatant IPA at Sunset Grill & Tap.

Up next, we headed to a place just down the street from Deep Ellum. Sunset Grill & Tap, the other bar I'd been to previously, was the last place we visited before the infamous cab ride on our Kate the Great trek. (Perhaps I will share this story at another time!) Brewslut and I were a bit hungry by now, so we decided to get some grub. I got a grilled PB & banana sandwich on Texas toast and washed that son bitch down with the local Blatant IPA from Blatant Brewery. Overall, it was an average IPA. Brewslut decided on Mary of the Gael, a Saison from Mystic Brewery, another local brewery from Chelsea, MA. We were both tempted to order the nachos, which looked amazing and HUGE, but that PB & banana sandwich just sounded too good to pass up!

Our last stop of the evening was Lord Hobo, also a recommendation from Jason. We finished up each with a single beer, The Tap's Ignoble India Pale Lager, one of the rare occasions where we ordered the same beer. Lord Hobo is a beer geek den with dim lighting, knowledgeable staff (and patrons) and just a cool atmosphere conducive to drinking and discussing beer. We started a conversation with a local patron, and during our discussion we got to talking about Hill Farmstead. We had mentioned that we were going to the bottle release on Thursday. He also asked if we had heard of Marshall Wharf Brewing, which I had just recently found out about through another beer friend's recent travels. However, I had not yet tried any of their beer. He said that he prefers Marshall Wharf over Hill Farmstead. Strong words, indeed! So I was now on a mission to find some of their beers on this trip.

Upon returning to our hotel, we decided it was still early enough for us to enjoy one more beer. Surprisingly, the small hotel bar had a few decent selections on tap, although there was nothing worthwhile in bottles. I went with Original Ale from Ipswitch Ale Brewery and Brewslut opted for Sam Adams Boston Lager, a curious choice for her. And with that, Day Two had ended.

Stay tuned for Day Three, which finds us heading north to the land of lobsters, the great state of Maine!

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The Pour Travelers thank you for reading about our beer travels!