The Session #86

The “Session” is a monthly opportunity for beer bloggers to comment on one particular topic. Each month, a different beer bloggers comes up with the subject matter. I’ve never participated in a “session”, but Heather Vandenengel, with whom I’ve shared many thoughts about the state of beer journalism, is hosting this week. She’s a fantastic writer, whom I’d call one of the best beer writers in the industry. But she’s also an awesome person and, if someone was going to drag me into thinking way too hard about beer and journalism and beer journalism, it was going to be her. Enjoy.
Topic: What role do beer writers play in the culture and growth of craft beer? Are we advocates, critics, or storytellers? What stories are not getting told and what ones would you like to never hear about again? What’s your beer media diet? i.e. what publications/blogs/sites do you read to learn about the industry? Are all beer journalists subhumans? Is beer journalism a tepid affair and moribund endeavor?  And, if so, what can be done about it?
For a few years, some friends and I wrote daily blog posts on Review Brews, a site of our creation. We had a schedule. Beer news on Mondays, Brewer interview on Tuesdays, etc. This went smoothly for a while, but due to circumstances – i.e. life getting in the way of what was, essentially, a hobby – daily posts turned into more sporadic ones. That was okay with us. Review Brews was a fun venture, never meant to last. We met great people, cultivated professional contacts, and made lasting memories. We even made some friends along the way.

Session Beer Fun Run, Stoddard's Pub, March 19


BOSTON – On Wednesday, March 19, Team With a Vision will partner with local craft brewers and running clubs to hold a fun run through the streets on Boston and an after-party featuring session beer and raffle prizes. 
For the last 20 years, Team With A Vision has joined blind and sighted runners at the Boston Marathon to race and raise funds to support the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI). After a short fun run (~3 miles) at 6 pm, runners will raise a glass to help raise funds to support MABVI's statewide network of low-vision clinics, peer support groups, one-to-one volunteers services, and in-home occupational therapy services.

"This event is a wonderful opportunity to bring together the running and craft beer communities," said Kyle Robidoux, a Team With A Vision member and visually impaired athlete. "It is also an opportunity to raise money for MABVI and increase awareness about the tremendous abilities of blind/visually impaired runners."

Our fun run will begin and end at Stoddard's Pub on Temple Place in Downtown Crossing, where session beer offerings from Peak Organic Brewing Company (Portland, ME), Banner Beer Company (Holyoke, MA),Notch Brewing (Ipswich, MA) and Night Shift Brewing (Everett, MA) will await.  A session beer has an alcohol content by volume (“ABV”) of 4.5% or less, and our brewer partners frequently support running events across the region.  We will also host a raffle with donations from many local business supporters, including Estelle's Southern CuisineThe Wine Emporium and Project Repat.

Idle Hands Merging with Enlightenment Ales

Big Massachusetts craft beer news today. In a press release just sent, it's been officially announced that Idle Hands Craft Ales will merge with Lowell, Massachusetts' Enlightenment Ales and will continue to brew beer under the Idle Hands brand.

See the press release here.

Beer of the Week: Bridge & Tunnel Pickin' Up the Change Chipotle Porter

The five boroughs of New York can be ruggedly individualistic. They strive toward separate identities, possess different levels of “cool,” and vary in demographics, size, and landscape. Inter-borough squabbling has taken place in hip-hop battles. Their is, also, an undercurrent of unhappiness when someone from another borough infringes someone’s “home turf,” as well as a slight unsettledness between native New York City residents and others depending, simply, on longevity, to which degree you’ve been around to see the city change and grow.

It’s this division and labeling amongst fellow New Yorkers that Rich Castagna is making a subtle statement against by naming his Maspeth, Queens brewery Bridge and Tunnel.

“Local/non-local dialogue exists in NYC,” said Castagna, who owns and operates the 1.5 barrel brewery that he built himself. “Being born and raised in NYC, and living back here when the city was truly a fractured and divided place, I don’t have much patience for any of the labeling going on.”

So he named his company Bridge and Tunnel Brewing, “because it’s the bridges and tunnels that unite the city - not divide it.” 

Am I "over" craft beer?

Am I “over” craft beer?

Allow me to get nostalgic here. There was a time when trying every new beer, getting to every brewery, and immersing myself into the culture of beer was the primary focus of my craft beer hobby. I browsed message boards and looked up breweries, planned visits. It was all very exciting, very fun. It was new for me, a honeymoon of sorts.

I didn’t know much about the brewing process, nor did I know much about different styles, but I knew something different was happening within the walls of the industrial park or farmhouse breweries I was visiting. My palate improved. I began to distinguish not only styles, but types of hops and types of yeast.
The lineup of English-style beers at 16 Mile Brewery
in Georgetown, Delaware.

I made friends in the industry. Brewers, salespeople, public relations, bloggers, journalists, and beer drinkers all become part of some cache of people I knew. As many people who have been writing about beer can attest, it’s pretty cool to walk into a brewery, brewpub, or even a good craft beer bar and have people know your name, what you drink, and be as excited to see you or have you try a new beer as you are to be at that place, drinking that beer.

It’s a very six-degrees of separation industry, too. Everyone knows everyone else, has worked with someone else, or took over for that person at X Brewery. Writers collaborate, share information and contacts. We trust going blindly into a brewery tasting at a place we’d never had their beers simply on recommendations from Twitter friends.

Editor's Note:

I'm really proud and honored to bring Mike Loconto (@neighbeers) aboard the Review Brews platform. He's been writing about beer for a while now at the Roxbury Patch, but we lured him away with promises of Heady Topper, especially during Red Sox baseball, and, despite his allegiance to the Miami Dolphins, we're excited to have him.

Mike and I have drank beer together, talked life and politics over pints of beers, and ran a very successful Boston Beer Week event last year. We're looking forward to bringing you parties and continued Review Brews content.

Cheers, Mike.

The Style Section: Brown Out

By Mike Loconto
Area Man Drinks Beer blog
Twitter: @Neighbeers

Area Man Drinks Beer is back again with an occasional series about notable New England beers in styles across the brewing spectrum.  And hey, loogit here, I’m on now!

Why “notable” and not “best”?  Well, I find that “best of” lists tend to be repetitive and not very helpful.  In my mind, there are two rankings for beer: good and bad. I’ve never claimed to be an expert – I simply like quality beer and I know when I find one.  So sometimes I might feature my favorites; other times, I might write about some interesting riffs on tradition. I’ll try to post more than once every six months, too.  Deal?

The Humble Brown

Brown ales were enormously popular in the first wave of American craft brewing in the 1990s.  Nearly every brewer sported a brown, in the new American form or the traditional English form.

Smuttynose's Old Brown Dog is a Review Brews company favorite.
According to the helpful beer styles pages on, English brown originated in the family of mild ales, with a “maltier and sweeter…palate” than milds and “a fuller body… Some versions will lean towards fruity esters, while others tend to be drier with nutty characters. All seem to have a low hop aroma and bitterness.”

The American style page on further reveal that American brown ales amp up the English brown using now-traditional American ingredients, much like stateside take on India Pale Ales, including a “bitterness and hop flavor [that] has a wide range and the alcohol is not limited to the average either.”

Craft Beer Info-graphic

(This Info-graphic was created by hospitality students at Kendall College.  Great craft beer out in that area.  Hope they're getting themselves into some Daisy Cutter as they read this.  Cheers, good luck, and thanks for sharing.)

Fans of beer and craft beer love to drink it and love to review it.  People enjoy sharing their experiences with craft beer.  Whether it’s telling a story to a friend, or leaving a review on a beer review site, the craft beer community and industry as a whole is growing.  A few decades ago the idea of craft beer was basically nonexistent.  Even a decade ago craft beer appeared to still be in its infant stage.  Even today the big three of Coors, Miller and Bud still dominate the market.  Craft beer is starting to chip into that market share every single day.  More and more craft breweries are popping up across the United States and across the world.  Jobs within the industry and sales of craft beer continue to rise.  Both students and professors from the Kendall College School of Hospitality took notice of the rising numbers in the craft beer industry and decided this was something they were both very much interested in studying further.  If you’re a fan of craft beer, why wouldn’t you want to learn more about this exciting and growing industry?  The collaboration between the students and professors resulted in this craft beer info-graphic that explored trends in the industry, overall industry growth, consumers opinions on craft beer tastes along with the ability to pair food with craft beer.  Some of the more interesting parts of the info-graphic are as follows:
  • Consumers enjoy the taste of craft beer.  Nearly a third of all consumers like the taste of craft beer and nearly half of consumers would be willing to try more craft beer if they knew more about those beers.
  • Older generations are not as receptive to craft beer as younger generations.  Only 32 percent of baby boomer consumers enjoy the taste of craft beer.  When you look at the millennial age group that number jumps to 43 percent.  I’d be willing to bet the next drinking age group of consumers will see that number rise even higher as craft beer becomes more prevalant.
  • Food and beer pair well together.  This might not be a new revelation to most people, but certain beer styles pair better with certain food styles.  If you are a fan of IPA’s try pairing them with something spicy like curry.  If barley wines are more your style, try pairing them with something sweet like a desert.
  • The craft beer industry has seen strong growth in terms of job even throughout the recession. The craft beer industry employs over 103,585 people in the United States alone.
  • Craft beer sales have continued to climb in the past decade.  In 2007 craft beer sales were just over 5.7 billion.  By 2012, just 5 years later than number has doubled to over 12 billion.  Experts in the industry expect that number to triple to nearly 40 billion by the time 2017 rolls around.

Beer Book Review: D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc.

(A couple weeks ago, I was contacted by the sales and marketing department at Arcadia Publishing and asked if I’d review a book.  Glad to oblige.)

As a disclaimer, I have to be honest and admit that I’ve only drank exactly one Yuengling brew - the lager - in my entire life.  Most people who'd drank Yuengling in my area only did so because they (or someone they knew) had picked up a case while traveling.  However, this isn’t exactly our fault having grown up in and living in Massachusetts where the beer is not currently available.  Fortunately, this is changing in 2014.  

Robert A. Musson's book is available online
and in bookstores now.
This didn’t stop me from consuming the “Images of America” book D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. in one sitting.  The book, written by Robert A. Musson, M.D. takes history buffs, craft beer aficionados, and Yuengling nuts on a pictorial tour from D.G. Yuengling’s arrival in Pottsville, PA to the current day operations at “America’s Oldest Brewery” under the guidance of 5th-generation company president Dick Yuengling.

As the story goes, it took David Gottlieb Yuengling less than a year after immigrating to Pottsville from Germany in 1828 before establishing a brewery.

American history is compelling, inasmuch as it’s very specific.  It has an almost exact beginning and, unlike much of the rest of the world, was established after the printing press, so that our history has been able to be recorded, told not just by the winners, but everyone.  As the present day craft beer boom continues, the brewing process seen through the prism of archival history provides a guidebook through which to examine the roots of the ever-growing industry.

Back to Tree House Brewing Co.

Tree House's Time & Space

This weekend, I traveled back out to Brimfield to visit Tree House Brewing Co. once again.  Driving along Route 20, surrounded by fall foliage is quintessentially New England.  The seasons, as always, remain a constant reminder of how our lives change, how all living things change.  The small hamlets along this road provide the context to calendars and within the imaginations of those picturing the perfect fall day.

Of course, we stopped at BT’s Smokehouse for some grub, too.

On tap, there was Sap, an IPA; Tornado, an American Pale Ale; and Time & Space, an imperial stout.

I took home a 750 mL of Tornado and Time & Space, and a 2L of Sap.  I had to admit that Sap is probably my third favorite - having had growlers of three TH IPA’s - IPA that Nate & Damien do.  Julius and Green, I think, are superior beers.  We polished off the Tornado alongside a platter of ribs and cornbread.

A Link to My Story on Daily Xtra

A couple of months back, I was commissioned to write a story on the Hillcrest Brewing Co. in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego.  Their slant, appropriately for the area, is that they are the first “out and proud LGBT brewery.”  It’s a simple profile and I hope I did them justice.  Head brewer David White was forthcoming, engaging, and great to work with.  Cheers.
HBC brews craft beer specifically for the LGBT community

In popular culture, beer drinkers are stereotyped to include (and entertain) a certain demographic. Handsome men and beautiful women carousing on the beach or a boat or taciturn men in lowly lit bars dominate the image of who fits the beer-drinking demographic. Search “beer drinkers” on Google Images and the first you’ll see are caricatures: a fat man guzzling five beers at once, a busty blonde and, of course, Homer Simpson.
The Hillcrest Brewing Company (HBC), in the heart of the gay community of Hillcrest in San Diego, California, is trying to dispel these myths.

Thirsty Thursday Beer of the Week: Brasserie Dupont La Biere de Beloeil

In the most reductive sense, writing about beer is a great way to live.  I get to meet people constantly, all of whom have similar interests to my own; I get sent beer fairly often; I’ve had enough beer to stop sometimes, taste something, and think, “Wow, this is one of the better beers I’ve ever had.”

This happened to me on Tuesday night.

Now, before you pause and think, “Well, Tuesday night drinking is an aggressive behavioral tactic, Matt,” I must preface this by telling you why I was drinking on a Tuesday night.

Clay, my college roommate, Review Brews partner, overall great guy and one of my best friends was visiting from San Diego for his sister-in-laws wedding.  So we played golf on Tuesday afternoon, had some Cisco Brewing Co. cans on the course and shared a Heady Topper on the back, too.  Not a bad afternoon.

It also gave me the opportunity to break out a beer I’d been putting aside for an opportunity like this one.  So, I kept the beer cellared and chilled it, then poured it into two chalices: The Brasserie Dupont La Biere de Beloeil.

We've been offline for so long!

Good Friday, faithful Review Brew-ers --

Just a few updates:

Since you know I’ve been working this alone for the better part of the last year, the strain is growing to get quality content up.  For intent was to get coast to coast beer coverage.  Alas, it’s just been New England.  This is not to say we’ve covered every story or tried every beer, but I don’t want to inundate readers to drab bullshit.  I want the stories to be well-written, timely, thoughtful.  Trust me, I could follow the lead of many other beer website and write crap and post daily.  I don’t want to do that.

Secondly, September has been slow.  I won’t be an oversharer of information, but beer drinking has slowed over the past few weeks for a variety of reasons.  I still love craft beer and will be back at it soon, but adding to my refrigerator stash on a weekly basis is not something I’ve been able to afford lately.

Lastly - and most importantly - I’ve started a new gig.  I’m a writer again, full-time.  I recently wrote a piece on a San Diego brewery and, as soon as it hits the site that paid me to write it, I’ll put the link here and on Twitter and everywhere.  In the mean time, check out what I’ve been up to at my new website, which features writing on all topics, including beer.  It’s a work in progress.

Cheers and we’ll have a drink with you again soon.


Beer of the Week: Grassroots/Anchorage Arctic Saison

About a month back, I was asked to review a series of rare beers from the Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club.  I decided that I was going to have each beer with someone different.  As I say constantly, there’s nothing worse than drinking alone.  I don’t want to be one of these guys who reviews beer that he drank by himself.

My friends from college and I have started a tradition that we call “Best Friend Weekend.”  Whenever we get together, that’s what we call it.  Maybe that’s a little lame and it should be only when certain people get together on one weekend a year, but we’re making the rules here.
Not a bad view.  Oh, and my buddies condo
is pretty scenic, too.

Two weekends ago, we traveled to Long Island - first the shores of Long Beach, then to the eastern part of the island to hang with Paris Hilton and P. Diddy - to meet up with the two people who literally slept next door to me for the final two years of college.  Of course we brought good beer.

I was most excited to share the Night Shift Ever-Weisse and Somer-Weisse, but I also had the Grassroots Brewing/Anchorage Arctic Saison.  Grassroots is the brainchild of Hill Farmstead’s Shaun Hill and has used the imprint to collaborate with brewers like Mikkeller and, now, Anchorage.

My year in local beer

For the past year, my goal has been to drink only local beer (defined as such by being beer made in New England).  There were exceptions.  For instance, if I was traveling, local beer was defined by the geographical region that I was in.  I could receive beer as a gift from friends or breweries.  But the major definition was that I only purchase beer that was made locally.  The reasons were multi-sided.

Well, that was one year ago.  I didn’t reach my goal of 365 unique New England beers.  This doesn’t mean that I didn’t consume 365 beers in that time.  I simply didn’t have 365 individually different brews.  The number: 298.  That’s a lot of friggin’ beer.  Sorry for falling off with the weekly updates.  There was this whole "getting married" thing that took precedence.

More numbers:

Top three breweries’ beer: Blue Lobster, Hampton, NH (12); Hill Farmstead, Greensboro Bend, VT (13); Tap Brewing Co., Haverhill, MA (22).

This should be no surprise.  I live three miles from the Tap.

Farthest away: Evolution Ales in Salisbury, Maryland.  Their Lot #3 IPA was delicious.

Top styles: I tried way more IPA’s than anything else this year, but other styles that I tried the most of: saison, pale ale, session, sour (a generic designation for most tart beers).