Last Call Monthly is a column where I compile reviews of my recent favorite brewery and beers. Hopefully, I’ll encourage some of you to break out of your beer comfort zone and try something other than your usual go to. And if not, at the very least I can start referring to my beer consumption as “conducting research”.
Brewery of the Month:
Beers Sampled: Hair Raiser, Cat’s Meow, and Goody Two Shoes
Favorite of the day: Goody Two Shoes
Residing in the old Jack’s Abbey brewery located in Framingham, Massachusetts, Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company is a recent local favorite of mine. While they currently do not offer tours of their brewery, the atmosphere of their taproom was a nice deviation from large hustle and bustle taprooms that I’m used to drinking in. The lights are dim, there are few windows, the seating is limited, but this makes for a more relaxing drinking atmosphere. It’s a quieter, slower paced taproom which truly allows their patrons to savor every sip of their delectable brews.
While I was there I sampled three of their beers; Hair Raiser (Double IPA), Cat’s Meow (India Pale Ale), Goody Two Shoes (Kolsch). While I enjoyed them all, Goody Two Shoes was hands down the winner of the day. I don’t have much experience with Kolsch style beers, but if they are all as uniquely complex biscuit & honey blend while retaining a light and refreshing body, I need to pour more of them. If you’re in the area, definitely stop by for a tasting or three of their exceptional beers.
Beers of the Month:
The hype is real. Often considered one of the best double IPA’s ever brewed, Heady Topper by The Alchemist brewing based in Wove, Vermont has rightfully earned this praise. Consumed straight from the can, per the brewer’s instructions, upon cracking it, citrus fruit notes and hops escape the can. The first sip was unlike any other DIPA I have had so far, as while there were familiar juice bomb notes of orange, pineapple, and lemon zest, but the accompanying hoppy mouth feel was new and exciting. The thick, creamy body that coats the drinkers entire palate and lingers, being flawlessly paired with the fruity malt body. This is further aided by a relatively low alcohol by volume as far as DIPA’s go, adding to its superior drinkability. Heady Topper has rightfully earned its high praise.
Just because winter’s almost over doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty of exceptional porters out there floating around, and Briefcase Porter from our friends at Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing fits the bill. Briefcase Porter’s roasted coffee and sweet chocolate aroma adequately preps the drinker for what’s in store. It pours a silky dark brown body with little to no head. It features heavy flavor notes of roasted coffee, malt, sweet chocolate, vanilla, and cream, making it taste almost like coffee chocolate cake. Not too sweet, but sweet enough to not make it overly bitter. The porter’s body is silky smooth and very drinkable thanks to its medium body and carbonation, with a delightful lingering roasted coffee/chocolate flavor. Briefcase Porter isn’t a desert beer by any means, but you’d be hard pressed to find an inadequate time to pour one. It’s not rewriting the porter playbook, it’s just an incredibly satisfying porter.
Giving their flagship beer Heady Topper a run for its money, The Crusher from The Alchemist is a hoppy juice bomb for the ages. Pouring a semi-hazy golden body, The Crusher retains a similar explosive aroma of hoppy goodness as soon as you crack the can. Juice bomb is a term that has become interchangeable with double IPA style beers, as extreme fruit notes pair well with the super hoppy nature of them. The Crusher is no exception, featuring notes of citrusy pineapple, orange, malty caramel, peach mango, with a dry bitter crisp aftertaste that differentiates it slightly from Heady Topper. This distinguishing characteristic helps to give its own identity in The Alchemists portfolio. The extra percent of alcohol is absolutely noticeable and gives it a bit more of a kick than Topper, but this is balanced well with the sweet fruit notes. If you find yourself on the hunt for some Heady Topper be sure to add The Crusher to that list.
Recently, I have been quite taken with sour ales as I find myself being more methodical with how I enjoy them. I find myself sipping them slower than I do other styles of beer, much like I would a wine, meticulously picking apart the fruit notes and tartness of them. I allow each sip to remain on my palette for a few seconds, before swallowing, allowing the initial shock of tartness to pass allowing me to identify the citrus fruit notes incorporated into the beer. It has less of the funk that I generally associate with sours, which makes this one of the less aromatic sours I have poured, but what it lacks in smell it makes up for in smooth drinkability. The tartness doesn’t overpower yet is prominent with each sip. Some sours sourness can be overpowering or it could be underwhelming, but the Bel Air Sour falls right in the middle, making this a solid introductory sour beer.
Trillium Brewing Companies Fort Point Pale Ale is second to none with its hoppy pale ale base infused with citrus fruitiness with hints of apricot, pineapple, and a distinctively smooth piney dry finish. Before even raising their glass, Fort Points pungent citrus fruit aroma enthralls the drinker. Despite its strong fruity flavors, it’s not an overly sweet beer, which is a testament to its pale ale backbone and its superior non-bitter drinkability. I consider it to be one of the best standard daily-drinker beers I have had the pleasure of pouring and would recommend to even the most casual of beer drinkers.
Could Use Some Work:
The newest section to Last Call Monthly is the Doo Doo Dregs of the Month, where I highlight the least enjoyable beer I had in a given month. While never implying that one should swear off a particular brewery entirely, any brew featured here is to be avoided.
Despite this only being the second issue of Last Call Monthly, I think I have made one thing crystal clear; I’m a fan of double IPAs. I know, a distinguishing character trait if there ever was one, but seriously, I enjoy the style and flavor profile commonly associated with them. So I was taken aback at just how underwhelming Ballast Point’s Manta Ray was. There is literally no distinguishing qualities other than it being highly carbonated bitterness. Personally, I am a fan of bitter beers, but there needs to be more. Something to counterbalance or at least work with the bitterness, some added element, whether it be a sweet fruitiness or robust malt. Something.
Now as this is the first inception of Doo Doo Dregs of the month, I feel compelled to reiterate that this is not me saying Ballast Point is a bad brewery. Anyone who has sampled one of their fabulous sculpin line of beers can tell you that isn’t the case. That being said, while Last Call Monthly is a column consisting of mostly recommendations, it’s important to remember that not all beers are created equally…or something to that effect. So I implore people to explore Ballast Points other offerings, just not their Manta Ray DIPA.
- Next months planned brewery trips are Lord Hobo Brewing Company, Aeronaut Brewing Company, and Tree House Brewing.
- I have not been posting reviews on my Instagram (kriegsMachine92) as frequently as I’d like to, so expect that to change shortly!
- Planning on adding a reader feedback section to further the conversation about great beers. I am always on the hunt for recommendations and would love to hear from anyone reading this what they’re enjoying these days.
In the meantime, if you want to keep up with what I’m pouring or see more frequent mini reviews, you can follow me on Untappd (KriegsMachine) and Instagram (KriegsMachine92).
Thanks for reading and be sure to check back next month.