When It Comes To Beer
Local is Fresh and Fresh is Best!
~ by Tim Curry
As old as civilization itself, beer has played a leading role throughout the annals of history with concrete evidence of its existence dating as far back as 6,000 years ago. Beer production can trace its roots back to ancient Sumaria, where hieroglyphics and cuneiform tablets depict brewers harvesting grains and fermenting the beverage along with honey and herbs. Exactly how the fermentation process was discovered is open to interpretation but many believe that open containers of grain or wheat could have filled with rain water and, with some assistance from natural wild yeasts, a rudimentary fermentation process began. In the Middle Ages, beer was not only a nutritional necessity but it was also often safer to drink than water since the boiling process purified the beverage. As a result beer became an essential staple of every man, woman and child’s daily diet.
It is not surprising that beer most definitely played an important part in the foundation of our own nation traveling across the ocean as precious cargo aboard the Mayflower in 1620. Many historians surmise that our forefathers may have actually settled on landing at Cape Cod Bay simply because t they were running dangerously low on their beer reserves. Constructing a brew house was a top priority for our Pilgrim friends and from there sprang a long and storied history of craft brewing throughout the land. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” and it is said that George Washington, who was himself a home brewer, favored a hearty Porter above all else. Very little changed over the early years and, up until Prohibition in the 1920s, small regional breweries were responsible for the production of what was consumed by early Americans. After the Industrial Revolution and post-World War II, smaller breweries began to give way to larger companies who were able to maintain high production levels while providing safer and more consistent products at affordable levels. The downside of this trend was the standardization of the types of beer that would become readily available to the consumer and a focus more towards the science of brewing and less towards the “craft.” Fortunately for all of us, President Jimmy Carter nationally legalized home brewing in 1976 and a resurgence in craft brewing in America quickly began to take hold. This period of time is referred to as “The American Craft Brewing Renaissance.”
In the mid 1980s, Samuel Adams Boston Lager emerged in the market place and just six weeks after its initial introduction it won “Best Beer in America” at the 1985 Great American Beer Festival beating out 92 other national and regional craft brew entries. Once again Massachusetts was thrust into the forefront of the brewery revolution helping pave the way for the craft brewers of the 21st century. Today beer lovers need only to reach into the cooler of their local beer distributer where they will discover a myriad of beer selections encompassing a range of choices sure to satisfy everyone’s distinct tastes. From fruit flavored seasonal brews, to ales, lagers, wheat beers and stouts, local breweries have been on the forefront of the recent brewery revolution. Those of us living on the South Shore are fortunate to be in very close proximity to some of the finest examples of what our region has to offer, three of which I am excited to tell you about.
Located in Plymouth, Mayflower Brewing Company was founded in 2007 by Drew Brosseau who is the tenth great grandson of John Alden, the beer barrel cooper on board the original Mayflower. With such a legacy to live up to, Drew and his talented team of brewers and managers are responsible for the production and distribution of an impressive portfolio consisting of four standard beers and a rotating selection of seasonal offerings which are available to the public at different times throughout the year. The brewery itself is located right where you would expect it to be – in Plymouth. It is open all year long offering tours and beer tasting opportunities to the general public. All of the production from brewing to bottling takes place on site with the brewery producing more than 2,000 barrels per year. At present, Mayflower is producing a Pale Ale, which is their flagship brew, an Indian Pale Ale (IPA) which, as the name implies, is their “hoppiest” brew, a Golden Ale and finally this author’s favorite, a rich and full bodied Porter.
At 5.5% alcohol, their Porter is by far their most complex offering featuring five different types of malt, two types of hops and of course the same sweet local water used by our founding fathers back in the 1600s. Brewed in the tradition of British Porters from an earlier age, I find this selection to be complex yet consistent in appearance and most importantly full bodied and well rounded. The hops are apparent on the nose and throughout the first taste after which one can pick up on the many different nuances of this malt’s forward offering. From the get-go I picked up on hints of chocolate, coffee and an essence of a smoky, almost nutty taste which lingers a bit in your mouth. It pours a nice creamy head which doesn’t dissipate too quickly after resting. I think that the perfect food pairing would be beer battered fish and chips topped off by a misting of tangy malt vinegar.
On the opposite end of their beer spectrum is Mayflower’s signature Pale Ale which is incredibly refreshing and crisp with a clear copper color and just the right amount of carbonation making this a perfect choice on a hot summer day. My initial “Sniff Test” revealed a bit of fruit with a touch of faint hops which was not overly apparent after I took my first sip. The head was foamy and white and clung tightly to the edge of my chilled pint glass. Food pairing would be easy for this ale and I suggest any type of grilled seafood or chicken breast layered on top of crisp salad greens tossed in a light vinaigrette dressing. Although I have not yet tried all of their other offerings I am looking forward to paying a visit to the brewery in the very near future!
Mayflower welcomes the public on Thursdays and Fridays from 4:30 pm through 6:30 pm as well as on Saturdays throughout the summer beginning at 11:00 am.
Head for the hills in Canton and you will find the aptly named Blue Hills Brewery which is another fine example of a terrific local brewing operation just minutes from your South Shore back door. Their brewery is capable of brewing up to 20 barrels at a time, amounting to 620 gallons per batch which is no small feat for an independent brewing operation. Not too long ago I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing head brewer Andris Veidis and he told me how he began his brewing career as an unpaid intern at Harpoon Brewery working under the tutorage of their Brew Master Todd Mott who is most definitely a legend in New England Brewing circles. Afterwards, Andris went on to study at the American Brewers Guild and then traveled up and down the Eastern seaboard working at different locations while honing his craft and finally landing at Blue Hills Brewery a few years ago. Presently, Blue Hills is producing seven distinctly different beer offerings each of which enjoys its own unique characteristics. In no particular order, Blue Hills is currently offering the following selections: Dunkleweizen, Wampatuck Wheat, Black Hops, Antimatter, India Pale Ale (IPA) Watermelon Wheat and an Imperial Red I.P.A.
Most recently I had the pleasure of enjoying a “Bomber” sized bottle of their Imperial Red IPA at Stars restaurant in Hingham and, after finishing this 9% powerhouse beer, I found myself craving another due to its complex profile of fruits, citrus and obviously a nice balance of hops which kind of creep up on your tongue after the first sip or two. Appearance-wise I found the brew to be a bit cloudy and deep russet in color which, to my eyes, reveal a very complex offering which is something that I tend to favor in a micro brew. You can find this selection at both retail establishments as well as at many local brew pubs and restaurants.
Outside of Germany it is often difficult to find a good representation of a traditional Dunkleweizen but it appears as if Blue Hills Brewery has truly hit the mark with their Wampatuck Winter Wheat offering. In case you didn’t know, Dunkle means “dark” in German and this version truly is a deep dark brew that does not disappoint. At 6.9% ABV this brew is no slouch either and can hold up to just about any food you want to pair with it. Personally, I would grab a big weiswurst sandwich or, at the very least, an oversized and salted jumbo pretzel like the ones I couldn’t seem to get enough of at Oktoberfest in Munich. Speaking of Munich, Blue Hills will once again be hosting their annual Oktoberfest celebration featuring live entertainment and traditional German foods on Saturday September 10th from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm at the Irish Cultural Center in Canton Massachusetts. Tickets are available on the BHB website and will also be sold at the door. I also highly encourage you to visit the brewery for a tour and tastings on Fridays from 3:30 pm to 6:00 pm as well as Saturdays beginning at 2:00 pm. At the brewery you can purchase one of their Growlers full of your beer of choice to take home and share with your friends. On return visits the brewery will gladly refill your vessel for a reasonable price.
Last but not least is Wachusett Brewery located in Westminster, Massachusetts and founded by three college friends back in 1993. Wachusett is currently producing some of the finest craft brews in the region. On a recent phone interview with Peter Quinn a/k/a “Quinny,” we talked about their brewery and the evolution of their current portfolio of fourteen different selections with the blueberry ale being their top seller. Introduced in 2001, their Blueberry Ale is both light and crisp featuring three different types of hops which add to its depth and complexity.
Most importantly however is their signature (and proprietary) “blueberry essence” which is evident on the nose before you even take your first sip and lingers throughout as you enjoy the beer. Although you can purchase this by the bottle for home consumption, I prefer to have this served as an ice cold draught garnished with a teaspoon of fresh berries dropped in right before service. Watching the berries dance up and down inside the glass on little carbonated bubbles is almost as much fun as enjoying the beer itself. If I were to make a food selection to compliment this offering I would suggest some tangy Buffalo wings or big plate of lip smacking BBQ Ribs.
Wachusett is also experiencing great success with their regionally inspired Green Monsta IPA which for obvious reasons is a big hit at Fenway Park! At 6% alcohol and flavored with three different hops used in both the brewing and finishing process, the Green Monsta IPA is perhaps my favorite of all of the Wachusett portfolio. Unlike some of the Hop Bombs indicative to the West Coast, the Green Monsta IPA offers a complex palate of tastes balanced out by Bondlander Munich, Rye and American two-row malts. The initial pour features a nice head and a clear copper color with a hint of citrus overtones. Wachusett can be found at your local package stores and fine brew pubs throughout New England.
As a local brewery with a focus on regional distribution you can often find brewery representatives visiting local pubs and restaurants with promotions and giveaways for all. One such occurrence recently took place at the Snug in Hingham, Massachusetts where Ed Brown the proprietor switched out most of his beer lines for a “Tap Take Over Night.” Quinny himself was on hand to pour draughts, crack jokes and answer questions to the many patrons who stopped in for a night of beer camaraderie. For those of you interested in learning more about Wachusett you are welcome to visit their brewery in Westminster for an interactive tour and of course plenty of samples. Although the tour is complimentary, voluntary contributions are welcome and all proceeds are donated to the Westminster Benefit Fund, a local charity helping families in need for over 19 years.
So with this said I suggest that we raise a glass to our local brewers thanking them for keeping our rich heritage of micro and home brewing alive and well in New England.
Tim Curry is both a home brewer and a frequent contributor to South Shore Magazine. Tim can often be found frequenting the above mentioned establishments while conducting his never ending “research” on the topic of beer.