Trillium Brewing Company & The Veil Brewing Company – Adult Human

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I do plan on reviewing something other than a Trillium beer sooner or later, but I only have so much time in which to “research” these reviews and honestly this is all I’ve been drinking these past few weeks.  Talk about a good problem to have.

Beer Name: Adult Human

Brewery: Trillium Brewing Company (Boston/Canton, MA) and The Veil Brewing Company (Richmond, VA)

Style: Double IPA

ABV: 8.2%

Description: Another collaboration double IPA, this one was brewed with blood oranges.  You can get the official write-up here.  Four packs were going for $20.20 though I personally took advantage of the brewery’s willingness to split them up this time around.  It’s been an expensive few weeks.

Appearance: Super cloudy, bright straw yellow body with a thin layer of yellowish/white foam that formed with the pour and quickly faded away.

Smell: Pineapple soaked in dank hop resin.

Taste: Opened with mellow tropical fruit and gradually became increasingly bitter by mid-sip whengrapefruit and orange pith began to take over.  After sitting for a minute or two, the beer took on a nice orange cream taste here as well.  The finish I found a bit raw and hot, as a combination of earthy and piney hops joined with the aforementioned grapefruit to rather assertively close out the brew.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a moderate carbonation that left me with some happy little bubbles on the end.

Hype: On the basis of being a special release alone I’ll say high, though there had also been some speculation online about when this particular collaboration would become available.  Despite this anticipation I was able to just walk in and out at Fort Point.  Go figure.

Overall: This was good, but not quite as good as the other collaborations Trillium has put out in the past few weeks.  That’s admittedly some tough company for comparison’s sake, but it seems like a fair standard in this case.  I loved this beer until about the halfway point and then I felt the finish was just a bit too harsh for my preferences.  It’s nowhere near Never & Again levels, though perhaps in a couple of days that will tone down some.  Still a solid pickup.

 

Trillium Brewing Company & Other Half Brewing Company – Two Hundred Thousand Trillion

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I’ve been hitting up Trillium a lot lately, but still felt the need to head on out and pick up their latest special release last Friday.  Motivating factors were these two breweries previously joined forces to create one of my top three Trillium collaboration beers and that it was an absolutely beautiful day to go for a walk when this came out.

Beer Name: Two Hundred Thousand Trillion

Brewery: Trillium Brewing Company (Boston/Canton, MA) and Other Half Brewing Company (Brooklyn, NY)

Style: Double IPA

ABV: 8.0%

Description: Another collaboration between two popular East Coast breweries, this double IPA was aged on peach, apricots, and guava.  As usual, Trillium has more of the specs here on their website.

Appearance: Golden/straw yellow colored body.  Lots of cloudy haze underneath a lively white head that was very quick to fizz away.

Smell: Mild tropical fruits followed by a rush of bitter resin.

Taste: Light to moderate fruit upfront; perhaps best described as a combination of peach, apricot, mango, and pineapple.  A light, crackery malt came through about mid sip.  The finish was bitter, slightly spicy, and featured a slightly tangy reappearance of the opening fruits.

Mouthfeel: Medium, fluffy body with perhaps just a touch more carbonation than I was expecting.

Hype:  Huge!  The release was announced on Twitter about 10 before the brewery opened.  Working downtown, I arrived about 10 minutes after opening and still got stuck with a 10-15 minute wait.  By the time I got out with my cans there was a line down the block.  Honestly, if I didn’t get there when I did I would have bailed.  As usual, the brewery staff did a great job moving people along but there were also a lot of people in line loading up on everything which slowed the process down.

Overall: I like this beer a lot.  It walked an immensely satisfying line between mellow fruit and harsh bitterness and successfully offered the best of both worlds.  This was another collaboration that came out a bit different than your typical “New England (D)IPA” and I really appreciated the variety.  Trillium and Other Half seem to work very well together.

Book Review: Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami

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I’ve been a pretty avid reader of Murakami for some time now and as such made sure this new release got on my list as soon as possible.  As luck would have it, my hold came through only a few days after finding myself in-between books for the first time in several months.

Men Without Women is a collection of short stories featuring male protagonists and their complex, often troubled, relationships with women in their lives.  Rather dark in tone, issues of death, separation, and personal/societal estrangement are common features throughout all the stories in this volume.  Each character is lost in some way and have either resigned themselves to their situation or spend their days searching for something within themselves that may or may not be within their power to find.

On the whole I found this collection to be something of a mixed bag.  There were a few stories that I liked, but aside from those none of the others appealed to me as much as I had hoped they would.  The overall feel of the book was generally very bleak and it didn’t seem to have that same sense of magical realism that usually draws me into Murakami’s work.  While each story was without a doubt well-written, Murakami does an excellent job setting a scene and building characters throughout, these just wasn’t really what I was looking for.  None of the characters captured my interest all that much and as such I couldn’t get fully invested in their stories.  Appropriately enough, I didn’t make it through the one from which the collection took its name.

That said, there were two stories that I was particularly taken by.  Kino, my favorite of the group, is the story of a recently divorced man trying to open a new chapter in his life by converting his aunt’s tea house into a bar.  When something happens to drive away his two most reliable guests, a mysterious book-reading man and a stray cat, Kino is advised to get out of town for a while and lay low.  This was the one story that really left me wanting more and also the one that best captured the otherworldly mysticism that usually draws me into Murakami’s books.  The other note-worthy story for me was Samsa in Love, a tale far creepier and horror-like than anything I’ve read from Murakami to date.  It’s protagonist, a man named Samsa, regains consciousness in a boarded up room.  Disoriented and in a great deal of pain, he gradually comes to his senses and begins exploring his surroundings, taking step by excruciating step through an unfamiliar house.  As he does so, the reader slowly gets the impression that something is very wrong.  Samsa doesn’t seem fully comfortable inside his body and certain thoughts suggest that he may not have always been human.  His awkward interactions with a hunchbacked young woman he encounters adds to the sense of foreboding and gives the story a very eerie vibe that for better or worse goes unresolved.

Overall though, I surprised to say that I consider this book a miss for me, a rarity from this author.  After reading a number of other reviews I realize that I am in an extreme minority in my opinion here, so I’ll say that dedicated Murakami fans would probably find this worth checking out (I wouldn’t fault someone else for being more into these stories than I was).  That said, for someone new to the author I would personally recommend they start elsewhere.

Idle Hands Craft Ales – Kill Your Idles: Blood Orange

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As I have posted here before, I’ve become a fan of the Kill Your Idles series.  Imagine my excitement then when I saw they started canning these releases!

Beer Name: Kill Your Idles: Blood Orange

Brewery: Idle Hands Craft Ales (Malden, MA)

Style: Fruited Sour

ABV: 5.6%

Description: Another entry in the brewery’s rotating lineup of fruited sours, this one was brewed with blood oranges and lactose.  Cans were stamped 7/27/2017 and cost $18 per four pack of tallboys.

Appearance: Bubbly, light golden body underneath a thin white head that fizzled away fairly quickly.

Smell: Mild citrus notes paired with a light funkiness.

Taste: Opened up with a light, fruity tartness intermingled with a fairly mild hay-like funk.  This was followed by a slight increase in tart/sour orange and came to a moderately funky, Tang-y finish.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied with an above average amount of carbonation, though perhaps not quite as much as I might of thought at first sight.  Ended slightly syrupy.

Hype: I am really into this series and I get the impression that the brewers and bartenders are all big fans as well.

Overall: Another really good entry into the lineup, I found this refreshingly funky and tart.  Although I would probably rate this installment just slightly behind the other brews in the series (due to personal preference in fruits), I still really enjoyed it and am looking forward to exploring the rest of the cans.  Speaking of cans, I am excited that they made the change to this format.  The price per ounce is much better compared to previous releases and the smaller servings make me much more likely to take some of these home with me.

Trillium Brewing Company & Monkish Brewing Company – Dial Up the Seven Digits

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Unfortunately I missed out on picking up another bottle of Affogato, but all was not lost as I happened upon another unannounced collaboration release.  I’ll admit I was slightly hesitant about this after my thoughts on Trillium’s last collaboration with Monkish, but I had a good feeling about this one based on the description.

Beer Name: Dial Up the Seven Digits

Brewery: Trillium Brewing Company (Boston/Canton, MA) and Monkish Brewing Company (Los Angeles, CA)

Style: Double IPA

ABV: 8.2%

Description: A double IPA brewed with muscat grape juice, this collaboration is said to be a fusion of Trillium’s Dialed In (a beer I like very much) and Monkish’s Dial the Seven Digits (a brew with which I am unfamiliar).  You can read up on the specs here in a lot more detail.  Price was $22.20 for a four-pack of tallboys which has consistently been the high water mark for Trillium cans.

Appearance: Really cool looking body on this; super hazy with an almost glowing pale yellow color.  A thin white head formed on the pour but bubbled away pretty quickly.

Smell: Tropical fruits atop a dank pine cone bitterness.

Taste: Mellow blend of tropical fruits upfront, though I picked up mainly upon pineapple, mango, and a bit of peach.  These were followed by an assertive bitterness that was a blend of dank pine resin and earthy hops.  The grape juice came through almost at the finish, cutting into the bitterness right on the verge of it peaking, giving the beer a smoother finish than it would have had otherwise.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, a bit creamy on the end beneath a slightly more than moderate level of carbonation.

Hype:  People seemed to be a bit more excited about this release than they were for the one on Tuesday.  This time there was a small line when I arrived at the brewery, despite the short notice about the release.  There was also some dude walking down Congress Street making trades for extra cans, so there’s that to consider as well.

Overall: A very good beer and definitely one that made up for any lingering disappointment about the last collaboration between these two popular breweries.  The addition of grape juice really set this apart from your typical hazy, juicy New England DIPA and brought the beer to a really enjoyable finish.  I can’t speak to the Monkish side of this, but any fans of Trillium’s Dialed In brews should definitely give this a try if they can.  On a side note, as someone who works near Fort Point, I am a huge fan of how the last two special releases have been handled.  Minimal lines and no advanced consumer frenzy really made getting these beers so much less of a hassle.

Trillium Brewing Company & J Wakefield Brewing – Affogato

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Catching me by surprise, the latest Trillium collaboration brew was released with little fanfare on what was otherwise looking to be a pretty slow Tuesday at the brewery.  Upon reading the beer’s description, there was no way I was going to pass this one up and eagerly paid them a visit during my lunch break.

Beer Name: Affogato

Brewery: Trillium Brewing Company (Boston/Canton, MA) and J Wakefield Brewing (Miami, FL)

Style: Imperial Stout

ABV: 13.3%

Description: To briefly recap the official description, this imperial stout was inspired by the dessert drink with which it shares a name and Vietnamese iced coffee.  Brewed with coffee beans, vanilla, and lactose, it by all accounts sounded like a sweet treat in a bottle.  Cost was $16.05 per bomber.

Appearance: Black body topped off by a thick layer of dark tan foam.

Smell: Sweet cream and chocolate on top of a deep layer of rich coffee.

Taste: Not quite sure where to start as this beer had a lot of great things going on.  Upfront it was on the sweeter side, featuring condensed milk and dark chocolate before transitioning towards lightly bitter cold brew coffee.  The finish added espresso to the mix and maintained the opening sweetness.  The vanilla addition was very subtle and only made an appearance once the beer had sat in the glass for a few minutes, which was just fine in my book.  There was a nice bit of heat on the very end as well, but nothing that would give any indication that this beer was over 13%.

Mouthfeel: Thick, creamy full body with very little carbonation.

Hype: Not as much as one might expect for a Trillium special release.  There wasn’t any advance notice about this before the breweries opened and I was able to get in and out of the Fort Point location in a matter of minutes during my lunch break.  

Overall: Fantastic, the brewers did an excellent job with this.  Not only did they nail what they were going for, they also made a beer that was absolutely delicious.  For all the hype and attention Trillium gets for their hoppy brews, they make can make a mean stout as well and this was probably my favorite from them.  My lone regret here is that I only picked up one bottle.  Definitely going back for more if possible, and I’m also going to keep an eye out for J Wakefield Brewing next time I’m in Florida.  Impressive all around.

Book Review: The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi

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Recently published in March 2017, this book had been on my radar ever since news of its completion dropped late last year.  Irreverently fun and thought-provoking, John Scalzi is an author I’m always looking to read more from, and the beginning of a new series gave me an excellent opportunity to do so.

Several hundred years in the future, humanity has spread out across the stars with the aide of the Flow, a naturally occurring phenomena that allows for rapid transit between fixed points in space.  Politically organized as the Holy Empire of the Interdependent States and Mercantile Guilds, these settlements rely upon a complex system of trade to ensure their mutual survival since the Flow-accessible worlds, with one notable exception, are not particularly friendly to human life.  As the story opens we meet the dying leader of this Empire as he is offering final advice to a young woman named Cardenia Wu, his illegitimate daughter and unsuspecting heir to the throne.  Included in this briefing is the revelation that the Empire, and humanity as a whole, is threatened by one rather inconvenient truth; namely that the Flow is on the verge of collapse, an event which will mean the end of viable interplanetary travel and a slow death for the soon to be isolated settlements.  Planning for this catastrophe proves difficult, however, as most of the government is content to ignore the issue and at least one influential trade guild is scheming of ways to profit from the situation and use the resulting upheaval as a chance to usurp power.

This book was a lot of fun and went by very, very quickly.  A real pleasure to read, it featured plenty of the sarcasm, wit, and joyful cynicism I have come to expect from Scalzi’s novels.  The three main characters were great and each had their own particular charm to go along with their personal foibles.  Cardenia’s nonchalance and resigned acceptance of her new position brought a cool head to some otherwise extreme situations.  Marce was a relatable everyperson whose dedication to (peer-reviewed) science made him both easy to root for and a needed voice of reason.  In contrast, Kiva Lagos, the final main character, was an entertaining force of nature who could make a (space) pirate blush with her expansive vocabulary and unapologetic lifestyle.  Being someone who is predisposed to the general outlooks of these characters, I found it just plain felt good when Scalzi’s heroes would come out ahead.  On the other side of that, it was also a lot of fun disliking the scheming Nohamapetan clan.  The author’s less desirable characters so often align with the people I dislike in real life that it is equally rewarding to see them struggle.

As for the story itself, for all the absurd situations and convoluted schemes, it featured a pointed, yet amusing, satiric look at various social and political issues.  It is hard to miss the deterioration of the Flow as a symbol for climate change, and Scalzi has little patience or fondness for deniers and advocates of bunk science.  He comes at them in this story not so much from a place of anger, but of incredulity.  How the fuck (that word comes up a lot, see Lagos, Kiva) can people choose to be so willfully ignorant?  He answers that question in part through Cardenia, who learns that knowledge of the impending collapse is, in fact, old news, vehemently brushed aside and dutifully ignored for generations because it’s extraordinarily bad for business and also, well, kind of downer.  Not particularly surprising these days, the author’s unabashed support of views like this, in combination with other novel concepts such as supporting gay relationships, religious cynicism, and competent women in positions of power has made him something of a lightning rod for a vocal, thin-skinned minority of reactionary trolls within the sci-fi/fantasy community.  To his credit he takes this in stride, content to consider such folk being against him a sign of doing something right.

I am definitely on board with this series whenever the next book comes out.  The story was left very much wide open as to what will happen next, so I am curious to see where things go from here.  This also left me the mood for more from Scalzi, so don’t be surprised if another one of his books pops up here in the near future.

2017 Night Shift Barrel Society Release #1: Titus Andronicus

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I’d been hoping to get to this beer for a little while now, pretty much since its release back in March.  Scheduling conspired against me, however, so I am just now finally able to review it.  The good news I suppose is that with the Barrel Society switching to a quarterly release schedule this year I am not too far behind on the current lineup.  Naming theme this year is Shakespeare’s plays.

Beer Name: Titus Andronicus

Brewery: Night Shift Brewing Company (Everett, MA)

Style: Barley Wine

ABV: 11.2%

Description: From the front of the label, this is a barley wine aged in port finished bourbon barrels.  From the brewer’s notes: Titus Andronicus Brewer’s Notes: pours dark amber in color; nose of fig, plum, caramel, and bourbon; sips with big notes of port, molasses, toffee, and dark fruit; finish is sweet, mellow, and well-integrated.

Appearance: Dark caramel brown body with a thin tan head that did not stick around for long after the initial pour.

Smell: Sweet, brown sugar and caramel with a bit of heat on the end.

Taste: Toffee, caramel, and brown sugar sweetness upfront mixed with dark fruit about halfway through.  A slight bit of oak also came out in the middle as the beer transitioned to a moderately hot finish, the port influence coming out just a tad bit more than the bourbon.

Mouthfeel: Slightly slick, medium-plus thickness with low levels of carbonation.

Hype: I was hoping for a lot with this one.  Since there are fewer beers in this year’s series I am expecting them all to really stand out.  I was also excited by the style; I’ve always been on the lookout to get more into barley wine and it’s a style Night Shift has done very well in the recent past.

Overall: Very good, I enjoyed how the opening sweetness blended in with the port finish.  Definitely not a brew to drink quickly, this was a nice beer to sit down with at the end of the day and slowly sip at.  My one nitpick is that I wish the barrel influence was just a bit less noticeable in the middle, but this was only a minor observance and perhaps particular to my tastes.  Very curious to see how the other bottle ages.  Solid start to this year’s series.

Somerville Brewing Company (Slumbrew) – Heaven Scent

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I happened to be in Assembly Row last weekend and found myself having just enough time to make a stop at Slumbrew’s American Fresh Beer Garden.  The weather was warm and clear, meaning the tent was open to allow for maximum enjoyment of a beautiful day.  I had the Little Man with me for this adventure, but this spot is family-friendly during the daytime (a great decision given the location).  I got a beer and he got to dance to MC Hammer in his stroller.  Win/win right there.  An added benefit is that he almost makes up for my photography fail.

Beer Name: Heaven Scent

Brewery: Somerville Brewing Company (Somerville, MA)

Style: Sour Ale

ABV: 5.5%

Description: Five minutes of Googling didn’t turn up any additional info on this one, so I’ll just stick with the basic description of this being a sour ale brewed with passion fruit.  Cost was $7.50 per pour.

Appearance: Orange/amber body would have looked just about like a glass of juice if not for some wisps of thin white foam across the top.

Smell: Mellow tartness with a light funk in the background.

Taste: Super fruity and juicy!  Huge passion fruit presence throughout, sweet at the beginning turning to just a hint of tartness by the finish.  Extremely subtle bit of funk in there as well, the fruit was definitely the main component of this brew.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and low in carbonation, I noted a moderate level of that syrupy feeling I tend to get with this style ale.

Hype: None that I was aware of.  Slumbrew tends to fly below the radar in terms of beer hype.

Overall: Fruity and refreshing, this was an excellent choice for drinking outside on a hot day.  I was really into how the passion fruit took over the brew.  Had I not had my hands full with taking the baby and all his gear on the train, I would have picked up cans.  Check this one out if you’re into the style.

The Alchemist – Beelzebub

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Yet another amazing beer I received from a friend.  These are always greatly appreciated, even more so since they don’t mess around when it comes to their beer.

Beer Name: Beelzebub

Brewery: The Alchemist

Style: American Imperial Stout

ABV: 8.0%

Description: Nothing on the website, but there is a short video of co-owner and head brewer John Kimmich talking about it here.  Worth a watch.

Appearance: Poured out thick and black with two-plus fingers of tan foam up top

Smell: Sweet, creamy malts mixed with a sappy bitterness.

Taste: A mixture of two worlds, this tasted something like the fusion of an imperial stout and a West Coast DIPA.  Lurking beneath the surface of the beer was the sweetly rich presence of dark malt upfront followed by a bit of roasted coffee and bittersweet chocolate at the end.  On top of this there was a fruity bitterness that gradually transitioned to a resinous, pine sap finish.  Combined, these two parts resulted in a slightly sweet brew that featured a rich base of dark malts underneath an assertive sticky, piney hop presence.

Mouthfeel: Creamy and on the thicker side upfront before a moderate amount of carbonation comes through on the finish.

Hype: I think it’s pretty fair to say this brewery’s offerings still come with a good deal of excitement attached?  I know I was excited to have this again.

Overall: Perhaps closer to a black IPA than an imperial stout, I’m not quite sure this beer really fits that well into any category.  It combined equally intense elements of both styles and managed to bring them together into a single cohesive, and rather delicious, beer.  I definitely recommend checking this out if you have the opportunity, but go into it with an open mind.  Someone expecting a stout might find this overly hoppy while someone looking for hop juice may not be into the malt profile.  An excellent hybrid.