Trillium Brewing Company – Black Mettle

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The slow but steady return of spring-like weather has made me more willing to go for lunchtime walks at work again.  In need of a destination, I decided to take a peak at what Trillium had to offer last Friday and pretty quickly made up my mind as to where I was going.

Beer Name: Black Mettle

Brewery: Trillium Brewing Company (Boston, MA/Canton, MA)

Style: Black Double IPA

ABV: 8.4%

Description: A darker, roastier variant of the brewery’s popular Mettle double IPA.  You can read up on the full story and brewing specs here on Trillium’s website.  Price point was $20.20 a four-pack (or $5.05 per individual can).

Appearance: Thick black body topped by a foamy tan head.

Smell: Sweet upfront, with citrus notes eventually backed by pine resin and roasted malt.

Taste: Started out slightly creamy with notes of bittersweet dark chocolate that gradually blended into a more citrusy sweetness highlighted by notes of grapefruit.  From there it transitioned towards roasted malts and coffee and brought on a moderate bitterness of pine resin and floral hops. The finish was quite dry and nicely blended all the different flavors.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, super dry finish with moderate carbonation

Hype: Perhaps a bit elevated as all things Trillium tend to be, but despite being a new addition this wasn’t a beer that had people lining up down the street.

Overall: An absolutely delicious black IPA with an excellent assortment and blending of flavors.  Definitely check this one out if you’re able.

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Almanac Beer Company – Peach Galaxy

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One of the best things about my wife surprising me with beer, other than the obvious, is that she tends to notice stuff that I might not.  She also has a pretty good track in that regard, so when I came home to find this the other day I was certainly intrigued.

Beer Name: Peach Galaxy

Brewery: Almanac Beer Company (San Francisco, CA)

Style: Sour Farmhouse Ale

ABV: 7.5%

Description: This one has quite the story behind it!  You can get the full version here, but to summarize this beer was born from the blending of various farmhouse ales, Brettanomyces, oak barrels, Galaxy and Citra hops, spices, and a whole lot of peaches.

Appearance: It had a juice-like golden/pale yellow body topped by a fizzly white head.

Smell: Lots of sweet, ripe peaches with a bit of funkiness towards the end.

Taste: Really pronounced peach sweetness upfront with a slight fruity bitterness coming through towards the middle.  The sip ended with a tart and sweet funkiness that had a moderate level of acidity. Hints of oak and subtle spices on the aftertaste after sitting in the glass for a bit.

Mouthfeel: Medium body that had a slightly syrupy finish with a just below moderate level of carbonation.

Hype: I am guessing none?  For what it’s worth I was unaware of this beer until my wife surprised me with it.

Overall: I liked this a lot.  It was light and fruity (ok – peachy) despite the fairly elevated ABV and had a nice bit of funk on the finish.  Might seek this one out again when the weather gets a bit nicer and I sit out on my back deck.

Book Review: Frankenstein in Baghdad, by Ahmed Saadawi

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I was so eager to get started on this next novel that I made it my first non-Kindle read in quite some time.  Written by Iraqi author Ahmed Saadawi, it was originally published in 2013 and went on to win the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction.  The English translation came out in January of this year and was released to a good amount of critical acclaim.

Set a few years after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and told from the overlapping perspectives of its diverse cast of characters, this is the story of how a truck bomb exploding in Baghdad’s Tarayan Square begins an extraordinary chain of events in these people’s lives.  It is from this tragedy that Hadi, a nearly impoverished junk trader, finds what he needs to complete his prized project: a human nose. For the past several months he has been covertly collecting body parts from bomb scenes and sewing them together in the hope that he can assemble a complete corpse that can get buried with dignity.  His plan, however, takes an unexpected turn when the newly completed corpse goes missing and a wave of brutal murders begin occurring in the surrounding neighborhoods.

I found this book to be thoroughly enchanting and a real joy to read.  The creature was a fascinating character that offered both a window into the hopes and fears of the Iraqi people and a statement on the madness of country’s internal conflicts.  More than anything this was a book about the average person’s struggle to find stability, and perhaps even some measure of success, amidst the constant violence and disorder of their everyday lives.  As such, it was the human characters who were the real stars here. People of particular note beyond Hadi include Elishva, an elderly Assyrian Christian widow longing for her missing son; Aziz the Egyptian, the owner of a local coffee shop and resident gossip; and Mahmoud al-Sawadi, an ambitious young journalist and rising star at al-Haqiqa magazine.  They collectively provide a gripping charisma and energy that brought the book to life and engulfed me in a world that combined the magical realism and ambiance of a Murakami novel with the grit of a war story.

This is probably my favorite book of the year so far and one that I highly to recommend to fans of all genres (with disclaimers about gore and violence).  Mysterious and thought-provoking throughout, this story was a captivating read that put a very human face on a country a lot of people may not think about much beyond the violence that makes the news.

Five Fictional Pubs to Start Your Weekend

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I think by now it’s pretty clear that I’m a fan of both beer and books, but so far I haven’t spent much time looking at how these two things intersect.  For today’s post I wanted to take a look at five establishments I’ve come across in my reading over the past few years where I wouldn’t mind grabbing a drink or two.  I was initially tempted to call this a top five list, but quickly thought better of it. I’m sure there are a whole lot more I’m going to think of as soon as I hit publish!  Just means I will have to make a Part 2 someday.

Golden Perch Inn (The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien)

This is a no doubt top choice of mine even though it may not be as recognizable as some of the other entries on this list.  Soon after the Hobbits leave the Shire, Pippin laments the fact they will be unable to stop at this particular pub, which he claims boasts the best beer in Eastfarthing.  That alone is enough to get my attention, but what really puts this place over the top is that you’d be drinking in the company of Hobbits. Let’s face it, Tolkien makes it clear these guys (with the exception of those nasty Sackville-Bagginses) like to party.  Considering their days scheduled around six official meals, a love of festivals, and an abundance of “pipe weed,” Hobbits and good beer sound like an experience not to be missed.

Milliways (The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams)

Thanks to the wonders of time travel and the power of compound interest, adventurous space travelers can dine in the absolute highest luxury imaginable at no immediate cost to themselves and watch the greatest show in the galaxy – its end – on a nightly basis.  I don’t think any mention was ever made of a beer list, but I’d happily try out a few Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and watch the show. Besides you never who you might spot here; renegade galactic presidents, thunder gods, or even your favorite long-lost paranoid android.

Three Broomsticks (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K Rowling)

As a muggle I’d probably need a really convincing fake ID to get in the door, but I think it would be well worth the effort.  Sure I’ve been to the replica version at Universal Studios, but that’s not really quite the same now, is it? Imagine the fun one could have sipping on Butterbeer and Firewhiskey while soaking in the magical surroundings before hitting up Zonko’s Joke Shop.  And if all else fails, you could always making make a drinking game out of watching Hogwarts students on awkward dates.

The Empress (The Empress of Mars, by Kage Baker)

What better way to pass the time on the sleepy Mars colony than by grabbing a seat at the planet’s first (and only) brewery?  In addition to checking out the establishment’s surprisingly diverse tap list, you’d also have a front row seat to all the local intrigues and shenanigans currently occupying the colonists.  Making a friend of Mary Griffith, the fiercely determined owner and brewmaster, wouldn’t be such a bad move either since one way or another she has a hand in most aspects of the colony’s daily happenings.  

Cicero’s (Hyperion, by Dan Simmons)

This list needed a dive bar and by all accounts Cicero’s fits the bill perfectly.  Having gradually expanded across four dilapidated buildings along the Hoolie River in Hyperion’s capital city of Keats, the bar was known for its smoky interior, low ceilings, and steady supply of background noise.  The proprietor apparently had a thing for vintage Earth ales though to be honest that prospect sounded pretty hit or miss at best. It’s the sort of place you’d really just end up at to grab a beverage (or five) while preparing to do whatever it is that brought you out to the planet.  Just hope the Shrike monster is contained while you do it.

Battle Road Brewing Company – Lexington IPA

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I don’t often review beers I drink out in the wild anymore, but for this one I made an exception.  Last Sunday the family ventured forth to a new Mexican restaurant named 3 Amigos Bar & Grill that very recently opened up down the road from us in Malden Center.  Putting the beer aside for a moment,I am happy to report that the food was amazing and I would highly recommend the Chorizo Queso Fundido and Short Rib Tacos if you’re in the area.  The adult beverage selection beyond their signature margaritas was also quite good, boasting a small but well curated list of local beer options that included draft lines from the nearby Idle Hands Craft Ales and Night Shift Brewing Company.  As for my beer choice, the keg had kicked on my initial choice and the waiter suggested this one as an alternative.

Beer Name: Lexington IPA

Brewery: Battle Road Brewing Company (Maynard, MA)

Style: IPA

ABV: 6.2%

Description: An IPA brewed with a combination of Columbus, Mosaic, Azacca, Centennial, and Citra hops.  

Appearance: Cloudy golden/amber-colored body with a foamy white head.

Smell: Sweet caramel malt with a citrusy hop bitterness in the background.

Taste: Sweet upfront, again mixing a caramel malt base with citrus and grapefruit notes.  The sweetest gradually gave way to a resinous blend of pine and citrus hops for the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation.  Pretty typical for the style.

Hype: Not much.  I feel like I’ve seen this brewery around for years at various local beer festivals but don’t really see their beers around town all that often.

Overall: I liked this a lot.  It featured that sweet malt profile I really go for in my IPAs and made an excellent companion to my dinner.  In fact, I ended up liking this so much it inspired me to another thing I don’t ordinarily do when out at a restaurant – ordered the same beer twice!

SingleCut Beersmiths – Eric More Cowbell

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As soon as I saw an Instagram post saying this beer had hit one of my usual spots, I knew I had to have it.  Not only does the bottle literally have my name on it, but the beer has my initials as well! While I admit I don’t quite get the whole ‘more cowbell’ craze, I will still share a link to one of my favorite cowbell-centric songs anyway.

Beer Name: Eric More Cowbell

Brewery: SingleCut Beersmiths (Queens, NY)

Style: Milk Stout

ABV: 6.6%

Description: Listed as a lusciously creamy stout with a roast malt base and infusion of cocoa that have it ready to rock all night long.  

Appearance: Black body with a finger of thick tan foam.

Smell: Light roast coffee, sweet cream, and milk chocolate.

Taste: Roasted coffee upfront that got joined by dark malts and grain shortly after the sip began.  It went on to a sweet creamy finish that combined bittersweet chocolate and a hint of lactose.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, slick medium body with fairly low-level carbonation.

Hype: I obviously had my reasons for being partial to this but I drank it with an open mind.  I’ve also had some very good experiences with this brewery so my hopes were elevated in that regard as well.

Overall: Featuring a great blend of flavor and a very nice mouthfeel, this was an excellent example of the style.  My nitpick on it is that I wish the ending chocolate and sweetness stood up to the opening roast just a little bit more, but that’s really more a matter of personal preference.  I approve of having my name on this.

 

Idle Hands Craft Ales – Galaxy Four Seam

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When looking for the perfect beer to pair with the start of the MLB season, my thoughts immediately went to my neighbors at Idle Hands.  They usually have a few baseball-themed offerings available and at my last visit they certainly did not disappoint!

Beer Name: Galaxy Four Seam

Brewery: Idle Hands Craft Ales (Malden, MA)

Style: New England IPA

ABV: 6.6%

Description: A variation on the brewery’s primary NE IPA that substitutes Galaxy hops for Citra.

Appearance: Hazy, juice-like body with light golden/amber color and persistent foamy white head up top.

Smell: Blend of tropical and citrus fruits with a  similar bitterness lingering in background.

Taste: Started with a burst of fruity sweetness that dominates until about mid-sip.  Intricate blend of citrus zest, grapefruit, and melon with tropical influences as well.  Halfway in, the beer picked up some light crackery malts before closing with a moderate haze of dank grassy hops and sweet bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Fluffy medium body, with a roughly moderate level of carbonation.

Hype: There was a decent bit of buzz in local beer forums and social media feeds about this one.  Not enough to generate obscene lines and immediate sellouts, but it’s fair to say Idle Hands had a hit on their hands with this one.

Overall: I highly enjoyed this and thought it was a superlative example of the style. Fans of NE IPAs should definitely should not to miss out on this just because it’s not from a brewery hyped for the style.  Local beer drinkers in general should check this out as well because it’s just that good. Cheers!

Idle Hands Craft Ales – Edgeworth

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After fully recovering from the lingering effects of my illness a couple of weeks, it was time go forth and try out some new beer again.  I took advantage of a particularly nice day last weekend to swing by my local brewery and grab some provisions. This one also comes with a nice little story; it is inspired by the neighborhood the brewery is a part of and $1 of every sale goes to the restoration of a nearby WWI monument.

Beer Name: Edgeworth

Brewery: Idle Hands Craft Ales (Malden, MA)

Style: Pilsner

ABV: 4.8%

Description: The release notes call it an easy drinking American hoppy pilsner made with 100% American hops and malts that give it a floral aroma and notes of cracker malts and citrus peel.

Appearance: Perfectly see-through pale straw body with a lively white foam head.

Smell: Light cracker malts with a slightly lemony, floral backing.

Taste: Clean and crisp with crackery light malts backed up by a citrus/grapefruit sweetness.  Slightly grainy finish with subdued lemon and floral notes on the very end.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied and somewhat less than moderately carbonated.

Hype: The brewery had some social media buzz around this, but pilsners typically aren’t really where the hype goes these days.

Overall: Light and easy drinking with a nice blend flavor, this was an excellent brew for me to get back in the game with.  I was happy to hear that they plan on canning on this in the future as I would love to have some of these to sit outside with on a warm summer day.

Book Review: The Last Days of New Paris, by China Mieville

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And now for things to get a bit weird.  This 2016 novel is my second reading from author China Mieville and probably one of the strangest books I’ve read for the blog so far.  

The story takes place in 1950 in an alternate version of Paris.  In this world not only is the war-torn city still occupied by Nazi Germany, but certain events that occured in 1941 have also made it an epicenter of supernatural activity.  Demons, in loose alliance with the Nazis, prowl the streets, while bizarre apparitions called manifs, manifestations of Surrealist art, are springing to life throughout the city with motivations known only to themselves.  The novel follows a young French resistance fighter named Thibaut who has decided to try escaping the city after seeing his resistance cell wiped out.  As he makes his way through the distorted remains of Paris, he teams up with a mysterious American photographer and a massive exquisite corpse, both of whom seem drawn to him as part of some higher purpose.

This was a strange one, but I enjoyed it immensely.  I’ll admit that the concept might sound a bit out there, but the Mieville pulled the story off quite well by maintaining a tight focus on Thibaut’s wanderings.  He didn’t really spend a whole lot of time justifying or explaining the weirdness, opting instead to just throw the reader in and let it flow. Haunting and engaging from the start, I found it very easy to get caught up in the bizarre and often grotesque imagery of this world.  Not knowing a whole lot about the Surrealist movement, I occasionally found myself going on tangents to look up a particular person, concept, or work of art that got referenced and quickly came to enjoy these efforts in their own right. Although the ending was a bit rushed in how quickly it wrapped up the conflicts that emerged, this book was definitely more about the journey than getting sort of resolution, and in that regard it most certainly delivered.

If you’re on the lookout to read something unique and a bit weird, I highly recommend picking this up.  I certainly had a good time with this book and consequently will be adding more from this author to my reading list.

 

Brewmaster Jack – Total Eclipse

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This is a beer I’ve actually been meaning to review here for quite some time now.  I picked it up for the first time a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it, but missed out on getting it reviewed.  To make matters worse, the beer that took its place was something from the same brewery I didn’t really like all that much.  Time to make amends!

Beer Name: Total Eclipse

Brewery: Brewmaster Jack (Northampton, MA)

Style: Porter

ABV: 6.0%

Description: An American porter brewed with a blend of barley, rye, and oats to impart coffee and chocolate flavors mixed with a touch of lactose sugar.  Read more about it here.

Appearance: Smooth black body with a thin tan head.

Smell: Creamy and sweet, with hints of rye on the end.

Taste: Started out with creamy, rich dark malts that carried into a smooth blend of rye and grain mid-sip.  Subtle light roast coffee came in for the finish

Mouthfeel: Slick, smooth less than medium body with low carbonation.

Hype: Not much for the rest of the world, but as I said in the intro I was on a personal mission to see this brew reviewed here.

Overall: Smooth and flavorful, this is now one of my favorite porters. The rye added a nice extra dimension to the near perfect balance of roast and cream.  Recommended.