Tag Archives: hops

Harpoon Brewery Part II

18 Dec

Sorry to leave our readers in suspense—it’s just when you have such an extra ordinary experience, it’s hard to put it all into words.

Most of you have probably visited a brewery before—you are taken on a tour, get samples in the tasting room, learned more about the brand and its history—you leave a little more informed and a little more drunk than when you came in.  Every brewery seems to have its own nuances.  Our visit to Harpoon was especially unique because Al Marzi, Chief of Brewing Operations and a guy who’s been with the company for 21 years (almost since its inception), was our own personal tour guide.

He started in the company lunchroom, a modest place with an admirable collection of random hot sauces (why do beer and hot sauce always seem to go together?).  From there he walked us through the “factory”–visiting a brewery always seems to be a Willy Wonka-type experience.  You see where they mill the grains, mash them, sparge and then add hops and other spices to the wort.  If you’re lucky, you’ll be entertained by the bottling line (always even more fascinating when you’ve already tasted a few brews)—this particular bottling line applies a label on both the front and back of the bottle—oooooooo.

Al also pointed out where they will soon be installing a canning line.  While they currently can their signature IPA, UFO, and their summer seasonal at upstate FX Matt Brewing Co. in Utica, NY, you can anticipate a bigger canned selection soon due to this new addition.

He also showed us where they’re working on experimental, 400-gallon batches.  Well, some of them work out and some don’t!  You’re next favorite beer may be brewing there now…

So now for the biggest news of all—Harpoon is opening a large beer garden-type hall where future tastings will take place and tours will take off.  You bet we’ll be there for the Grand Opening!

A few days before our visit, the Harpoon staff had a company holiday party where they celebrated the end of “Movember,” in the not-yet-opened beer hall, at their “Stache-bash” all while giving back to some local charities.  Moustaches for a great cause?  Yeah, we love that!  Al himself earned special recognition with his “checkerboard” beard, a signature pattern on all of Harpoon’s beers (it was unfortunately absent upon our visit—we bet Al couldn’t wait to get rid of it!).  For photo evidence, check out their Facebook page.    

The conclusion of our tour took us right back to that lunchroom—much more enlightened after our journey we inquired about the “staff taps”—there seemed to be a few unavailable-to-the-public beers there.  Al let us sample a sour—so delicious!  Although, it will probably never become a 100 Barrel Series beer due to the threat of infestation from Brettanomyces…what a shame!! (But understandable).  And not everybody enjoys the sour beers.  And as Al pointed out, they don’t exist to chase trends.  I’d add that Harpoon sets them!  Either way, it’s a great way to decide what’s coming up next for their 100 Barrel Series, having the staff sample and offer feedback from the lunchroom while even visitors to the brewery have the opportunity to try some rarities that may or may not make it into full production!  Just another great excuse (if you need one) to visit the brewery…   

Our visit to Harpoon was certainly a highlight on our trip to Boston.  But even if you can’t make it up to the brewery, you can still drink their beer locally.  If you visit Harpoon’s Web site, you can use their “Beer Finder” tool to seek out the beers near you—whether it be a case of their Wintry Mix, their Chocolate Stout on tap, or their latest 100 Barrel Series.  For more about their beers (and what we tried and thought), check out my last blog post.  We can’t wait to go back early next year and check out the new beer hall for ourselves…but until then, we’ll just have to drink a Winter Warmer…or two.           


Cooperstown Brewing

23 Jul

Just down the road from Ommegang is a brewery that takes Cooperstown’s baseball legend seriously—and uses it to inspire their beers.  Cooperstown Brewery is much smaller than Ommegang, in both scale and production, but plans to expand and grow are in the works due to its recent purchase by Butternuts Brewery owner, Chuck Williamson.

Unfortunately we were unable to visit Butternuts this time around due to poor planning and lack of time (attempting to visit 3 breweries in one day is a quite a feat).  But, I am a big fan of this brewery—its four flagship beers are available in cans locally as well as in 14 other states, and with names like “Porkslap,” with an image of two pigs bouncing bellies, and “Moo Thunder,” a delicious milk stout with a cow on the can, the beers are both sessionable and fun.

While I was familiar with Butternuts because of its wide distribution in New York City (Williamson is Queens native), Cooperstown Brewing was new to me.  That’s because the brewery has remained strictly local all these years, run by a father/son team since 1995—Stan and Brian Hall—until its purchase by Williamson in September of last year.  It’s unfortunate that the beer is not more widely known, because they produce some fine English-style ales, the most popular and widely available being “Old Slugger,” a pale ale.

Finding this little brewery seemed a bit of a challenge, with a small sign indicating its location off the main road in Milford, NY, a quaint town 10 miles south of Cooperstown.  Sprawling hop vines lining the entrance and silhouettes of baseball players indicated our arrival at the brewery.

While the tasting room is open all day, every day (at least in the summer), tours are only offered once daily: at 5 p.m.  Aside from Old Slugger, a malty, caramel-y tasting pale ale that is brewed with four different barley malts and hopped with Mt. Hood, Cascade and Fuggle hops, their five other beers include Nine Man AleBackyard IPA, Pride of Milford, and their Benchwarmer Porter. 

During the tour we learned that all their ales are brewed with their signature Ringwood Yeast, an aggressive top fermenting yeast that imparts all of these British-style ales with a distinctive flavor.  They also use the hops that they grow outside as well as imported hops to add both aroma and bitterness.

The Nine Man Ale is a nice golden ale that was refreshing and light.  A portrait of baseball’s American founding father (debatable and according to legend), Abner Doubleday, adorns the pinstriped label.  Who knew that baseball bats and barley went so well together?

Cooperstown’s Backyard IPA is perfect for a summer barbecue (or baseball game).  Our tour guide, Chelsea, explained that this beer is brewed in a traditional English style of brewing an I.P.A., not like the extremely hoppy American I.P.A.’s we’ve become so accustomed to.  This beer is dry hopped with a “hop-percolator,” filled with locally grown Fuggle hops (grown right outside).

The “Pride of Milford,” is a strong (7.7% ABV), malty ale, reddish in color and rich in flavor, and described as a “specialty ale.”  While the title is a bit ambiguous, the name comes from a unique brewing process in which the beer is fermented at a higher temperature.  Because of this, the ale is higher in alcohol and has a richer, maltier character than the signature pale ale.

Last but not least was the “Benchwarmer Porter,” a great example of a traditionally brewed porter—with chocolate and roasted coffee flavors in abundance.  This one stood out as a favorite for me, especially since I often find porters to be more like a watered-down stout, and I often miss out on how great this style can be when done well.

Currently the brewery also contract brews for other breweries (which is what we witnessed during our visit—the smell of the wort strongly wafting through the air) and hosts a 40- year-old bottling line that was previously owned by Samuel Adams Brewing Company.  The six English-style, baseball-themed ales are available for purchase at the brewery, and all are adorned with baseball bottle caps—a nice touch.

Cooperstown Brewing Company may be only one stop on the six-stop Cooperstown beverage trail (which includes the three breweries, two wineries and a cider mill), but is surely one worth checking out.  The baseball theme ties in with the overall Cooperstown tourist attractions, and the beer is highly quaffable, offering a different beer-drinking experience than the nearby Ommegang.  I expect to see a lot more from this brewery in the future, given the new ownership and opportunity for expansion–with a bottling line, it seems Butternuts can start offering their already popular canned beers in bottles.  Hopefully the already well-known and established Butternuts name can aid in Cooperstown Brewing Company’s own notoriety.

While Cooperstown may be a baseball-lover’s mecca, one can also add beer to that list.  Ahhhhhh–summer really doesn’t get much better than baseball and beer! (Don’t forget the hot dog…)