From the Bar: Blue Hills on tap

The new beer on tap last week hailed from the Blue Hills Brewery, located in Canton, Massachusetts. The Brewery embraces its location in the Blue Hills and on the South Shore, and strives to demonstrate civic responsibility in addition to producing great beer.

Generally, Blue Hill Brewery beers go through two rounds of fermenting. The first found takes 7-9 days, and during the second round, the beer is chilled to around 40 degrees for another 7-10 days. After fermenting, the beer is filtered, carbonated, and kegged.

The classic Red Baron Ale incorporates a combination of specialty dark roasted malts, giving it a deep red color. The beer is only lightly hopped in order for the drinker to enjoy its complex malt character. The tongue registers sweetness at first taste, but Red Baron has a dry finish. Come try it out this week!

From the Bar: Brewing It Belgian Style

I set aside time this past weekend for some more very serious beer research. With Carrie slaving away on her thesis, I attended Julio’s Liquors Belgian Beer Fest with a group of beer enthusiasts. You may ask, as I did, what makes Belgian beers Belgian? I imagined there must be some unifying characteristic, as I’ve so often heard the term “Belgian beer” used as if I should understand exactly what it means.

Although I’d say vaguely that Belgians (the beers) tend to be sweeter and have higher alcohol content – I’ve heard them described as the bridge between wine and beer – they do not fall into any one defined category. In fact, Belgians (the people) have been brewing beer since the Middle Ages and now offer over 450 varieties of beer.

You may have heard of a few of these varieties. There’s the “Red Beer,” brewed from red barley, maize, and grits, which tastes sharp, sour and fruity. The Lambics, originally brewed in Belgian farmhouses, are brewed without cultured yeast and contain at least 30% unmalted wheat. The brew is exposed to the air during production so that wild yeasts bring about fermentation, producing an acidic, tart, dry beer. To balance the sourness of Lambics, some brewers add fruit. For example, “Kriekbiers” are made with cherries that stimulate secondary fermentation, and a “Framboise” includes raspberries. Additionally, White Beer, or “Witbier,” is a pale beer that includes malted barley and raw wheat, along with spices such as orange peel and coriander, producing a cloudy beer. Finally, many beer drinkers know about Trappist beers, which tend to be complex, strong, spicy, and top-fermented, with yeast added at the time of bottling for secondary fermentation. Technically “Trappist” may designate only beer brewed in six monasteries in Belgium, and “Abbey” applies to other commercial brewers producing beer in that style.

At Julio’s, I tried a variety of these styles. I tasted an IPA first, to get it over with because I don’t enjoy IPAs, but I was pleasantly surprised. The Duvel Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel started out sweet and fruity, but the intitial taste was quickly balanced by the IPA hoppy bitterness. To me, this IPA Tripel is the IPA for those who don’t exactly savor an IPA. Next I watched the St. Bernadus Abt. 12 fall into my glass; this beer was sweetly malty but balanced, rich, and robust. My friends and I rushed to get a taste of Black Damnation (recipe 1, batch 2), a Russian Imperial Stout with a whopping 13% alcohol content. Black Damnation poured smoothly and darkly, with coffee and chocolate aromas, but had a surprisingly thin mouth and seemed to have a dry astringent taste.

Next in line was the Duchesse de Bourgogne – a Flanders Red Ale. It smelled vinegary and cherry-like, and its sourness made me pucker, although crisp carbonation and fruitiness helped to balance it out. It you like sours, the Duchesse is a good one to try. Finally, I tried the Cuvee von Der Keizer Rood, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, which boasted sweet malts, Belgian yeast, floral and citrus tones, and a touch of honey. At 10% abv, the alcohol makes its presence known in the taste.

Always one for sharing, I left Julio’s with a couple of 22oz bottles for tasting. Combining Belgian style brewing with our preference for featuring local beers, I bought some Haverhill Belgian-style IPA, and a Haverhill Belgian-style Tripel. We’ll see if we can figure out these Belgians once and for all.

To learn more about Belgian beer brewing, see

From the Bar: Cocktail Evolution

Editor’s Note: While we in the prototype space are not yet ready to serve cocktails at 3pm, Bar Manager Amy has found an interesting science project revolving around cocktails! – Carrie

Image courtesy Kenny Hindgren (Flickr)

In an impressive display of procrastination and scientific prowess, Jim Harriman of has created a phylogenetic tree of cocktails. The epiphany came when Jim realized that all drinks have common ingredients, and new cocktails must have been developed when someone modified a current recipe. For example, a Tom Collins and John Collins are the same except for the substitution of Bourbon for Gin in the John Collins. If the new recipe is successful, in that many people like it and request it, the recipe gets propagated.
For his phylogenetic tree of cocktails, Jim represented each ingredient as a different gene, and created family trees based on presence or absence of a trait using the PHYLIP computer program. His tree maps out 90 drinks containing about 512 unique ingredients, or genes. Cocktails group into families around common ingredients. Although the tree could stand uprooted, Jim rooted the tree in vodka, since so many cocktails contain that ingredient.
The useful thing about the tree is that you can use it to experiment with your tastes. Unfamiliar drinks that are “related” to your “go-to” cocktails have a high probability of becoming your new “to-to” drinks. For example, if you are looking to try a new drink, and you know you like the Alabama Slammer, you can look at drinks grouped around it for likely candidates for your next bar trip.

The poster with the cocktail phylogenetic tree. Bottoms up!

From the Bar: Western Mass on Tap This Week

Tomorrow afternoon, we will be trying out brews from the Berkshire Brewing Company. There are a few things you need to know about this company, particularly if you are not a Massachusetts native. Upon my Air Force Brat pronunciation of Berkshire as “Berkshire” with a long “i” sound, Carrie, who is from Western Massachusetts, rolled her eyes and informed me that the correct pronunciation is “Berkshur,” letting the last syllable drop off precipitously. So if you want to sound like you know what you are talking about, do not make the same mistake I did.

The next thing to know is that the two founders of Berkshire Brewing Company, Chris Lalli and Gary Bogoff, like me, are not natives of Massachusetts. They hail from Montgomery, Alabama, but the town of South Deerfield, Massachusetts welcomed them as a tourist attraction to stand next to the famous Yankee Candle Company. By the mid-1990s, the partners had transformed an old cigar factory into a modern brewery, and their success has allowed for multiple expansions over the years.

The last important factoid is that the Berkshire Brewing Company produces 9 year-round flavors of ales as well as 6 seasonal ales. Chris and Gary strive to brew beer with the same ethics and craftsmanship as an artisan. On tap this week, we feature the Lost Sailor IPA and the Coffeehouse Porter. The Lost Sailor IPA offers a well-rounded malt profile, which balances the generous dry-hopping with the Goldings hop variety. The Coffeehouse Porter is a rich, dark ale, incorporating Dean’s Beans from Salem MA into the mix. Come on in and have a taste!