Grey Sails inspire local brewing, local giving

Named for the grey sails that can be seen on the horizon from any New England beach, Grey Sail Brewing of Rhode Island set up shop in a former macaroni factory in April 2011. After a post WWII hiatus during which the United States Post Office and later a retailer occupied the space, owners Alan and Jennifer Brinton brought grain back to the building to brew their first batch of beer on 11/11/11.

Grey Sail’s Flagship beer is a cream ale made with noble hops. Available on draft and in cans, it pours a hazy golden color and comes in doughy and with a touch of sweetness through the nose. The taste follows through with malty, sweet and creamy notes, creating a session beer easy on the palate. The Flagship Ale took the gold medal for cream ales at the 16th Annual Great International Beer & Cider Competition in Providence last fall.

Flying Jenny, an unfiltered extra pale ale, is Grey Sail’s other year-round offering. Head brewer Josh Letourneau incorporates five different malts and northwestern hops to create a balanced, highly drinkable beer. Flying Jenny pours amber in color, smells of grapefruit citrus with tropical notes, and tastes of citrus with floral hop bitterness, balanced by a bready, caramel malt backbone. Grey Sail’s seasonal beers include Hazy Day, a Belgian Wit; Autumn Winds, an Oktoberfest; and Leaning Chimney, a Smoked Porter.

Grey Sail takes pride in contributing to its community in addition to brewing award-winning beers. It created a special brew called Bring Back the Beach Blonde to support the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce. Available locally, proceeds were donated to the Chamber Foundation to help the 27 small businesses that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Sales of the limited edition beer also contributed to the effort to put sand back on local beaches – to ensure that future beach-goers will have a soft place to sit to watch for those grey sails on the horizon.

Brew at the Zoo – two brand spankin’ new local breweries

I managed to find a few local breweries that I did not know at Brew at the Zoo this weekend – score! Down the Road Brewery and Percival Beer Company were founded or launched in 2013 and promise to add new local flavor to current Boston-area offerings.

Donovan Bailey founded Down The Road Brewery this year, with the goal to “balance between history, tradition and innovation.” The Brewery, currently located in Newton Highlands, is currently raising funding to procure new digs with a 3 barrel brewing capacity. Down the Road hopes to be up and running, complete with a tasting room, in 6 months.

Bailey uses his 20 years of brewing experience to emulate and improve traditional ale and lager styles of beer, studying historical brewing techniques whenever he creates a new beer. He currently offers four beers, all over 11% ABV. T-34 is named after the WWII Russian T-34 tank. A classic Russian Imperial Stout, it is dark, rich and smooth, featuring tastes of malt, chocolate, coffee, and dried fruit. Wayne’s Wee Heavy is crafted applying traditional techniques to traditional ingredients, resulting in a malty Scottish ale with notes of chocolate, toffee, and dried fruits. Hopheads will take pleasure in trying Quadrupled, the Hop Monster. Bailey dry hops this beer four times and keeps the malt profile to a minimum, resulting in a piney, citrusy, very dry double imperial IPA. A Belgian Quadruple Ale named Angel’s Breath rounds out Down the Road’s beer selection. Typical of Belgian ales, its nose is all banana and cloves, but once it hits the tongue, the taster is rewarded with a rounded maltiness, and notes of dried fruits and dark chocolate.

Percival Beer Company (PBC) is an independent craft beer micro-brewer and distributor. Felipe Oliveira, a 36-year-old Milton resident who grew up in Dorchester, founded the brewery in 2011 and officially launched the brand early this year. PBC is currently seeking a main office and distribution warehouse in Dorchester (Dot), a diverse community known in recent decades for “dilapidated homes, vacant store fronts and unsafe streets.” However, the brewery recognizes the more recent “invigorating spirit of innovation and positivity sweeping the neighborhood,” and has announced its mission “to promote localization and inspire the Dorchester community to reinvent and innovate.”

The brewery takes pride in brewing light and simple craft beer that is not intimidating to commercial beer drinkers but still tasty to craft beer drinkers. The Kompadre Lager, an homage to a Cape Verdean word that describes the bond developed amongst family and friends, is a crisp lager with a strong hop aftertaste. The Dot Ale 360 – a light pale ale – pours amber in color and offers a balanced hop profile. There are rumors of an IPA in the making, but it appears that Dorchester and beyond will have to wait to taste!

For all of you Bostonians, there are new tastes to experience! Go find them!

What’s Russian about an Imperial Stout?

The story of how Russia became associated with the Imperial Stout reads simultaneously as historical nonfiction, gossip column, and questionable speculation. Some of the first stories of how the British developed the Russian Imperial Stout resemble the history of the IPA, with the stout’s high gravity and high alcohol content acting as a preservative and anti-freeze agent for the journey to Russian consumers.

However, little reliable evidence has been identified to support the theory. Instead, beer historians who have studied the marketing of this stout have found simply that the Russians – and its favorite Czars – preferred dark, thick, high alcohol content beer. For example, a widely quoted passage from The History and Antiquities of the Parish of St. Saviour, Southwark discusses Henry Thrale, owner of Anchor Brewery in Soutwark and famous exporter of the stout, stating, “Thrale’s Entire [a contemporary name for porter] is well known, as a delicious beverage, from the frozen regions of Russia to the burning sands of Bengal and Sumatra. The Empress of All Russia is indeed so partial to Porter that she has ordered repeatedly very large quantities for her own drinking and that of her court.” Commentators have suggested that a focus on the flamboyant Catherine the Great may have been a very effective marketing technique.

The Russians seemed to have liked British porters so much that they were excluded from the March 31, 1822 tariff introduced by the Russian government, which banned just about every other article of British manufacture. Historians speculate that Russians desired the continuation of that one particular export because they were not particularly talented at making it themselves.

The importance of the stout to the Russians is also supported by stories of a Belgian named Le Coq, who exported stout from Britain to the Baltic region during the period when Napoleon’s forces dominated Baltic ports. Le Coq was awarded the Imperial warrant for his export business and generous donations of the stout to Russian soldiers wounded in the Crimean War. Le Coq began to brew Imperial stout in Russia after an early 20th century increase in Russian import duties, but the business was nationalized by the Bolsheviks shortly after the 1917 Russian revolution. Le Coq’s family would wait over 50 years to see any compensation by the government.

The beer that the Catherine and her Russians loved was bottle-fermented with live yeast, so that it could be left on a shelf to improve with age. It was brewed from pale, amber and black malts, along with small doses of Pilsner malt. The beer was aggressively hopped with Target hops, and poured at 10% alcohol by volume. It offered notes of leather, licorice, chocolate, dark fruit and bitter hops. Characteristic of the style, the mouthfeel was thick and oily. Most Russian Imperial Stouts today reflect these features of the well-traveled Russian Imperial Stout.