Speed-Dating Beers, Part 2

If you’ve just joined us, we are on a mad merry-go-round of tasting one beer every five minutes for ten rounds. Five beers in and we’re only half-way there.

Beer #6: Shipyard Monkey Fist IPA

Shipyard Monkey Fist IPA

Shipyard Monkey Fist IPA

Shipyard Brewing of Portland, Maine is a giant compared to some of the nano-breweries we’ve been tasting. Last year, they brewed almost 160,000 barrels (190,000 hL), making them the 15th largest American craft brewery.

The beer we’re tasting is a strong (7.6% abv) limited edition IPA aged in bourbon barrels. It pours a hazy deep amber, with a head that quickly dissipates — not unusual for a strong beer. The taste is a continual play between the sweetness of the bourbon and vanilla notes from the barrel aging, and the bitterness of the hops. This continues into a finish that is in turns both bitter and sweet. Very nice.

I would pair this with strong artisanal cheeses. Other intriguing possibilities might be be pork roast with brown gravy, or sticky toffee pudding.

Shipyard distributes to over 35 states, so many will be able to find this winner in their own neighbourhood.

 Beer #7: Rising Tide Daymark American Pale Ale

Rising Tide Daymark

Rising Tide Daymark

Rising Tide started life as a tiny 1-barrel brewery, producing 15 barrels (17 hL) per month, but then got a big upgrade to a 15-barrel system, enabling them to brew in one batch what formerly took them a month.

What sets their Daymark Ale apart from other dry-hopped American-style pale ales is the addition of malted rye. Daymark pours a murky gold with an intense white head. The rye adds a light spiciness to the big floral nose. The taste is fruity, and not as bitter as many other American pale ales I have tasted, and the rye aids a quick and dry finish.

With its nice fruitiness and lower bitterness, this would pair well with fish, although I would also drink this on its own anytime.

Oh, and a daymark is a navigational marker that can be seen by boats in the daytime.

Beer #8: Notch The Mule American Corn Lager

Chris Lohring, the found of Notch Brewing of Ipswitch, Massachusetts, was our host for five minutes, and spent some of that time justifying the use of corn as a useful adjunct for lager rather than the dark and evil ingredient that some craft brewers make it out to be. As he pointed out, corn has a long and storied history in American brewing. It is only in recent years that corn has been vilified, mainly because corn is used so freely by the megabrewers to lighten the taste of light lagers.

The Mule, a session lager (4.5%), is made with a cereal mash of western Massachusetts corn, 6-row pils malt (most craft brewers use 2-row malt, which has higher levels of extract and lower protein), and flaked barley. It is hopped with Sterling, Crystal and Santiam, and lagered for 4½ weeks.

It pours a pale lemon with a light haze and a white persistent head. The nose is citrussy, unusual for a lager — floral or grassy notes are more common. The taste is light and crisp, with the slight taste of corn just evident.

If you have friends who prefer big-name American lagers, have some of The Mule in your fridge when they come over for Monday night football. The slight taste won’t stand up to strong foods — if you want to experiment with something less traditional than pizza, try whitefish, oysters, or clams.

Beer #9: Night Shift Ever Weisse

Night Shift Ever Weisse

Night Shift Ever Weisse

Robert Burns, co-founder of Night Shift Brewing, poured out this intriguing beer for us. Night Shift is a 3.5-barrel (4 hL) nanobrewery in the Greater Boston area started by three friends when they realized their homebrewing hobby had gone past “obsession”. They try to make beers that don’t taste like anyone else’s, and if Ever Weisse is any indication, they have reached that goal.

A Berliner Weisse is already a strange beast, a beer to which lactobacillus is deliberately added. (Lactobacillus– or “lacto”, as it is known by brewers — is usually considered a beer spoiler because it produces sour lactic acid. Most brewers try to avoid a lacto infection, Berliner weisse brewers deliberately infect their beers with it.) The lacto-rich wort is then fermented hot, increasing bacterial growth as well as producing wild flavours from the over-stimulated yeast. The result is an intensely tart, sour beer — so sour in fact, that in Berlin, aficionados of the style usually have it “mit Schuss” — that is, with a shot of either raspberry syrup or woodruff (a sweet syrup made from the woodruff flower).

Night Shift decided to forgo the need for a shot of syrup by aging this beer on strawberries, kiwis, and dried hibiscus flowers. The result pours a playful fuschia pink with a white head that has the slightest shade of pink to it. The nose is fruity — strawberries and cherries — and yeasty notes speak of the hot fermentation. The foretaste is sharp and edgy, strawberries vyiing with yeasty flavours. The mouthfeel is juicy and tart, the finish quick and sharp. This is an extraordinary beer, a true work of art.

The nimble interplay of tart and sweet make this a natural to pair with Belgian waffles and raspberries, or pavlova.

This beer is only available for sale at Night Shift Brewery.

Beer #10: Newburyport Plum Island Belgian White

Newburyport Plum Island Belgian White

Newburyport Plum Island Belgian White

For our final beer, Mike Robinson introduced us to Newburyport Brew Company — NBPT Brew Co. for short– the only Massachusetts brewery that cans rather than bottles, using the same reasoning as Maine’s Baxter Brewing: cans are more environmental, more protective, and easier to transport than glass.

NBPT tries to create beers that are authentic to the original style. Certainly Plum Island looks the part of a Belgian wit, pouring with a hazy “white” pale lemon appearance. The nose is also typical of the species, redolent of bananas and cloves. The mouthfeel is soft, the taste sweet, with yeast-driven notes of bananas and spices. The medium finish is drying.

This mild-tasting beer is a natural for a light lunch, and will also pair well with fish.


And that was the end of the speed-dating with beer. “Job well done,” I thought. “Ten beers tasted. Time for a nap.”

But the gods of beer were not done with us yet — not by a long shot. It was time for dinner, so back on the Bus of Beer for a ride to Harpoon Brewery.

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2 Comments on “Speed-Dating Beers, Part 2”

  1. Canageek Says:

    You keep mentioning strong cheeses: Can you give some examples? I’d guess a good, strong chedder would fit in there, as would blue cheese. What would some other examples of good cheeses to go with an IPA be?

    • Alan Brown Says:

      Strong cheeses could include a very old cheddar, but I mostly have in mind “stinky” or smelly cheeses — the funky cheeses that make your gym socks smell good. Stilton, Roquefort and Limburger are perhaps the best known.

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