The BSFW blog offers a periodic airing of our staff's observations and musings about things we find in our market and, frankly, can't live without. This is not a dispensing of erudite information from high on the mount; this is us sharing with you the aspects of the fine wine, craft brew and gourmet worlds that pique our interest.
This congenial approach is something we take seriously - so please feel free to comment! Afterall,it's our customers that inspire us to do what we love to do - and do it even better than before at every opportunity.
The Craft Beer Rennaisance has spawned many things. Two notable creations are critics, and what they deem as trends. I love when these style trends stick around and prove many wrong, especially when the style challenges the Craft Beer enthusiast. Heavily hopped beers were supposed to be a phase, barrel aged beers were supposed to be a phase, sour beers were supposed to be a phase, and the session movement is supposedly a phase. We here at Ball Square Fine Wines respectfully disagree.
Session beers prove that the true lovers of Craft Beer are in it for the taste. Though the definition is loose, session beers are meant to be enjoyed in quantity, and should thusly be lower than 5% in alcohol. Many breweries have created a session beer or two, but Chris Lohring of Notch Brewing in Ipswich has created an entire brand based on them.
Both Notch six packs (Ale & Pils) are solid, and a great selection for a local six pack, but Lohring's 22oz releases are truly spectacular. BSA Harvest is the latest release, and is unfortunately available for a limited time only. BSA refers to Brewers Supporting Agriculture; a movement to drive the sustainability and locality of brewing beer. Through Valley Malt in Hadley, MA, BSA Harvest was brewed with Massachusetts grown grain only.
From a staggering amalgamation of barley, wheat, rye, three types of distinctly American hops, and a Belgian Saison yeast strain, BSA has gobs of complexity. An intriguing duality between two spicy components plays well on the tongue; seems like rye and saison get along quite well. Despite the high Alpha and Beta Acid content in the hops used, this beer is anything but bitter. That aids BSA to achieve a delicate dryness in the finish, rounding out the light-to-medium body of the beer.
Yellow fruit and cedar combine with a malt character unlike any other. This pronounced cereal grain flavor is almost unrefined, rustic and seems to achieve an effortless "from the earth" type of taste compound. I feel like I am experiencing the beginning of Massachusetts Beer Terroir, and it's delicious.
All things considered, BSA is an overall focused and singular beer. Without any conflicting or dueling components, you are able to experience all its character at once. Normally these qualities are only achieved with dense, rich high alcohol beers. BSA clocks in at a glorious 4.4%abv, and at a surprisingly low cost.
The best beers in the world come from Belgium. I (Nathan Kruback) say this with confidence knowing full well that great beer can be and is brewed all over the world. From this opinion, I invite you to sample what I believe to be one of the finest offerings from a country full of fine offerings.
The Cistercian sect of nuns and monks live all around the globe, but a select few monks call Belgium home. Among the six Trappist monasteries brewing beer in Belgium, the youngest and smallest is Achel, of which one shining example stands out.
Achel's Extra Bruin is magic in a bottle. Achieving a beguiling blend of cohesion and complexity, Extra's ingredients are shockingly simple. Combining only Pilsner and Chocolate Malt in the mash, a hearty dose of Belgian Candi Sugar added during the boil aids an aggressive fermentation and a higher alcohol content.
With one of the highest pressure contents available, Extra's carbonation is more similar to a Champagne's than most beers. This unique ability to scrub one's palate aids the pairing of rich creamy cheeses, exposing all available taste buds. Additionally, the consistent production of bubbles saturates your olfactory bulb with gobs of dark fruit rich phenolics.
Extra's flavor profile is exquisite to say the least. An apparent exposure of its very base ingredients is notable, with rustic grain husk and biscuit malt right up front. The high temperature reached during fermentation coaxes a dense concentration of fruit, with melon, plum and a faint Concord grape character all present. Beneath this guise, a gentle cocoa and coffee quality lurk far below.
With the production of this beer being so low, and the supply of Achel spotty at best, we recommend trying this hidden gem soon, as the weather turns cooler.
Slainte! It's almost Thirsty Thursday and this week we've got a beer pick on special in anticipation of this Thursday night's Virtual Tasting.
It's easy to believe that Lagunitas Brown Shugga' was created accidentally in an attempt to save a potentially failed batch of Laguinitas Gnarlywine. Much like the ale it was trying to save, Brown Shugga' is a complex treat.
Lagunitas has a knack for making hops the lead character in their brews and this one is no exception. Resiny hops with a mild malt backbone make up the nose, while the mouthfeel is all Barleywine - slick and smooth with moderate carbonation. The finish offers a solid smacking of citrus hops and alcohol that coats the back of the tongue and roof of the mouth. The not so subtle secret ingredient is chewed up by the cultured yeast, which leads to a thinner body and higher alcohol percentage (9.99%).
This one will catch up to you! Take your time and enjoy.
This one is ON SALE until Thursday's at-home tasting starts (on Facebook) at 5:30pm.
Reg. $11.69 - VIRTUAL TASTING SALE PRICE $10.69
The name may be "Ball Square Fine Wines", but I assure you, we are much more than a fine wine shop. In case you weren't aware, we're very passionate about all spirits, including BEER. That's right, friends, the lovely liquid that one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, once so highly proclaimed as "proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy," has grown into a cultural phenomenon. And yeah, oh yeah, we be blog'n accordingly! So, whatever faith you may follow, sleep easy knowing that our shop offers a wide spectrum of the finest ales and lagers from all over the world. (We did, afterall, come in second in the recent Weekly Dig "Best Of" Boston for our beer selection.)
Just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about, I'd like to mention a couple of new additions to our selection. First, Narragansett Porter: a Rhode Island tradition that has made it north to Boston in a limited release. Pleasantly dry and sweet, I defy you to find me a better Porter for less than nine bucks a six pack (after taxes). And it comes in 16oz cans, no less!
On the other end of the spectrum: "Tactical Nuclear Penguin," an Imperial Stout from Brew Dog out of Scotland costs $119.99 a bottle (before taxes). The brew that, just lat Fall, set the world record for strongest beer ever created at 32% Alcohol By Volume! The record stood for some time before a German brewery produced one at 40%. Not to be outdone, the staff at Brew Dog went on to quadruple their efforts to create the quad IPA "Sink the Bismark" ($163.99), clocking in at an astounding 42% ABV! We're proud to have brought a couple of bottles of these groundbreaking Scottish beers into our shop. Either would be a crowned jewel to any beer buff's collection, or a fantastic way to bring a group together during a holiday celebration.
In these, the coldest months of the year, many breweries release their "Winter Warmer" seasonal beer, sometimes brewed with "holiday spices." Lately I've been bringing home a more traditional style of warmer... eh, forget traditional, let's call 'em old. "Old" or "Stock" ales are generally thick with malt sweetness and higher than normal in alcohol percentage. Most are brewed to age well.
North Coast Brewery's offering, Old Stock Ale is a mahogany colored delight, sticky sweet and available all year round. I visited North Coast's brew pub in August while on a West coast vacation. Fresh out of the keg, this beer was a gem. I look forwrad to popping a cellared bottle in a year or two.
Bottled just last month, Smuttynose's Really Old Brown Dog has some serious potential. I opened a bottle this past weekend with a couple of buddies and this old ale is young! Intense fruit attacks the senses, but clearly this is a finely crafted beer. Grab a bottle before this year's vintage runs out and open it in a couple months. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
Do you prefer today's spicier Winter Warmer, or have you given the more traditional style a whirl?
T'was one chill nite this story begins, when a small 16.9 0z bottle gave me a grin. A Warm Welcome it offered for $6.99, with nutty brisk browness I couldn't deny. Amber goodness with a nice frosty head, it tickles your nose as you put it to bed. Caramel malts with a light hoppy mix, makes for a great n'igh whilst this brew's in your midst.
As the nights approach Christmas much magic ensues, like the tale of'n IPA that came into view. I picked up a bottle and from the label heard snickers, claiming that I - yes, I - wore nancy boy knickers. Outraged I glanced and saw a small pointy hat; was it a rat? No indeed, t'was a Bad Elf who poured a shimmery gold fluid into my glass. With a small but firm head t'was balanced indeed but a bit highly hopped, it took a nip at my nose and made me crinkle my toes. No doubt a grand brew for just $6.99... I think tonight this one'll have to be mine!
A boring cold night I couldn't decide what to drink, when the name of a friend gave my mind a quick clink. A pink little elephant with whom I'm acquainted, Delirium Noel, with its Christmas hat painted. A lovely Strong dark Ale with a mild sweet finish, that by the end of the bottle'll have you feeling quite gid-dish. It's fruity demeanor and car-a-mel tones, bring all the right flavors that warm to the bone.
I can't promise I'll be so rhyme-y in future, but I hope you are feeling the holiday 'spirit', too and will tell me... whaddaya think of my effort?!