A closer look at Somerville Brewing Company

Somerville Brewing Company, affectionately known as Slumbrew, is the brainchild of a Somerville couple, Caitlin Jewell and Jeff Leiter. Jeff began brewing out of his house, and now the couple has created more than 11 beers. I sat down with Caitlin outside an event she was hosting to talk shop.

Slumbrew does no wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever had a beer of theirs I didn’t love. Below are a few can’t-miss brews.

Trekker Trippel

Belgian beer lovers should direct themselves toward Slumbrew’s Trekker Trippel, a Belgian pilsen with caramel malts. It pours out golden in color with a head that quickly dissipates.

This beer is very yeast-forward like a trippel should be, but the aroma is full of pineapple, apple and pear. To the taste, it’s full bodied and heavy. I’d recommend drinking this beer with some hearty food. I’m not sure I could drink more than one, as it feels like a meal in itself and takes a while to finish. Its sip has a long finish, and leaves notes of caramel and malt on the tongue.

This trippel is unlike others I often find from craft breweries. Its flavors are complex, and my guess is that this one went through many rounds of testing before it made it to the bottle. I bought this beer by the bottle, but I think it’s better suited for the tap.

Happy Sol

Happy Sol was the first Slumbrew beer I ever tried, and I’ve been following Slumbrew and its creations since then. The waitress I had at the time described Happy Sol as a beer similar to Blue Moon. I’d disagree. Though Happy Sol and Blue Moon are both wheat beers, Slumbrew’s take on the genre is much more crisp and refreshing.

Happy Sol is a hefeweizen, and is fermented from blood orange juice. Its aroma is therefore primarily citrus. To the taste, coriander gives this otherwise hoppy, fruity beer a zesty side. I’d say it’s a little heavy on the wheat side to be a true hefeweizen, but this cloudy orange brew is beyond drinkable. It’s even brewed with local wildflower honey. Beat that, Blue Moon. Again, the painstaking care that goes into Slumbrew’s beers is clear. Caitlin and Jeff strive to only use the best ingredients.

Attic and Eaves

Poor brown ales always get forgotten. Attic and Eaves is top of my list. A sip of this beer, and it’s as if autumn rushed in and brought with it great taste. This brown ale is brewed with both brown and chocolate malts. This is a fall seasonal, limited release beer, but if and when it hits the shelves again, put it top of your list.

Both the aroma and taste of this beer are nutty, but the toasted buckwheat underlying the nut flavor gives it a great sweet and toasty undertone.

Attic and Eaves pours a deep brown with a fluffy head that lasts. Its rich, creamy taste would pair perfectly with fall foods — pumpkin pie, stuffing, turkey, apple pie, mashed potatoes… Okay, I’m getting a little carried away. I can’t wait for fall to return so I can catch this brew on tap again.

Flower Envy Saison

Flower Envy is the quintessential summer beer for those still looking to drink real beer in the summer. (It’s not just a fall and winter thing, everyone!)  It’s a saison, also known as a farmhouse ale. Farmhouse ales are often brewed in the winter and intended for consumption during the summer months.

Brewed with Belgian wheat, this beer has an admirable amount of hops. It’s herbal in taste, full of floral undertones. The most prominent tastes I got were lavender, raspberry and lilac, but the wheat flavor balances it out so the beer is not at all too sweet. Apple and pear tastes are also in this classic, earthy saison. This crisp beer got better as I kept drinking, and I soon picked up more flavors — black tea and mild clove. Its finish is fairly long and leaves behind a lingering spicy citrus taste.

The beer pours a golden color and is very drinkable at a six percent ABV. It’s a seasonal summer ale, on shelves and on tap now.

Slumbrew and craft by the numbers

Slumbrew/craft by the numbers

Source: Caitlin Jewell, The Brewers Association, Massachusetts Brewers Guild, Beer Marketer’s Insights. Infographic made with easel.ly.

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One question, many beers

I headed out on a rainy Friday to ask a bunch of people one question: If you were granted a free, lifetime supply of any beer of your choice, which one would it be?

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2013 Craft Brewers Conference

This week, more than 6,400 craft brew professionals met up in Washington, D.C. to hold beer events, tastings, grant awards and show off what they’ve been doing the past year. Unfortunately, I had to take part in the conference via social media and news articles. Here are some of the things I took away from the conference:

Craft brewers are seeking tax cuts. The New York Times reports that hundreds of craft brewers met with Congressional staff to ask for a tax cut that would allow them to brew more beer and hire more workers. “For every 31 gallons that we brew, $7 goes to Uncle Sam,” said Jeff Hancock, a co-founder of DC Brau, one of five craft breweries that have opened in the District of Columbia and its close suburbs in the last two years, joining dozens more in the rest of Virginia and Maryland.

The article says the Small BREW Act would reduce tax on the first 60,000 barrels a brewer makes to $3.50 and to $16 after that. Boston Beer Company, maker of Sam Adams, brewed 2.7 million barrels last year. Beyond 2 million barrels, the act says brewers would bay the full $18 tax.

This cool 360 degree can exists. As craft beer has become more popular (think 21st Amendment, Oskar Blues’ Mama’s Little Yella Pills and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout), one craft brewer is redefining the can. Sly Fox announced this week that it’s created an open-mouthed can for easier drinking. The 360 degree lid comes off completely and turns the beer can into a cup. The wider mouth will allow air to better flow to the beer, though I can’t help but wonder why pouring the beer into the cup yourself isn’t as good if not better.

Brewery owners often have some crazy beards. The editor of Thrillist D.C. noticed how many great beards were at this week’s conference. The article says, “… craft brewers not only make an amazing product that brings joy and happiness to people across the country, they’re also some of the most positive and nicest dudes you can run into at a conference.” Now we know.

Click below to check out a Storify compiling tweets from the conference using #CBC13 as a hashtag.

[View the story “Craft Brewers Conference” on Storify]

Looking for a craft beer event to attend? Boston often holds many of its own. The Drink Craft Beer Springfest is next weekend. For about $60 a session, you can have unlimited 2 ounce samples of more than 70 New England craft breweries. There are three sessions total, and the theme is hops, so all the brewers will be bringing their IPAs and other hoppy options.

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Demystifying Allston’s beer scene

There are Allston staples you go to for a few cheap drinks and others you go to for the quality. Below is a presentation about a few bars I’d pass and two others worth checking out for their craft selections and good food: Deep Ellum and Lone Star Taco Bar.

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In my fridge today: Mayflower and Angry Orchard

Today we’ll take a look at what’s going on in terms of beer (and cider) in my refrigerator. I found a Mayflower Brewing Company Winter Oatmeal Stout of mine. My roommate had a variety pack of Angry Orchard ciders scattered about. Usually cider isn’t something I’d be interested in reviewing, but the elderflower seasonal flavor caught my eye, so I picked it up. Mayflower is a craft beer company out of Plymouth. Angry Orchard is owned by The Boston Beer Company. Boston Beer is behind Samuel Adams, the “largest craft brewer” in the United States, according to its website.

Let’s start with the oatmeal stout, Mayflower’s winter seasonal beer. Like a traditional stout, the beer is on the heavy side and dark in color. It’s brewed with three types of oats and dark barley malts. Traditional stouts have a roasted, almost almond flavor. Mayflower’s winter brew is much sweeter and very drinkable. The beer is smooth, and from the bottle, only poured with a thin, brown head that dissipated quickly. The smell of it was infused with toffee and roasted coffee. Carbonation was very minimal.

Oatmeal stouts on the whole get their name from the large amount of oats used to in the brewing process. However, this finished product doesn’t taste like oats. The oats merely create a smooth, drinkable beer due to the proteins and lipids oats have. A stout like this would pair perfectly with some pub or winter comfort food.

A cider is an entirely different end of the spectrum. Cider has increased in popularity this year. Angry Orchard was launched nation-wide last April, but it’s become more recognized since then. Elderflower is one of its seasonal selections that comes in the variety pack.

Elderflower cordials have been a European tradition for centuries. (If you’re drawing a blank, think St. Germain.) It was quite possibly genius to put it into cider. The cider is a pale yellow and is very bubbly for a while after it hits the glass. The carbonation dissipates within minutes. What’s left tastes almost like juice. It’s fruity, tart, light and honestly a delicious change from heavier choices. This cider has a strong aroma of flowers, but to the taste, the elderflower is not at all overwhelming. The apple, both sour and sweet, cuts through and creates a perfectly balanced drink.

Below is a photo story showing the labels, color and pouring qualities of both the stout and the cider.

Continue reading

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College students, 20-somethings help boost craft beer sales

Who’s buying craft beer? NBC reports that from 2006 to 2010, overall beer sales were in decline. However, craft beer was on the rise. Millennials are and continue to be the driving force behind this. College students and other 20-somethings are turning to craft beer despite the price. Thebestcraftbeer.com lists Cambridge Brewing Company in its list of the 13 best college town breweries. The article mentions the two largest Cambridge colleges, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I crossed the river to talk to a few Boston University students to see if they too have ditched the Bud Light and turned to craft beer.

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Celebrities and craft beer

The Today Show’s Matt Lauer chose two Boston craft brews to feature: Cisco Brewers and Clown Shoes Beer. Cisco is out of Nantucket, and Clown Shoes is out of Ipswich. Lauer and the rest of the Today Show crew were at Faneuil Hall for a special Boston-themed Today Show on Friday, Feb. 15. The boston.com beer blog “99 bottles” asked its readers whether Lauer chose the best Boston beers to promote during the cooking segment. One commenter asked why Blue Hills Brewery, based in Canton wasn’t included. Another commenter suggested that Ipswich and Nantucket don’t represent Boston. Others mentioned breweries closer to the hub such as Night Shift Brewing and Idle Hands Craft Ales, both in Everett, and Mystic Brewery in Chelsea.

For the full story on Matt Lauer’s toast to craft brews, check out the Storify below.

  1. The Boston Globe has the full story:
  2. Below, Lauer’s pictured with a Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp. This beer’s a Belgian India pale ale with a hint of orange, as the bottle’s label color suggests. Belgian IPAs are frequently full of hops, and Clown Shoes’ version doesn’t disappoint. Should we caption this, “Matt Lauer has a tramp stamp?” No? Okay, I’ll resist.
  3. Ok now this one’s big! Matt Lauer drank some Clown Shoes on the Today Show this morning!
  4. Another awesome result of the Today Show appearance. I told the owners of Clown Shoes Beer that my goal was to get Matt Lauer to drink a Tramp Stamp beer before 9am.
    Mission Accomplished! 😉
  5. Four days ago, Lauer and his family visited Vail, Colo. Crazy Mountain Brewery tweeted about the news anchor, suggesting that he promote Crazy Mountain’s craft brew.
  6. Crazy Mountain Brewery loves Matt Lauer! Drink our beer in Vail! #mattlauer #todayshow
  7. Although having a celebrity drink your beer is great promotion, as Clown Shoes made clear, some question whether having a celeb publicly seen with a craft beer brand is a good or bad thing. Is it strange to see a national star support a local business for free?
  8. Rachel Ray, Kat Dennings and Alexa Chung are all celebs who have promoted drinking craft ales.

I think it’s great that such small companies are getting national recognition because a few big names like to drink craft beer. Sure, craft beer publicized on corporate television stations could be misleading and is odd to see, but I don’t most think craft brewers have any intention of using free publicity to become the next Anheuser-Busch. Then again, who knows.

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