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01.2012

Massachusetts Beverage Business

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Article By: Andy Crouch

When the weather turns cold, consumers expect a strong, bracing drink to help them meet the challenges of another New England winter.  Not to disappoint, craft brewers readily offer a new set of beers to meet the physically and mentally challenging conditions and prospects of summer’s distant return.  The highly generalized term Winter Warmer or Winter Ale often accommodates many different styles, all of which provide a robust, hearty drink to cozy up to during colder evenings.  While certainly less popular than summer ales, these seasonal favorites often include the well-known Dunkels, Barleywines  and Imperial Stouts.  Beyond these experienced styles, consumers and retailers alike can look to other beers, including the little understood Quadrupel, to help fortify and lift their spirits.

 

WINTER BREW
Sprecher Brewing Company
Glendale, Wisconsin
alcohol content 5.7% ABV

From the heart of lager country just outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Sprecher Brewing Company is a stalwart in the craft beer business.  Its Winter Brew serves up a deep ruby brown color and light wispy head, with the aroma showcasing a faint roasted malt quality that gives way to rich caramel malt, a touch of cream and butter, followed by a slight earthy quality.  This medium-bodied lager continues with a lightly sweet toasted malt character, a roasted malt hint, followed by a residual creaminess that works well against slight yeast bitterness.  The mellow malt flavors remain quite drinkable and smooth throughout.

 

RASPBERRY STRONG ALE
Berkshire Brewing Company
South Deerfield, Massachusetts
alcohol content 9.O% ABV

A familiar friend to fruit and winter beer lovers in New England, the Berkshire Raspberry Strong Ale slaps any wimpy fruit beer fans back into line.  The ale pours with a substantial, well-sustained, off-white head and smells strongly of raspberries and sharper acidic notes.  Add to the mix its radiant, reddish-orange hue and you know this is no average fruit beer.  The flavor is a mix of big malts, a sizable alcohol presence and a slightly mouth-puckering balance of sweet and tart notes from a half-pound of fresh raspberries per gallon of beer.

THE CURIOUS CASE of QUADRUPEL
This intriguing style, which is inspired and influenced by Belgium’s Trappist monk brewers, the Quadrupel is a potent, herbal and bready style that boasts considerable alcoholic warmth and fruit complexity.  Our American versions often model themselves on the classic Belgian styles, including the legendary Westvleteren 12, which will be available for sale in the United States early in 2O12.  The American Quads, however, can go a little far afield, adding barrel aging and increasing alcohol levels.

As represented today, Quadrupels offer dark amber to deep brown colors and possess boozy alcohol notes swarming the nose, mixing with rich, phenolic yeast notes and dark fruit hints, including plums, cherries and figs.  Often aided by the addition of Belgian candi sugar, which ferments quickly, Quadrupels reach impressive alcohol heights of 8- to 12-percent alcohol by volume.  Despite these elevated numbers, the best examples of the style remain surprisingly dry – as is common among other Belgian beers – and a high carbonation level keeps everything in check.  The texture is unusually light and medium-bodied, especially compared to the more cloying Winter Warmer and Barleywine styles, and multiple fermentation cycles fight against flabbiness.  Creamy and bready sweet at times, the nuanced phenolics and fruit flavors result in a particularly challenging slow sipper.

 

ABBOT 12
Southampton Publick House
Southampton, New York
alcohol content 1O.5% ABV

With its cascading flow of light ruby brown hues and a mild meringue of soft white foam, this Southampton classic opts for a slightly of clove flavor and mildly alcoholic introduction, tempered with plum fruit esters.  Always balanced and even reserved at times, the medium-body balances a light banana and prune and plum dark fruit character with loads of slightly sweet Belgian yeast character.  A light phenolic pepper spice dials through the body to rein in any elements that consider talking out of turn.  Masking its alcohol level, Abbot 12 is a devilishly drinkable and refreshing beer.

 

BABY TREE
Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project
Cambridge, Massachusetts
alcohol content 8.6% ABV

The popular local brewery project run by husband and wife team Dann and Martha Paquette produces one of the region’s most celebrated examples of the Quadrupel style.  Baby Tree is a substantial offering from a quirky line of beers produced by renting time on other people’s brewing systems.  Despite the absence of a bricks-and-mortar brewery, Pretty Things manages to brew some outstanding beers, including this deep brownish ruby colored beer with light tan foam, which is made with forty pounds of dried California plums in the kettle.  The aroma booms with plums, prunes and other dark fruit, as well as some phenolic spice character, a touch of powdered cocoa and a lilt of alcohol warmth.  Similarly situated, the flavor continues with loads of dark, sweet fruit flanked by a spicy, warming yeast and alcohol character, finishing slightly dry.

 

FOUR
Allagash Brewing Company
Portland, Maine
alcohol content 1O.O% ABV

One of the region’s strongest craft breweries, Allagash remains content to produce solid core beers and to experiment with barrel aging.  With its soulful blend of garnet colored hues and dense whip of frothy beige foam, Allagash’s Quad is a looker bent on capturing attention.  Breathing deeply of dark fruits layered in cocoa powder and with a dark Belgian candi sugar quality that mixes with a touch of molasses, FOUR plays fits on your tongue.  The wonderful aroma hardly does justice to the even more expressive body, which, in its rich fullness, expresses loads of fruit – banana, blackberry, and plums – alongside a honey sweetness, a lightly spicy and herbal hop balance.  FOUR is definitely worth taking some time to swirl.

 

THE SIXTH GLASS
Boulevard Brewing Company
Kansas City, Missouri
alcohol content 1O.5% ABV

A relative newcomer to the Massachusetts market, this Missouri-based brewery is one of the largest craft players in the country.  Despite its size, Boulevard Brewing also enjoys experimenting with some unusual and less appreciated styles.  A clever literary reference to a Hans Christian Anderson tale decrying the ills associated with getting to the half-dozen drink marker, this estimable Quad pours with an impassable quality, mixing deep burgundy and ruby tones with a sharp, tall cream head.  The aroma tingles with deep, dark, sweet fruits, including fat, juicy plums and a lingering black pepper spiciness that adds character on top of the considerable Belgian yeast notes.  Slightly phenolic to start, waves of dense, juicy fruit wash forward in a full-bodied mouthfeel that reveals hints of spice and deep, dark alcohol.

 

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