For a change of pace, this week I’m reviewing the entire lineup of beers from one brewery: Blue Hills Brewery in Canton, Mass. (While, almost the entire lineup: I didn’t try the Watermelon Wheat Beer since watermelon is on my list of things that shouldn’t be in beer.) Tasting them all was difficult, but these are the sacrifices we make in the name of research…
Blue Hill I.P.A.
Good color (a nice reddish amber hue) and looks slightly cloudy, so I assume it’s unfiltered like the wheat beer. It has a surprisingly strong malt aroma, which is continued in the tasting. (Hops is generally dominant in the IPA style.)
Imperial Red I.P.A.
This is an unfiltered bottle-conditioned ale, so it’s cloudy with golden-orange color. It has a nice malty aroma with hints of honey and vanilla.
It’s nicely balanced for an IPA that’s also high in alcohol (9.0% ABV) as the malt characteristics are quite strong and more than balance the typically strong hops of the IPA. All in all, quite drinkable and a good beer. (It was only after I’d sampled this that I visited the brewery’s website and discovered that this beer is a blend of the Red Baron and the IPA, which explains the malty character.)
Red Baron Ale
Nice beer! Beautiful caramel-amber color with a nice, tight, light brown head. Semi-sweet malty aroma with a good mix of maltiness and slight bitterness. Very flavorful without being overwhelming.
Black Hops Ale
They refer to this as a hybrid that combines elements of German Schwarzbier with American yeasts. Since I’m totally into Schwarzbiers, I was quite excited to try this – and a bit disappointed in the result. They seem to have attempted what Otter Creek did with the Alpine Black IPA I reviewed recently, and although they did a better job, it’s still a beer that tries to do too much.
Very nice color with dark amber shades, somewhat like maple syrup. It’s a bit flat with a thin head that dissipates quickly. Not at all bland, with a lot of different tastes working in here. Unlike the Alpine Black IPA, Black Hops Ale does a better job of selecting malt and hops. The blend here complements, rather than fights one another as in the former beer. That said, the hops still feel somewhat overdone, and a bit of an afterthought.
Marzen Spring Lager
The first time I tried this beer, I really didn’t like it. It tasted sour, almost skunky. I actually assumed I’d purchased a bad bottle! So I bought another bottle to try it again…with the same result. I’m not sure what they’re doing here, but this beer is a mistake. I haven’t tried a lot of marzens but I do know that I should expect a malty aroma. All I get from this is a kind of fruity, spicy aroma, almost like a weissbier.
When I taste it, I pick up sour, almost citron notes, with no real indication of hops. The color is nice, but not the color of marzen. More of a cloudy, unfiltered hefeweizen view. Maybe it’s simply misnamed!
After years of drinking mostly hoppy beers, mainly IPAs and pale ales, I’ve been looking for maltier beers lately, partly because my wife enjoys these and partly because in our visits to Germany her father has introduced us to several malty German styles I really like. So this beer, a richly malty German-style, really appealed to me. So much so that I forgot to make detailed tasting notes and have been unable to find it again. I’m guessing it’s a seasonal so I’ll just have to wait until next year!
Wampatuk Winter Wheat Dunkelweizen
Yum! This is a German-style of beer that I don’t see often in the U.S. A dunkelweisen is a darker wheat beer, adding more roasted malt to the typical weissbier menu of lighter wheat. It tends to be a rather complex beer, with a wide variety of possible flavors.
The Blue Hill version sticks closely to the classic dunkelweizen formula. In color, it’s very much like my dog! She’s a mutt but has a good dose of “red heeler” (aka Australian cattle dog) and this beer has the same reddish tones. It’s quite clear for a wheat beer so I assume it’s been filtered.
My wife (who’s German) calls this beer süffig, which means very drinkable (i.e. “It goes down easy”) and is a very good description of this beer. It lacks the strong spicy or floral overtones of a typical wheat beer. Instead, it features a more complex and robust flavor with the darker malts balancing the wheat. As a result, it’s sweet, as opposed to the slightly sour notes of a lighter wheat beer. It does produce spicier notes as you swallow. I picked up hints of vanilla and honey.
Aside from being slightly over-carbonated, this is a great beer that’s well worth trying.
Wampatuck Wheat Beer
I am not a wheat beer fan. However, I’ve tried to review this particular beer neutrally, i.e. by my knowledge of wheat beers and in comparison to other wheat beers I’ve tried. By that standard, I would say that this is a fairly typical wheat beer: cloudy and light-golden (the cloudiness is from the fact that wheat beers are typically unfiltered), fruity aroma, fairly carbonated with a loose head, slightly sour taste with strong fruit notes. The one difference I did notice from previous