Category Archives: Beers

Homebrew Cleansing

I used to be an avid home brewer… quite a few years ago… nearly 8, to be more exact. Over the 5 years that I participated in this worthwhile hobby, I accumulated quite a cache of saved bottles of my precious brews and have graciously shared these with friends and family . This cache has gradually dwindled down to just a very few bottles over the last couple of years… not the best of my production, perhaps, but the final ones none the less. I have decided that it is time to get rid of these… in hopes that I can restart my hobby and produce many more of the same (hopefully better).

I have listed the ones that I have left (in no particular order) and my thoughts concerning their current/final state…

  • Batch # 27 – Stout (ABV 4.8%) – Approximately 8.5 years old – A bit over carbonated. Pours a foamy dark black/brown in color with a light tan head. Aroma is still very stout-like… roasty with some coffee. Flavor is very oxidized and borderline unpleasant. Finish is slightly bitter and clean. It was a much better brew when younger. I am very surprised, actually, given the ABV of this brew, that this beer is in as good a shape as it is. This was the last one… bye-bye… 🙂
  • Batch #31 – IPA (ABV 5.7%) – Approximately 8 years old – Lightly carbonated. Pours a darkish amber in color with nearly no head at all. Aroma is, surprisingly, still hoppy, though quite muted. The hop flavors have almost entire disappeared… leaving just a bit of the bitterness behind. The malts, on the other hand, have some way forward… almost to the point of over sweetness. Quite oxidized and just a hint of funkiness… though it has held up surprisingly well. I have a couple of these bottles left and will enjoy both of them.
  • Batch # 7 – Scotch Ale (ABV 7.6%) – Approximately 10 years old – Almost no carbonation at all. Pours a quite dark black/brown in color with absolutely no head. This was always a sweet beer, but the aroma betrays a deepening of the sweetness… perhaps beyond what I would generally like. Flavor matches the aroma… nearly sickeningly sweet, but *very* mellow in taste. Oxidation is present. but well hidden behind the sweetness of the beer. Clean on the palate. This is the last of this beer. In its day, it was a very good one and I will miss it.

That ends the FINAL tasting of my home brew cache. I hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did… memories are for ever!!

From the HopPress: Just a little bit different…

From the HopPress: Just a little bit different...

My latest featured article for RateBeer’s The HopPress… posted on Saturday, February 19th.

I had a couple of things come across my desk this week that got me thinking about beer that some might consider to be a little bit to the left (or right) of center. I am talking about beer that most would consider “unusual”; not the typical hops, malt and yeast lineage that the vast majority of the beer that we all drink can be categorized as. These are beers that I would consider to be unusual because of their name, ingredients or marketing approach. I feel compelled to make the disclaimer that I have not tried very many of these beers mentioned in this article… but I would want to, just for the pure novelty of having done so.

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From the HopPress: A Brewer’s Best

From the HopPress: Made in Vermont - A Brewer's Best

My latest featured article for RateBeer’s The HopPress… posted on Saturday, January 22nd.

Like many of you, keeping up with the deluge of e-mails, RSS feed articles, Facebook pages or people, tweets and the like can be pretty overwhelming at times. I sort through hundreds and hundreds of them each week and that does not even begin to include what I see at work during the same period of time. Some of this, of course, I bring upon myself through my insistence on subscribing to as many beer-related sites, pages and newsletters as possible in order to keep my pulse on this beloved industry and I must admit that it is a “burden” that I will continue to willingly bear!

Earlier this week I received a “Friend of Harpoon” newsletter, which is distributed by the folks at Harpoon Brewery. “Friend of Harpoon” is a fan club of sorts for people who enjoy Harpoon’s fine selection of beers; which I definitely do. As a club member, you are entitled to the newsletter, of course, which contains a listing of upcoming Harpoon events and special news about just about everything else Harpoon-related. They even issue a membership card to their “Friends”, which can be used to collect member-only discounts at events and at the Harpoon company stores… but I digress. This particular edition of the newsletter also contained an announcement of the 35th beer to be released in Harpoon’s “100 Barrel Series” of beers; a rebrew/reformulation of a previously released beer, called Catamount Maple Wheat, which was also #26 in the series.

My interest in this beer was not so much its imminent release (early February), though I did like it the first time they produced it, but it really got me to thinking about other brewers that have their own special series of beers that they distribute only seasonally, at odd times (when the whim strikes them) or on an annual schedule. As I poked around on Ratebeer, I first discovered that there are, in fact, quite a number of brewers that do this and, secondly, some the beers in these “brewer’s best” series of beers are some of my favorite beers from those brewers.

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A VTHopHead Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving at the VTHopHead house is all about family, close friends, great food, football and, of course, good beer. While most people are focused on the turkey n’ stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin pie (I like these too) for my son Jamie and I it is also a time to pull out a “special” beer (or few) to add to the holiday cheer. This year he has scored an excellent Unibroue selection, including their abbey tripel La Fin Du Monde, and what will be my first beer from Nova Scotia, Alexander Keith’s Premium White. I also will have a slightly chilled bottle of Allagash Musette, one of their bourbon-barrel aged brews, on “standby”, just in case. This is shaping up to be a really great Thanksgiving!

Hmmm… I can hardly wait for Christmas!!

Pumpkin Ales – A Sign of the Season

I have been drinking a few pumpkin ales lately… ’tis the season for harvest-type ales, of course. I am not usually one for pumpkin beers… typically the spices are just a bit too much for me, but below is a run down of three of my most recent samplings… all of my RateBeer ratings can be found at

Clipper City Brewing Co. – Heavy Seas – “The Great Pumpkin” (ABV 8.0%, 3.2/5.0)
Bottle/22 – Pours a nice “pumpkin” amber in color with a very small whitish head that fades to almost nothing… low carbonation. Aroma is slightly sweet and almost all pumpkin spice (clove, nutmeg, cinnamon,etc.) and nothing else. Flavor is a bit more complex. Some pumpkin, spices (as noted) and a bit of harsh, unpleasant alcohol character. Slightly bitter and astringent at the end. Lingering bitterness with little else.

Shipyard Brewing Company – “Smashed Pumpkin” (ABV 9.0%, 3.6/5.0)
Draft at Great Lost Bear (Portland, ME) – Poured a coppery amber in color with almost no head and very little carbonation. Aroma is malty and sweet with the expected pumpkin pie spices. Flavor is interesting. I am not usually one for pumpkin beer, but this one was actually quite good. What made it for me was the reasonable amount of spices that were used… not overpowering at all. Plenty of malty sweetness with just enough hops to keep it from being too sweet. This one is actually a good pumpkin beer…

Weyerbacher Brewing Co. – “Imperial Pumpkin Ale” (ABV 8.0%, 3.3/5.0)
Bottle/12 – Pours a quite dark orange-amber in color with almost no head and very little carbonation. Aroma is sweet and heavy with “pumpkin” spices… cinnamon. clove, nutmeg, etc. Flavor is not nearly as sweet as I expected, but nearly overpowering with spice. Pumpkin flavor is actually apparent and lends some moderation, along with the hops that sneak in underneath, to the malty sweetness. Finish is slightly bitter and clean… except for the lingering pumpkin spices, which I seem destined to (burp!) relive for a while. Beer is pretty good, actually, but too many spices… a common complaint that I have about this type of beer.

All-in-all I enjoyed all of these beers (I usually do), but the Shipyard “Smashed Pumpkin” really stood out as my favorite. Seek it out… you will not be sorry!!

Requiem for Pennichuck Brewing Company?

It is not uncommon for me to search the Web for artifacts concerning the particular beer I am drinking at the time. I am sitting here drinking a Pennichuck Brewing “The Big O” Oktoberfest Lager and have just run across some very sad references to the Pennichuck Brewing Company. Apparently it has escaped my attention, until now, that Pennichuck has been on the brink of closure for the last month or so; a fact that now seems virtually inevitable.

On October 18th, Pennichuck announced that they would be closing up shop after about four years of operation. No reason was given for the closing. On October 19th the company announced that it had secured “angel” funding and would not need to close after all. However, on October 31st the following listing appeared on the NH Craigslist:

Pennichuck Brewing Co is realigning all company assets. We have
multiple listings for Glass ware, grain, tools, growler bottles, 12 oz
bottles, 22 oz bottles, photo copiers, brewery equipment, milk crates, Desks,
chairs, computers, beer, pallets of boxes, 6 pack carriers, If it was
in the brewery and not listed here call or email to see if we have
what you are looking for. You are welcome to come to the brewery to
look at what is selling or just buy the last of the Pennichuck beer
that will be sold for the next 9 or so months until we begin
production again. We are located at 127 Elm St, Milford, NH 03055.
603-261-5957. Email

While this listing indicates that they hope to begin production again at some point, it seems fairly unlikely; given that they are selling some of the very equipment and supplies necessary for that process.

I mourn the demise of this and any fine brewer, for whatever reason (I’m sure that the bad economy didn’t help)… its a fact that 80% of all business startups fail within their first 3 years and Pennichuck beat those odds. As I sit here enjoying one of their excellent beers… IBF winner of the Bronze Medal in 2006 and the Silver Medal in 2007… I can’t help but think of what I will be missing while I wait to see if they are able to resurrect themselves or if, unfortunately, they will simply fade into brewing history.

There is no question that I will be on the lookout for any remaining Pennichuck beers at my favorite suppliers; hoping to gather that last taste of their little bit of beer heaven… or perhaps just stash away enough to see me through for a while and hope that they get back on their feet. Either way, I am sure to enjoy whatever I can find.

#880 – Long Trail Imperial Porter

One their new “Brewmaster & Limited Edition Series”. Like many quality craft brewers these days, Long Trail has created this growing collection of “premium beers” for those looking for stepped up quality . The series currently includes their “Coffee Stout”, “Double IPA” and this “Imperial Porter”. Now the details…

Pours a very dark black/brown in color with a small tan head that faded to a thin covering over the beer. Some minor lacing on the glass. Aroma is heavy with darkly roasted malts, coffee, toffee/caramel and chocolate. Flavor is a really nicely balanced mix of roasted grains, slightly bitter coffee, creamy caramel and chocolate. Thick and chewy texture. Finish is lingering, medium bitter with dark roasted malts. Alcohol not apparent. This is really good!!

Everything I would have expected from a truly “premium” beer from a quality Vermont brewer. The “Double IPA” was also excellent and I can hardly wait to find the “Coffee Stout”.

Clipper City Heavy Seas – The Great Pumpkin Imperial Ale

Pours a nice “pumpkin” amber in color with a very small whitish head that fades to almost nothing… low carbonation. Aroma is slightly sweet and almost all pumpkin spice (clove, nutmeg, cinnamon,etc.) and nothing else. Flavor is a bit more complex. Some pumpkin, spices ( as noted) and a bit of harsh, unpleasant alcohol character. Slightly bitter and astringent at the end. Lingering bitterness with little else.

Heavy Seas Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Heavy Seas Imperial Pumpkin Ale