No Corporate Beer Reviews: Framinghammer

Beer: Framinghammer
Brewery: Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers (Framingham, MA)
Style: Porter – Imperial / Double Baltic
10% ABV / 55 IBU

Hats off for a very clever name: This Jack’s Abby Baltic porter references both the blunt but effective tool in a handyman’s belt and the family-operated brewery’s location outside of Boston. Considering that Jack’s Abby also has “Craft Lagers” in its name, is Framinghamer really a lager or more like an ale? Turns out that porters can be either, based on the type of fermentation (cool for lagers). So if Jack’s Abby says this is a lager, we’re down with that, because Framinghammer has a sweeter swing than Jim Rice.

It’s also spectacularly drinkable for a 10% ABV beer. Wait, let’s backtrack for a second: It’s spectacular. Period. It’s one of the finest renditions of a Baltic porter currently available in the United States and one that doesn’t suffer from the curse of the modern Baltic porter, with a robust flavor profile and a medium body. Those seem to be characteristics associated with bolder, boozier Russian imperial stouts, but Framinghammer shows that Baltic porters can be more than thin onyx booze bombs.

Flavor-wise, you can definitely taste things like barley, oats, and chocolate malt. That’s also reflected in the color, plus the aroma of French roast coffee and burnt sugar/ caramel. Framinghamer is a malt-forward beer, of course, but there’s also some short, sharp jabs of bitterness from the hops, which offers some chicory notes. That palette-clinging bitterness plus the moderate booziness combine for a warming effect that’s perfect for a winter brew, but if you want to down this with the rest of the igits at a wicked rippah after hitting up Dunkies, that’s ok, too.

For more info on Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers, please head here

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No Corporate Beer Reviews: Long Jawns

Beer: Long Jawns
Brewery: Yards Brewing Co. (Philadelphia, PA)
Style: Lager – Winter
6% ABV / 15 IBU

This seasonal offering from the Metal & Beer Fest stalwarts Yards calls itself a “winter lager,” but it’s basically a Schwarzbier—malt-forward, not too bitter, and very, very black. Without getting too far down a rabbit hole, this is an excellent intro into the surprisingly diverse world of dark lagers. It’s also a slightly more toothsome—even at 6% ABV!—offering from brewery dedicated to lower gravity and highly quaffable offerings like the Brawler mild ale. Yards Brewing Co. always crushes it on “utility” beers, i.e. brews that can adapt to any setting and won’t get you wrecked.

The onyx color is the standout feature here; Long Jawns almost resembles a Baltic porter in color and form, with little to no lacing or head. Its nose is fairly deceptive, too, since it doesn’t really offer any hints to the lager’s flavor profile. But there’s a good measure of carbonation with the first swig and, also, some of the spiciness you’d typically associate with a winter warmer style beer. But just enough spiciness to tickle the tip of the tongue. Overall, Long Jawns strikes a fine balance between spiciness, bitterness, and malt (in this case, a blend of Dark Munich and Carafa II).

As this winter lager warms to room temperature, the bitterness comes forward a bit more. But Long Jawns is a lager, so it is meant to be consumed cold and best experienced that way—that’s where the clean finish really comes through. Given the overall trend over the last few years of reclaiming lagers as an alternative to higher-octane IPAs, the black lager has been largely left out on the curb. This is a style (er, a small range of styles) that prefers a simple, stark, unfettered presentation, making Long Jawns a brilliant beacon in a sea of very unimaginative, very light, and ultra-basic Mexican style lagers.

For more info on Yards please head here

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No Corporate Beer Reviews: Applocalypse

Beer: Applocalypse
Brewery: The Brewing Projekt (Eau Claire, WI)
Style: Sour – Fruited Gose
5% ABV / N/A IBU

Initially wasn’t sure what to make of this, but the siiiiick can art (reminiscent of Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit series) guides the way to something unique: a hard mulled cider. Not a hard cider—there are plenty of these to chose from—but a mildly alcoholic version of a traditional hot apple cider with mulling spices. In this case, it’s a healthy does of vanilla and cinnamon to complement the apple, plus an admittedly trendy-but-still-delicious add-in of granola to up the “dessert” factor.

As apple cider-flavored adult beverages go, Applocalypse presents pretty normally: apple, cinnamon and vanilla on the nose, then all three of those things at first sip. There’s a sort of unity of purpose tying it all together. But there’s also a hint of bitterness which may or may not stem from the inclusion of the granola, plus this really nice warming effect from the alcohol and the spices as this kettle sour slides down your throat. Even though the gose is really a summer style, Applocalypse works beautifully as a fall seasonal.

The caveat is that you must really like apple juice to get into this, because it’s very sweet. 8 oz of this is perfect. A 16 oz pounder can is an afternoon of slow sippin’, A four-pack is a bottle share situation with your friends where everyone’s into experiencing liquid weirdness. Speaking of which, I decided to set part of Applocalypse aside so I could experiment with nuking it in the microwave. Warm beer, yuck, but there’s a whole tradition of olde time mulled ales made with apple skins, so why not? Turns out that Applocalypse totally works as a hot beverage and it’s arguably better that way, tamping down on some of the sweetness and really accentuating the vanilla. Time to party like it’s 1799!

For more info on The Brewing Projekt please head here

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No Corporate Beer Reviews: Parabolita

Beer: Parabolita
Brewery: Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, CA)
Style: Stout- Imperial/Double
9.2% ABV / 0 IBU

By the time you are reading this, you should have accomplished two important actions: Stopped writing 2022 on your checks and made the switch to dark beers. Get that goddamn session IPA out of your hand and don’t let that gose touch your lips—you need a higher octane choice to carry you through the holiday season. As stouts go, Firestone Walker’s Parabolita is perfect. They’ve taken what is generally considered to be a world-class imperial stout (Parabola) and aged it in bourbon barrels with a mix of vanilla beans, cocoa nibs, and sea salt to create a “salted caramel” flavor profile—an enhanced stout experience.

Technically, Parabolita showcases Firestone Walker’s brewing and blending prowess, as it also includes some of the brewery’s flagship Velvet Merlin milk stout. Having sampled both Parabola and Velvet Merlin on numerous occasions, I prefer what’s going on with Parabolita—although that is less about the blend and more about the warming effect created by the gentle barrel-aging and the sweet/ bitter balance of the vanilla and cocoa notes. For fans of the cult favorite Kentucky Breakfast Stout—incidentally, the very first beer reviewed in this column—from Founders, Parabolita will perhaps be a bit muted, but the one-year aging process supports, not threatens, the integrity of the stout base.

Parabolita will be a bit of a revelation for fans of vanilla. It’s everywhere in this imperial stout—strong on the nose, equally strong as you sip it, and a medium sort of finish that showcases the interplay between the vanilla and the cocoa nibs. Parabolita also has a really nice creamy mouthfeel, which is perfect as an accompaniment for s’mores or hanging out by a fire pit. Perhaps then most exciting thing is that this is the first Firestone Walker blend available in 16oz pounder cans. Not only do you not have to wait for a bottle share to get a taste; you don’t even have to share.

For more info on Firestone Walker Brewing Company,
 please head here

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Dinosaur Jr. – You’re Living All Over Me

Still Choppin’
The Making of Dinosaur Jr.’s You’re Living All Over Me

We’re here because You’re Living All Over Me is unquestionably one of the most important records in the development of alternative rock. This is a stone-cold fact. Four years before grunge catapulted underground music into the mainstream, Dinosaur Jr. laid out a practical blueprint for freaky, noisy “ear-bleeding country.” This is a style that has maintained its currency and continues to be particularly popular in contemporary music, even if it was more of an accidental invention for Dinosaur Jr., reflecting the trio’s enthusiasm for Black Sabbath and R.E.M.

The trio’s ’87 masterpiece also proved to be influential on artists like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive in the gestation of the shoegaze genre, so named for its copious use of guitar pedals to bend time and space. This, of course, led to post-rock, post-metal, metalgaze and, oh, about 35 years of musicians refusing to make eye contact during performances and interviews. Dinosaur Jr.’s most dramatic throughline to metal, though, might be that the band represents half of the lineup of legendary hardcore punk band Deep Wound, one of the earliest progenitors of what would become grindcore. You’re Living All Over Me is not a “metal” record by any stretch, but it absolutely pulsates with that type of energy on searing tracks like “Lose.”

Less than a year after this album’s release, bassist Lou Barlow got the boot and the band continued for a few more years with singer/guitarist J Mascis and drummer Patrick “Murph” Murphy as its anchors. Part of the enduring legacy of You’re Living All Over Me is its agelessness. J, Murph and Lou have way more gray hair, but it’s often hard to discern the differences between the path they started to chart as teenagers and the warm, welcoming albums they have recorded since reuniting in 2005. The three personalities in Dinosaur Jr. have always been willful and uncompromising. Despite the tension this kind of dynamic creates, they know that the music they are capable of making together represents a very singular vision.

You’re Living All Over Me is the most-fully realized vision of the original incarnation of Dinosaur Jr. The distortion/fuzz on the first 25 seconds of the album opener “Little Fury Things” and the stoned riff on “SludgeFeast” alone should earn Mascis an entry ticket to the guitar god pantheon. Meanwhile, the rhythm section of Barlow and Murphy carry burners like “In a Jar” and, to a more cacophonous extreme, “The Lung.” Every song contains multitudes, even the comparatively obtuse lo-fi tape loop piece (“Poledo”) that Barlow put together to close out the album.

Mascis sums up the enduring appeal of the band best on “Raisans”: “I’ll be down, I’ll be around / I’ll be hanging where eventually you’ll have to be.” It’s a song about being rejected, but knowing that you’re where you belong. If You’re Living All Over Me doesn’t hook you immediately, you’ll come around.

Need more classic Dinosaur Jr? To read the entire seven-page story, featuring interviews with the members who performed on You’re Living All Over Me, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.

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No Corporate Beer Reviews: DOOM

Beer: DOOM
Brewery: Adroit Theory (Purcellville, VA)
Style: Bitter – Extra Special / Strong (ESB)
5.6% ABV / 40 IBU

If your musical accompaniment for this Adroit Theory beer is anything other than doom metal, you’re doing it wrong. I queued up Iron Man, Unorthodox, and The Obsessed since Adroit Theory’s space in Purcellville, VA is really just a short drive from the one-time nexus of Maryland doom. You could also go with an all-British pairing to stay true to the roots of the Extra Special Bitter style. It’s your party. Or, if the playlist is 100% My Dying Bride, your, uh, funeral.

As an ESB, Adroit Theory pretty much nailed it with DOOM. It is definitely the standout of the Virginia brewery’s heavy metal genre tribute series, which also includes Black Metal (an altbier), Thrash Metal (a helles lager), and Death Metal (a wheatwine) The ESB is pretty much the anti-IPA, a style for malt fanatics where the hops, while not a complete afterthought, are relegated to a supporting role. Here, there’s sweetness on the nose and a very long tail of caramel and toffee notes. Because of that mellow flavor profile, it’s a style that is easy to drink.

As always, the can art totally slays, but you are encouraged to drink this one out of a glass. Not so much for the chemical reaction when the beer comes out of the can, but because it’s a really pretty beer. The amber color is pitch-perfect for the style and the level of carbonation produces interesting lacing effects/around the glass. This is also a beer that absolutely benefits from a hard pour. Tip it quickly into a pint glass to produce the most massive possible head. It becomes a bit like drinking a cappuccino, where the foam is light and sweet, and the liquid underneath sports the bitterness. All in all, a fantastic brew—here’s to hoping Adroit keeps this in constant rotation.

For more info on Adroit Theory, please head here

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No Corporate Beer Reviews: Babylone

Beer: Babylone
Brewery: Brussels Beer Project (Brussels, Belgium)
Style: IPA – Belgian
7% ABV / 55 IBU

The idea behind the Brussels Beer Project’s “bread IPA” is up-cycling: At least 20% of the grain base of Babylone is from loaves of unsold bread, which have been dried out and pulverized into crumbs. It’s a fantastic idea from an environmental standpoint, since brewing produces a lot of waste with spent grain. True, that spent grain can be fed to animals or milled into a high-fiber flour for baking. But the latter produces a large amount of non-enriched flour that can only be used in limited ratios. Babylone still produces waste, but the Brussels Beer Project estimates that the beer rescues 10 tons of bread every year, so Mother Earth benefits a bit here.

If this is intended to be a beer that conveys the idea of drinking liquid bread, Babylone doesn’t quite live up to the hype. I’d hoped for something thick, yeasty, and incredibly malt-forward. Brussels Beer Project gets it right with the color – an opaque light brown that resembles whole wheat bread. There’s the faintest hint of yeastiness on the nose, but it doesn’t come through in the flavor or the mouthfeel. Babylone is surprisingly light-bodied and very carbonated for a beer of this style. But the label ain’t lying: It is a Belgian style IPA made with bread.

Interesting things happen as this beer warms up to room temperature. The maltiness of Babylone comes forward as Babylone opens up. It also becomes less mellow and a little more bracing and bitter, which is really where you experience the impact of it being dry-hopped twice (with Columbus and Chinook hops) at the end of its fermentation phase. What’s odd is that Babylone looks and drinks like a slightly citrus-y English Special Bitter, albeit at a much higher gravity. Either way, your body metabolizes this in the same way as a hunk of bread; this is definitely the more appealing way to consume a stale loaf.

For more info on Brussels Beer Project, please head here

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No Corporate Beer Reviews: 25th Anniversary Ale

Beer: 25th Anniversary Ale
Brewery: Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, NY)
Style: Red Ale – Imperial / Double
9% ABV / 25 IBU

25 years in continuous operation is a cause for celebration but Brewery Ommegang’s future was never in doubt. The Cooperstown brewery’s calling card has always been Americanized versions of abbey ales with its flagship Three Philosophers casting such a long shadow that few breweries dare to compete in the Belgian quad style. Ommegang gets some credit here for being able to read the tea leaves at a time when Belgian imports like Delerium Tremens, Duvel, and Chimay offered a gateway into the world of craft beer, but it’s the quality and distinctiveness of their beers that has endured.

Ommegang isn’t trying to recreate familiar Belgian brands with its 25th Anniversary Ale—it’s a red ale for starters, and a fairly high-octane rendition. The inclusion of orange peel and coriander—what typically gives the Belgian witbier (a la Hoegaarden) its flavor palette—offers a wonderfully transformative twist with Ommegang’s 25th Anniversary Ale. Why aren’t more red ales brewed with adjuncts? Scratch that: Why aren’t all red ales brewed with adjuncts? Here’s a style that is the very definition of “blah” on its own that gets fruitiness and spiciness and a way more complex taste and nose from just adding two ingredients.

The bitterness, which comes from the late addition of Cascade hops, is pretty appealing, too. There’s a bit of bitterness from the orange peel and coriander, but it’s the hops that give the Ommegang 25th Anniversary Ale its dry, tongue-tingling finish. Like recent 25th anniversary celebration beers from Stone (Triple IPA), Left Hand (Russian Imperial) and Great Divide (Imperial Stout), the Ommegang 25th Anniversary Ale plays to all of the brewery’s strengths. This one is apparently only available in limited release, so snag a four-pack and set it aside—cellaring this one for a little might take the edge off of the bitterness and create a more malt-forward experience.

For more info on Ommegang, please head here

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No Corporate Beer Reviews: Solstice

Beer: Solstice
Brewery: OEC Brewing (Oxford, CT)
Style: Bock – Hell. Maibock/ Lentebock
6% ABV / 0 IBU

This Connecticut brewing/blending operation’s full name is Ordinum Ecentrici Coctores, which translates to “The Order of the Eccentric Boilers.” It’s meant as a bit of a goof on secret societies and to skewer the idea of gatekeeping in craft brewing, Of course, the brewery’s approach is very studious—they’re devoted to turning out clean, drinkable revivals of old world brewing styles that might get edged out of taproom menus in the race to cater to hopheads.

Solstice is OEC’s playful and perplexing tribute to the heller bock style, with a familiar blend of pilsner and Vienna malts. The rest, though, is pretty unexpected, starting with a golden color that more closely resembles a hazy IPA. The flavor profile is a lot like a hazy IPA, too, owing somewhat to the fruity and floral notes from the Galazy hops. Solstice has actually been hopped twice: Once in the wort and then a dry-hopping phase before canning. Between the wet and dry-hopping, Solstice goes through open fermentation and then aging in oak foeders.

So, yeah, there’s a lot going on with Solstice, but each element of the brewing, fermentation, and aging process has created a totally unique bock-style beer. Something like this will probably be a disappointment for those that associate bocks only with the ultra malt-forward doppelbock. But for those that are seeking alternatives to one-note lagers or suffering burnout from festbiers, Solstice will be a bit of a revelation. Its crispness is mighty nice, but it’s the bitter, bracing finish from the French Mistral hops that throws it over the top. Prost!

For more info on OEC Brewing, please head here

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No Corporate Beer Reviews: Stone 25th Anniversary Triple IPA

Beer: Stone 25th Anniversary Triple IPA
Brewery: Stone Brewing (Escondido, CA)
Style: IPA – Triple
12.5% ABV / 100 IBU

With a blend of eight different hops, Stone Brewing’s 25th Anniversary beer is very bitter and extremely dank—a fine, fitting way to celebrate the Brewery’s roots as a West Coast operation. Stone already celebrated its 25th birthday in mid-September with a series of low-key events at its taprooms in California and Richmond, VA, but this triple IPA is designed to keep the party going until Stone launches a bigger celebration in 2022.

Like most Stone beers, 25th Anniversary Triple IPA is available in six-packs and 22oz bomber bottles, which means it will be stocked side-by-side with mid-range ABV stalwarts like Stone Ripper and Stone IPA. Proceed with caution here, because one 12 oz can of the 25th Anniversary Triple IPA will go a long, long way. This beer is 2x as strong as most of Stone’s regular IPAs, which is enough to smash your face in, although 25th Anniversary Triple IPA doesn’t have the alcohol burn that accompanies a lot of beers in the 11% range and up.

Hop-wise, this well-balanced triple IPA sports the unmistakable bouquet of Citra and Simcoe; the smell and flavor of peaches, apricots, cantaloupe, grilled (caramelized) pineapple and guava dominate. It has a surprisingly fruity taste, cut by bold, bracing bitterness from the hops. It’s a terrific rendition of the TIPA style, akin to Lagunita Brewing Company’s ultra-dank and super-cultish The Waldos’ Special Ale, but in a more balanced formulation that could find favor beyond a 4/20 novelty. Hopefully 25th Anniversary Triple IPA enjoys a relatively long shelf life; Stone hasn’t had a TIPA in its regular rotation since RuinTen, and that was generally considered to be a definitive, essential rendition of the style.

For more info, check out Stone here.

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