If you find this blog interesting I'd like to take a moment and invite you to visit


where you will find much more...

Peter LaFrance

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Third Day of The 2009 New England Brewery Tour


Today was the easiest day of the tour... just one brewery.

This afternoon it was a visit to The Gilded Otter in New Paltz, NY.

I'll admit that this was not the first visit to the Otter. Their brews are not only clean and balanced, the staff is knowledgeable enough to be able to make pairing suggestions that make the visit even better.

This time the challenge was pairing one of the brews with their Reese's Pieces pie... Not surprisingly the choice was their Stout. Although the stout came off a bit dry the combination with the pie was a very good match.

At lunchtime, in the middle of the week the "Otter" has a mix of local business folks, and professors and students from the local college. The outdoor seating is comfortable and the service is friendly and more than adequate.

After three days of traveling and visiting breweries it was time to take a break so it was back to Brooklyn.

Tomorrow you can expect some of the pictures from the places visited: Northampton Brewpub, Jasper Murdock's, Harpoon (VT), Magic Hat, The Alchemist and the above mentioned Gilded Otter.

Flat Bread, and Opa! Opa! were not visited because they opened at 1600 hours ( 4:00 pm) and did not fit into the travel schedule. Davidson Brothers and The Adirondack Pub & Brewery also fell out of the deck because of timing.

In the end it came to six out of ten and that's not too bad...

What does this mean?
It means another tour in the near future.


Peter LaFrance

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Second Day of the 2009 New England Brewery Tour


First of all, as you may have noticed, there have been no pictures. Blame that on technology. They will follow on the web-site. (I have some super pictures - and video of the fermenters at Magic Hat and the new bottling line at Harpoon - Windsor, VT).

We began the day at Harpoon (Windsor,VT) after a short drive from Norwich, VT. We discovered there have been some major changes there over the last year. One of the most impressive is the "brew-pub" part of the operation. It was still being worked on while we were there. The new bottling line was also impressive. At over 400 bottles a minute they have developed a system that gives them a chance to make even more of an impression on the national market.

The brewpub aspect, as well as the merchandising area will be impressive when finished. In particular, the care to detail is going to make a visit there memorable.

The next stop was the renovated facility at Magic Hat. Their new open fermenter system was a beauty to see and gave a olfactory impression that was memorable. Again, pictures and video to follow.

Unfortunately Flat Bread was not open when we got there in the early afternoon. And so it was off to Waterbury and The Alchemist. This brewpub was just getting its first rush when we got there. One fellow had been there most of the afternoon it seemed and was enjoying the results. More to the point the beers there were tasty, clean and refreshing. One, just over 4% abv was a real fine brew. As we were expected at a fine restraunt later we just had a small plate of cheese. The Vermont cheeses they presented were served at the best temperature and were better than at the place where we had dinner.

And now the big confession... after consideration it is time to return to Brooklyn. The New York breweries in Lake George will have to wait. On the way back we will visit The Guilded Otter and call it a trip.

Thanks for following and I'll let you know when and where the pictures and video will be posted.


Peter LaFrance
( http://www.beerbasics.com )

Monday, May 18, 2009

The First Day

The First Day


It is the evening of the first day of the New England Brewery Tour 2009. I must say it was a mixed case of missing the chance (one should always call ahead to make sure the place you want to visit is open for business), making the best of a situation (visiting a brewery or brewpub unannounced and finding it ample but not impressive), and finally finding just what the tour was all about (the good beer, interesting brewer and good food).

The first stop was Opa! Opa! A steakhouse brewpub in Southampton, MA… We arrived there at 1230 hours and the sign on the door said it opened at 1600. (Should have called ahead.) The stand-by was the Northampton Brewpub… the place was hard to find and was enjoying a slow day for the wait staff and a too busy day for the brewing staff. However, the fish sandwich was tasty and the waitress was pleased almost beyond words when I asked her to pick the brew to go with my fried fish sandwich. (The fish was tasty and not oil-drenched and the IPA was a nice complement).

Then came Brattleboro and the cases of the closed shops… first the older brewpub was shuttered and the newest brew-bar (Long Trail) was closed on Monday. So much for calling ahead…

The final stop, The Norwich Inn was right on. Since this was not my first visit here I did know what to expect. What I was not expecting was a visit by Tim, the original brewer, visiting with Pat, the new (last three years) brewer. The tour of the brew house was informative and fun. The brews later in the pub were tasty and paired well with the smoked brisket. After a walk to make room for desert the Porter and molten chocolate cake were the best ending to a brew event I could imagine.

In short, two out of five seems a fairly good score.

Tomorrow it will be Harpoon, Magic Hat, Flat Bread and The Alchemist… stay tuned!


Peter LaFrance
( http://www.beerbasics.com )

The New England May 2009 Brewery Tour


Today is the first day of the New England 2009 Brewery Tour.

The tour should consist of visits, announced and some unannounced, to the following breweries (brewpubs): Opa! Opa!, Southampton, MA - Northampton Brewery: 11 Brewster Ct, Northampton, MA - Jasper Murdock's, Norwich, VT - Harpoon Brewery, Windsor, VT - Magic Hat Brewery, South Burlington, VT - Flat Bread, Burlington, VT - The Alchemist, Waterbury, VT - Adirondack Pub & Brewery, Lake George, NY - Davidson Brothers, Glens Falls, NY and the Guilded Otter, New Paltz, NY.

The tour will last from today through Thursday.

Each evening, if there is web access, I hope to post an account of the days events and pictorial proof that it actually happened.

Stay tuned....


Peter LaFrance
( http://www.beerbasics.com )

Friday, May 1, 2009

A taste of… Guinness 250

St. James Gate

Preface: As you can see from the picture above, this tasting did not take place “in house.” The draft was drawn at The Waterfront Alehouse in Brooklyn, NY. I can assure you that this was a “beer-clean” glass and was served at slightly below the suggested serving temperature. That said…

Appearance: This brew in a deep dark brown with garnet hints when back-lit with a mini-Maglite. There is little note of carbonation. A thick, dense bone-white head of fairly large bubbles sits atop the brew.

Aroma: The first impression is clean with neither noticeable malt nor hop aromas. The second impression, after the brew warmed for a few minutes, brought out some malt aromas. The third impression offered little else. The lip-to-sip impression heralded some sweetness.

Mouth feel: The refreshing cool sensation had little or no carbolic acid spike to affect the following flavors.

Flavor: The first impression is of a slightly less emphatic version of the expected flavors associated with traditional Guinness stout. The second impression reveals a sturdy roasted malt flavor with a noticeably dry sensation. The third impression presents more questions than observations.

Finish: The final effect is a very dry finish with a lack of the depth of flavors associated with traditional Guinness Stout.

Comments: First a caveat – This brew was poured at 40-45 F, a bit cool for full appreciation. That said, it occurs to me that the ghost of Arthur Guinness might have been influencing present day brewers to offer a brew more in the style of the original Guinness porter. The folks at Guinness might not like my observation that this seems to be a Guinness “Light”… Could it be that this is an attempt to develop market share by “adjusting” their recipe to fit a perceived demand for a less “aggressive” flavor profile? (Consider that traditional Guinness, on draft in the US is 6% abv and this product (on draft) is listed at 5% abv.)

Notes from the Guinness Press Release:

Brewing Process:
• Crafted and brewed in Ireland, the GUINNESS 250 Anniversary Stout is a new innovation product that uses a unique brewhouse process. This process blends two malt types in a double “brew stream” along with water from the Wicklow Hills, and of course as in all GUINNESS Stouts, roasted barley to create the deep rich color and enigmatic flavor
• The fermentation process for the GUINNESS 250 Anniversary Stout uses GUINNESS’ own yeast which has been extended to allow for more conversion of the natural sugars. The result is a more malty flavor profile
• A triple hop addition regime provides a hint of bitterness

Product Style:
• Look: A near white frothy stout beer head of larger bubble size than GUINNESS Draught, to be poured on draught in a one-part pour or gently from a bottle (as opposed to the two-part pour of GUINNESS draught). It is vibrant, unique and distinctive in color – still dark with a distinctive stout head
• Flavor: This stout has a crisp effervescent taste with a balanced malty, roasted / hop flavor. The malty, roasted, bitter flavor balance is enhanced when released with a lively, refreshing and smooth carbonated mouthfeel

Pricing: 6-pack GUINNESS 250 Anniversary Stout bottles = $7.99-8.49
ABV: 5%
Caloric Value: 136.3 calories per 11.2 oz. bottle

Brewery site: http://www.guinness.com/us_en/

What others thought:

Rate Beer: http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/guinness-250-anniversary-stout/101769/

Beer Advocate: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/209/49122

Peter LaFrance
(peter.lafrance@beerbasics.com )