Each year my family has taken a week vacation in the winter up north. Last year was Vermont, this year we chose the neighboring state of New Hampshire. Although Vermont seems to have more of a popular brewery selection, NH still was booming with beer action mostly coming from small brew pubs and less than 100 barrel operations from what I experienced. And even though my interest in visiting Smuttynose placed high on the list of things to do, the smaller operations were what we stuck to.
In addition to the local brews, I brought along a few bottles to enjoy with the family. In all, we tried about 20 to 30 new beers while in NH. There were thankfully no true flops(or as I call "dumpers"). But some stole the show while other just blended in. In all 12 of the beers stuck out for good reasons and some not so good. Enjoy and try to get your hands on some if you can.
12-Allagash Hugh Malone IPA
Sadly this was a bit of a let down. Although the flavor was nice and full of hops, the carbonation level was too much for me. Pop rocks infused IPA seems like the right way to describe it. But to credit Allagash, this is their only offering I truly was not wowed by thus far.
11-Smuttynose Star Island Single
Smutty's newer session beer had all the promise of hit since becoming a fan of the lower abv session ales being offered by breweries now. But the flavor seemed to pair with the alcohol volume by being moderate in character. Although it pains me to say so, this was very reminiscent of a Budweiser.
10-Brooklyn Black Ops
I wish we picked up two bottles of this when we had a chance. Too much heat was the culprit of this promise barrel aged stout. The flavors promised by the label were there, but the pungent alcohol burn canceled most of them out. Unlike the previous two selections though, I would like to give this one another chance after a year or so of aging.
9-Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
Big name and big flavor. At times the flavor bordered on too big but that may be a result of the 3 1/2 years of aging this bottle went through. Strong dark chocolate flavor and unlike the Black Ops a much smaller alcohol warming sensation that went well with the cold weather. This is one I'm very glad to have another bottle of.
The base for Allagash's Curieux(which we drank 5 bottles of that week) was delightful to try. You could really pick up the flavors that were much subtle in Curieux before it went through the 8 weeks of barrel aging. Although good, I think the Dubble has a more complex flavor profile. Or I just can't get the idea of this being a young Curieux.
7-White Birch Nyx
One of the first NH exclusives we tried up there. Nyx is a Black IPA that seemed a little thick and flirted with being mistaken as a stout to an unknowing consumer. Deep roasted malt flavor and a thick body made it a heavy beer but the flavor profile was tremendous. Roasty, malty, hoppy. Upset we didn't grab some to take home.
6-The Lost Abbey Devotion
My introduction to the insanity that is The Lost Abbey. Tons of hype around this brewery upon its New Jersey distribution in January. Devotion seemed to promise an IPA based on the label but th ops were somewhat subtle. Th flavor otherwise though was enjoyable. Smooth body, high drink ability, and a nice lower abv made it something you can enjoy in quantity without being annihilated by the end of he night. A good intro to this brewery.
5-Southern Tier Cuvée Series One
Picked this boxed bottle up in the summer and have held it since. Originally made in 2008, Cuvée had lots to promise with its description. Big bourbon flavor, smooth body, and subtle hints of all types of wonderful. Vanilla, caramel, burnt sugar, and many other nuances that made this a favorite of everyone's.
4-The Flying Goose Isle of Pines Barleywine 2009
Hello local brew pub magic. A three year aged Barleywine that was slightly lower in alcohol(around 9%) but huge on flavor. We also tried the 2011 variation of this beer while at the brewery, but the 2 years aging won everyone over hands down. So much flavor we had to pick up a growler, which was gone with in a day. If we ever go back to the area, The Flying Goose will definitely be one of our stops.
As previously posted, here are the top 3. Hopefully my memory serves me well.
3-Smuttynose IPA "Finest Kind"
No wonder this IPA is rated so high on Beeradvocate, a nearly perfect IPA in very sense. Huge hop flavor that hits hard but then nicely fads that includes outstanding deniability, medium abv, and wonderful aroma. I'm partial to IPA's to begin with but this one has to be one of the best I've tried if not ever, then for quite some time. Glad it's a year round offering and not a 1 and done beer.
2-Squam Brewing Rattlesnake Rye-P.A.
Another NH exclusive beer that comes from a very small production brewery. And I do mean small, with just a 55 barrel capacity. Not being a huge fan of rye beers this one may have turned me. Highly drinkable, smooth carbonation level and a wonderful balanced flavor with all the flavors of the rye and hops jumping out at you but mingling with each other as well. I got smart towards the end of vacation and picked up 2 bottles of this to bring home in addition to their No Wake Wheat, which I've yet to try.
1-Firestone Walker 15
Without question the number 1 beer we tried. This beer is just sick. A blend of 8 different beers that goes through all types of aging made 15 the overwhelming favorite. I say things like "like nothing I've ever tried before" often when describing beers to others. But this truley is unique. Working with a winery, Firestone seems to have taken the perfect quality from each of their 8 beer and put them into to this one. Every sip revealed something different. One sip gives you bourbon, the next a subtle hop hit, then a cool funky leather type flavor, and finally a lucious coconut flavor.
Like always, new beers create new experiences and exposure to the great things that craft brewers are doing. This was not a let down in any way.