Honest Pint’s bike and beer correspondent pedals his way around to local breweries,
samples beer, and reports back.
One day in mid-September, after taking my two kids to school, I exchanged our mountain bike with seats for two kids, nicknamed the “mini-van,” for my road bike and set out for Mystic Brewery. Mystic sits on the outskirts of an industrial area in Chelsea, and as I biked through the tractor trailers and railroad tracks, I found myself wondering about the differences in size and brewing philosophy among those I met on this trip. Over the first few days of my trip, I found many answers to those questions–and more, like how breweries are struggling to get all the hops they need, about spontaneous fermentation, and the debate about bottle conditioning versus forced carbonation.
Fermentation tanks at Mystic Brewery: Mystic uses square tanks to encourage a difference in temperature not found in conical tanks
DAY 1: MYSTIC BREWERY AND NIGHT SHIFT BREWING
Mystic Brewery is located in a Chelsea warehouse. At the moment, the brewery has three square fermentation tanks, that lead to temperature differences in the bottom and top of the tank, explains Bryan Greenhagen, Mystic’s founder. These temperature changes impact the flavor of the beer, aiding in the creation of the saison’s flavor.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of my visit to Mystic was hearing Bryan talk about spontaneous fermentation and Mystic’s Vinland series anniversary beer. The first of the Vinland series, marking the brewery’s first anniversary, is brewed using yeast cultivated at Mystic Brewery from the Massachusetts grown plums.
Have you ever wondered about the white sheen found on the outside of grapes, plums, blueberries, and other fruits?
That is yeast that waits for the fruit to be cut or begin decomposition so that it can use the fruit sugar to grow. This process, called spontaneous fermentation, was used by Bryan to develop the fruit notes found in Vinland One. Be on the lookout for future spontaneously fermented Vinland products in the future.
Look out for: The release of their Malt Cordial series and the projected opening of their taproom in 2013
After pedaling my way back through the Chelsea’s industrial landscape, the second stop in my brew-bike adventure was to Everett’s own Night Shift Brewing. The guys at Night Shift seek to create memorable, innovative beer in their three-and-a-half barrel nano-brewery. After seeing the fermentation tanks at Mystic Brewery only minutes before, the compact size of the Night Shift space and fermentation tanks can be a shock.
When I arrived, Michael Oxton was mid-boil for a Red Ale that will debut sometime in the spring of 2013. While there, I sample the Viva Habanera – an amazing balance of rye beer, agave and heat. I also look forward to trying the Taza Stout this winter, as they recently re-released the beer in bottles and on draft.
Look out for: The spring release of their Red Ale and the re-release of their Taza Stout.
DAY TWO: JACK’S ABBY BREWING
Day two of the brew-bike adventure began with a leisurely bike ride from Medford to Framingham for a tour at Jack’s Abby. With a pannier of camera gear, I set out with a water bottle full of black coffee through wooded streets in Newton and an off-road trail in Wellesley before losing that feeling of serenity while ducking back into traffic on Rt. 135 into Framingham.
As I walked into the brewing facility, the differences scale of brewing done at Mystic, Nightshift and Jack’s Abby was obvious. Jack’s Abby, located in a warehouse just off of Rt 135, was the largest I brewery visited to date–and they have plans to expand the number of fermentation tanks on site this December.
Jack and company released Mom & Pop’s Wet Hop Lager earlier this month, a 100 percent locally sourced beer. Unlike most beer, they did not use dried hops, opting instead to use hops from Massachusetts and their family farm in Vermont which were harvested the morning of the brewing.
This lager is subtle and has less of a bite than an IPA or India Pale Lager would–due to the use of entirely fresh hops.
I also sampled Mom & Pops Pumpkin Crop Lager, which while early in its fermentation period during my trip, looks to be an outstanding pumpkin offering. For those of you who shy away from the spiciness of pumpkin beer, I encourage you to give this one a try. The beer’s focus is on highlighting the fresh pumpkin flavor rather than resembling your grandmother’s pumpkin pie.
Look out for: Their new beers, Fire in the Ham; Mom & Pop’s Pumpkin Crop Lager; and their late 2012/early 2013 expansion