Bitter is Better at Trillium Brewing Company

This past weekend we traveled to Boston, MA for Bethany’s grandfather’s 90th birthday party. On our way up north, we enjoyed a great pit stop at Two Roads Brewing Co. in Connecticut. Our second pit stop before reaching our AirBnB in East Boston was Trillium Brewing Company in Canton, MA, about 20-30 minutes outside of Boston. We had heard a great deal about Trillium lately but haven’t seen much of their product down here in PA. We were excited to experience their brewery and beers and finally felt like we can be  part of the popular kids in school. Trillium is a relative newcomer to the craft beer world, having established themselves in 2013 at their original Fort Point neighborhood location in South Boston. Since then, they opened their large brewing facility and taproom in Canton, with the Fort Point location currently focused more on bottle distribution and piloting small batch beers. However, they have plans to expand the Fort Point location to include a restaurant and brewery set to open in 2018.

Upon arrival, we were impressed by the size and busyness of the Canton location. The parking lot was filled beyond capacity — we ended up parked a block away on a side street. Expecting a long wait to get our beers, we were surprised to see that we could walk right up to the bar and order straight away. We’re still not certain where they put all of those people parked outside, but we are definitely not complaining about it. The facility is divided, with the right side serving as the taproom and the left for purchases of growlers, crowlers, and beer-to-go. The building was modern with rustic elements, including old barrels for seating. It is dog friendly, so if you love bringing your pooch on your brewery visits, this is a great place to go. The brewing area is to the side of the taproom, offering a commanding presence from their huge steel tanks — it is quite an operation. They had a wide selection of beers, with the hoppy New England varieties the most prominent along with a few darker beers and some funky sour options. We tried two IPAs – the Farnsworth Street IPA and Heavy Mettle Double IPA, two pale ales – the Double Dry Hopped Fort Point Pale Ale and the Launch Beer Pale Ale, and the PM Dawn American Stout with Cold Brew Coffee. We were blown away by the hoppiness of their IPAs — incredibly full flavor and massively bitter with loads of citrus. They really pay homage to the New England hop-forward tradition! Our favorites of the hop varieties were the Farnsworth Street IPA and the Launch Beer — we found them to be well balanced and refreshing. We grabbed a four-pack of the Launch Beer to share with our family, and it was very well received. The PM Dawn stout was also delicious; the cold-press coffee was a prominent flavor and provided a refreshing change of pace from the hoppy beers. However, we’d recommend having the stout BEFORE the hoppy beers, as the bitterness of the IPAs can dampen the taste of the stout. All in all, Trillium is very hip, very hoppy, and a great place to experience true New England-style beers.

Have you been to Trillium before? Let us know in the comments! Check out our other brewery reviews here.

Cheers!

Bethany and Mike

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Ella, You Had Me at Barrel-Aged Quad!

Beer release alert! Free Will Brewing Co. in Perkasie, Pennsylvania released some heavy hitters this Thanksgiving weekend – the Ella, a Belgian-style quad ale aged in apple brandy barrels, and the Ralphius, a bourbon barrel-aged Russian imperial stout. Ella and Ralphius are named after two of the brewers adopted dogs (awww!), and both are high gravity, barrel-aged animals with a serious kick. We didn’t want to spend our Saturday night on the floor, so we went for Ella tonight and will spend some time with Ralphius tomorrow.

When I saw that Ella was a Belgian style quad I started to get excited. However, when I saw it was barrel aged for one year in apple brandy casks and weighed in at 14.9% ABV, time stood still. To be fair, I haven’t met a barrel-aged quad that I didn’t like, but I must say that this beer is truly impressive. I expected an overwhelmingly alcohol-forward character with that high of an ABV, but the Ella’s complex and rich flavors play out much smoother than expected.

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Upon opening, the beer releases a very distinct nose of sweet Marsala wine and toffee. The first sip is smooth, decadent, and crisply carbonated. There is a hint of apple in the finish but mostly big roasty caramel flavors paired with sweet and earthy fig and raisin. This is a complex, well crafted beer that will go straight to your head. We can’t be alone in our assessment — this beer won gold in 2015 and bronze in 2016 at the Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer (say what?! A trip to Chicago might be in order!).

Free Will is selling Ella and Ralphius in big 750ml bottles so get yours while you can (and find a friend to share it with….or not). Keep an eye out for our post tomorrow on the Ralphius. To see our other beer reviews, visit In Our Fridge.

Cheers!

Mike and Bethany

Two Pints Takes the Road Less Traveled

img_0542This past weekend we found ourselves trekking up to New England once again, though this time heading to Boston for the weekend to celebrate Bethany’s grandfather’s 90th (!) birthday. It wouldn’t be a Two Pints trip without a smattering of brewery visits interspersed with family time. One of our favorite past times is seeking out local breweries in areas we pass through on our way to our various destinations — it helps break up long drives and gives us an opportunity to visit breweries we may not otherwise get to see. We were excited to see that Two Roads Brewing Co, located in Stratford, CT, was just a few minutes off Route 95 north, about a third of the way through the state and just under three hours from the Lehigh Valley. Looking back over our extensive Instagram collection, we were surprised by how many Two Roads beers we have enjoyed and shared – they have been consistently solid with top-notch flavors.

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The brewery itself did not disappoint! It is housed in the former Baird press manufacturing building which was erected in 1911. The brewery makes great use of the space, stylishly blending a modern, open-air taproom overlooking the brewing area while maintaining the historic feel of the original building. The large, rectangular bar sits in the center of the taproom with seating on all sides, surrounded by some smaller tables spaced throughout. The taproom creates a jovial inviting atmosphere perfect for enjoying their beer. Speaking of beer, we didn’t have a beer we didn’t like from the ten we sampled in our flights. We tried most of the year-round options, including their best-selling Honeyspot Road IPA, Worker’s Comp Saison, Road2Ruin Double IPA, and the Nitro Espressway Cold-Brew Coffee Stout — out of this group, the Double IPA and the Coffee Stout were our favorites. It’s not east to find a perfectly balanced double IPA that doesn’t leave you feeling punched in the mouth by hops, but is bitter enough to leave you craving your next sip; however, Two Roads has absolutely mastered that art in the Road2Ruin.  The coffee stout was also a delight — strong and flavorful cold-brew taste with a clean finish, perfect for the chilly weather.  We also imbibed some of their more limited releases.  img_0540-1We were impressed by the Miles 2 Go, an unfiltered pale ale brewed using decoction mashing, an intensive multi-step mash process thought to be the best method to fully release the malt flavors. The labor paid off in this beer, as it had an incredibly full flavor of hops as well as the sweeter malt taste — it was far more complex and interesting in taste than your standard pale ale. We love our history, so it is exciting when brewers pay homage to old methods of the craft. We also sampled a pilot release beer, the Field Yield Pale Ale. This beer was brewed with fresh citrus and floral-forward hops grown and harvested from the brewery’s own hopyard. It is described as having “fresh and hoppy effervescence,” which is accurate — the freshness of the hops give it a bright, bursting, yet light bitterness with clear notes of citrus and grapefruit.

All in all, we were downright bummed to have to leave Two Roads to continue on our journey. It is a fantastic brewery to visit with a great vibe and even better beers. Excitingly, Two Roads recently broke ground on Area Two Experimental Brewing which will be built adjacent to the current brewery and will feature Brett, sour, and spirit-based beers. It is set to open in Fall of 2018, so keep an eye out for their new releases.

Stay tuned for our upcoming reviews of Trillium Brewing, Downeast Cider, and Harpoon Brewing! Check out other brewery reviews here.

Cheers!

Bethany and Mike

Local Brewers Collaborate Earlier than Planned

Eight minutes earlier, to be precise. When two of our favorite local breweries come together for a collaboration beer, we get pretty damn excited. The intrepid minds behind Bonn Place of Bethlehem and Lost Tavern of Hellertown got together and released Eight Minutes Early, a full bodied double cream ale with vanilla, cocoa, and Monocacy Creek Coffee served on traditional draft or nitro. On its own, it is rich and smooth with a strong coffee backbone brewed with the rare and difficult to find Souther Star hops from South Africa. However, this beer shines brightest when each brewery introduced their own unique twist to a cask version with variations aptly named Fire and Ice. Bonn brewed the Fire version which introduced cinnamon and cayenne peppers to finish it off. The additions really round out the beer and add some kick. The spice is subtle but builds slowly on the palate and after a couple sips you will notice a pleasing burn.

Lost Tavern brewed the Ice cask, which added spearmint and peppermint to the original brew. This one is truly unique and complex akin to a peppermint mocha coffee. You can definitely skip that piece of gum for the ride home.

To try both cask varieties, you’ll have to visit both breweries, so be sure to plan ahead. While you are at Bonn Place, also give the Nice Item Northeast Pale Ale a try. It’s a cloudy and dank pale ale loaded with hoppy goodness and represents a rare departure from Bonn’s typical English-style beers. At Lost Tavern, be sure to also check out the recently released Udderly Lost – a toasty, chocolate-forward milk stout.

Check them all out at Bonn Place and Lost Tavern and let us know what you think! It’s always a blast to have a beer and chat with Sam from Bonn and Tony of Lost Tavern. And don’t forget – it’s BYO pink flamingo at Bonn Place, so follow the flamingo link to find the cheesiest lawn ornament to add to Sam’s burgeoning collection.


Check out our other posts featuring our favorite local (and not so local) breweries here!

Cheers,

Mike and Bethany

Adventures in Homebrewing: Getting Started

After years of drinking, researching, photographing, writing, and obsessing about craft beer, we have finally decided to brew some beer of our own. Looking back, we aren’t quite sure why it took us so long to take a stab at homebrewing. I remember some vague concerns about it being too sciencey, too expensive, too time-consuming, and a high chance of having to pretend to like 48 bottles of sub-par beer that we spent weeks brewing, all the while secretly wishing we had just bought some quality beer made by actual professionals. Despite our early hesitations, we somewhat impulsively decided to homebrew on a random Friday evening.

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Citra hop pellets

We made a quick trip to our local homebrewing store — Keystone Homebrew Supply — located in south Bethlehem, PA. For out of town readers, they also have a great online shop! The staff were incredibly helpful (and patient) with getting us set up with a starter kit, which included fermenting and bottling buckets, sanitizing powder, airlock, bottle capper, bottle caps, siphon, hydrometer, and bottle brush. At $65, it is a great set to get you going with the basics of homebrewing. We also picked up some liquid sanitizer, a couple cases of bottles, and our first ingredient kit. There are a few different complexity levels when it comes to homebrewing. The most basic are all-extract kits, which eliminate the need for adding hops and grains during the brew process, instead involving water and a pre-made extract that you simply pour into your boil pot.

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Malted grains for steeping

The mid-range option is partial-extract brewing, which uses extract with the addition of fresh grains and hops, often providing a better flavor but with a bit more effort than the full-extract version. The most complex form of homebrewing is all-grain brewing, during which you don’t use any extract and make the beer entirely from scratch. Typically, all-grain brews have the best (and most versatile) flavor profile and are definitely cheaper than extract brewing, though they require a bit more effort and knowledge.

For our first brew, we grabbed one of Keystone’s partial-extract kits for a citra pale ale. It came with a set of straightforward directions and all the needed ingredients. They set us up with the fresh grains and hops, and a malt extract was included in the kit. Overall, the brewing process went smoothly, and before long our 5 gallons of pale ale was happily fermenting in the basement. img_0320A week or two later, we bottled our first batch. Homebrews need time to further condition in the bottle prior to drinking to build up carbonation. After a long week of anticipation, we finally were able to drink our first homebrewed beer – the Perkwiler Pale Ale. We were pleasantly surprised with how it turned out — the hops gave it a nicely bright and bitter bite, and it had a clean finish. We wished it had a bit more fullness to the flavor profile — something that all-grain brewing will likely improve upon.

Since this first batch, we have continued to stick with partial-extract brewing as we continue to learn and tweak our methods. So far, we have also brewed a Belgian quadrupel, which is fermenting for a few more weeks as Belgians tend to have a longer fermentation period due to their higher sugar content. Most recently, we brewed and bottled a milk stout; it was supposed to be ready to drink this weekend but the low temperatures in the garage seems to have delayed the bottle conditioning. We’re giving that one a bit more time to build up carbonation before we try it out. We are also working on an experimental growler of wassail using our homebrewed pale ale with brown sugar and spices. It might be delicious, but it also might be terrible — that’s the fun of homebrewing!

On the whole, it has been incredibly fun and rewarding to practice homebrewing. It is an unreal feeling to get a buzz going from beer brewed in your own kitchen. As long as you’re up for a little bit of science-ing and with an open mind for experimentation, it can be an awesome hobby to pick up (and your family and friends will love you for it — if you end up sharing!). Here are some takeaways from our early forays into homebrewing:

  1. Your homebrew is only as good as your attention to the sanitation process — that is by far the most important part of brewing beer.
  2. Make sure you have a good thermometer to keep an eye on your boiling pot and the temperature of your mash.
  3. Throw some metal serving utensils in the freezer before you start. If your boil pot looks like it might end up boiling over, chuck a frozen spoon into the pot to quickly cool it down.
  4. Don’t forget to activate your yeast an hour or so before you start brewing so that it is ready to rock by the time it goes in.
  5. There are some extra homebrewing toys that are not huge investments but make your life a lot easier. We recommend a glass carboy secondary fermenter (helps a great deal with clarifying your beer), some extra airlocks (they can break pretty easily), a bottle drying tree, and a bottle washer. Find links to some of our picks below.